As it happened, My First Marathon

About the event: The event is called Sri Chinmoy Princess Park Winter Running Festival. If you don’t know about it, Sri Chinmoy was a spiritual guru who promoted the idea of transcendence through sports and athletics. The usual pattern of their races can be called running in circles. In this particular event held in Princess Park, Melbourne, participants were meant to run around a 5k loop. The event was held in multiple categories: 5k 10k, Half-marathon, 30k and the marathon. For the marathon and the half-marathon, there were provision of extra 2.2k and 1.1k at the start apart from running 8 laps and 4 laps respectively.


I will break down my experience in four parts i.e. the first 10k, and the next, and the next, and the final 12.2k. So, if you are particularly interested at the end, just scroll down. Otherwise, I won’t make it too lengthy anyway.


My expectations: I wanted to finish the marathon. I wanted to be called a marathoner. And therefore my expectations were a lot of hurdles, specially mental. Probably some black toe-nails and blisters if I am lucky. But most importantly, to finish, just to finish.


The first breezy 10k: As with my other races where I ran too fast at the start, I did not want that to happen here because it was a long run, a really long one. I held myself within 5 minute per k pace. I thought this pace could be sustainable in a long run and I could run faster towards the end. I made myself comfortable with the race. En route, I looked around the course, enjoyed the beautiful morning, said my thank-you to all the volunteers I could. Perhaps I stopped twice for water at the aid-stations (I had read and heard this a million times that proper hydration would prevent cramps).


The journey to 20: I was still swaying at  my easy pace after the 10k mark. I gulped down some Gatorade on the next station at 12k mark and thereafter, I had to take a pee break during the next kilometer. My gloves were really holding up well as I realised on stopping that the temperatures were not very high. The journey continued after the restroom until the 20k mark. People were recognising me from the club T-shirt I was wearing. Though nobody knew my name but many boosted me up by their going good TXRTXR you can do it etcA good-vibe sensation passed through me as I felt a sense of oneness.


Beyond the half-marathon: It was not my first time running beyond a half-marathon or a 25k marker but this time was very different. The half-marathon marker brought with itself some sense of hurt and self-doubt. This was where the other part of mind which says you should not be running, let’s finish this and train better for the next one came into play. My last two weeks had been significantly dull with lack of training. My body was still in the process of recovery. All these factors just gave my mind more and more excuses to go towards a DNF (did not finish). During the fifth lap, I was very much convinced by it and was thinking to go towards the finish line rather than for the next loop (the two were located side by side). And then came my saviours! People! Yes, people! Runners!

A woman who was running behind me in the earlier stages ran past me when I had resorted to walking and said “We’re almost there”. Of course we were not, I thought. God damn it, there are three more laps. I don’t know what happened within me but the decision whether to go for a finish (or more precisely a DNF) or the next loop went in favour of the next loop. I stopped at the aid-station to load in more Gatorade and water and ran towards her. I told her about me, and she about herself. Her family had come over to support her and then I missed mine. I ran with her for a while and then asked her to continue as I was walking again. I thought that was the last loop I could do.


Running WITH the mind: I was walking for a long way with occasional jogs in between. Honestly, I did not know why I was jogging as my mind had given up. Perhaps I just wanted to rush to the finish line and call it a day. I was already going way beyond my longest run till date (30k) and was venturing into an unknown territory. I was walking again with the firm determination to just complete this lap and train better for the next one (marathon).

And then it happened again! He said “TXR, we are going to make it! Stay strong”. I don’t know who he was, but we high-fived and I was running again. I was not too sure as to why I was running again but I found out I could still run, though not for long at a time. I exchanged smiles with the woman I met earlier and told her that the game is still on. The plan was simple, run if you can, walk for a while. The next (and the final) decision between the finish line and the next loop was not difficult now.

In the final lap, I met this guy who was running in his 221st marathon (MAN THIS IS CRAZY). We talked about himself during the lap. We were both run-walking the final lap with occasionally passing each other. I experienced hamstring cramps while I was running. So when I got them, I walked. And then I ran again. And walked. But I didn’t stop. The finish line was coming closer (yeah not the DNF line anymore). I, once again, crossed the same guy who had previously lifted my spirits up and he said “TXR, we are almost there” and we high-fived and I shouted at the loudest of my voice “Keep going“. For the last kilometer, I stayed with the 221 marathon guy and he finished ahead of me. A last-second cramp got me standing at the finish line but I finished running. It’s hard to explain the moment but I was proud and blown away by the immensity of the mind (also, it’s pessimism). I finished just under 3:56 and here are some photos/details:

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First lap = 2.2k. Subsequent laps = 5k.
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Am I technically a ultra-runner? ūüėÄ
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Earned it!

What a wonderful journey it has been! What an immense amount of support I have got from you, readers. I just want to take a little moment here and say a BIG THANK YOU!

THE RACE MAY BE OVER, BUT THE TRAINING NEVER STOPS!


With this, I think I should stop talking and let you continue your training and if you are doing your first marathon or a half or a 10k or a 5k or even an ultra, I would finish this post with this one piece of advice you might have heard a thousand times before:

You are way beyond the limitations of your mind.
Listen to what it says and do what you should.

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Wings For Life World Run 2017 – As it happened

Getting off the tram at 6:30 in the evening, I was making my way towards the event hub of Wings For Life World RUN (WFLWR) in Melbourne. With my earphones on, I had a decent 1.5k walk ahead of me before I would arrive at¬†the grand party. I was thinking about my last year’s run in Taiwan in which I lasted for 18.24k.

You might be wondering about¬†what’s with this LASTING thing! Let me tell you about it. There are a number of things that makes this race unique. One, it happens at the¬†same¬†time at multiple locations all around the¬†world.¬†Day or night, moon or light, runners all over the world are smashing it. From US of A (early morning) to Australia (late at night), people lift their asses up, assemble at the start-line and run their hearts out. Secondly,¬†it is a race without a finish line. There’s no pre-defined distance that you have to run e.g. marathon/half-marathon/10k et cetera et cetera. AND HOW COULD THAT HAPPEN¬†you might wonder? Well, it’s fairly easy. 30 minutes after you’re into the race, a car (aka THE¬†catcher¬†car) chases you down until you’re caught and the car is fast enough (at later times) to run down even the most enduring runners. It’s very similar to the lion-deer story, the difference being that the deer would DEFINITELY be killed (unless you run off the course leaving the organisers all puzzled up). And finally, the money raised through this race goes for the spinal-cord research injury and that’s why this race is often promoted as¬†“running for those who can’t”¬†and I can totally relate to it. I have had my share of injuries when I felt helpless that I¬†can’t¬†run. Thinking of those times and of the people who are suffering, there’s nothing better than this that I can do to support them in their treatment/recovery.

As compared to my last year’s WFLWR, this edition was quite different.¬† I was running in a different country (Australia) at a different time (9 PM, last year it was 7) in a different weather (cold, rainy and dark). However, there were other factors this time which can easily overshadow these minor mental setbacks. First and probably the most crucial was mine being running with my club-mates. In Taiwan, I made my way to the start line as a stranger to the crowd, paced myself up when I could and lifted myself up when I was experiencing downtime. But this year in Melbourne, I had “friends” with me at the start line, during all the pacing-up, slowing-down situations. Secondly, I was better trained at this point of time. At¬†the start-line this year, I had 8+ week of training with me with my longest training run being 23k while these stats last year were 4 weeks and 15k respectively.

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Now that’s my HUGE running club. Can you spot me?

Based on these numbers and the¬†racing atmosphere,¬†I was hoping to get past the 25k mark in this year’s edition of the race. The race started pretty smoothly for me (and my mates). We did hold on to a constant pace of 5-ish i.e. 5 min/km for the first 7k (where the first refreshment station was located). It was an easy-paced part of the race with constant chit-chats about the terrain, about the training, about the highway on which we were running. After this mark, we were more or less divided into little sub-groups depending on the pace we could hold. I kept running with a friend till the 18k mark. While passing that, I felt confident and wonderful. Confident because my training was paying off and I could see it. Wonderful because I was witnessing a significant progress over my last year’s limit. Nevertheless without thinking much over it and before it could get over my head, I kept running, my goal to get to the 25k mark now seemed even more optimistic. It was only after the race was over, I realised that I also completed the half-marathon distance i.e. ~21k in 01:39 hours (my earlier best time was 01:57).

Some more time after the half-marathon mark, I eventually reached the 25k mark where I was more than happy about my running and the challenge I had undertaken. A thought crossed my mind: now you can simply walk as some of the other¬†runners were doing, you’ve achieved your goal. Of course, that was the easier choice. Running at that point of time required more effort than usual, probably because I had never run that long a distance. But I was determined not to walk. My brain was thinking of other excuses:¬†“you have a presentation tomorrow, haven’t you done enough already?” or something like¬†“your shoelaces are really tight, you won’t be able to fix them quickly, so just take a walk, fix them, and walk some more comfortably” and finally¬†“you’ve achieved your goal, take it easy¬†now” I listened to these thoughts and carefully discarded them and focused on what I was doing while they were running through my head. ¬†My pace was slower now but I didn’t mind it. I was still running. And then it arrived. Without a horn, without a flash, it passed me by saying a “thank you”. My race was over. I was actually glad that it was over. Why? Because it was freezing cold out there and I am not lying when my brain said I had a presentation the day after.

My Garmin (running watch) finally unfolded all the secrets as I hit the stop button on it. I had run 29.5k in 02:24 hours. The deer inside me had gone a significant distance. A big jump over the last year’s and a bigger target to nail for that of the¬†next’s.

This run on strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/975961223/embed/f404f2d7167c7de938e06c357235696fff81d1bb

And this is my proud certificate:

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Training Log – Week 1 Day 3

Wednesday = Speed Training.

Well, not really for the first week. According to the training “schedule” it was meant to be a easy-pace run with some¬†pick-ups¬†but I converted that to 100 m sprints (I wanted to know how would I match up against Usain Bolt with my earphones on, but I had no idea how badly it would go).

I followed the same set of rules: warmed up for some 15 mins with easy-pace on the road en-route to the track, 5 times (100 m sprint followed by 300 m easy-pace) and then a easy-pace back home.100m

It turned out that my max. speed¬†pace during those sprints is somewhere around 3 min/km which makes 100 m sprint in 18 seconds (if I assume that I am holding that pace throughout the 100 meters and I am also¬†cheating on the fact that I did not start from a zero-pace start line, I was already moving at the start). So, by the time Bolt would get a gold, I’d hardly be halfway. that’s a bad defeat. But anyway! My target is to be faster and not to beat anyone in particular.

In my perception, speed-training gives an idea to the body and to the mind about how it feels like to go faster. Obviously, it feels terrible while I do it this way i.e. all of a sudden, but if carried out over a period of time, slowly and progressively, it is wonderful. Your legs would take to new places faster. Well, it could be just around the track in less than a minute, but you get the idea. the whole run can be found here:

https://www.strava.com/activities/891965624/embed/f156c11f8bc8c81e2e0360f379604b1dbec28f35

Lessons I learnt from my second half marathon

I ran my first half marathon in June, 2016 in Taipei, Taiwan. I planned to ran my second HM in September in New Delhi but it got postponed (and fortunately I was having a fungal infection in my big toe so I¬†won’t run that either) later on, I registered for a half marathon in Mussoorie, India in November. Mussoorie is one of the hottest tourist destination in India (the organiser of this race was an American, you get an idea?). It is usually cold in Mussoorie and a November morning was expected to be around 10 degrees. This HM left me crushed. It made me rethink over a lot of things. I hope you would learn from my mistakes (if you are training for any race).

1: Have a relaxed day before the run: The race was scheduled on Nov. 6th and I reached Mussoorie on the morning of Nov. 5th. After reaching this beautiful hill station, I planned to go to some places on the same day as it would be too tiring for me to do anything after the race the next day. Being on a tight budget, the only means for me to get around the town was using my feet. Before I could realise, I had already walked around 15k by the night when I got back to my hotel. My legs were tired though I got back in time, but it mattered the next day. I felt a lot tired than I expected throughout the run.

2: Train in a similar condition:¬†I was well aware of the fact that the race would be in a cold and hilly course. I used to train in my hometown, which was a little less cold than Mussoorie, but I used to start my training at 6 AM to feel the same amount of cold (at least that’s what I thought). However, I could never mimic the hilly roads of Mussoorie. Frank Shorter said “Hill training is speed work in disguise” so I tried it the other way around but it didn’t work for me. I did work on my speed training thinking that it would help me to charge up and down hills but it really didn’t. I was huffing and puffing on the way up, I walked a LOT of terrains, my breath was shorter and my legs felt heavy. However, my downhill was good, my core was able to sustain that. But without having included any hills sessions, I really suffered in the race.

3: Do not walk (if you didn’t plan beforehand):¬†Before the race, I didn’t plan to walk any part of the race. Some people, however, strategize walk-run kind of sessions during a race which they follow righteously and it works for them, I didn’t plan that. I was meant to run the whole course, no matter how slow, but run. And I gave up on this idea during the run. My mind was not focused enough, I lacked mental strength. I realised how much dedication you need on such terrains. I started to walk for 30 sec, which went on to become 45 and soon enough, almost 90. I felt terrible after the race. I was ashamed of my performance. I ran a 2:20 (before the race I thought I could beat my first HM time which was 1:57, and look where I stood).

Trying not to be too harsh on myself, but this race taught me a lot about how dedicated I should be in my training, how crucial it is to plan your training. Though I got some really good pictures of mine in which I could be seen smiling but that is¬†just pain in disguise ūüėÄ

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If you are reading this, and have a similar story or anything to suggest, I’d love to hear it.

Running my 1st Half Marathon

I started running and training myself seriously in October, 2015 when I started to train for a 9k run which was scheduled in January, 2016. The training continued for my next run that was scheduled in April, and it turned out brilliant. In the meantime, I thought I had prepared myself enough to compete and complete a half marathon i.e. a run comprising straight 21 kilometers. My lab mates told me that I should focus on my thesis as the date of this HM was not very far from my oral presentation, but I was not an easy fellow either. I registered for it and continued my training amidst my research.

There were nights when I would work up to 5 or 6 in the morning and would head to the track to train myself for this HM before getting a well deserved sleep. There were times when I would go to lab in my running attire so that I could save some time before heading to the track. All this continued for a month and half during which I made sure that I am not taking either my research or this run for granted.

On the race day, my roommate was kind enough to accompany me, to cheer me, to motivate me and to fill me up with some pre-run boosters. I told him to pin my BIB and I was very happy that he was there. Before the run, I warmed myself up by running/jogging for around 1.5k and stretched out enough to get my muscles geared.

The race started.

For a minute or two, I was barely standing at my place among a crowd of more than 3000. I started slowly as I had planned to. I knew I had this habit of starting out faster which later would wear me out earlier than usual. After a couple of kilometers, I started passing by some slow runners and joggers. Water stations passed by. It was a riverside run. People were riding bicycles on the same track. It was silent and beautiful. I was checking my watch after every passing kilometer to check on my progress.

Long distance running is a lot of time for you to think about a variety of things. The mind thinks about running, running slower and faster, about others who are running ahead and behind, about the sky above, about the earth below, about the training, about friends, about life.

After some 17 kilometers, my bipolar brain started its activity. It thought about taking a break, it thought about slowing down. Few runners who passed me by during this conversation encouraged my brain to let go off the flow. It is then I understood how a strong willpower is required for running such long distances. I had trained myself enough and I held on to that. I held on to the efforts I had done on the track, on the roads for the past couple of months. I maintained my running form, forgetting about the pace I was at. Remembering the things I have read, watched and felt, I put that experience into the moment and kept running. I was getting eager to cross the finish line. My roommate had challenged me to be in the top 200 and I told him that I will do my best. It is my race against me and there is no way I can monitor my rank in real time.

With every falling step, I was able to see the stadium more clearly from where we all had started. I passed by a couple of runners which further encouraged me not to slow down. I could now remember the track because now I was at the road where I was jogging before. I knew I was nearing the end. Excitement kept on rising. It was a now or never kind of feeling. We took the last turn and I could see the finish line. I heard my roommate shouting as I was 20 meters away. Someone was behind me. I took on at that moment making longer strides and crossing the finish line without letting anyone else pass me by.

I was embraced with the finish medal instantly and I looked for the water stations and I gulped down nearly a liter of water and I laid down on the ground looking at the sky, thanking it. I laid there for sometime and got up. My shoes were burning. It had gone considerably hot in there. I took my shoes off and throw a couple of water drops on my feet. With my shoes in one hand, I met my roommate and I handed him my result. I had ranked 114 with the chip time of 1:57. He was happy, I was happier. I had set a decent timing which I would look forward to break in my next HM.

TPE