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? 😀
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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.

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 😀

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