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.

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First 26.2 Miler Countdown: 2 (On your marks! Get. Set.)

The day is finally here! Well, just a day away.

I am excited as to what is gonna happen tomorrow. Some plans and numbers are going through my head but the target is pretty simple, to make it to the finish line.

I do not have any pre-race rituals or routines. I’m just keeping it easy for today, no hardcore training (I probably can’t even because of the runny nose). I went for a little walk just to clear my head where I listened to a Human Race podcast. My clothes are all set to be worn tomorrow. The race starts at 7 so I have to leave home by 5 to make it on time for the train station. Getting up early would be really challenging (because sleeping itself could be a little challenging).

Since it’s gonna be cold (around 10-12 degrees), I would be wearing three layers on the top and two on the bottom (excluding the inner wears). Gloves and head-cap would be an add-on to survive the cold.

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Close-up view
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A little creepy view

I am all set to take on what had started as a thought two months ago. It had been a nice experience documenting my journey. I am grateful for all who took the time out to have a look at my posts every once a while and appreciated my effort. Till then, let me go out for a run and I’ll be back with all the details 🙂

First 26.2 Miler Countdown: 54 (Green Smoothie Included)

After a not-so-bad Monday post-race, I was feeling better about how the body was holding up. Fatigue was gradually shading away and the stairs were no more a sight of calamity. However, I was in no rush to force myself to continue my training for the marathon again. So, I opted for rest. I wanted to give my body some more time before I’ll push it to limits again. Tuesday continued the recovery phase. However, I delighted myself with a delicious smoothie of which’s recipe I would love to share. If you do a bit of reading and experimenting, you’d be amazed to see how food affects your training and recovery.

After all, you are what you eat. Aren’t you?

I’ll skip the talk for now and come to the point. This is a kind of green smoothie and there could be many more variations possible. I’ve put some ideas for you to try.

Ingredients:

  • First comes the fruits to give it some flavor. It could be anything you like, it’s about experimenting. I used these two:
    1 Banana, medium sized
    1 Kiwifruit (I have also tried with apple and pineapple with amazing results in addition to Kiwi)
  • Next comes greens! There are a lot of different kind of leafy-greens you can buy. I generally use these two:
    Handful of spinach (I am Popeye the Sailor man! Hoot hoot!)
    Handful of Kale
  • Not to forget, hydration! Most of the times, I simply use water. But sometimes, I mix different things to experiment. I’ve used:
    Coconut water, Soy-milk and water in a ratio of about 1:1:2. And this ratio is fun to play with. I have also used other forms of milk such as full-cream whole milk, other suitable for vegans such as almond and coconut milk.
  • Finally, some toppings. These are again your choices. This time, I used:
    4-5 sliced almonds. These dry fruits are awesome. Very nutritious and provide a lot of good-stuff. I’ve seen people using muesli/oats to make it more fibrous.
    1 tsp black chia seeds
    1 tsp honey. This is the secret of why I am so sweet!
    (Sometime, I add in some berries such as blue/strawberry or miso. It provides a distinctive sour-y flavour to the smoothie which I am starting to love)

Put everything in a blender. Volume of fluids should be such that it is about at the same level as that of other solid-stuff. I don’t use a standard measuring instrument. If you’re not sure, start with a low volume and add-up accordingly as to how thick you want the smoothie to be. Turn the blender ON! I use a 700 W Blender so it should be powerful enough to crush everything into a smooth delicious cup of heaven. Sip it on slowly. Try to feel every ingredient as you chew it. Once you get good at it, you’ll be a smoothie-expert and I have some badges to give away 😉

P.S: I’ve come to known about these fabulous smoothies from the YouTube channel called Running Raw. So I’d like to thank Tim Van Orden, the inspiration behind the Running Raw Project and every smoothie I have ever come to taste. Also, if you love cooking, do not forget to read the book Eat and Run by the ultra-runner Scott Jurek. It contains a LOT of recipes that are good for people who are active and love to head outdoors or those who simply love cooking for the sake of the pleasure it gives!

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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Where the hell have I been?

I could soon celebrate one-month anniversary of not writing anything on my blog. In this time, I have been checking my news feed (which is always on a roll), this blog’s stats (which really need a roll) and some other things which I probably wouldn’t want to write about explicitly 😉

Anyway, not writing about my training doesn’t mean that I am not training anymore. Technically, I am simply lazy to write, but not lazy to run. After Run For The Kids 2017, my training has taken a shift. I am NOT following my training plan anymore. So you might ask, what do you do then? The answer is…

Long runs!

…..and, some speed work.

So the current trick up my sleeve is to run when I feel like, when my legs feel light(er)and usually to rest the day after. I refrain from having a really inactive day, so I try to always walk a lot. Walking is a wonderful exercise (for body, mind and your laundry room).  Also, I am now trying to use running as a commute than merely an exercise. I run to badminton court, I run from the university to home. It’s fun how some things can be done in an eco-friendlier way 😀

Anyway, this Sunday is the Wings for Life World Run. I am hoping to get past 25k mark which is…. well, not impossible, but definitely a hell difficult. I need an average pace of 5 min/k. Let’s see if I can make it or not. I’ll never know without trying and I am not scared to give it my best shot.

 

As it happened: Run For The Kids 2k17

My training for the Wings for life world run has been on for the past five weeks. I am not sure when I registered for the Herald Sun’s Run for the kids 2017 but I am pretty sure why I did it. It supports a great cause! It supports the kids at the Royal Children Hospital, Melbourne. It supports what I love selflessly. During the entire run, I made sure I high-fived every kid who was waiving their hands at the huge number of runners swarming by. And I loved their smile when our hands touched. It pumps me up and made me run faster than I thought I’d sustain.

RFTK runs on two courses: 14.3k and 4.8k (roughly 9 and 3 miles). I registered for the former one and considered it as a long run for my training schedule. During the past weeks, I made myself comfortable with the distance running 11,14,15 and 18k‘s respectively on my weekend long runs. Fortunately to me, I have a running club that lets me run with them when they do speed work. Thanks to them, I got a 5k PB last week, it boosted my confidence to run faster. With this training, I left home early in the morning to reach the venue on time. The weather had been shaky in the early hours but was relatively great later. Being living away from the city, it takes me around an hour to get to the start line. I changed into my running clothes in a public washroom while doing the thing. I was just in time to drop off my baggage and to get to the start line to stretch up before the countdown began.

My strategy was simple. Go easy for the first 10k, step into the next gear thereafter. I can’t have a sense of how many people were running alongside me but there were many. Or may be, many, many. Never in the race for once I ran with no-one along side me (It’s good and bad). The first lap was fairly simple with everyone running literally at the same pace. Then we entered a tunnel where my Garmin FR15 lost contact with it’s satellite for the next lap. On exiting, I got two lap-readings. One of 8:54 and other of 1:54. Definitely, it was crazy for doing these calculations but I was happy that it had snap out of it to get me the correct readings thereafter.

For the next 10k’s, I kept running at an easy pace. I checked with my watch time to time because I wanted to run a sub-50 10k (which I did). I met a fellow club runner (I recognized his singlet) and ran with him for some 4 k’s. We passed over a couple of bridges, ran alongside the huge Ferris wheel of Melbourne city, raced with the Yarra river. I made sure I was not letting myself go, just yet. I kept smiling at the volunteers who were doing an amazing work of scattering the enthusiasm throughout our minds. I thanked them for taking the time out of their lives to make sure the runners stay hydrated.

As the markers after 12k started coming nearer, I cranked my pace a bit. I saw someone wearing a singlet of University of Melbourne (my university) which really made me felt great however I was in no mood to have a conversation at that point. Being not familiar with the course, I was adjusting my pace according to the inclined roads and some steep slopes. Not too far into the uncomfortable zone, I found myself on the last bend (based on what spectators were shouting about, and also on the beep of my Garmin that it was 14k point), just one more track-lap to go, I thought to myself. Some of us sprinted, I joined them. Many of them beat me, I beat some of them. I crossed the finish line in just under 69 minutes which I was extremely happy about. I was expecting a 70+ finish time.

 

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Pose after the finish

 

Finishing up, I had some drinks and a free apple that the organizers had provided. It just made my taste buds go crazy. You can not hate a fruit after a wonderful run, take that from me. I have found the best tasting fruits (they were just normal fruits) after these long runs. I packed my bag and walked back to Flinders Street Station. On the way back, I saw two kids racing each other and their dad calling “Look at them! They are also running” pointing to the runners still underway. I told him that the older kid would probably run next year. I told him about the two courses and wished him luck before finally getting towards my train.

 

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People running their hearts out for the lovely kids.

I am definitively going to the next edition of the race 🙂

 

Monday Evening – 5k PB Revised

I’m part of a wonderful running group called TXR (Trails, X-country, Roads) Runners. Such a nice name! They have their sessions (usually speed work) on weekdays and on Sundays (long run). After getting bored of pounding the track alone during my training regime, I tweaked my schedule to accommodate a Monday TXR session to get rid of this boredom. Yesterday was my second run with them and by the time I stopped my watch, I had got a 5k personal best (PB), that was totally unexpected. I ran my previous PB during a sub-23 parkrun.

The original plan for the group was to run 3 sets of (2 times (400m @ 10k pace + 100m jog) followed with a faster 400m and finally a 400m jog). It sounds a bit complicated. Doesn’t it? But it was a wonderful workout! Putting it simple, you run around 12 laps, 6 @ 10k, 3 @ maybe 5k and the other three are simply jogs. I probably got this PB during the first and second set because I was very tired during the third and struggling in the first half of that set. Nevertheless, I am feeling stronger today as I look back on the last night. It gives me confidence now that I could do a sub-22 if I train a bit harder.

5k Personal Best: 22:52 22:11

https://www.strava.com/activities/926187505/embed/35cbf67adfb774679981d4a353a1b0a4ee1df736