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.


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.


The Run – Wings for Life World Run 2016, Yilan (Taiwan)

And the Wings for Life World Run 2016 is finally over! Almost 90,000 people all across the globe ran at the same time and for the same cause. They ran without a finish line and I am sure, all of them had their targets in mind. And so did I! With just a month of training, my primary target was to make it at least 15k and to make it as much as close to 20k.

With my running destination as Yilan, I was running alongside 4400+ runners. This was the second and till date, the biggest race of my life. The race was scheduled to start at 7 PM. I managed to reach the venue at 2 PM and made a couple of friends to help me out with the formalities before the race. The environment was great, people were happy, enthusiastic and excited! There were a lot of performances to boost the energy of every single runner. I am pretty sure that I and my friend Jerry explored almost everything out there! People were gradually showing up until 5 PM and by that time, the stadium was full with the view of fluorescent green running T-shirts. At around 6.15, we started for our warm-ups. People could be seen jogging and running around the track as part of their rituals. Some were stretching, doing yoga and we were no different. Even in a crowd of all strangers, I was no alien to them and we all were getting ready to hit it up for the main event.

The clock was about to hit the mark of 7 PM and the countdown had already begun. I thought to myself, I had prepared enough, I just have to do what I have learnt during my entire training. To run, and to run until I can. This race was supposed to be the combination of all the key elements of running that I had focused on during my training – stamina, speed and strength. There was no room for me to doubt on my abilities and therefore I was pretty confident about what might happen.And therefore, I knew my limits too. Because I would like to stay in the race for as long as I can.

Three.. Two.. One!

And it started. All the runners around the world started making their way out in the middle. Some wanted to take the lead which they are allowed in the first thirty minutes and some wanted to maintain their regular pace. On a day before, I did a 30-minute comfortable yet slightly challenging run so as to see where I could make it in the first thirty minutes and my target was the same. Around 5.5k. Because of the presence of thousand of runners, it took me a bit of time to get myself fueled up at my regular pace but on the other side, it was a good warm up to go slightly slower for the first couple of minutes. I skipped the first refreshment station which was at 3k because I knew the next one was at 5.5k and I could easily maintain my running form until then so I won’t need any water or Red bull (sponsor). For the next 10 minutes or so, I kept running and I hit the refreshment station where I managed to get two cups of water and drank them while running because the thirty minute mark was not yet over. I almost made it 5.65k in the beginning and that’s when the catcher car started. That’s when this moving finish line started. My goal was then to make myself to the mark of 15k. Catcher car reaches 15k in ninety minutes, so from that I can estimate that how much I am leading and how much can I lead further.

I had already picked up my usual pace, close to 5 min/km. I was getting continuous feedback from the Nike App that I have on my cellphone about the time, distance and my pace. It really helps in such races to keep a track of your speed because you do not have “infinite” time with you. I kept on running, gradually passing by some slower runners, being thrashed by runners who were pacing up. Six, seven, eight, nine, ten. I hit the 10k mark in around 54 minutes. At that time, I was thinking may be I could had run more faster at the beginning of race where I crawled with other runners.I gulped down two cups of water and a cup of red bull at this station.

And then came the hardest part for me. The next five kilometers. Not because of the distance, but because of the unavailability of the water on the way. I used to drink water every 2-3k on the day on my long runs. The reason being that I sweat a lot and I need to have a good intake of water to cope up with that. And the 5k desert lying ahead of me was indeed a big problem. I maintained my pace at the first and felt it trembling near the end. With every kilometer passing by, I was hoping to make it as fast as I can to the refreshment station because that was really necessary for me to stay in the race.

Finally! 15k!Almost 82 minutes. Catcher car was just 8 minutes behind me and after that, it would speed up a bit to gain even more on my back! I was a bit dizzy at that moment. Supporting myself against the pole, I gulped down three cups of water and one red bull with some apples. I stopped for a while and walked down some distance so as to make it OK for me to run the next part i.e. my second target, to run as much as possible!

I started back again. My next target was to hit the refreshment station at 17.5k because that would mark my half success towards my last target. It was getting a bit difficult to continue to maintain the same pace but I was not the one to give up at that point. I dragged my body along. I knew that the catcher car would catch me up in sometime no matter if I am running or not.Undoubtedly, I was not running at the previous pace at which I ran the last parts of race! But I was certainly avoiding to jog right there on the track. I was pulling out every bit of strength I had left inside of me and I got to the refreshment station. An awesome feeling! No more red bulls, just a cup of water because catcher car was already on my shoulders by then. My mobile shouted “17.9 kilometers…..” and I did not care to listen to the rest and I gave my race the last boost, the last drop of fuel I had in me and sprinted for at least a minute with whatever I had until the catcher car passed me by. And that was my finish line. 18.24 kilometers!

I was extremely happy that I made it so far in my first edition of WFLWR and I am sure that I would be giving it all to beat this distance next time. I have pulled this from my phone to share with you about my timings, distance and the pace:

2016 May 12 19-31-19

Final week before the Wings for life World Run

It has been a great journey so far! I have not been doing it from a long time. I have not done as much as I should, but this short span of training and sharing has been awesome. It motivated me, helped me to train better and it kept my momentum up during the entire last month. And here we are, very near to the final showdown. Wings for life World Run starts this Sunday and I am all geared up with my shoes on.

Here is my last video before I go and run it all:

Chowmein, Chaomian

We all love fast food at some point of time. And when it comes to fast food, it is hard to resist the Chinese fast food. It is such a delight to tummy after all. I think that it can be found almost in any country (of course if that is not an anti-China country). Chinese fried noodles are famous as Chowmein in many parts of world. Being in India, these can be found in many parts with taste varying from dull to spicy. Till the time I came to Taiwan, I knew them as Chowmein thinking that there is no certain meaning behind this word.

Once in my last semester, when I was studying Chinese and was discussing something with my friend, then I came to know that the modified word Chowmein is actually derived from Chaomian. In Chinese, Chao means fried and Mian stands for noodles. So, it actually is Chaomian in Chinese and while it is exported to somewhere else, it becomes Chowmein. I wonder why? Not only the name, I have found that the style of cooking these fried noodles is different. Indian Chowmein usually is very spicy while on the other hand, Taiwanese Chaomian is a bit sober in taste. It could be different in other countries where noodles are included in restaurant’s menus.

Are you a Chinese fast food lover? Do you like Chowmein or Chaomian? Let us know in the comments 🙂

My first encounter with Chinese counting

I first came to Taiwan in 2013. During those two months, I didn’t care to learn any Chinese(bad decision) and all that I could learn during that time was “Ni Hao” and “Xie Xie”. At this moment, I can proudly say that I can at least ask someone their name, their liking and disliking. To sum up, I can have a basic conversation with a Chinese person in Chinese. And I feel happy about it.

This semester, I am taking a badminton class in which all students warm up before the class starts. While any warm-up exercise, our student leader counts “yi, er, san, si, wu, liu, qi, ba” and this goes on like that for a while. One fine day, while we were warming up, I suddenly got a flashback of my school days. In my school, I used to learn a little bit of Karate once a week. While we used to practice, our instructor used to make us practice the kicks and punches using the same counting. Then I realized that I had been given a little flavor of Chinese language even before coming to Taiwan. I was just not that aware of this thing at that moment.

I felt sharing about it because these small moments make a link in your life. Ten years ago, I listened to Chinese counting while learning Karate and now, I am in a Chinese speaking country. Could this be just a coincidence or may be not?