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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Art of Mental Maintenance

It’s a headline I have poached from today’s newspaper, where it is an article  about the importance of the mental make up of the Olympic athletes, and the importance of creative visualization, in order to maximize their talent.

I spent the entire summer without running, under the guise of my learning to swim, awaiting the monsoon.

Now that the monsoon is here, rain is scarce! Anyway, now its too late for me to look for any more excuses not to run, I just need to get my act together and START!
Same time last year, when we are one month after we have registered and committed to the event, I was in peak training, running half marathons regularly, with ease. And this year, I almost registered for the half!  My hands trembled when I had to tick the box saying 42.096kms.

Running the marathon for the first time, is a test to prove that I can do it – physically.
To run it for the second time is a mental game, where I need to forget the experience of the first and start afresh.

As we become experienced marathoners, we learn.
The importance of pacing the run right was the highlight of my race last year. I ran at one constant pace and did not flounder.

This year however, I think I want to go for it!
Push , like I have done never before, and will cross train extensively with that. I have learnt this from Santa, a 60 year - young fellow runner, who has moved into a whole new league with his dedication with running and cycling.

Discipline and motivation are the two factors which I will need to keep within range and blank out all the rest.

“Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Shoot for the moon, Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars

I trudge up the hill at Babulnath at 6.45 am, huffing and puffing! Oh, How I have struggled today! As I reach home red-faced- due to the heat and other reasons……. ashamed at how I feel post my mere 12k run. This was my first real run in the last 45 days- and what was I thinking? That I will traipse through my predetermined 15k?  With much enthusiasm I plan my run the night before-gathering my gear-alarm….all set, to go for a usual run. I strapped on my Garmin and started running towards Nariman Point. A few minutes into the run I checked my pace-oh boy what a mistake it was. It showed 7 minutes a kilometer! At my worst my slowest has been 6.45. (my best….5.45! J)

On my way back I met the usual gang and I start running with them , as planned.( a bad move, as this seasoned bunch has been training all year round!) I was out of breath in 5 minutes flat- and stuck with them for 3 km and then gave up and went back to my slow motion pace. I was mentally broken, and I stopped several times on my way back- for no apparent reason.

So ,yes. I have learnt my lesson. I do realize that lack of regularity can set you back a long time. Just because I remember running the SCMM 2012, It doesn’t mean that my body does!

On a slightly positive note…….i can swim 3/4th of a length of the pool before I give up, to walk to the end. Now the regular swimmers acknowledge my presence and encourage me. They tell me they are impressed by my progress (I am too!) and that one day it will all happen. (How! How!)
 After 6 lengths of this in the pool and I feel spent. Clearly I am out of shape. i feel I am battling the slog overs. The kilometer 28 to kilometer 40 mark, the most challenging game of mental strength and physical ability. With the summer holidays approaching, I do hope to discipline my running as well as my swimming. I will be battling the heat, but that will make the struggle more interesting.
So, I have reached rock bottom, and now….the only way is up!

Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

joy of learning

Post the marathon I rested on my laurels. A few days later, there was this incredible feeling of loss- I felt a void due to the lack of a goal. Pushing my accomplishment out of my mind I looked ahead. All I saw was the long road ahead with no real aim. Next year’s marathon is too far and as the summer looms ahead of me, there is no other run planned. I could, of course continue running, but that somehow was not motivating enough to get me out of bed in this prolonged Bombay winter.

As the weather gets warmer, after I ran a half marathon for fun, I had the urge to learn something new….i want to learn to SWIM! The breast stroke that I had learnt as a child was enough to save my life, but now I need swimming as a cross trainer to improve my running……for better lung capacity- to run faster!

So here I was-one morning on the day of the spring equinox- bright and early- waiting at the club for the coach , who had also trained my little fish, Sanjana. And the session began……step by step; I was initiated into the technicalities. Each step was apparently simple. The trouble began when half an hour into the class, Sailesh told me to do them all together. To co-ordinate my breathing, with the rhythm of my legs, as well as smooth arm motion was not only daunting, but an impossible task! Invariably I would forget one or the other. The worst was when I forgot breathe and I went under. I came up sputtering much to the amusement of the seasoned aunty swimmer gilding past me!

The joy of learning a new thing is what really stimulates the mind. While swimming, I forgot everything around me and I was in the moment to grasp the action. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge as I tried again and again-

As kids we constantly learnt new things. That is why childhood was spent in happiness. Then as we got older the mundanity of repetition took over.
And now, as I learn, I am alive again!
So that is the key- one new thing a year!

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” ~Confucius 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Fine Balance

DNA women’s 21k run….4 days away!
After all it IS a half marathon-not a small distance! And I have taken it easy all along, running short distances a couple of times every week since the marathon. i am enjoying these shorter runs….

Leaving the park after the speed workout today, I was chatting with Varsha. She used to be a national level athlete. This 800 m champion, who clocked an incredible 1 hour 40 minutes at the Mumbai half marathon says, she is not running the DNA half as she is not prepared! And my eyes popped out! NOT PREPARED ! For this tiny event!!!!!!! My natural response to her was, none of us are……..and she calmly replies – she doesn’t want a worse timing than her previous run.

I have grown up believing that participation is important and not winning. But now I wonder……is it about timing? Only about doing well?

As a converse to this…..
I was chatting with Chaya…my running partner for the entire run….
After the 42 km I wasn’t tired. It seems a little ridiculous, but I really didn’t feel like I was going to collapse or anything, instead I think I could have gone a couple of kilometers more. She felt the same way…. As a checked my certificate I discovered that both of us had cruised at a constant pace throughout the run!
So I say to myself that I didn’t push hard enough. Yes I ran the distance. I did well.


I could have done better. I needed to give it all I have got so that I feel spent, and then feel the satisfaction when I have pushed at least until my limits if not beyond.
This is where I need to train my mind – to give it all….

Push yourself to the limit
Don’t ever quit.
Work till your legs are going to fall off
Or you fall apart.
Even when you fall on your face.
Get up, wipe yourself off and say
“Okay let’s do it again.”
Do it till you get it right
Not until you start to hurt.
Never stop until you have nothing left to giv
Victoria Leann

Monday, January 16, 2012

A dream realised- my first first Marathon

"Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it."

- Oprah Winfrey, talk show host and marathon finisher

Crossing the finish line with my arms held out wide….. am I flying… I was! I was sprinting the last 50m of my 42.0196 km…. in 4 hours and 35 minutes!What a high! It was a dream finish.

The best feeling in the world!!!!

I have spent one long year training for this run……not sure if I’ve ever prepared for anything for so long. Had my good days and the bad…..and learnt so much. As my friend Sushant once told me…..once you run a marathon, you will look at life differently. I have learnt so much and probably grown in ways I can never really fathom right now.

As I sit back and reflect…

Into the darkness, we ran towards the start point and before we knew it, we were off! My heart did a flip flop, as I realised I was running for my life. It was an extremely emotional moment as we passed by the VT station and then fell into step with the rest. Within the first 800m my laces came off! As I retied them-feeling like a fool, I had to speed to rejoin our little coterie( with Nimisha, Vishal, Santa, Rohan, Ashish and Chaya).

 After the first few kilometres I took a big decision of running slower than the others as I was not comfortable at their pace. So it was just chaya and me- chugging along – we could see the others for a while, in the distance….but then they were gone.  Kilometres flew past and we ran over the sea link at dawn. Looking eastward we saw the sunrise over the mumbai skyline. It was a spiritual moment.

"Anybody can do just about anything with himself that he really wants to and makes his mind to do. We are capable of greater than we realize."

We chatted through the distance….finding others along the way to keep us company for a bit…but Chaya and I stayed together for a long time.
As we rounded the corner at mahim , my parents surprised me ! I had a huge smile – it was really encouraging to see them there! All went well as we approached Worli and both of us plugged in our ipods to step the pace….we had crossed the halfway mark well on schedule- 2.17 for the first 21km! All we had to do was continue at this pace- and if we could push it just a little bit –we were headed for a sub 4.30 finish – which was a dream finish!

At kilometre 28 came Nikita with my gel- I was in great spirit by then….
As I waved out to my parents again, and then I was on home stretch. There was only worli, peddar road , chowpatty and churchgate left!

So we flew…….the plan was to walk up on peddar road because of the uphill…..and we walked a bit and ran a bit. We passed by peddar road- with much cheer and pomp and the high point came at my building, where all my friends and family, as well as Arnav and Sanjana were out in full force! After getting refreshed with a cool spray on my face, by Sanjana I was handed a chilled can of coke by Arnav- opened and ready for me to down! After taking 4 sips I was rejuvenated!

 The euphoria was short lived as Sushant’s word rang  in my ears…..after the 32km mark the 42km starts! As I ran down towards chowpatty and took the turn onto the main road the sun shone on me- in its full glory! Oh my! I was ready to give up……
The sun- the heat and the fatigue…all caught up with me.
 My legs were complaining and my brain was revolting!

Chaya was gone and I was all by myself. I trotted along- looking for any excuse to stop…..painkiller spray on my non existent pain, a water break and last of all boredom! Had to kick myself to keep it going. As the 4.30 finish was within striking range, I kept calculating in my head- last 5 km at 6 minutes…and after a few minutes I had mixed up pace for time and it was all a jumble. That’s when I decided to just leave it all, and run. At the marine drive flyover from I met enough friends who helped me reach the finish.

The strength that I found within me, as I kept pace with my friend Harish’s 9 year old daughter , Raina- I met them at kilometre 41…she was so excited to see me- as she ran a good 50m at her fastest speed….and I struggled to keep up with her- but did it. 

In my practice runs I would sprint to the finish after struggling through the last few kilometres…and sure enough- the race day was the same. I ran for 5 minutes and walked for a minute for last 7-8 kilometers, but dashed in the end! It was an amazing realisation to know that I could pick up my feet and sprint and forget all my pain.

Suvir, Savio and Sukhpreet were all waiting for me in the last 200 m. That is a moment I’ll never forget ! The whole scene was surreal!

And the rest is history.

All of us- first timers clocked admirable times- ranging from 4.20 to 4.40.

"We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves. The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, 'You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.' The human spirit is indomitable."
Sir Roger Bannister, first man to break the four minute mile

So, many people ask me- why do I run, and I have no answer. I run because it makes me happy. The marathon is a charismatic event. It has everything. It has drama. It has competition. It has camaraderie. It has heroism. Every jogger can't dream of being an Olympic champion, but he can dream of finishing a marathon.

All dreams come true if we have the power to pursue them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ESPER : Establish Strategize Plan Execute Review

As I wake up with my morning alarm……anytime between 4.45 am and 
5 am I wonder…..why am I doing this to myself…….I struggle with myself and finally shake the inertia off… 

We start the run from Nariman Point and we run past the seascape……its beautiful……..cool breeze…..early morning walkers and fellow runners….the street lights are still on and at some point the go off ,to flood the world with the soft light of the Goddess of Dawn-Eos, who with her rosy fingers opens the gates of heaven so that Helios, her brother, can ride his chariot across the sky .(Although our singular aim is to finish the run before the sun attacks us with his full force !)

In the peak of our training month, we are averaging anything between 55km-70km a week.

To achieve this target we run 3-4 days a week.

The short run is 10 km…….the medium one is 15k………and the long one is anything over 25k.

I have run from signal to signal for the longest time and suddenly last week I realize, now signals have lost meaning, as I look forward to the new landmarks I have created, which are a good 3-4km apart which cover 5-7 signals at least! Running past the familiar markers………I wonder how this has happened…..?

25 kilometers is now only a series of 6 roads….Marine Drive,Babulnath,Peddar road, Worli, Worli Seaface and Prabhadevi…it’s a short run!:)

I have broken up the distance into smaller (more doable) cutoffs…but these are 3-4 times the distance which I was doing for the past so many years. What used to be long is now short!

I learn …..Everything in life is relative…………..

What seems to be a huge task….is actually only a collection of a series of smaller milestones…….
Small and Big are really all perceptions of one’s mind! What seems unachievable at one point may seem easily reached at another.

A book I am reading by APJ Abdul Kalam:
“Dream Big.
 Dream, Dream,Dream,
 Dreams transform into thoughts
 and thoughts result into action.”

As a friend joked with me……parul, she said, soon you’ll be talking about doing ultra marathons!…you’re crazy, I replied!

I’m going to leave it at that.:) !

Friday, October 14, 2011

From Inspiration to Perspiration....

Our training has stepped up, difficult on most days, but it becomes a joy at the race course as it is really beautiful at daybreak. The greenness is soothing to the eye and the heart, and the twittering of the birds is music to the soul. And all so often we are treated to flock of white gulls taking off over the verdant oasis and at other times the black musical koyals create a symphony

This sylvan surrounding has always been there.........and been prettier in the flowering season. But I found running in 2km loops at the race course a task, as was hill training and of course the long distances.
Now I've become a regular at the race course and the loops don't mean much- its about the distance now.

As I run with experienced runners and manage to hold my own with them.

The distance is getting longer, but surprisingly, not harder!
I have now officially become a part of the group of "those crazy runners".
Over all these years of running I had developed several notions. This year a lot of them
are out the window.
Can't run in the sun! Can't run without music! Can't run at racecourse! Can't run long!
can't run on Friday!

All gone......

I'm in a new mode!
All will happen........slowly and steadily. I am thriving in the discipline for food and
sleep. That's giving me the courage to push myself.

“Unless you're not pushing yourself, you're not living to the fullest. You can't be afraid to fail, but unless you fail, you haven't pushed hard enough."