Disclaimer: It might sound like blowing my own trumpet but so be it (BTW have never seen a trumpet, in real life I mean; have you? send me a picture), its 42.195 and no easy feat. 42.195 here in question are kilometers that you run to complete a marathon (just clarifying for the uninitiated).
Disclaimer 2: Showing full respect to the distance, I will not be funny in this post at all. If you think I am deviating please call me or comment.
Disclaimer 3: You must be thinking why not 42 km or 42.5 km, it anyway is stupid to run that much, why this weird 0.195 extra. Well there is a story behind it. Here goes “During the first Olympic games the marathon was roughly 40km, about the distance from Marathon to Athens. The official distance of 42.195km comes from the 1908 London Olympics. Organizers in London wanted the course to go from Windsor Castle to White City stadium (about 26 miles), and then added an extra 385 yards inside the stadium, to have the finish line be in front of the royal family’s viewing box. Hence the tradition of yelling “God save the Queen” in the last mile of the race!” as proudly copied from oolrun.com
Enrollment for a race: I was not in my senses when I did this. Seriously, who would sign up for such torture? I might have been high (wait I don’t drink) so, I don’t know, something would have gone wrong and I signed up for my first full marathon (I usually enroll for my next race on the day I run my previous race). Must have been the post race high then.
Training plan: Yes, I started following a training plan on run keeper (full marathon to finish) which has 4 activities per week and long runs every weekend. Did I follow the same, no. I was very erratic, very irregular and hence much under-trained. Mostly managed the long runs but just about.
Giving up on social and family life: If you have to get up at 4 30 every morning and run then you have to sleep at 9 30 every day which means your family life, your social life is doomed or you would be sleepy in office, always. Such was my case. Get up at 4 30, back from run by 6 30, just in time to drop daughter to bus stop, come back, eat, go to office, come back and sleep (life happened in between all this).
I ate eggs: Lots of them, egg whites, 5-6 after every run. Have clocked over 100 runs in the year i.e. I ate 600 eggs in 2014 even more.
I ate even more: not to forget innumerable chicken sandwiches, rotis, pasta, cakes (baked fresh at home almost every day, my wife is great at it), salads and chicken in every form possible. Warning: If you don’t run and you eat that much you would be fat, very fat. I am always hungry, even right now the laptop looks like a chicken Panini which I can eat (still compensating for the 4000 calories that I lost during my marathon).
Strengthening the core: I have suffered from disc prolapsed not once but twice and the back ache keeps coming back and kept me away from training for full 60 days. I had to work out my core but never got time except for an occasional visit to the gym or a workout on the yoga mat.
Race day: Just like your exams arrive very fast and you are caught unprepared, the race day arrived in a hurry and I felt under-trained and nervous. The distance was daunting and I had shown off so much to everyone that I was running a marathon that I was shit scared that what if I DNF (those three dreaded letters). What would all the girls in my cool running group (Gurgaon Road Runners) think about me.
One day prior and before start: Few things that I am very nervous about.
1. What if I oversleep and wake up after the race has started: So I get up multiple alarms on my phone, on my wife’s phone, on my ipad and my wrist watch.
2. What if I reach the race line without the bib: Now that would be criminal, months of practice would go for a toss if you are not allowed entry into the venue. So as all experts say, attach it to your t-shirt the previous night which I don’t follow. I attach it at the end but I remember that I have to.
3. Chaffing: This is not talked of much but is a must know. When you run, friction beats the shit out of you, your underarms, your inner thighs and you nipples are chaffed. Apply generous amounts of Vaseline on your thighs and underarms and good old band aid for your nipples.
4. What if my GPS watch runs out of battery: This would be a real dampener. Charge it well in advance and for ample duration. If you are dependent on a watch, you are dependent and can’t change much about it during a race.
5. What if my ipod stops working: Have experimented running with and without music and I find them both good but I ran my first full with an Ipod, given the boredom for 6 hours when you are on your own, you need your music.
6. What if I feel like relieving myself during the race: I am talking about the longer break, not urinating. Bowel movement can go erratic with the overeating that you do, termed as carb loading and hence you need to ensure you avoid sitting on the roadside while fellow runners are waving at you.
7. What if my shoes don’t support me:be very clear on which shoes to wear and that you have done some distance with them, I would say at least a 100 kms. I bought new Puma Faas 600S shoes and thankfully wore them for my last long run where I realised they were not ok. Used my good old Asics and they were just fine for the race. Don’t experiment.
At the start line: I have a bad habit of arriving early and here as well for a 6 am start, I was at the start line by 5 am. Runizen people were still setting up, race director was roaming around giving instructions and I was roaming around on the road, in the chill trying to kill time. Well it helped, I was able to acclimatize better, make few friends, and let the reality dawn on me that I was about to run 42.2 kms. In smaller races it is ok, but the bigger ones, you always struggle to find a place to take that last leak else you run the entire race with an urge to pee which is very irritating. So, I remembered to take that final leak just before the start.
Don’t push initially: Stick to your race plan. If you have planned to run at 8 km per hour, stick to it. People around you will run faster cos, either they are stronger or they have trained better or they are stupid.
I was planning to run at a constant speed of 8.5 km per hour and target a 5 hour finish. I ran faster in the initial period. 8.7 avg. speed instead of 8.5 kmph. Well that took its toll. I slowed down significantly during the second half of the race.
I did the 21.1 in 2:28 and the second half in 3:21. Had I run at 8.2 kmph I would have finished stronger and faster.
21-32 is the tricky part: First 21 was cakewalk having done 11 half marathons earlier. But then it starts dawning upon you that you have to do another 21 and blocks you mentally. Stay strong during this period, think about your training long runs and the fact that you have done a 30+ distance comes in handy. Keep running at a comfortable pace. Walk if you wish to for some time. It’s not criminal to walk for some time.
Hydration and Nutrition: I had never tried gels earlier but had read so much about the wall. I managed somehow to get gels from Singapore only the eve of the race. I usually depend on figs and eat one every 7 kms for my half marathons but for a full I needed more energy. I literally experimented with gels during my race and it came out good. I consumed the first one at 13 km mark, second one at 25 kms. At 30 I almost gave up, too at 5 minute break, consumed one more gel and went on now stronger after the break. The fourth gel was consumer at the 36 km mark which took me past the finish line. I kept eating boiled potatos with salt which was available at the 5.275 km mark (this was a race with 8 loops of 5.275 km each. Sounds boring but I did my training runs in a 600 meter loop, so my 32 km long run was 53 loops of 600 meters, if that would sound crazy enough to you). I kept sipping at every water station and took Gatorade where available.
Last 10 km: This I found to be the most enjoyable as you start counting down by now. Once it is less than 10 then it keeps getting easier. Just stay strong and keep going. The thought that you would have completed a full marathon is strong enough to keep you going. The last kilometers do not go by easily so think of the distance and not the time that you would take and it would be easier. I pulled myself together and decided to run the last 4 kms continuously no matter what and finish with a sprint.
I did sprint for the last 250 meters with a very wide smile and no pain when I crossed the line in 5:49:29.
It’s all in the head. The wall, the daunting and humbling distance, the fatigue and one can overcome that, I would not say easily but with strong will and lots of practice. The toe nails falling off, blisters, killing pain in calves is all real. (4 toe nails short after the full marathon). Still feeling tired, still very hungry four days after the race.
While running, I thought a lot of times that I will never attempt this distance again but I would as I have to qualify for Comrades (90 km Ultra). It’s fun to complete a marathon and be called a marathoner.
p.s.: smile for the pictures on the way cos that’s the memories you would have from the race and use them to show off.