10K To Full Marathon

A bit too late to post now but as they say it’s better late than never.

I finished my first full marathon in January 2018 in Tata Mumbai Marathon. When I look back at how it all started, the first time I took part in a running event was in 2012 in the TCS World 10K run in Bangalore. At that point of time I was a casual runner with just the intent of finishing the run without any focus on timing, etc. I might have trained for the run for about 3 or 4 weeks prior to the race and then never ran for the rest of the year. Fast forward to 2018 and there has been a lot of change in the way I train, run and my running goals. Now I run for the sheer joy of running. I always remember the tagline of Auroville Marathon “Run for the joy of running” which sums up why anyone would endure the pain and still keep running longer distances year over year. Running became like an addiction now and my goals keep changing every year. Right now it’s about better timing, longer distances or tougher trails.

How I got introduced to running…..
People who know me from childhood would be surprised to know that I am running marathons now :). I used to be a kid who would avoid any kind of physical activity in school/college and especially anything that had to be done out in the hot sun. One of my engineering friends got into running and was doing 10K’s and half-marathons. As part of that he was planning to do the TCS 10K run in 2012 and told me about it. I reluctantly registered for it to see what all this was about and that was the initial seed for my running career.

How I got serious about running…..
After barely being able to survive my first TCS 10K run in 2012, I ran in the same event in 2013 and 2014 too. However, there was no change in my training or any improvement in my timing. Looking at my performance in 2014 I told myself that I wouldn’t repeat this again and wanted to challenge myself to do it better the next time. So, I decided to register for the Hyderabad half marathon the same year with 3 months remaining to the race day. My target was different this time. I just wanted to focus on training regularly and wanted to finish the first half marathon in sub-3 hours. I was able to finish the race in 2:49:40 and felt very good about it. After this, I never looked back and trained regularly on my own to improve my timing gradually.

Here are few things changed from 2012 to the present…..
In the initial days of my TCS runs, music was mandatory for me to run and now I don’t enjoy listening to music at all. Even on my long runs I like to run freely without any music. Moreover, now that I run with a running group (Ashva Running Club) I have company most of the times in my long runs.

When I was doing the 10K runs, I used to have very bad headaches after the race. The rest of the day used to be ruined and I never understood why it used to happen. Overtime, after lot of research and talking to other runners, I realized these are the dehydration headaches and I need to take care of my hydration (especially electrolytes) well. After a lot of experimentation, I could zero-in on what works for me and I am able to avoid the dehydration headaches after most of the long runs. More details on my hydration can be found here.

The other major problem for most of the runners is digestive distress during a race or long run. This has ruined several of my races earlier. After a lot of experimentation, I now narrowed down on what works for emptying my bowels properly on the morning of a race or a long run :).

Reading Born to Run book has also changed my perspective about running a lot. I would definitely recommend this book to any runner or a wannabe runner.

Over this period, along with running, I have also learnt a lot about eating healthy and how it can impact my runs. I eat more consciously now and avoid processed food, sugars as much as I can. Of course there are more reasons for my diet change other than running but that’s for another post.

One problem with which I had been struggling from the beginning was about hydration gear during a run. I experimented a lot and still experimenting to get to that perfect hydration gear solution that would work for me on long runs. I generally dislike using any plastic products and that has limited my options a lot. Every few months based on the distances I run, I keep experimenting but yet to solve this problem.

Joining a running group…..
When it came to running my first full marathon, I decided to join a running group so that I can have proper focus and improve my performance. However, joining the running group has given me a lot more than what I was expecting. I made a lot of new friends, got inspiration from folks of all ages, got to know about quite a lot of races across India and abroad. The most important point being I was able to overcome my mental blocks of whether I could run a particular distance or maintain a particular pace or run over uphills, etc. Seeing other folks in the group I gained enough confidence to try out something new and challenging. At the same time, I also make sure to not burn myself too much by looking at all the experienced runners. I believe in improving gradually and don’t want to rush by doing too much too soon.

Thanks to the initiative of TMM organizers, this year there were two medals for finishers. One for the finisher and one for the person who inspired. I gave my inspiration medal to my colleague / coach Brijesh Gajera (Ashva Running Club) who is an exceptional runner and has inspired many runners at Cisco Bangalore.

I look forward to doing more off-road races, hill ultras and forest trails over time. I am also focussing on improving my core strength and doing some cross-training as well to reduce the chances of injury along with improving my performance.

Running without headache

One of the biggest problems with my long distance (10K or longer) weekend runs was the post-run headache. I would be perfectly alright immediately after the run but slight nagging headache would start after a few hours. It would continue for the rest of the day unless I sleep for 2-3 hours post run. This would mean that most part of the day would be gone. Although taking a headache tablet is another solution, I do not prefer taking tablets frequently.

I started researching online and found out that there are three main reasons for post-run headaches – dehydration, bad posture (neck area) and exposure to the sun. In my case, the posture seemed to be fine so it had to be the dehydration or the sun. I’m generally a bit sensitive to long exposure to sun but the main reason turned out to be dehydration. I used to carry enough water during my runs and also used to have one coconut water (~250-300 ml) after my run but that wasn’t helping.

I then realized that the excess loss of salts during the runs could be causing the headaches. Sports drinks like Gatorade was an option but I hate these chemical filled drinks. That is when I started having extra coconut water after the runs. I started having at least 2 coconut water (~500 ml) for every 6 – 7 km of my run. I’ve tested this multiple times over the last few weeks and can confidently say that this is working perfectly for me. I am finally very happy to have found a solution to the post-run headaches. Now the only worry is to make sure I have enough of coconut water stocked on the race day when I go to other cities for my runs. If possible I think it’s good to have one coconut water before the run as well to keep myself well hydrated.

Coconut water has been working wonders for me and I strongly recommend it to all runners/cyclists. I also make my own energy drink by putting some sabja (also called chia or falooda) seeds in the coconut water and allow it to soak for sometime. I carry a bottle of this during my long runs and also on the race days instead of having the chemical filled electrolyte drinks given on the race days. We are really fortunate to get fresh coconut water in every nook and corner here unlike in other countries where coconut water is also sold as packaged drink with added preservatives.

Run Rocky Run

I have been participating in the TCS 10K runs for 4 years now but it’s been only an year since I got more serious about running. After last year’s TCS 10K run, I decided to train well and also run regularly instead of running just a month or two before the runs. That’s how I got into registering for half marathons. Airtel’s Hyderabad Half Marathon in 2014 was my first one. I trained for almost 2.5 months for the run and the only target was to complete the run without much focus on the timing. I did it in 2 hours 47 minutes. After this, Half Marathons in Kaveri Trail Run (KTM), Bengaluru Midnight Marathon and the Auroville Half Marathon followed. I felt really good after completing each of these runs. I really enjoyed the scenic KTM run and Auroville run. I was very impressed with the living style and the greenery in Auroville. The trail was in the green zone and the muddy trail was perfect for the run. At the end of four Half Marathons, my current timing is around 2 hours 40 minutes.
Born To Run
I’m looking forward to these runs this year as well but the target now is to get my timing under 2 hours 30 minutes consistently. My long term goal is to be able to run in at least a few of these awesome runs – http://runnersforlifenewsletter.com/7-unique-international-races-worth-breakingyour-bank-for/.

I got a cycle (Btwin 5 Original hybrid bike) for cross training for my runs. However, I have also been using it to cycle to work for over 6 months now. Also, I took part in the Vodafone Cycling Event in Bangalore recently and finished 40 kms in 110 minutes.

After finishing the race
After finishing the race