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Sunday, December 23, 2012

My First Ultra Marathon ... yeahhhh!!!!

Coming back to the topic of this post, it's been a life-long ambition to complete a full-marathon and this was a spur of the moment decision to "Just Do It". Late-September, I was debating between the 12.5K and the 25K and the 12.5 would have been the more reasonable choice considering the longest I'd ever run was the TCS 10K earlier this year. But then, I thought what the hell. What's life without a challenge. This post is a long (really really long) time coming. I was once an avid blogger and wrote on the smallest of events of my life. This past month has been the most eventful month of my life and I felt that it deserved a post even if it doesn't become the restart of what was once a regular habit.

The two events:

Event 1: Nov 11th, 2012 - Ran and completed my first ever Marathon (OK, it was just a half marathon rather a 25K race).
Event 2: In just a little under 4 weeks after that, we were blessed with a little angel (To-Be-Named) at 5:38 am on the 8th of December. After some initial breathing troubles and a minor bout of Jaundice, she is now back at home enjoying her long naps interspersed with frequent smiles immediately followed by frowns which keeps us amused all day.

The next 6 weeks were spent in diligent training. lots of useful advice from my experienced marathoner friends (Special thanks to Rajit), lots of purchases (shoes, ankle and knee support, running clothes - all to keep me motivated & fake preparedness:-)) and tons of (pre-exam day like) anxiety over if I would be able to do it. Before I knew it, race-day was onto me. The longest I'd run in my 5 week training on my long run days was about 11-12K and the race was double the distance.

Race day started really early. Got up at 3am (after a couple of hours of sleep) and drove down to MG Road to get on the Bus to the race location. Reached the race venue at 5am, did my stretches, ate some light snacks since by my estimate the race would only end around 10am for me (Positive thinking that I would make the end) and started at the back of the line-up when we were called to the starting line. Start late, start slowly was what everyone had told me. I followed the advice to the T.

I really was at the back of the pack and even the few who started behind me started running past me pretty soon ... was jogging that slowly. It wasn't until the 3k mark that I finally noticed a few people who'd raced ahead starting to walk and I slowly jogged past them. Since it was a 6.25x2 loop that we had to repeat twice, I made the half loop in around 48". Relatively slow, but I was still jogging and hadn't once stopped but for the occassional walks at the water junctions.

I continued on and surprise surprise, was still jogging at the 12.5 mark. When I was about 200m from the half-way mark, I heard a lot of chatter and excitement on the loud speaker. I did for a moment begin to wonder if all the excitement was for my completing the biggest run of my life ... I looked back and saw a tall lanky dude running after me. I suddenly realized that this was the "To-Be-Winner" of the half-marathon who was running towards the finish line. I definitely didn't want to get lapped, not even by the winner of the race ... so I ran like I was actually racing him to the finish line. Was probably a funny sight for the volunteers ... but it definitely mattered to me. :-) I crossed the half-way mark at around 1'45". This speed and I would make the full race at 3'30" which would have been amazing for a first-timer.

Happy that I'd made it past the half-way mark, I continued running/jogging till about the 15K mark ... that was when I started feeling a real pain on my left heel. I'd strapped myself around the ankle and the ankle-brace while keeping my ankle protected was starting to hurt near the heel real badly since I'd not strapped it on correctly. I stopped to remove my shoe & the ankle brace and that was probably the first big mistake. The break was a long one (atleast 5-8mins) and I lost a lot of time and momentum. After that, I was not able to jog continuously however hard I tried. As I neared the 3/4 distance point the runs had reduced to a few meters followed by long walks.

Lot of pain, lot of hobbling and several failed attempts at running later made it to about a km of the finish line. I definitely didn't want to walk past the finish line and jogged the last km despite being in real pain. Was a satisfying finish in 3'50" ... much slower than what I'd hoped for at the half-way mark but within my worst case scenario of 4 hours. And better news was delivered a few minutes after I finished ... the announcer announced that there were still around 75 people still running after I had finished. I wasn't the last one and that was good enough for me.

Finishing a half-marathon was probably never a big deal ... finishing it when I am at my heaviest & most unfit without picking up any major injury both during the training & during the race is the real story.

Having spent the last month gloating over having finished a marathon, I signed up for the Auroville Marathon to make sure that I keep up my running and don't give up on my dream to one day complete a full-marathon. After a month of lazing on my backside and resting on my so-called laurels & accolades (read likes), I ran my first training run yesterday. The goal for Auroville is to complete the shorter distance of 21.2K (Half-Marathon) at a 2'30" OR atleast a 2'40". Might be ambitious ... but what's life without a challenge or two. Wish me luck!!!

A side note: I did make sure I told my gym instructor about this. In early October, the dude gave me a "you must be joking" look and laughed his heart out when I told him that I'd signed up for a 25K. Saying that "he was shocked" when he heard that I'd completed the 25K would be an understatement.  :-)


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