Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Couch-to-5k running (Couch25k)


Lately, I have noticed a surge in people’s interest in running – particularly 5k runs. Why? There is lot of talks going on about it in all age groups these days. Even if you are nonchalant about it, you cannot ignore the fact that general awareness is rising in society. It could be in the form of one of the following especially if you are in US. (I am not sure what is the situation in India, but would love to hear from one of our readers)
  • 5k color runs in kids’ school
  • 5k charity runs supporting a cause
  • 5k runs sponsored by company
  • 5k runs in the neighborhood or society
  • 5k runs organized by fitness companies
  • Health insurance companies throwing rewards for participating in races
  • And there are a few more I am not aware of...

In our community, the many events related to running stirs interest in many individuals, but then perishes soon due to lack of direction or disinclination. There are few energetic people who jog into the world of running, but then become turned off simply by trying to start too fast. Their bodies’ rebel and they wind up miserable, wondering why anyone would possibly want to do this to themselves. They never go over the threshold to shape their running into an enjoyment.

The key here is that you should cruise comfortably into your running program. Just understand that you cannot transform yourself from couch potato into a runner unless you first enjoy jogging, especially if you have never jogged or ran before. In fact, the beginners' program should be less of a running routine, and rather a walking and jogging program. The simple plan is to walk- jog -run for 15-20 days and gradually add half a mile each week until you reach three miles. If you follow this simple mantra, I assure you that you can do a 5k with much ease and little pain. Just think about the feeling of accomplishment after you finish your run. Trust me; there will be no looking back after that.

Friends - go ahead and sign up for a race in whichever city you are, train at your own pace and enjoy the multitudes of benefits.



Sunday, February 23, 2014

Katy Wellness 5k run – Feb 23

This will be the blog in pictures. Last month I was all alone from our group in this race, this time many of us showed genuine interest and signed up for the walk/run. Today morning, when we woke up it was drizzling outside and I was quite disappointed. A few of the friends in our group were first time runners – couch-to-5k and I knew weather could be a deterrent for them. Anyway, we reached the venue and so did the few other eager runners from our group. Unfortunately, few missed the race due to weather but hey, there is always next time.



Everybody was happy to be there as I could see genuine enthusiasm on
their face.  True to the proverb “fortune favors the bold” or “god favors brave”, the rain god showed some mercy and weather became very pleasant to suit running. The race started and we all strode towards the first mile post along with hundreds of other runners. Some of us were walking and others running to their goal to complete 5K run. For most of the runners, it was a mix of running, walking and resting. This combination helped them reduce the risk of injury, stress and fatigue, while boosting their enjoyment of physical activity.


We all reached the finish line taking our own sweet time. However, there
was one thing common between us – a sense of achievement. Part of the elation that everybody was experiencing was the result of knowing that we achieved something we worked hard for, something that earlier in life we may have thought we could never do; that's a big deal.




s.



The best part was - to my pleasant surprise- immediately after the race all of us were talking about signing up for the next race to recreate this feeling on a regular basis. Also, we felt obligated to motivate more and more from our community to be part of this endeavor and enjoy the benefit.

Kudos to all!!

Monday, February 17, 2014

How can I enjoy running?

I was chatting with couple of my friends and they asked me a very simple question – how do you enjoy running? I knew that it was not an easy one to answer because of the perception in our community that running so late in life could be painful and extremely boring. My unpretentious response was that I did not enjoy my first few runs but now I am attuned to it and I relish it thoroughly – I just had to cross the threshold to experience the runner’s high. Now, I like everything about it. The feeling of accomplishment, the positive mental benefits, and the way my body feels afterwards. Furthermore, running gives me sanity and keeps me real.

How was I able to do that? 

Before I share my ideas based on personal experience, here is one advice – “just pull up your socks, lace up your shoes and get out of the door – anytime is a good time. After that it is a piece of cake”.



  1. Listen to music – Whatever is your favorite. Mine is Kishore Kumar. Listening to music when  you on a run will take your mind off of your heavy breathing and how much farther you have to go.
  2. Switch locations for outdoor runs – Change is refreshing and enjoyable. Always look for different tracks, trails or sometime go on treadmill too. Every city, town or village has a place or two which can be used for outdoor running. I grew up in Bokaro, a small town in India – I vividly remember City Park where people used to go for a jog every morning.
  3. Run comfortably with proper gear – You don't need any fancy running gear but a good pair of running shoes, synthetic socks and technical fabric clothes will work magic.
  4. Don’t run too hard – It is good to push yourself but know your limits and don’t overdo them. You should avoid competitive running when in for fun and fitness.
  5. Don’t use any stop watch initially – I will advise against using any watch in the beginning so that your focus is just running and nothing else. Timing your initial attempts and then comparing with others may dampen your spirits.
  6. Use mental training to overcome your mind-speak – Your mind will suggest you to stop but keep telling yourselves - this is expected. Rehearse running over and over in your mind to bring into line with the way that you act and think.
  7. Reward yourself – It is a good idea to treat you after a run. It could be another running gear, Nike shirt or even writing an article in a blog (like me).
  8. Notice change in fitness level – In a few days of running, you will see a drastic change in the BMI (Body Mass Index) which alone would be enough to inspire you to move forward. Your endurance and stamina will also elevate to a higher level.
  9. Run with friends – If possible, look for few like-minded people who can be your running buddies. This can help your workouts go by faster and also in following a running plan. However, running alone is also not a bad idea because then you have the flexibility of managing your own schedule.
  10. Rest period – Always keep a day off between long distance runs. I call it a healing time for your body and gives your running muscles a break. If you are a sporty person, you may utilize this time in some cross training activities like biking, swimming or light weightlifting.
  11. Eat well and sleep well and listen to yourself – This is very important for the sake of healthy and enjoyable running. Learn to listen to yourself to differentiate between usual run-of-the-mill aches and real injuries that need attention. Don’t ignore any warning sign from your body. Keep the balance right and your will enjoy running.
  12. Run with a goal – I will strongly suggest you to sign up for a 5k run or any fun run in your community or city. Promise to yourself that you are committed and will complete the run, no matter what, at least this one time. Doing it “one time” will give you enough energy and motivation to do it again and again.
  13. Share your experience – Let your friends, family and online community know what you are up to.  Trust me – you efforts will be fittingly appreciated and encouraged. That works like a magic and gives you lot of mettle to overcome the challenge. 

I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but those are just few things that I have found helpful over the past year.

Remember - Running isn't just fun, it's an exclusive life style.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Let’s bust Myth#2: I am too old to run now

I had no intention of starting this blog even when I discovered the joy and benefits of running. But, then I was talking to one of my close friends in India and he suggested me to pen down the experience in own words to encourage some of our friends to walk and jog to improve their health. It sounded exciting and at the same time an opportunity to catch up with childhood friends who are all mostly in their 40s now. Although I expected to encounter some reluctance, lot of foot-dragging as well as passiveness about this sport, I took the task up in hand to stimulate friends and family around to lace up their shoes and go outside to walk, jog or run.
Yet, I missed one important point there – traditionally we are very family oriented, socially active and career savvy people with little or no penchant towards the health of mind and body. There are exceptions but most of us belong to this general category. It is deep rooted in our culture that only when you are old or retired then take up walking not just to maintain a good health but also to kill some time. But, is it sufficient, do you think it serves any real purpose?  Is it not too late by then? And at that stage does it really help in keeping you stress free or feel rejuvenated or helps burn your fat or cut calories?
Various scientific studies suggest that big health benefits come from rigorous exercise like running. There are other ones too but I consider this to be a cheap and easy one to embrace. Only things you need initially is little motivation, commitment and then an inner urge to achieve.  So, when to start – I found that the general perception among my friends is that  they are now old enough to run and there will be stress put on joints, feet, muscles and backs. This may be partially true although I don't concur but you are taking a much bigger risk by not doing anything at this stage. Why nobody is concerned about that notion? We are risk-averse people by nature when it comes to family, job, status, wealth etc. then why not for health which is one of the most important chattels you will need after 10-15 years.
A report published in one of the fitness magazine claimed that half of the long distance runner in the world started running after 40 and one-third of them are women. Does that surprise you?  Not me, because I too started late and recognized the fact this is the perfect time. With the right ratio of run/walk segments, almost anyone can finish a 10k or even half-marathon without pain. I did that myself with no fatigue or injury. Every time I go out in a race, I meet runners in their 60s, 70s and 80s who are training for – or even finished their first half marathon or marathon. If a westerner can do it so late in their life, why can’t we at 40 or 45 or even 50? Why we come up with lame excuses when it comes to jogging or running? Why do we negate to the fact that we are not doing any good to our future by not putting any effort right now?
Friends – this is the time to be proactive about your health, to boost your confidence, fill your heart with positive energy and self-esteem because then you can reap the benefit for more number of years to come. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

My official first half marathon story - Houston Rhythm and Blues

It's a fact that for a runner, first half marathon and marathon will forever be imprinted in the mind. Today was my first official half marathon and I experienced this fact myself. It was gratifying as well as strenuous, unexpectedly humorous and inspirational at the same time. I felt the overwhelming joy of reaching 13.1 miles without stopping for a second. Clearly, I was not the best runner in the lot but sensed the universal pride that comes from accomplishing the first half marathon. I am thrilled to narrate the short story of this eventful day for blog readers and hopefully be able to spark an interest in those of you who aspire to be future marathon runners.


The race was to start at 8:30am at downtown Houston’s historic Sam Houston Park. My daughter Navya and I started early in the morning so that we could be there at least 30 minutes before the race. My son had a sleepover last night in our house, so he could not come and neither could my wife. But, again they are going to get more opportunities in future for sure because I have many more races planned this year.

True to its name, “Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon”, the atmosphere was electrifying. We were told by the organizers that 15-16 selected Rhythm and Blues bands from throughout Texas would be playing throughout the running course to cheer up all the runners. I did not realize at that moment how that positive encouragement could help motivate me straight to the finish line.


The race commenced around 8:30 and I crossed the starting line nervously yet feeling the excitement. As I trained for it, many of my forum friends gave me the usual warnings to “respect the distance,” and pace myself conservatively. I was advised against not setting a goal that seemed “too ambitious” for the first official
run. I truly believed that and tried to heed to their advice. That being said, I had this target of finishing the race within 2 hours in my mind. I was going at my own comfortable pace which I used to maintain during my practice runs. I was not trying to run very fast yet maintained my goal speed each mile. At the first water station after 2 miles, a few runners took a sip of Gatorade or water; I decided to run continuously instead. During practice runs too, I seldom drank any water so I adhered to that self-imposed rule. First six miles passed by without any fuss, racing to the beats of live bands along a spectator filled course. I was happy with my performance so far because my body was coping up well and was handsomely cruising along towards my goal of finishing the race well below two hours. Exactly then I noticed the change in the elevation of the course which brought my speed down a little. It was a deterrent but could not dampen my spirits to finish the race in two hours (2:01:43:4 to be exact). For my last mile, I had a plan to run it in 8 minutes which I did overtaking quite a few runners just before the finish line.

The overall feeling of crossing that line and finishing the race is difficult to put into words. It’s an adrenaline rush like no other. And then the post run FUN begins. After having a few pictures taken first by my daughter who was visibly very excited that her dad did it and then by the professional photographer, we moved to the staged area where a popular Texan band was playing mainstream music. When I looked at different booths for food, drink and fitness related advertisements, I noticed one line to be the longest. To my pleasant surprise, that was the beer line for the runners and I also joined that crowd for a mug of draught beer. There were people dancing and singing along with the band while some of them still eagerly waiting for their dear ones to complete the race. We stayed there for one hour or so then decided to head out home after enjoying a memorable day at an amazing race! 

The Beer Line

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Let’s bust myth#1: “Running is bad for my knees”

When I started running a year ago, I assumed that because running requires pounding on the ground, it would certainly damage my knees. I was little overweight with a high Body Mass Index. Although I did not discontinue my running, I felt the pressure and could not enjoy the experience of running.

“Running is bad for my knees" is the most common myth especially if you are over 40. I did some research, read couple of books and also got the opportunity to interact with a few elite runners, only to find out that this myth is just that. A myth! 

Yesterday, I was conversing with one of my childhood friends from Patna, who happens to be little overweight, but enthusiastic about running. His biggest concern was “running isn't healthy or will destroy my knees”. Among Indian non-runners who are over 40, this is definitely the biggest fear that discourages them from lacing up their shoes and going outside for run. Just remember, running is one of the best activities for your health and there aren't any studies that show joint damage directly  related to running.  Also, you don’t need to have a certain body type to run; anybody at any age, in any shape and size can be a runner. If you don’t believe me than come out to a race and watch all the people who are running, you will get your answer.



 I finished reading the book “Born to Run” a few months ago and it completely changed my internal thought process about running. I found that it just takes patience and time to adapt. Let the body acclimatize to the circumstances which it will and then you will enjoy the experience. “Born to Run” is a very well written inspirational book which has now become my favorite for obvious reasons. I am not an expert by any stretch of imagination, but can say with confidence that there is no research that shows a greater instance of joint issues or osteoarthritis in people who run versus those who do not.  On the contrary, studies show that running can be beneficial for your joints as it strengthens the muscles, enhances oxygen intake and increases bone density. My only advice would be to pay attention to things like body mass, training, food intake, behavior, age, any previous injury and take a holistic approach to distance running in order to prevent any running-related injuries.

Enough said. “Running is NOT bad for my knees”.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2014- my second full distance race

A week before a race, I had got a request from a friend (FB Mumbai marathon) asking whether we can go together as our goals (sub4 hours) were same. She (Sandra) had run several full marathons in Munich, Jerusalem, and Berlin. Her best time was 3:36 Hrs at midnight Munich marathon. I was delighted with the thought and we chatted on line about the pace etc.

When my husband came to know she is coming alone from Munich just for the marathon, he said we should help her in staying here. We tried looking for hotels nearby our home at Malabar hill, but most of them were fully booked. We finally got a friend who helped us for booking her room at BHEL guest house. However, we offered her to stay with us, as it would be easy for her to go to the race venue.

She loved the idea of staying with us. She arrived on Tuesday night. We trained together at PDP from Wednesday. She is a trainer at NIKE runners’ club-Munich. I was so happy to have a runner buddy to run with me.. I’ve no words to describe the happiness and blissfulness I was feeling. As during my entire training, I ran all the long runs alone.. I always wished I had someone to run with me at my pace..
So, “God” had sent her for me! J  
We three marathoners in one house!! My husband, Sandra and me!
Sandra loves Indian food, so I did not have to worry to make her separate meals for her. So we ate together, carbo- loaded ourselves together. Also, enjoyed eating various fruits and having beet root juice for 3 days.. My husband (Capt Pramod) had got fruits which will last for 10 days for a dozen of people.
My fridge was overloaded with the berries, beet roots and grapes.. I had no place to keep a dozens of watermelons and musk melons and papayas!

On Saturday evening we dropped Chirag to his friend’s home for a sleepover. Chirag always looks forward to this marathon as he gets to do a sleep over to his favourite friend’s home. We were back to home early on Saturday. We wanted to eat and sleep early, but the door bells for maids though instructed before, and our friends (non runner) wishing us for the marathon was on till 11 in the night.
Sandra had already set up her running gear for the race day. Capt stitched his bib to his singlet. I too laid my stuff properly, but this time, I had a doubt about my running socks. My foot size has got bigger by half size. So the current shoes were not big for me to run the 42k. so, decided to wear thin socks.
I couldn’t sleep as I heard capt sneezing and coughing..Soon, the alarm rang. I jumped out of the bed. Went straight to the kitchen to prepare the pre-race breakfast for three marathoners. Sandra came out from the room completely ready! Capt takes hours in the shower.. till then, I made orange juice for three of us, and poured the porridge in 3 bowls.

Our neighbor Milind Dhume was ready with the car sharp at 4:30. He is very punctual in everything. He is an international level badminton player. His wife Swaroop introduced me to running at NRC at Police Gymkhana-marine drive.
So, Sandra and capt were ready before me. I had more stuff to do, than them. As a responsible person for locking the house, shutting the windows cleaning up the kitchen counter etc..
We reached at the venue, quite early. I mean, we were not late. This time we had decided not to take loo breaks during the race. 

So we visited it prior to line up.  Did some dynamic warm up stretches while
moving to start line.. the race had already began.  Forgetting about the line up section, as we three were in three different ones.. we strided to the start line and I heard my coach cheering me!

We were together at a good pace. Sandra was observing the pace via her GPS. I never used my New balance GPS watch while training, so didn’t bother to look at it. We were running easy .. When I was waving back to the people cheering on pedder road, Sandra asked me,” do you know all of them?”.
I said, “I think, we don’t need to know them.. they are there for us. to give us positive energy.”
At 10K my office guy offered me my energy drink. And I had my first block of power food.  We were running together, and then from behind we heard a group of runners pounding their feet- it was a 4 hour bus, who were running at a faster pace than ours. I told Sandra they are going ahead of us, let’s catch up. She said, they are going faster than our decided pace. So we stick to ours.
At sea-link, I saw Milind Soman running his first bare- feet marathon. I introduced him to Sandra. So, there were two celebrity runners I was running with. Sandra writes running blogs and motivates runners at Munich. She also raises funds for an NGO (Indo German society) that helps Indian women in rural area. Sandra had a tiny video camera with her to take the clips during the run. So, her mind was on it.


We were together matching each other’s pace. We crossed 21km in 1:52 Hrs. we were feeling easy and continued till 26km.. Sandra had enerzal at each hydration station. I had a doubt whether she could be OK with it as one doesn’t try anything new on the race day. I turned back and waited for her to join me.. but, she started getting slower as she felt dizzy and vomited too..i ran backwards to look for her.. she was way behind. So I moved ahead. Worrying about her, my pace became slower.. when I saw another veteran woman overtaking me, I charged up again and increased my pace. She mentioned me, that I had overtaken her at worli loop last year. She said that there are many faster veterans this time, and are already gone ahead.. so there was no looking back.. I increased my pace a bit.. as after 26km.. you are exhausted. I was feeling strong and no signs of pain or cramp.. so I kept my pace constant. I overtook 2 women runners. Every time I overtook a woman runner, I turned around to check the color of the BIB!! To cross check whether a veteran category runner or not!!:) ha ha..

I reached the pedder road, volunteers and cheering people were plenty.. Gathered all my energy and kept on running. I stopped for a walk break at pedder road climb. Another runner boy who was also walking talked to me. He said, no walking now.. lets go! So I ran with him. He was an ironman participant. He mentioned that he did not train for marathon! It was purely on his fitness level he ran it. Same like my husband, who doesn’t run till the rest of the runners, go for taper! He starts running in December, just 4 weeks before the marathon. He does workout in gym, cross trains, and swims etc.. But no running.

I saw the elites running down the peddar road  slope and I also ran faster taking the advantage of the slope.
I reached the cool zone section, but were they still putting it up? Or It wasn’t working..who knows?
Then, on marine drive the scenario changes complete.. there are people from various races.. some of them just walk and are not aware about what a marathoners face at this point of run.. Most of the half marathoners who are just finishing walking, walk in groups blocking the road.
At the turning of veer nariman road, I spotted Milind Soman again. But didn’t stop this time.. I had to do sub 4 hours, I didn’t know what the time it was.. someone was shouting cmon you can make it sub 4.. someone was screaming, 4 more km to go!! I was confused- what?? 4 more km??
I also spotted 500rs notes lying in my way.. Dodging them..i went on..I had only one thing in my mind.. to cross the finish line below 4 hrs.. it was my goal..

I sprinted to the finish line.. when the official came to note my bib number I asked him about the position.. he said u r late by 2 min.. I’m the 4th  in the veteran category.
I waited for Sandra at finish line, but no sign of hers.. so I walked to the medical base, took off my shoes to check my toes.. omg! The toenails were bruised, red.. and the big toe was swollen.. poor toes, I never thought about them when i chose to wear thin socks..Applied some ice on them.. and again went back to the finish line to look for Sandra and capt.  I saw Mani Kandan finishing his race. He was overjoyed to finish it.. I saw the joyful tears rolling over his face..why couldn’t I be so happy? I was feeling like a loser..
Sandra’s friend from Munich came to me. He was ready at the finish line for Sandra to offer her chilled Indian thumbsup. He gave me water. Sandra txted him about her location. She was at the medal counter. We went inside the holding area.. walked and walked to locate the medal counter. Then spotted capt already wearing the medal and holding the refreshments. Michael D’souza was taking pictures. He captured three of us. that’s our memorable picture of the race! I truly appreciate Michael D’souza for his contribution towards the capturing the moments at the races.


After the race, we walked for a long time to get the cab. We waited at Bombay hospital gate to get one. Me n Sandra had refreshing coconut water while waiting. Many of them were vacant but refused to go to Malabar hill. At last, we got into one of the cabs, went straight to the club to have chilled shower.  Sandra was upset, me, too. Capt was happy..He was proudly showing all three medals to his friends at the club. After shower, I could not wear the shoes, as my toenails were hurting and swollen. I was bare foot in the club. We had chicken soup and a bit of mutton biryani. One of captain’s friends dropped us home in his car.
Next day evening, at PDP for Chirag’s athletics I had many people ask me about my race.
Aunty what was your rank? What medal did you get? The track athletes know only Gold, Silver and Bronze! Luckily, I had one of them last year.. so their expectations are similar this time.. I can understand them.. but feel so confused.. about the reaction within me... The feeling is all in your state.  
The reactions were, oh c’mon you don’t stop in the race for anyone. Race is a race. When you spend most of the time of the year in training, you don’t deserve to be waiting for anyone. This was the remark of a track athlete.
Some said, you are the real winner! You stopped for a friend. Even captain stopped and helped a runner who wasn’t a friend. That runner had a cardiac problem. He called for ambulance and waited till it arrived.
Captain doesn’t follow a structured training plan. He doesn’t keep timing goals- (he may be having one but keeping to himself). He follows a fitness routine that helps him to run the marathon.
My training is structured, by my coach Dinanath.  He is aware about my limitations to run on the road. So in spite of participating in a road race, I train on the PDP tracks. This time also, I could do barely  5 runs on the road. One was thane Thane Hiranandani half marathon, other was pinkathon 10k, and one long from home to NCPA and back doing loops at NCPA-chowpatty. and  rest others also on marine drive -home to NCPA and back again . My husband says, no roads are safe for a runner in Mumbai.
Most of you won’t believe that I did not do a 20miler run anytime. This was due to time limitations. I can’t give morning hours to run. And even on holidays, I have to be back to home by 7:30AM to be on my toes for the day.
My timing has improved by 9 minutes this time. I understood that most of the people value the “position” and not the “performance”. If I answer their question about the race, “this time it was better! They ask, what’s your position?? How sad..

Lessons learned this time: you run a marathon or any other race all for “yourself”.
Don’t promise to run with anyone for the whole race. Runners will join you and continue their own run at their pace. You are running with “yourself”. No wasting time, if your target its like sub 4 or sub5 .. it hurts a lot when you miss it for couple of minutes that you could have saved..
I need to wait for another year to achieve mine..There may be many marathons during the year.. but I can run only scmm….as I’m not allowed to leave the town just for  running a race.
For my family, my running is for fitness.. not for achieving targets. Otherwise I could have gone to Turin, for master athletics championships. Or attended master athletics meets in India. Condition for attending a race for me is – I can do the one which is on Sunday morning AND in town.
Yes, another thing.. I had decided to change my DP on FB after I get a new winners medal from SCMM..
L But, there are faster women coming up..Some are just turning 40..not only from India but also from different parts of the world running SCMM full distance.

I hope I can change my DP ASAP..  

Sunday, February 2, 2014

XLVIII SUPER BOWL… and the running



The Seahawks, NFL’s best defense team dominated the NFL’s best offense team and the whole game looked like a one sided affair. In my opinion, this would be considered one of the worst games for MVP Peyton Manning, the Bronco’s Quarterback. The Seahawks played a brilliant offense and suffocating defense game to win 43-8 tonight. I was watching the game with a couple of friends. Most of them were Bronco’s supporters, Manning fans, but half of them changed their side by halftime. And wow! What a stunning halftime performance, one of the more energetic Super Bowl performances in recent memory!


On a personal front, I ran more than half marathon distance today as per my training schedule for the Feb 9th half marathon. The weather was not that conducive for running in the Houston area today, it was cold, windy and drizzling outside and therefore I decided to go on the treadmill instead. Although I prefer running long distances outdoors, I ran 13.2 miles on a treadmill today. Can’t complain about that.

Looking forward to my first half marathon of 2014! (http://rhythmandblueshalfmarathon.com/ )