Saturday, December 26, 2015

Trail running – a different experience with Tarahumaras

I am training for a marathon – the Chevron Houston on Jan 17th. I would like to beat my time from last year- although this wish does not look very promising. Nevertheless, I am training hard by my standards. To keep myself on edge, I decided to participate in a trail running event in December of this year in Brazos Bend state park in Texas.  It was only a half marathon, so I was fairly confident in my ability to complete the race.

Thankfully, the race was to begin at 8am, so that gave me sufficient time to reach the park an hour before- as advised by the organizers. Contrary to my expectations, the starting line looked a bit dull compared to my previous races. No lights, no loud music- nothing. There was no trace of any booths, branded sponsors or bands to cheer on the runners. The number of runners was also minimal-in hundreds not thousands unlike my previous races in various cities. Suddenly, I noticed a herd of people going after a couple of runners who were in just slippers not even shoes. Oh my god! Are they Tarahumara, I thought? Yes, indeed they were the world renowned Tarahumara runners who were in the state park to compete in 100 miles race. I felt like this was a dream come true. I was witnessing the best running moment of my life. The heroes of my favorite book – Born to run” were right in front of me. They were running with me on the same trail, Unbelievable! My trail running experience suddenly started to turn into a life time moment.
I was there to run my half marathon in the same park and on the same trail. The main difference was that I only had to make one round of the park, while the 100-milers were to make over 6 rounds! The race started and I felt fully charged. Little did I know that trail running is so much different and tougher then city running where you can run on an even track with crowd encouragement the entire time and with a supply of energy drinks and aid stations a mile or two apart. In the park, it was a different story altogether, the first aid station was at 2 miles but the next one was at the eighth mile. Boy, that was hard – I made the mistake of not carrying any water and almost fainted from dehydration. After a few miles the terrain changed into sticky and slippery ground where running or even jogging was impossible. Runners were jogging, rather walking on logs to cross the alligator ridden park. You had to push yourselves to the limit to cross those hurdles. When I looked around I did not see big group of fancy and pretty faces around, all of them were seasoned and hard core runners. Of course, some of them were ultra-marathoners who were galloping bare chest with only water in their hand. What an exciting feeling! At the same time it was scary to find myself in the middle of this difficult trail with all “pros”. The people who live and die for running. At the 11th mile decided to walk down the race, I heard one call – hey, don’t stop, you can do it. That was a woman in her 50s, running her 7th trail marathon. I just got a pacer for the rest of my race. I finished the race with her with a timing of 2.19.I would rate this to be one of my best races for years to come. It is the one race that took my adrenaline to the highest possible level, elated me with the excitement of running with ultra-marathoners and the Tarahumara, running through alligator’s alleys and at the same time took my endurance level to the highest point.
I love trail running now! I would suggest that all fit Indian runners should try it at least once to feel the intensity of original and high class running without fanfare.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tips for first timers in airtel delhi half marathon

Race season is coming up in many parts of the country, not just in US but in India too. How exciting!! This blog is dedicated to many of my Indian friends who are running Airtel half marathon in Delhi for the first time. Unfortunately, I missed the train due to other commitments and little ignorance :(. However, I can at least contribute by sharing some useful information from my own running experience over the years. If you are a new runner or are entering your first race, your head is probably filled with questions and anticipation about what to expect on race day. Here are a few tips to help ease your anxiety:

Do not try anything new on the day of the race. This includes clothes, shoes, food etc. If you decide to buy a new pair of shoes, make sure you have worn them two weeks prior to the race. If you’ve bought yourself new clothes especially the shorts, make sure you've done at least one test-run in them prior to the race. You do not want any surprises chafing up.

Arrange all of your clothing and gear the night before the race. Attach the bib to your shirt. Make sure your iPod is charged if you plan to use one to listen to music during the race. Laying everything out the night before helps to ensure that you have everything you need and do not forget an important item that you might skip over in the middle of any pre-race anxiety. 

Try to get there early. This gives you time to settle down, mix up with the crowd and gets pumped up for the race of your life.

Do not overdress. A good rule is to dress as if the weather is 9-10 degree C warmer than it actually is. That is how much you will warm up once you start running. You can always dress in layers but get rid of extra clothes before you  start running. If it is very cold then you may consider covering your ears and use hand gloves that will help you retain the body heat for a long time. You will run more comfortably.

Light warm-up prior to the race. A good warm-up would be walking or light jogging for five minutes and possibly some very light stretching. You should never stretch cold muscles, so if you do stretch, make sure you have warmed your muscles with walking or jogging first. 

Line up with runners of similar ability. Find the part of the pack that runs your pace. For half marathon, don’t feel shy if you plan to walk few miles. You will find many others following the same mantra. The goal is to finish the race not injure yourself.

Start slowly. Don’t get super thrilled because it is very easy to get swept up in the excitement and head out too fast, only to get exhausted way before the finish line.

When I did my first half marathon, I learnt that one should be prepared to play mental games and trust in your  training.  Something like - “Oh I only have ‘X’ miles left — I can definitely do that!” Or “Partying tonight would be fun with friends after the race”. Trust me; your first half marathon will be unlike anyone else’s. The culmination of your struggles and your triumphs will be uniquely yours on race day. You will feel the blood rushing through your veins when you see thousand energetic and happy faces running with you. I can bet that you will have an excellent first race and feel emotionally exuberant throughout each mile. And above all – the awesome feeling of accomplishment after finishing the race will become the most cherished moment of your life.

Have fun! After all, what is the point of races if you do not enjoy yourself? 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Resume running after a break – Not easy?

I almost logged 800 miles in 8 months, then took a break. Not sure why? But it happened. For a month, I fought hard to go back on track but found difficult to get back my passion. It took me some time to realize where I went wrong. Thankfully, Now that I am back to my running streak and about to reach my goal of 1000 miles this year, I could not stop myself from blogging it on fit Indian run.

What it takes to start running again after a long break? Whether you've taken an extended break from running because of an injury, a busy schedule, or lack of motivation, here are some tips on how to ease back into running. If you've only been sidelined from running for a short period of time, such as a week or two, and don't feel like you should be completely starting over, these tips will help in coming back from a running break.

  •  Join a running group.
  • Follow a training schedule
  • Take a walk break but don't stop
  • Register for a race
  • Go to your favorite places to run
  • Cross train to build fitness
  • Avoid doing too much too soon
  • Don't get discouraged

Happy running!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Looking for one, here are 52 reasons to run a marathon

I was reading about this amazing runner, Dane Rauschenberg who made his mark on the running world by running 52 marathons in 52 consecutive weekends. Seems challenging! He gave 52 reasons to run a marathon when contacted by a journalist. After running a few half-marathons myself, and even a couple of marathons, I too am a proponent of 26.2 miles. However, this "super runner's" biography blew me away! He took this challenge to the greatest extreme. I hope to meet him in the future at a marathon. Here are a few reasons to keep running-even when it may seem tough!

1. Exuberance
2. Inspire others
3. Self-confidence
4. Be a superhero
5. Travel
6. Learn the most of an area
7. Make new friends
8. Catered exercise –
9. Nice quads.
10. Nice calves.
11. Nice buttocks.
12. Nice abs.
13. Amazing people
14. Camaraderie
15. Medals
16. Streets are yours – They close down the streets like a freaking parade. For you! You are royalty!
17. Winning attitude
18. It’s For you
19. Because you can
27-52.  These last 26 are for the 26 miles of the marathon. You should run a marathon because mile-by-mile you will bring yourself that much closer to becoming invincible. Pain, chafing, sweat, tears, and blood will all just be memories as mile after mile you move closer to being unbreakable.
If you notice, I skipped few of the reasons because it did not make a sense to me probably as an Indian guy J

Forget what I said about the half-marathon. I just convinced myself to run another 26.2 mi soon.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Seven Steps to a Successful Running Habit

During my recent trip to India, I met several enthusiastic people who expressed genuine interest in running or jogging for that matter. Many of them also started with good intentions to maintain a regular running habit, but eventually gave up after a couple of weeks. I have noticed the same issue with few of my buddies here in US as well and therefore decided to look more closely into the main deterrent which prevents Indians from getting into this habit. Try some of these tips to maintain your motivation and determination to keep running. Various researches have proved that it can take about four to six weeks to develop a habit, so it does take some perseverance to make your new running habit stick. Once you cross the threshold there is no looking back, and what you will experience is true bliss.

1.  Start a learning program.

If you're totally new to running, it definitely helps to follow a plan that will help you ease into it and keep you from feeling discouraged. Create the plan the way you used to create a study routine during school days and follow it. Make sure the plan is not very challenging (this is not as hard as getting into IITs). For instance – I will jog for 30-45 minutes, 3-4 times a week. See how that works out for you.

2. Tell others

Share your desire to start a running habit with family and friends. Tell your parents too because you get lot of unpretentious encouragement from elders. By telling others, you're making yourself more accountable.

3.  Get yourself registered for a race

Training for a race is a great way to stay motivated to run. Check on internet to find any race to register. Get a friend or family member to join you, so you can motivate each other. When you feel like giving up on your training, you can think about all of the supporters you won't want to let down.

4. Training log

Keeping a training log or a running blog is an excellent way to track your progress and stay motivated. Fit Indian Run diary can be a good start. It's easy: Just write some comments after each of your workouts. Be sure to mark the date, your approximate mileage and time and a few comments about how you felt (i.e., "finished strong," "felt sluggish first 2 miles"). Doing this with people in your running circle is a great fun and morale booster too.

5. Don't overdo it

This one is the killer and most people get easily trapped in this conundrum. They end up feeling exhausted, sore and discouraged, rather than looking forward to their next run. Getting excited about this new hobby is one of the easiest ways to get injured and end up giving up. Don't run every day. You may even want to continue doing a walk. Just do what you feel extremely comfortable in. You'll enjoy this new habit much more if you don't get injured and you're not suffering through every run.

6. Plan for bad conditions

Don't let rainy, hot or cold weather or bad running conditions in your city give you an excuse not to run.  When you plan out things, keep these nuisances in your mind. Usually, new joggers get intimidated by these adverse situations and give up within few days. Expect this to happen and convince yourself that you are determined to overcome these hurdles. Once you get into the habit, these obstacles will never bother you.

7. How to beat boredom

Boredom is one of the top reasons people give up on running, so try to keep it fun and interesting. Convince your friend or somebody from your family to be your jogging partner. Raise their awareness about healthy lifestyle and they would love to join you on the track. Also, listening to music certainly is a game changer here.  Research shows that when you listen to your favorite track, it distracts your mind from run fatigue and enhances the efficiency by atleast 20%.

Remember, running or jogging for atleast an hour and more regularly is says a lot about your mental toughness then physical. Once you get into the groove with your firm determination, the physical fitness will automatically follow you. It will remind you that how lucky you are to be healthy enough to run and keep on motivating you. Perhaps it will inspire your family or kids to go after their dreams. Perhaps it will constantly remind yourself that you have chosen an exceptional thing to do with your life journey.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ten interesting facts about running you would love to read

  1. During a ten-mile run, the feet make about 15,000 strikes at a force of three to four times
    the body’s weight.
  2. Twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints, one-hundred-twelve ligaments, and a network of tendons, nerves, and blood vessels—all in the feet—have to work together when we run.
  3. During a 200-mile run, Dean Karnazes kept a food log. He consumed 28,000 calories in forty-six hours, seventeen minutes of running—he still lost five pounds!
  4. Nerve impulses travel to and from the brain at 170 miles per hour when we run.
  5. It takes 200 muscles to take a step.
  6. When we run the human heart creates enough pressure to squirt blood thirty feet.
  7. 3 min 43.13 sec: The fastest recorded mile time for a human, ran by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco on July 7, 1999.
  8. 4 min 12.56 sec: The fastest recorded mile time for a female ran by Svetlana Masterkova of Russia on August 14, 1996. 
  9. The cheetah is considered the fastest land animal. It can achieve speeds upwards of seventy miles per hour.
  10. The garden snail is considered the slowest land animal with a speed of only .03 miles per hour.

Compiled from web.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Reporting from The Chevron Houston Marathon - 2015

Today I attended a phenomenal event, one that has shaped the history of Houston, Texas since 1972 - the Houston Marathon. This Marathon has been around for 43 years and seems to grow in size year after year. This year alone, 25,000 people participated (12,200 men and 12,800 women)! With over 200,000 live spectators, 7000 volunteers and millions of people watching on TV, the Houston Marathon symbolizes a Houstonian tradition that brings together an eclectic variety of people and this year, I got to be a part of that diverse crowd.

The morning started off pretty customary. My Dad had left for the marathon at 5:30 in the morning, and my brother and I didn’t wake up until 9 (which was still early to me!). While driving to the Downtown Convention Center, we turned on the radio to find that someone had already won the Marathon! Yerbrgual Arage was the female finisher from Ethiopia with a timing of 2 hours 23 minutes and 23 seconds, and the male finisher was Birhanu Gedefa with a timing of 2 hours 8 minutes and 3 seconds ; also from Ethiopia -  a very impressive feat! After picking up flowers, balloons and a card for my Dad, we went to the Marathon- and that’s when the real adventure started.

We ended up getting a decent parking spot and had to walk a few blocks, which put us right in the vicinity of the finish line! The effusive and enthused crowd was cheering on runners as they crossed the finish line, and a rather jocular announcer was making comments as people were running. My favorite part would have to be the signs that people held up along the way. Some signs read, “Wow you’re actually paying to run this??” and “I only run marathons on Netflix”. It’s inspiring to see an entire community coming together to support a large group of running people! Kudos to the new technology and the Chevron Marathon App on my IPhone, I was able to track my Dad for the entire run. Soon we saw him crossing the 25th mile, and my brother, Mom and I began throwing our hands in the air waving and screaming for his attention. Unfortunately, he didn’t notice. It seemed he was engulfed in the euphoria of the roaring spectators near the finish line. (its ok Dad-we forgive you). After he crossed the finish line, we reunited, took pictures, and we all congratulated him on reaching a huge milestone!

After the Marathon, I looked up some facts about it and was surprised to find that 350,000 Gatorade cups were used and that free beer was given to runners while they run! Also, the total number of estimated calories burned on Marathon day was estimated to be whopping 47,550,000 and over 1500 traffic cones were used to divert traffic!

Overall, preparation and hard work really does pay off, and it felt great to see my Dad, who could barely run a block two years ago, complete a full marathon of 26.2 miles (42.2 km) – Non-Stop! 

Author credit goes to Shreetika Singh - a junior from Seven Lakes High School.