I was introduced to running half marathons sometime back in 2013. It was the winter season and we would be normally playing cricket matches every weekend. That’s when someone pointed out having run a half marathon and it created a certain aspiration towards achieving something that’s not common to everyone. During my growing up days, I had never been an avid runner or sprinter in any categories. However, I had the confidence to tell myself that if I decide I want to run, and do long distances, then it would not be much of a challenge if I practice and train well.
My first run was a small 5K race that I took somewhere in the Aravalis near Gurugram. I travelled down from Delhi to Gurgaon on a Sunday morning not knowing how much of participation the event would gather and how the track would be. I had barely prepared and it was like a first step towards long distance running. Gurugram, being such an upbeat crowd, I could never have imagined a turnout of a lot of participants in that Running and Living event and the energy of too many people running with you. The track was nothing but a trail of stone clad muddy road that might not have been good enough to even walk. Somehow, I completed my first 5 km somewhere around 50 minutes and while that’s as good as a walking speed, I felt it was a very bad performance. I introspected, if 50 minutes is what it takes to do 5 km, there is no chance that I might ever do a 10 kilometre and half marathon seemed to be totally out of question. Also, having office in Gurgaon and staying in Delhi would always take 3-4 hours of time just travelling to and fro office. I told myself that somewhere while I can’t change this, running long distance would request some strength building, and I started doing mild running and a little exercise over weekends to build endurance.
While whatever I did was very little, but to keep the target in my head and work towards it, I did one thing which was that I filed for my first half marathon. With little preparation, I took my first attempt to running a half marathon somewhere in 2014 and while I tried my best in running the race, however having never run long distance had to take me down. I actually did run almost 12-13 kilometres in the first couple of hours (the time in which good runners would’ve normally finished the race), however, my feet had given up on me. In my mind, I knew there was no walking away, but after another hour and a half down the line, I had still only reached the 20 kilometres mark. People were seen returning home, cheering me up to finish of the last one kilometre that was left and I crawled up almost till the finishing gate, and dropped out, considering not finishing it and leaving the target in my mind open to conquer with a more stronger preparation. My brother who was also running with me in that race had been waiting for almost an hour for me and I went back home learning that it’s not impossible to achieve, however has to be achieved with the head held high. I had a sense of a high, having a feeling that I had personally done something I had not done before and it meant a lot to me.
It took 3-4 days for my feet to give me a normal walk. I had decided to not give up on running and continued with a little practice, but couldn’t keep up in the summer season. It was a medical check-up which revealed I was having high cholesterol, which gave me a kick to go back to running and getting away from the sedentary lifestyle. However, my practice was limited to jogging on weekends only.
Again, to test how I was performing, I registered for an event of half marathon in Dwarka sometime in September 2015. Result of that race was also similar, however I finished that one and it became my first half marathon and got the finisher’s medal. The race was however completed crawling in a total time of 3 hour and 40 minutes and I was the second last person to finish the race. At least I was ahead of 1 person. When I took the medal home, the kids in the house were overjoyed. That gave me the best sense of achievement I had ever experienced in my life.
I continued to practice in a small park around my house and used to do some 2 kilometre to 4 km slow jogs and planned to slowly and steadily going up to the level of 5 kilometres sometime on Sundays. A little run or mild exercise in the morning or evening gives a different level of fitness altogether and the level of energy and enthusiasm throughout the day is always high. The Nike Running App helped giving those Sunday 5K targets and I looked up to doing them every now or then. From there, I slowly started to do regular 7 to 10 kilometres of running, however, my average was not improving too much and I used to do the 10 km in somewhere around 1 hour 30 minutes and I would always tell myself that if 10 kilometres is happening in 1 hour 30 minutes then there is going to be not less than 3 hours that I am going to take for completing half marathons. Also, knowing that the speed in first half is not going to be the speed at which the next half is normally run. So, therefore, it was not a great improvement, however the Nike Running Club app also introduced some training exercises that included activities like yoga etc. I used to turn on the app and record whenever I was running, however little the distance and kept listening to some training programs that they had built in for runner to listen while running wherein world’s best runners would be sharing how they trained and worked towards their running.
In 2017, the InterGlobe group asked employees for registering for ADHM 2017, and I got a reason to nominate and make another attempt at doing the half marathon, keeping a target of less than 3 hours in mind. However, very soon after submitting my nomination I had a liver infection that took me down for almost 2 months. I had only one month left to train for the Airtel Delhi half marathon 2017 and I tried to make as much as possible effort to give my best. I could never make it to attend the trainings organised by the InterGlobe team in Gurugram on Saturday mornings, however, the Whatsapp group messages made me understand that people were working hard and I kept practicing around my house. I was the only one participating from IGH and I had this thing in mind that since I am the only one participating, I need to keep the momentum going and shouldn’t crash in the middle. From my past experiences, I had learnt that the key for long distance running is to be consistent and not get carried away running top speed during any duration of the run. I had to ensure that I run long and strong. So, I told myself whatever happens, I am not going to stop in this and not even try to drag my feet to make a finish. I have to ensure that I lift my feet and take all those next steps and don’t drag myself to the finish line. I started running and after the first kilometre, my headphone announced “1 km completed, average pace – 6 minute 40 seconds” and I told myself that this is good comfortable pace and this is the speed that I am going to maintain the whole Run. 2nd kilometre happened in the same average pace and I understood from the app telling me that I need to have a continued momentum and 3rd 4th and 5th km also happened at similar speed. I little slowness came after the 5th km, however, the 9th km was finished well within 1 hour time. I somehow realised, this race could well be finished in less than 2 hours 30 minutes. I tried to continue to run at the same momentum and ensure that I don’t stop at all or else, I might lose the speed and the momentum might go down. After 14th km, my speed started slowing down further and I could see that people who are doing running combined with brisk walking were getting faster than my jogging pace. That’s when somebody passing by hinted me to lift my feet a little more or it might affect my ankle badly, and I did that and I could do another 2 km at a good pace, and while the speed went down as I was nearing the finishing line, I was firm I was not going to stop or walk. I knew I am going to finish it in less than 3 hours, and was in a comfortable zone in my head. I finished the race somewhere around 2 hour 40 minutes. While the world record for half marathon is well under 1 hour and for full marathon is just above 2 hours, the feeling of having finished my half marathon in 2 hour 40 minutes was like having a ‘high’ that’s beyond words. I called up home and told everyone about my timing, my dad was amazed how I could do it with this little a practice. After a few days, we had a session at ITQ office to share our experiences and it was really a story for me to tell the group how, I did this, having recovered from a liver infection and just a month of at-home training.
This year, when I was registered for the ADHM, I needed to find some motivation to keep my running practice going on. I did a check on as to which events were happening before the ADHM at a gap of a fortnight, and registered for half marathons only, keeping in mind that I might not finish them at all, but it would be a good training run before the main event. My last long distance was the Starry Night Half Marathon that happened on 6th October 2018 in Gurgaon, which happened on the 2 underpasses from Cybercity to Sector 42-43 metro station with 2 loops, i.e. 8 elevations on the underpasses. As a result, in September 2018 and first week of October, I had run 3 half marathons and completed all of them in about 2 hours and 40 minutes. Never before in my life have I ever run 3 half marathons in a year. I just hope that my body remains in good shape for the main event and I target to complete ADHM in less than 2 hours 30 minutes this time.
Running is something that comes to me from within now, and I would look forward to take up to running a full marathon someday, however, that’s a huge target to have as of now. With my experience, I would like to share that running long distances not only needs physical strength and stamina, but also a mighty will that carries the spirit throughout the duration of almost 2-3 hours.