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Running: An enduring act of empowerment

Our guest columnist, Anjana Mohan talks about how running is a tool of empowerment for women.

Empowerment means the ability to make decisions for yourself; to own your choices regarding how you act, dress, conduct yourself, hold your body or define your role in society. Running is a sport that offers empowerment at multiple levels, addressing every one of these choices.

Although societal limitations affect both genders (men are emasculated when they show emotion, for example) women face significantly robust, damaging, internalized and intersectional limitations on a massive scale that manifests in some form in every run.

Women are celebrated as caregivers who create and sustain domestic spaces for their families. A runner takes time for herself regularly and justifies the time away from these demands by actively practicing the belief that she is worth it. Women’s bodies are sexualized and critiqued. Even when allowed fitness, Indian women are expected to keep their moving muscles indoors or safely hidden behind flowing fabric. The outdoor runner takes conscious charge of her own body. With her every appearance in dry-fit leggings, sports bra, or salwar kameez, she creates subtle changes in her own mind and those in her network.

Competition is considered un-ladylike, and femininity associated with grace, poise, and self-control. The runner must engage with her body beyond these expectations. Her determination must manifest in her muscles. The athlete’s sense of internal competition must be cultivated rather than surrendered to graciousness. In her sport, she can be human first: free from femininity, free to sweat, free to grimace, free to cry from the dopamine delight of her own fatigue.

Every run is a rebellion, every step an act of micro-activism, setting new norms for herself and everyone she encounters. Her training is far beyond the miles on her feet. She nurtures and develops her own dignity when she learns to ignore the oglers. She owns her choice on keeping or removing her mangal sutra to avoid a sweat rash. She determines her destiny in deciding to wear shorts despite unwaxed legs. She elevates her own worth in being willing to ask for help packing lunch boxes after her workout.

Men who run alongside women unconsciously offer their own freedoms. Is she running for a personal best or the Ladhak half, they inquire. She was running just to be fit or escape her chores, but new realms of possibilities open. “Improvement in time”, she owns her answer. Neither her smaller lungs, smaller heart, lower hemoglobin count or VO2Max, less efficient hip width, muscle density or muscle building capacity nor shorter stride length matter. She and her male running buddies are on equal footing with respect to the mental capacity they must manifest to conquer endurance.

The woman runner is re-shaping what it means to be a woman. In every decision associated with the sport, she changes herself and society along with her.  Somewhere between the start and the finish line we stop celebrating a woman’s superior ability to conform to society’s stereotypes and celebrate instead her ability to break them.

GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Anjana started running in the U.S. in 2007 and has helped mentor many from couch to half marathon. She is passionate about empowering women through running and now runs in Bangalore with Jayanagar Jaguars

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Common Mistakes New Marathoners Make

New marathoners (and sometimes even experienced ones) make these common mistakes while training for the big race, writes Nandini Reddy

Training for the big race requires dedication and consistency. Training hard and keeping the checklist on target is the way most new marathoners approach race day. But sometimes small mistakes can tumble plans for reaching goal timing or even the finish line. Check if you are making these errors that might be hampering your running.

Understand running intensity

You need to work in easy days and hard days into your training schedule. The easy days are supposed to be easy runs with slow pace and comfortable timing. You do not have to push your body on all days to achieve goal times. Consider this – on an easy day you can run a 5km training run in 45 mins as opposed to a harder training day where you run a 5km training run in 30 mins. This sort of training will help your body more than pushing unnecessary limits.

Assess your Race pace

You need to be aware of your pace before your race day. Following a race pace is very important and that is what will help you through your course. Race day excitement tends to make runners run a faster pace than they are used to and if you are unaware of what pace is right for you then you will end up tiring yourself out mid race or even cramping.

Don’t wear anything new

Every new race today gives you a T-shirt. It is a great souvenir to have to remember the race by but isn’t the best clothing to wear for race day. Using a well-worn T-shirt is more comfortable than experiencing burns because of rubbing from the new T-shirt. The same goes for shoes and socks. Shoes should never be new for a race and socks also should be ones you have run in paired with the same shoes you are running in for training.

Don’t start fast

With the loud excitement at the starting corral and announcers screaming out instructions, it is natural to have your adrenaline pumping before the start of the race. Letting this excitement create a situation where you race ahead the moment the flag drops might result in disaster. First clear away from the crowds and find  your pace. It is okay to let runners pass you in the first few minutes because you are not going to win the battle of the marathon by racing the first few kilometres.

No plan for race day

You need a pre-race plan. Most half marathoners fail their course because they don’t have a pre-race plan. They do not plan their ride to and from the course or don’t check ahead for parking zones. It is important that you arrive early enough to find a parking space and have time to find your corral. Setting up the race clothing and equipment the night before is a good idea. Use the bathroom, hydrate and get in-line early so that you are not rushing and stressing yourself out.

If these details can be ironed out then you do not have to worry about completing the race. In fact you will be all set to finish the race in goal time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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Slow down to speed up

Runners tend to train too hard and too often and that may not lead to the results you want, writes Nandini Reddy.

If you have ever seen elite athletes training the first thing you might notice is that they don’t run fast. In fact if you did accompany them on their training days you might even be able to keep up. If you think it isn’t possible then you haven’t been introduced to the benefits of low intensity training for marathons.

Why do runners need to train slow?

The answer is rather simple really. Runners run a whole lot more and when its training season before marathon season then they run nearly everyday. So imagine running at your full pace capability every day – what do you think would happen? You are more likely to burnout than get a better race timing. Increasing your average weekly mileage is more important than running faster. You are also less likely to burnout or be injured if you focus on number of kilometres run rather than how fast you run.

How do you distribute the intensity of your runs?

In an ideal situation, you need to run 3 moderate paced runs, one medium intensity run and 1 high intensity run in a week. The moderate paced runs should focus on distance and you need to ensure you make most of your weekly target kms in those runs. The high intensity run is about pacing and timing. Even if you run a short distance focus on on consistent pace.

If you were to measure the intensity of a standard runner, you will see that they never do low intensity runs. Most of their runs are distributed between medium to high intensity which means you are driving yourself to fatigue rather quickly. Elite runners run at low intensity nearly 80% of their training time and only run in high intensity for 10% of their training time.

So how can you control your run intensity?

Whether you are running in a group or alone there are ample wearable devices that you can use to monitor your runs.

Find a Coach

If you are serious about becoming a strong runner then signing up with a coach till you find your flow is a good idea. They will bring in a discipline into your training plans and will hold your accountable. Technically the coach doesn’t have to run with you. You can also have a virtual relationship where you get guidelines and report back on progress with statistics.

Heart Rate based plans

Try to plan your runs according to the heart rate training zones. Any good running coach can give you the basics of how this plan works and with your wearable devices (most of which monitor heart rate to a decent degree of accuracy) you can track your training intensity.

Monitor your work

Using the wearable devices and running apps, monitor your work. You can compare your before and after using these tools effectively. Most running apps store your runs indefinitely until you choose to delete them so they make for a great way to reference you performance as you train.

So if you have been pushing yourself to achieve your goal times everyday then you need to stop and re-evaluate your training program and also rest your over-stressed muscles.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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