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Marathoner Unlimited

Capt Seshadri shares the story of Paula Jean Radcliffe, marathon runner extraordinaire, who has become the undisputed queen of long distance running. 

Three-time winner of the London Marathon. Three-time New York Marathon champion. Topper at the Chicago Marathon. Current world record holder, with a time that has not been broken in 15 years.  And a world record in the 10k with an astonishing time of 30:21!

Paula Jane Radcliffe, MBE, is an extraordinary Englishwoman, who overcame bouts of asthma and anaemia, to become the undisputed queen of the ultimate long distance run. Born on December 17, 1973 at Cheshire, Paula began her foray into running from the tender age of seven, alongside her father while he trained for his marathons, first as a competitive athlete and later as a hobby, to lose weight after giving up smoking.

Training under Alex Stanton, an experienced and talented coach, Paula, despite her frail frame and relatively small size, first tasted victory as a junior in 1992 at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Boston, despite suffering from what was diagnosed as exercise induced asthma coupled with a history of anaemia. Competing in the Great North Cross Run, Paula defeated the defending champion by 25 seconds, finishing the race in 8 inches of snow.

In 2002, she stepped up her sights to the full marathon, winning the London Marathon on debut, with a record time of 2:18:55. The same year, she literally sprinted across the finish line in 2:17:18 in Chicago, setting a new world record and breaking the existing one by over 90 seconds. Her still standing world record of 2:15:25 was set amidst controversy at the London Marathon of April 2003, the debate being fuelled by the fact that she used two men runners to assist in pacing her. The record was rescinded, but better sense prevailed and the organisers soon had it reinstated.

In London in 2005, Paula was afflicted with a bad stomach cramp, while halfway through the course. In pain and a with horrifying need for a break, Paula had her most embarrassing moment when she had to relieve herself by the roadside, without shelter from the crowd or the cameras.  The iron hearted lady went on to win the event in a world beating time of 2:17:42. A red faced Paula later apologised, but the sporting media went on to describe it as the top running moment in history.

Paula Radcliffe was an unconventional runner who never set limits or timings for the stages of the run. Her mantra was: Run your best as long as you feel good. Why set limits? Why slow down when you are running your best? Probably, the most important lesson marathoners could learn from her is to discard their timing devices and run their hearts out sans stages or limits.

In 2010, she was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame, an honour richly deserved. Paula Radcliffe ended her competitive running career with the London Marathon in 2015, as an athlete supreme, a runner without limits.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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The Journey of running a Marathon

Marathoner Tarun Walecha, talks about his passion for running marathons ahead of the New Delhi Marathon 2018, to be held on Feb 25. 

If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” – Emil Zatopek

While most of my running friends would relate to the quote above, the ones who have run a marathon would know exactly what the feeling behind the quote is. My tryst with this much sought experience started in the beginning of year 2014, when I first thought of taking this giant leap… though it’s been over three years now when I first stood on the start line of erstwhile SCMM, in my mind I’m still trying to find my feet, and put my claim to be called a marathoner. Having said that,yes I have finished four full marathon so far in as many attempts, and the experience has been overwhelming to say the least….but I feel I’m yet to run a marathon in its glory.

Preparing for the Dream 

I know this could be a debatable stand, end of the day running a marathon is all about finishing it on both your feet, irrespective of finish time, as far it’s within the official cut off. And no, I’m not trying to take away anything from a 6 hour finisher vis-à-vis a sub 3 speedster – what I’m trying to talk about is the journey of dreaming to run a marathon, and then to live that dream, which would be same for most marathoners (if not all).

The first step towards realizing that dream is the 18 weeks of training schedule that one would take up, culminating at the finish line on the D day. Interestingly, this entire experience is not even about just those 18 weeks, running each of your workout and LSD run or finally running those 42.2 km. The experience is about each of the day in those weeks, every thought that passes through your mind each of those morning, each action as you begin to evaluate, each of those evenings that you choose to stay home so as not to miss the training next morning, every new friend that you make while trying to coordinate long runs and most of all, every doubt that crosses your thoughts when you stand at the start line.

Every pain and agony that you’re reminded of when you start your run, every motivational chat with a friend or your self-evolved mantra that comes to your mind which helps you leave those negative thoughts behind, everything you tell yourself when your body is screaming for you to stop and finally the exhilaration that courses through your mind and body when you step across that last timing mat. It is about all that and not mere statistics.

My journey so far

In my four years of this journey so far, starting from the day the seed to run a full marathon was sown in my mind, I have had my own set of experiences. People who would come down on the streets of Mumbai in the wee hours just to clap for strangers, or the ones who would stay on the course for hours just to offer some fruit or drinks to runners. Fellow runners who would just pat you as they pass by on seeing you slowing down or just that scorching sun beating down upon you just when you’re hitting that proverbial wall. Each of these moments has not only been etched in my mind, but it has been imbibed  into me, forever changing me.

Friends who came along and reposed their faith in me to take this leap, coaches and mentors who helped me understand and train and of course, most importantly the labyrinth of thoughts and struggles within which I had no choice but to handle myself. Having done 4 full marathons so far, while I have gathered enough stories of my own and a sizable bag of experiences – what still eludes me is the satisfaction I long for in those 42.2 kilometer, the feeling when perhaps I can proudly claim to be a marathoner.

The fifth leap

In these last four attempts of mine, I have been through struggles, elation, mind games, senses of achievement as well but ironically even experienced failure. One of my biggest take away is that at the end of each of these runs I felt like a different person. Something within me changed, a thought left behind which germinated in the times to come and became a part of my natural thinking process. Perhaps, this is what the experience of marathon running is all about.

In a weeks’ time from now, when I plan to take this leap for the fifth time at the IDBI Federal New Delhi Marathon, I know all my thoughts will come rushing back and each moment would just flash in front of my eyes, my fears, my courage and apprehensions would all dawn upon me at the same time. I still don’t know if I will come out on the top , but I do know this experience will once again enrich me and make a better person to take me further on this journey.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An architect by profession, Tarun Walecha enjoys amateur photography, travelling and is a sports enthusiast. He has been a sportsperson all his life and discovered running at the age of 40 and has since become his fitness mantra. In his 7 year running career he has completed 30 Half Marathons, 4 Full Marathon, and 5 Trail/Ultra Runs. He is also a Pinkathon ambassador and has founded the running group, RunXtreme.

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Beat the Sugar habit

Beating the sugar habit, is tough in a world of processed foods, but a simple plan and a bit of commitment might just help, writes Nandini Reddy. 

Sugar is everywhere today. Even the most innocuous foods have sugar hidden in them. You don’t actually have to eat cookies and cakes to directly consume sugar. Your favourite hot sauce also is loaded with added sugars. The truth is that there is absolutely no health benefit from consuming added sugar. It damages all your diet efforts more than any other indulgence.

It might seem like a task to constantly monitor added sugars in everything that you eat but in the long run it really helps. Consider a few simple steps to remove sugar from your diet or reduce it to the levels that are good to satisfy your sweet tooth and not damage your diet.

Clean out the pantry and drawers

We all have stashed secret snacks in our office drawers and pantries. The first step is to clean out the stock of foods that are high in added sugars. Remember to check all bottled and packaged foods. Read your labels right and ensure that you get rid of the whole stock without exception.

Avoid adding sugar

Try a few days of avoiding sugar. A lot of things will taste bitter and unmanageable but it is a way to discover new tastes. Coffee and tea will be unbearable the first time but you might discover new flavours of tea that do not need sugar and unsweetened expresso might help you recover from tiredness a lot faster than a sugar binge.

Get rid of sugary drinks

Colas, packaged juice, iced teas, bottled frappes and energy drinks all are storehouses of added sugar. Most of the energy drinks and colas also have caffeine and the combination of a caffeine high and a jolt from sugar is comforting when you are stressed. But one moment of deliciousness is not worth year long health troubles.

Look for natural replacements 

There are several natural sweeteners that you can add to different food that might give you a more complex taste. Try adding vanilla extract into your coffee for that touch of sweetness. Avoid sauces in your salads and add caramelized onions instead. Salt tends to intensify the sweetness of pumpkins and fruit so sprinkle a little salt instead.

Kick refined grains

You need to eat carbs but they don’t have to be bleached white. Avoid white processed foods like breads, pastas , cookies and cakes. Your diet benefits from whole and unpolished grains. Get your starch from vegetables and pile on the protein from your beans and peas.

Being on a sugar high can feel wonderful. But breaking the grip of sugar can also be equally satisfying.

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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Kilometre cubed

Juggling two of the toughest mental and physical challenges, Ranjith Vijayan has demonstrated the power of the human will. Capt Seshadri shares his fascinating story. 

A few years ago, before mobiles took over the gaming world, one could spot young and old alike, in any place at any time, twirling their hands around a six coloured cube, the brainchild of Hungarian professor and inventor Erno Rubik. Competitions galore have been held to see who could solve it fastest, who could break the puzzle blindfolded and many such innovative variations to make the solving tougher and more interesting.

But a probably lesser known fact is that there is a Guinness record featuring who can solve the Rubik cube the maximum number of times while running a marathon. While the elite runners of the world complete the gruelling 42.2 km in just over 2 hours, amateur runners place themselves in various pace categories, with some of the elder participants completing in up to 6 hours. And as if the mere running and completion weren’t effort enough by themselves, the Rubik cube solving marathoner has to complete the race in under 5 hours. And all the while, she or he has to be constantly solving the puzzle as quickly as possible.

The official world record holder for this unique feat is held by New Zealander Blair Williamson, who accurately turned the colours 254 times. Now, an athlete from another continent, our own Asia and quite close to home, is making valiant attempts to break this record. Ranjith, a runner from Singapore, could be spotted during the Tata Mumbai Marathon this January 21, with a Rubik cube in hand and a mini camera strapped to his chest to record his feat. His professorial look, augmented by a beard, probably disguised his athletic prowess; but his goal was clear: break the record.

Ranjith came to the finish line well within the stipulated five hours. In his estimation, he solved the puzzle 262 times, a feat which he reiterates he has achieved during practice runs. However, the world has to wait for the Guinness officials to read the images from his camera and count the number of times he solved the cube.

Whether he actually broke the record, time and the record books will inform us. But the fact will remain that he was the only runner in the Mumbai Marathon who attempted this feat. Of the 45,000 runners, few would know this fact; of the thousands of spectators who lined the streets to cheer the participants, even fewer might have noticed his hands constantly twisting the little cube.

While the athletes who won the events received well deserved accolades and publicity for their stupendous effort, the little known Ranjith deserves recognition for what he set to achieve. When there is no one to compete against, that is when the true spirit of the sportsman comes to the fore, to set personal objectives and to breach borders.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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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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How running affects your muscles

Radhika Meganathan demystifies the relationship between running and muscle building

Runners are often associated with trim, wiry frames. Well, all that running stimulates your body to burn through your diet and the reserve fat in your body, so no wonder a typical runner burns way more calories. Most body builders, though, avoid running like the plague, accusing running to be a muscle destroyer. This claim is not entirely untrue, because running does have a huge impact on your muscles. But what if you want to build muscle yet still run?

What happens to muscles during running? During an intense cardio activity like running, the body constantly burns calories, even after you have stopped running. It not only burns the calories from your regular diet, it also burns through your reserve fat in the body. But when you run too hard or too long, your muscle will become the food if your body does not have many calorie stores of food and fat left.

Thus, if you want to build muscle mass while continuing with your running routine, you have to concentrate on two things: your calorie burning metabolism, and your running distance.

Adjust your diet

You now know why runners are advised to eat hearty! If you do not adapt your diet to your distances, it may lead to constant calorie deficit and your body will not be able to grow muscles from the limited nutrients from your diet. It’s like a vehicle trying to run on an empty tank! That’s why you must closely monitor your diet if you want to run and retain your muscles.

If your goal is to grow muscles, do not run or weight train on an empty stomach. Be especially wary of long training run, since they can deplete your energy reserves and reduce your muscle mass. After a long run, plan for additional carbs and protein. Make sure you eat a regular, balanced diet, one that has equal portions of protein (lean meat, seafood, eggs), complex carbohydrates (brown rice, bananas, sweet potatoes) and vegetables.

Adjust the distances you run

In addition to nutrition, you should pay attention to the amount of distance you cover each week. The right distance is different for everyone, but you definitely should keep in mind that longer distances (also, a more intense running schedule) will burn more calories and will ultimately start utilizing calories from muscle. But what if you love running and do not want to sacrifice either?

Do not despair! The solution is simple. In order to save your muscles, follow a training plan that gives equal importance to endurance and strength training, and also gives you adequate time for recovery.

  • Talk with an expert trainer/runner and arrive at a schedule with a safe number of training sessions per week.
  • Running shorter distances and following a moderate weight-training schedule will help you retain your muscles without sacrificing them to an intense running regime.
  • Reduce your weekly runs’ mileage.
  • Short runs and sprints are the best way forward if you are looking to build muscles.

With the right training, running can work on developing lean muscle. So get started with the right training and nutrition.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

A published author and an avid rambler, Radhika Meganathan is a recent keto convert who may or may not be having a complicated relationship with bacon and butter.

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The relationship between sleep and running

Sleeping well and for the right amount of time can increase your running stamina, writes Nandini Reddy

We live in a hyper active culture that has us on our toes constantly. We have over committed our time an energy to a a ton of obligations. But the most important factor that needs to remain unchanged irrespective of our lifestyle is the number of hours we sleep. You have probably read that you need 8 hours of sleep but it is highly likely that you are clocking in less than 5 hours a night. As a runner, sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise.

Maybe if we understood why we need to sleep then we can be more convinced to actually give it the attention it needs.

Weight Loss

A regular sleep schedule can do wonders for your weight loss efforts. When you get less sleep your hunger hormones run haywire making you carve food at the wrong times or feeling less sated after a meal. All marathoners tend to carb load before a race but if you don’t get enough sleep then the glycogen energy reserves that you need for the race will not build up properly and you will hit the fatigue wall sooner than you expect.

Body Repairs

Distance runners need sleep to ensure that their muscles recover from their training. It was observed in a research that athletes who got enough sleep showed a marked improvement in their running performance. While you sleep, the growth hormone is released when you are in deep sleep which helps recover your body. This hormone is essential to help the body rebuild from the affects of workouts. The growth hormone also helps in converting fat to fuel and keeping your bones strong. Too little sleep means you will feel more stressed and your recovery time will also increase.

Water Re-absorption

While you sleep, the kidneys help in establishing the water balance in your body. When you run in summer and sweat a lot, there is a high risk of dehydration. Just drinking more water is not the solution to ensure your body stays hydrated. It is also important to let the kidneys do their work to balance the sodium, electrolytes and water in your body. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and muscle pain. So a good night’s sleep can do wonders to ensure that you are not dehydrated and your body electrolytes are in balance every morning.

Mental toughness

Sleep helps clear your mind and improves your concentration and helps you run with a clear mind. Sleeping better also improves your ability to analyze training plans and race day performance. A mentally tough runner can overcome every hurdle that he might encounter during tough races.

Maintaining a Schedule 

You need to set a sleep schedule. It will take you up to four weeks to get habituated to it but if you can set up a schedule then you will see that all other things will also fall into place. You will start to eat and train at a scheduled time. Sleep also helps you combat pre-race anxiety, improve your memory and decision making ability.

You might be able to get by with a few nights of bad sleep in a month but on the whole you need to have a sleep schedule that you stick to if you want to improve your running performance.

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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Become an Eco-friendly Runner

If you love living a sustainable lifestyle then you should probably include it as a practice in your running too, says Nandini Reddy

It always feels wonderful to give back to environment and if you can get fit while doing what you love, then that’s a double advantage. Running can be made sustainable by just following a few simple practices.

Running Clothes

The material of your running wear makes all the difference. Look for a brand that uses sustainable materials and practices to produce their clothing. Organic cotton and hemp are great materials to choose for running wear. There are a few firms that are recycling plastic info fibre to make clothes that are suitable for running. All these clothes are easy to wash and also air dry quickly.

Clean Trails

Whenever you participate in a big race ensure that if you are disposing trash you use a bin and not litter. If you feel that the organiser may not have adequate bins then carry a convenient trash pouch so that you do not litter along the way. You can also volunteer to clean-up the trail post run. If the race venue is far away then try and use public transport systems , car pool or ride a bike. Riding a bike has the added advantage that you can warm-up before your race.

Reusable Equipment

Use reusable bags, bottles and packets while packing your snacks for the run. If you buy packaged energy drinks then ensure you buy from companies that pack in recyclable bottles. If you can use homemade energy bars or granola bars you can reduce the wrapper waste. If you aren’t too keen on making your own energy bars or drinks then look for companies that use sustainable practices to produce and package their products. Carry your own water bottle so that you can avoid using one time use bottles and cups during the race.

Green Training

If you live in a city with a flat terrain and plan to run and out of city marathon that has steep terrains then consider changing your training plan in the same place rather than travel to train. You can use stairways and also find challenging running routes that you can repeatedly use for training. If you need to drive to reach a training location then consider riding a bike instead.

Follow the 3 Rs

Reduce your energy expenditures and material consumption wherever you can. Reuse things as much as possible. Recycle your old gear. Most runs offer their own signature T-shirts and if you have run enough marathons it is likely that your cupboard will be overflowing with the souvenir T-shirts. If you have the option of avoiding the T-shirt then please consider it, you will always have the finisher medal as a souvenir. If you can find a local retailer who will accept and recycle your old clothes and shoes then it is best to give it away to him rather than dump the lot as they are not easily degradable.

Outdoor running has the lowest environmental impact, so if you can make tweaks to the way you run – then you can easily become a sustainable runner.

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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The Mesmerizing AU Bank Jaipur Marathon

This February, run through the vibrant city of Jaipur, is a must on every travelling marathoners list, says Nandini Reddy

The mesmerizing pink city of Jaipur invites runners for the 9th edition of the AU Bank Jaipur marathon on February 4th,2018. One of the most spectacular marathon’s in India, whose flat course tracks through the most scenic routes through Rajasthan’s vibrant capital city.

Run the Spectacular Marathon

The race offers a whole host of options for both elite and amateur runners. The full marathon and half marathon have separate categories for elite runners and amateur runners. The other timed running category is the 10k run. If runners wish to participate in the elite category then they would need to submit valid timing certificates at the time of registration. For participating in the open category, no timing certificates are required. The marathon will start from 3:50am with the Elite Full Marathon category and the final category of the fun runs will begin at 7:30am.

Apart from that for those who want to enjoy the scenic running route and the joyful celebration on race day there are plenty of fun categories such as Joy Run, Dream Run and Youth Run – all covering distances of 6kms.

Trying to set a social message, a different category called ‘Beti Bojh Nahi Hai Run’ for 2 kms has been included. The Senior Citizens Run for 3kms and Wheel Chair Run for 6km finish the categories offered during this year’s Jaipur Marathon.

The runners can enjoy the culture and traditions of Rajasthan as they are showcased along the race route.

Enjoying the Pink City

The Jaipur marathon offers tour packages for registered participants who want to spend time before and after the marathon exploring the delights of the city of Jaipur and the many wonders of Rajasthan. The packages include stays ranging from 2 days to 4 days. They include city tours and special shows that will give you a glimpse of the best of the city and culture.

The Cause

The run is organised by Sanskriti a well-know social organisation that has undertaken several social welfare projects that have created awareness about culture and traditions to the youth. This year the World Trade Park is a partner who is showcasing their world-class property that offers excellent services to business sectors.

Remember to tag yourself on social media with the hashtag #AUBJMRUNNINGHEROES if you are running, volunteering, donating or just cheering the marathon. A run that showcases both the modern and traditional spirit of the city is one you should not miss.

Register Now for AU Bank Jaipur Marathon==>>https://goo.gl/57UHYV

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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