Runner Kavita Rajith Nair shares her experience of achieving the Sub-2 target at her milestone marathon of the year-the ADHM.
Every fervent runner usually has a yearly target along with a milestone race or two. While I am still an amateur with my feet striding away for just over 2 years, I set myself a humble goal of completing a Half Marathon in under 2 hours (popularly known as Sub-2), at the start of the training season in March’18. I say ‘humble’ because my coach, Mr. Pramod Deshpande has always had immense belief in me and he said “Dilli abhi door hai. Tu kar legi!” (Translation: Delhi is far away and you will do it!)
Well, by now, you probably guessed I’m talking about the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, ‘ADHM’ as it’s known. While ADHM has been AIMS certified way back, this year it was all the more glorified and achieved the Gold Label from IAAF. That really raised its profile and runners globally and across India wanted to participate in ADHM 2018.
It is sometimes very difficult for a runner to choose which races to run in a year unless you are one of those runners who run races almost every weekend.
How did ADHM happen for me?
I was training for my TCS World 10K 2018 hoping to achieve my personal best (PB) but then I was chosen to be the 75min official pacer this year alongside 19 other women pacers, a first of its kind in history at a world-renowned 10K event.
2019 January was already earmarked as the year for me to debut Full Marathon at the world-famous Tata Mumbai Marathon.
Procam International later publicised their ‘Procam Slam’ with 4 races in the year being the TCS 10K, ADHM, TSK 25K, and TMM FM. It was kind of a no-brainer since I was anyways doing two of the four races and competing in the ADHM and TSK would ensure I complete the slam and the opportunity to travel to two more cities. Hence, the decision to compete in the ADHM and turn that into my 2018 milestone run with a target of achieving Sub-2.
What it meant to run the ADHM – my milestone run of the year
Simple! I wanted to achieve the Sub-2 target in the ADHM 2018 race. Any race prior was to be my practice runs leading up to D-Day (21stOct 2018).
With that in mind, I started my training with my running club – Jayanagar Jaguars(JJ’s). I enrolled for the program RYFM – Run your First/Finest Marathon (Half Marathon), a program of 16 weeks for which I was nominated as captain based on my race performance and the persistence I displayed the previous season while training for the TCS World 10K. It was intimidating to start with but I managed to find my place, I trained hard and pushed the team harder. I did not miss a single training run for 16 weeks and followed the workout routine to the ‘T’. Apart from fast workouts and tempo runs, I also did my gym workouts and followed the cross-training schedule.
Additionally, I supplemented my workout routine with a high protein diet (despite my dermatologist blaming the high-protein diet for untimely excessive breakouts. I really didn’t care how I looked as I was driven by my goal of achieving a Sub-2 at ADHM!), lots of fruits, vegetables for high fibre, and various nuts and seeds.
I also ensured I got a good night’s rest of at least 7 hours which meant consistently hitting the bed before 9 PM for over 4 months (that regularised my routine to a great extent).
The Race Month
Training is always fun when you have a group you run with, share a joke or two, the traditional combined breakfasts after the Saturday long runs all make the training a lot more pleasurable, despite it being draining at times. At the start of race month, it all became serious suddenly. I started planning for the race day, discussing with my coach and my 5 AM run-buddy.
Eve of race day
The carb loading and electrolytes hydration had started 3 days in advance. The day before the race was pretty busy. I landed in Delhi in the morning hours, headed straight to the JLNS Stadium where JJs had organised an exclusive meet with the event ambassador Sanya Richards Ross – an American-Jamaican former track and field athlete and later headed to the hotel.
The day was spent in getting my running essentials in place and after an early dinner, got some much needed rest.
After 16-18 weeks of training, it all finally came down to this one race. Races for me are like the online certification examinations as I always feel butterflies in my tummy.
However, with a good night’s sleep, I woke up feeling unusually peaceful with no anxiety and a great resting Heart Rate of 41BPM.
I did my usual routine of playing some soothing music in the background, had my overnight soaked chia seeds, some black coffee (no sugar) and a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds.
We reached the venue and went straight to the holding area of the allocated gate.
It was a great feeling, I was extremely positive and had a feeling I could achieve my Sub-2 target. While I had the Sub-2 in mind, I was hoping for something in the range of 1hr 53m -54m.
The strategy was not complicated. Since the course was extremely flat, I wanted to maintain a steady pace of 5:20m/km and that would take me to a 1hr 52m timeline. Even with a little buffer, I was still within my target.
Procam had an early start to the race at 5:00 AM as Delhi gets really hot after 7:30 AM. The energy was vibrant with colourful lights, thumping music, the weather was extremely pleasant and no sign of the infamous Delhi smog. The flag off happened at 5:00 AM, and I think after about 45secs – 60secs of the gun time, I crossed the start timing mat. And yes, what a feeling it was!
Two of my friends and I deliberately took it real slow in the 1stKm as the crowd was overwhelming and maintained a pace of 5:46/km pace. It was 26secs slower than my target pace, but I wasn’t worried as I knew I could cover it when the crowd dwindled further in the race. The next 2_5 km was comfortable and I ran alongside my two friends. This continued till the 6th km when one of the friends suddenly said: “Isn’t it amazing how we are running so comfortably at 4:50/km pace?”That was a shocker to me! 4:50/km was easily 30secs faster than my target pace and ran that pace at speed workouts during training runs. I looked at my watch and the current pace was 4:40/km. I slowed down, to come back to my target pace of 5:20/km.
My plan was to maintain the pace between 5:25/km – 5:35/km for about 13kms. I did pull over a couple of times for quick hydration but felt quite okay. Around the 10thKm mark, I did pull over again, gasping for breath and a close friend called out to me and asked me to join him. He kept repeating “K, never pull over, run consistently with me”. I tried to and managed to keep up about 50mts behind him till the 13thkm mark. That’s when I started feeling drained out and my legs felt heavy. I had just completed 2/3rdof the race. My mouth felt dry and tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. I desperately looked for a hydration station and pulled over at the first one I saw. I had a sip of water and some Enerzal and continued. After which I had to push myself really hard.
I thought I was running well and close to the desired pace, only to see I was touching 6:00/km. I feared I may not achieve a Sub-2. That played negatively and dropped my energy further. At the 15thkm mark, an unknown guy saw me struggling and politely asked me to run with him as he maintained a 5:45/km pace. I did a quick mental math, and figured, that if I sustained that for another 6 km, I will still achieve a Sub-2. I managed a Sub 6:00/km pace from the 15th – 17thKM, but after that, I literally couldn’t run, kept alternating between run-walk for every 100mts. I felt bloated and heavy and couldn’t lift my feet.
With just 3KMS to go, I thought I might not even finish the race! But then as we approached the finish line, the crowd was magnificent, with perky music, pom-poms, chocolates, oranges, homemade chikkis, and energy shots. I stopped looking at my watch and just ran. At that moment, I wanted to finish the race and did not care about my Sub-2 target (my coach will disown me for that), swollen feet, heavy arms, nothing at all! I simply ran as I enjoyed the cheering crowd on either side. I think I might have been at the last hydration station when I heard one of the ladies from the crowd scream, “Come-on Kavita, you are strong, you are headed for a Sub-2!”. Frankly, I couldn’t believe that it was going to happen, but that one cheer gathered all the leftover energy in me and I ran to the finish line to complete in 1Hr 58mins 39secs. I couldn’t believe I finished my race in Sub-2 timing!
I think I owe it to that unknown lady without whom I wouldn’t have pushed myself to the end as I had given up on my goal.
A few Take-away’s from the race
Although I achieved my target of finishing the race in Sub-2 timing, I have been unable to celebrate my Sub-2, for various reasons –
- Guard yourself from Overconfidence: Under any circumstance. I got overoptimistic about achieving my target easily.
- Never give up: The thought of giving up at some point in the race, which was first time ever, in my life, and I detest that it crossed my mind.
- Use the watch diligently: It really helps no matter what target/ goal you have set for yourself. I ran the first 6KMS at a pace faster than my HM race pace and that drained me so much that I suffered throughout the rest of the race.
- Besmart with your hydration strategy: The mistake I made was that I relied completely on Enerzal/ORS and skipped having any plain water from 3 days prior to the race. This led to me having excessive salt in my body which lead to water retention and thus the bloating and heavy feeling.
- Don’t get carried away: with the adrenaline rush you have at the start, the loud peppy music, nice easy course, cool weather and extreme confidence in yourself. The best way is to always be conscious and be on track no matter.
It’s been almost a month since ADHM happened, and I have mixed feelings thinking about it. While I thoroughly enjoyed the training phase, the journey up to the race day, the food at Delhi, shopping, family time but the main thing that took me to Delhi was the ADHM Race and the target for achieving a Sub-2: I am unsure if I rejoice thinking about it?
To all my friends within and outside the running community, I did a great job and achieved my PB and my target Sub-2! But what thoughts run through my mind, is something I can barely pen down.
So that was it, folks, thanks for being with me through my long journey of achieving a Sub-2.