Pune based Kavitha Reddy talks to Deepthi Velkur about how she caught the running bug.
Based out Pune for the past 10 years, Kavitha’s story can be encapsulated by George Elliot’s phrase “It is never too late to be what you might have been”.
A 43-year woman with two teenage sons, Kavitha is a small-town girl who grew up in Anantapur (Andhra Pradesh). Growing up, her father insisted that she stay active and despite not being a sportsperson in school, she followed her father’s words and lead an active lifestyle. She has been a marathoner for the past 5 years now and has completed 3 out of the 6 major marathons worldwide. I had a chance to talk with her on how did she transform her life.
You did play a bit of basketball in your younger days but running was never a fascination. What changed? How did running become so serious?
Growing up, I was never really into sports though I did some free play. Once my boys grew up, I had a lot of time to myself and wanted to do something for me. In 2009, I was diagnosed with hypo-thyroid and coupled with seeing my mother suffer from thyroid and arthritis, it really shook me into action.
I started with going to the gym thrice a week. During a chat with a close friend, long distance running came up and on doing some research, I found a running group called The Pune Road Runners club that trained at the racecourse. On September 19th 2013, I laced up my running shoes and joined the group for a run. I have never looked back!
Consistency is key? How did you make running your habit?
It is in my nature to be consistent. If I start something, I give it my complete focus and that really has been the key to my achievements. Further, it motivates me to achieve more.
At the start, I needed some time to figure out how to manage my time, kids, school but slowly I was able to balance it out. Obviously, there were hurdles but when you enjoy something, you find a way to overcome them.
Your dream is to run the 6 iconic World Marathon Majors. So far, you have done 3 – New York, Boston, and Berlin. Please share some snippets from each of these events?
Running the World Marathon Majors, a circuit of 6 iconic races around the world is my cherished dream. In 2017, I was accepted into the TCS New York marathon after my partner’s office recommended me. New York was the first of the 6 majors and I was super ecstatic about it. The course is very technical and challenging – plenty of hills, climbs / flyovers.
In April 2018, I ran the Boston marathon for which I waited 18 months post my qualification. The 2018 run had awful weather conditions with runners encountering the coldest conditions in 2 decades with rain, wind and snow reducing visibility drastically.
Two months ago (September 2018), I ran the Berlin marathon and clocked a personal best of 3hours and 28 mins.
Qualifying for the World Majors is no walk in the park? What challenges did you face while doing this?
Yes, there were setbacks and challenges. I have had bad workouts and a couple of bad races in the lead up to the 2016 Amsterdam Marathon, this happened due to a fall I had, which fractured my hand and I had to train with a cast on which was removed only a week before the race.
How did you train yourself for these marathon majors? Was it any different from training for a marathon in India?
Other than course specific training tweaks, overall it was the same training that was followed.
For New York, I included a lot of climbs / flyovers in my training as the course has the same. For Boston, my coach added mileage and tweaked the workouts to make me stronger to tackle the Boston route profile. He prescribed rolling routes for my training runs and tempo runs, included hill runs in the second half of my long runs and lastly, some fast finish long runs.
Berlin is a flat course, so I just concentrated on pace building with fast finish runs.
Despite such adverse weather predicted for the Boston Marathon this year, you still managed to clock the marathon in 3hours 38mins in your age category? How did you mentally prepare yourself for the race and did it go as per plan?
It was a nightmare! The weather was terrible and I could hear the howling of the cold winds. To make matters worse, it was raining and snowing. I was very depressed and had my doubts if I could run in such conditions. It appeared that all my hard work for the past 3 months would amount to nothing.
But then, I figured that all runners are facing the same conditions, so if I made my mind stronger, I could deal with this thing. Nevertheless, I started the race with doubts in my head but eventually, I got into a rhythm and regained some confidence.
I kept thinking of all the encouraging messages that I received from friends and family before the race and I felt a sudden surge of divine energy inside me. I renewed my resolve to fight it out and take on the upcoming hills strongly.
Another challenge was poor visibility due to rains and the huge crowds of runners which was quite intimidating. But in the end, I surprised myself by fighting it out bravely till the end and finished with a smile and great pride in a time of 3hours 34mins.
How many races have you participated in India and overseas? Which has been the best course you have run so far and why?
I have done 9 full marathons so far. 5 in India which includes ADHM, SPBM, SCMM(3) and 4 overseas ( Amsterdam, New York, Boston, and Berlin). I have also done countless half marathons and 10Ks.
The best race for me so far is my first FM at Hyderabad ( the first one is always special as I believed in myself and set out to do something which I thought I was incapable of doing). Following that closely was my most recent Berlin Marathon – that was one race where I was so consistent and strong from the start to the finish line.
How has joining motive8 coaching improved your performance and how is it helping your goal of achieving to qualify for the remaining 3 majors?
I joined Motiv8 Coaching in 2015 after I ran the Bengaluru marathon (my 3rd full marathon) and clocked my first sub-4 time of 3hours 53mins. It was then that I took seriously the possibility of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I also realized that to improve further and achieve that target, I would require some personalized training and train in a more structured and scientific manner. Though I had run 2 full marathons earlier, I never had any fixed workouts and paces for my runs but just ran at a comfortable pace. After I started my coaching, there was a lot more structure and variety in the workouts as well as pace guidance and other details to each workout which I was unaware of earlier. That has helped me a lot.
I have run 6 full marathons after joining Motiv8. With each marathon, I have only improved myself and come out stronger. The focus for the next 3 majors is to do the same with steady improvement while remaining injury free.
What are the major differences you see between running in India and running overseas?
Running has picked up in our country in the last 6-7 years but I feel it still has a long way to go. The ecosystem developed around running overseas is a major plus point. People respect, value and understand the sport and this makes it extra special running in these events.
In the pursuit of achieving your dream, what are the lifestyle changes that you had to make and was your family supportive of this change?
I haven’t made too many lifestyle changes to achieve this. The only and most difficult one was missing my mornings with my family. But I am very lucky that I do not have a very demanding family and they supported me endlessly in my journey.
Yes, a few changes automatically come along with a new schedule. My day used to start early before, but now it starts even earlier with packing lunch boxes and then stepping out for training. My social circle now has more running friends. Overall, my lifestyle has changed for the better.
What is your message to many women out there who are sckeptical to take up running or fitness?
These are the following mental blocks I heard from many women around
when I began running and also during training – Are you not affecting your knees?
Are you not affected by hormonal changes? Is it safe to run on the roads? How safe are you running alone? How do you run during your menstrual cycle? How to take time out of kids’ schedule? How do you balance both your home and your passion?
All these questions are only present until you make a beginning. My personal experience is that everything falls in place if you enjoy doing what you do and learn how to balance it all. Your family will support you when you show your commitment to what you do. Personally, I am blessed to have very supportive kids and a spouse for letting me pursue my passion. At the same time, I take care of my responsibilities well to maintain that balance.
Despite starting to run late in my 30’s, I do not see this as a disadvantage. In the end, age is just a number, you can set goals at any age and achieve it if you are determined.
What is the next race in your race calendar for this year and your plans for 2019?
My next full marathon is next year. Currently, I am focusing on core, strength, and speed till I start my training for my 4th marathon major which is the London Marathon in April 2019. After that, my 5th one will be the Chicago Marathon in October 2019.
You can follow Kavitha’s journey on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/deepak.kavitha/