Deepthi Velkur talks to Shahana Zuberi who was inspired by a line she read once that said “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”
Once considered an extreme sport for athletes, the marathon has become a popular phenomenon in the last decade. Without any limits of age and preparation, people gather from all over the world to run a marathon. The most important part of a race is to cross the finish line and that does not depend on how long one takes to complete the race. Shahana Zuberi a doctor in biology from LMU, Munich and a veteran marathoner couldn’t agree with this more.
Shahana took up running for fun 3 years ago and that quickly transformed into a passion. She started her journey as a runner by taking part in different long-distance races such as 10km races and half marathons. While juggling her time between taking care of her little son and managing a Multi Sports activity center for young enthusiasts between the age group 2.5 to 8 years, she never misses out on her own run.
She has taken part in several long-distance races – countless 10k’s and 4 half marathons which included Bangalore Marathon, Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, and Tata Mumbai Marathon. Her personal best timing at 10k was 66:24 mins and half marathon was 2 hours 33 mins. A veteran at the TCS world 10K, she has taken up the challenge to pace 80mins bus as a pacer for the first time. She is part of the 19 member women pacer squadron. This year her goal of being a pacer is to create high energy and motivation among the members of her bus by helping them achieve their best with strength and grace. She also feels running with a pacer is very helpful since the pacers are aware of the route well and strategize\plan the race according to the elevation which helps to keep up with the energy levels until the finish line.
I caught up with Shahana to understand what keeps her running.
How long have you been running?
I have been running regularly since last 3 years. I run at least thrice a week and on an average of 35-40 Km per week. I enjoy running and ensure I keep all my long runs, at the pace that it ends strongly. This keeps me motivated and always look forward to my next long run.
What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about running? Specifically running long distances?
Running long distance always gives me a sense of achievement. After running a certain distance, we go into a trance where nothing else matters except reaching the finish line. During the easy long runs, I plan my day and strategize on how I need to finish the race. This makes me well prepared for the run.
Have you calculated how many kms you have accumulated in all your years of running?
In the last two years, I have accumulated a total of 1500 kms.
Which was your most memorable run ever? What was your favorite part?
My best run was Spirit of Wipro, 2016. This was my first run after proper training and I performed better than expected considering it was a very tough terrain.
How do you prevent yourself from getting injured with all the running you do?
It is important to remain injury free to enjoy the runs. I ensure on doing a proper warm up and cool down after the runs. Stretching is very important after run workouts. Don’t go overboard with your running. I run only thrice a week and rest of the days I do strength training. Foam rolling is another way to keep your muscles relaxed.
Being a part of the first all-woman pacer squad in the TCS world 10k marathon, what was your goal?
My goal will be to get my bus on target time to the finish line and keep everyone motivated all through the race.
How many times have you run the TCS marathon? What brings you to run this marathon every year?
TCS World 10k is a prestigious international event. People from all over India come for open 10K and many elite runners participate in this run. This will be my third time. It has a beautiful route running through the center of the city. It feels pretty much like a city tour.
You being a veteran marathon runner, what health\safety advice would you give a fresher?
Advice will be to start slow and train well. Take care of your food habits. It is important to eat nutritious food and involve strength workout in your training.
When it comes to training, what is your schedule like? How do you break down running and strength training in preparation for a marathon?
I run thrice a week and it comprises of interval runs, tempo and long distance running. The remaining part of the week, I do strength training and any light workout like walking, swimming or cycling.
What is your special diet plan before a run? Care to share a few tips?
Well, at least an hour before the run, you can eat bread and a peanut butter sandwich. I like to eat a banana. Few dates and handful of dry fruits are good too. One should include a lot of proteins and carbohydrate in their diet. A day before the race my standard food is Aloo paratha.
During a run, what do you think about? Are you thinking about the next km, your body, or something that’s inspiring you—what is that?
During the race, I only think about the finish line. But normally as I said before, during easy runs, my mind keeps working wherein I plan my day, work and lots of other thoughts keep racing through my head.
Have you seen yourself evolve over the years of running? How would you say you’ve grown as a runner?
Yes, I have definitely evolved a lot as a runner and also as a person. My pace has improved, able to strategize better before and during the run, there has been a boost in my endurance level due to running consistently. In my personal life, running has helped improve my overall patience and also lead a disciplined life.
Shahana leaves us with these inspiring words, “Keep pushing yourself harder with a never say die attitude and you will see success come your way.”