21.097 kms. That’s what it takes to finish a half marathon. And on the 29th of last December, that’s what I did at the first Cochin International Half Marathon.
When @Hari told me about the run in the first week of December, the idea was to just be part of the event. Do the 7km fun run and show a contribution. On the first day of practice, I could barely jog for 5 minutes and 7kms looked like a challenge in itself.
But at the end of the third week; by about the time the registration closed, I was doing 7kms easily and wanted to attempt a bigger challenge. And so I signed up for the half marathon. I didn’t tell anyone about it then. Fear of embarrassment told me to see if I could run it first.
The moment I paid for it, I started thinking about it more seriously than I did before. I called up my brother, @Edwin, who is a serious badminton player himself for tips on how to plan my last week.
From a friend of Edwin (who competes in national events himself), I learned that the body needs 2 to 3 days of time to recover after a long run and a lot of rest. I did my research and found out what to eat and drink. And we made a plan for the final week.
Here is a rough outline of the things we discussed for the final week:
- Rest well for minimum two days before the race. No running on the day before the event. Warming up and stretching is okay though.
- 12 hours of sleep a day. Now that’s always welcome!
- Do not eat a heavy meal the night before the run.
- Stick to high carb food the night and the morning of the run. Bananas, Potatos, Rice Soup and the like.
- Have a high carb breakfast 2 hours before the run and an energy drink (I had 200ml of glucose solution) 5 minutes before the run.
- Keep the body hydrated all through the week. Water, rice soup and other fruit juices will help.
- Use running shoes. This is something which I didn’t do. I ran in a shoes that I had, the one that I always use for cycling and trekking (My shoes weighs about 900 grams. Proper running shoes weights about 350 grams and its not just about the weight I believe). Its not designed for running but I didn’t have the time to break into a new pair of shoes. Not ideal.
- Wake up early and work on your toilet schedule so that your stomach is empty and clean on race day. I started waking up at 5.
- Do stretch exercises for your calf, thighs, the ankles, knees and all other muscles of your leg. Do this before and after the run.
- During the race, run at an even pace.
- Keep your body straight and maintain the posture even when your hands are tired.
- Take a bottle of water mixed with ORS (Electral) / Glucose while you run. Now I took Electral with me on race day, but I have come to known that its not advisable to take Electral during a run, since its designed for use when you are extremely dehydrated and it doesn’t provide much energy. A different product named Enerzal is recommended for intake while you run.
- During the practice run, I took a piece of sugar cane with me to keep me busy. On race day, I had sugar coated jellies with me, but I didn’t eat it until the race was over.
- To prevent joggers nipple (this would be one of the most un-sexiest thoughts you can have about a nipple. During long runs, the nipple rubs against your clothes and fissures. Its painful and distracting and sometimes even bleeds.), I applied some Vaseline and covered it with surgical tape (in the shape of X of course!).
- Run on soft ground or grassy ground after a long run on the tarmac.
- Massage the muscles of your leg after a long run.
I did a 11.2 km run and a 21 km run the following days. I made the mistake of running the 21 kms during noon and that got me a bit sick. I kept watching few motivational videos and to top it all, I saw the movie that depicts the story of the running legend Padma Shri Milkha Singh, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag“.
Driving to Cochin the previous day to collect the marathon bib, my nose was runny and my body was hot.
After collecting the bib and a little bit of shopping, I went to stay with @Muttu who would take me to the venue the next morning. I had a dinner of banana’s and eggs and slept.
29.12.2013. Race Day
I woke up at 4 am. Made coffee and had a breakfast of bananas. Bowel movement (did anyone just say Sheldon?) was smooth, it was never this good any other day of the week and I took that as a sign. Funny where we find our motivation from. Drank the rice soup that I had bought from home. And dressed up for the day.
Walking into the Maharaja’s college ground wearing the jersey and the bib on my chest was a stimulating experience in itself. You are not the only one there to run, but you are one of them.
Each category had a starting area. The elite runners, the ones more serious about running that we were, they had already started warming up in another part of the ground. I went to my holding area. The organizers had arranged for some aerobic dancing to warm up the crowd. I knew how warm I needed to be, so I skipped that and did my stretching.
At about 6:15 am, the gates opened and we all started running. They had a tracking chip attached to our bib and this was how they would track my time.
I recognized a few faces running along with me. The most prominent of them was Rishiraj Singh, the current transport commissioner of Kerala.
The first few kilometers passed easily. It was a new sight for the people of the city, they stood along the sidelines and cheered for us. Media was everywhere. In fact, I managed to get my face on TV in between the race and at the finish. Manorama News covered us live and my family got a chance to see me running. Thank you Manorama for the brief moment of fame, once again.
The organizers had arranged for water every now and then. To help us keep track of our progress, they had displays that showed how far we had come. Medical stations were there at every kilometer and there were volunteers with radios everywhere. It was elegant.
“Pain is only for a minute. Glory is for a lifetime“. This is what I kept reminding myself when my body started telling me that he was tired. I also kept reminding myself of the shittiest things that happened in 2013 and how badly I wanted this one to be complete.
2013 I was definitely far better than 2012. I sorted out my priorities, went on a few trips and had the best birthday ever. But some of the major plans didn’t work out as expected and I wanted this to work. Reminding me of the bad days helped me more and kept my motivation going. Pain and despair. Tyler Durden was right.
The final few kilometers was daunting. My knees started hurting (might have to do with the wrong choice of shoes) and the crowd had lost their heart to cheer. Can’t blame them, I was taking too long to finish. Regardless, I kept pushing, finding motivation from the motivational lines and scenes that kept flashing in my head.
I had two goals for the day. The first was to finish the run non-stop. During practice I had to stop twice for a few minutes. The second was to finish within 2 hours and 30 minutes. I finished in 2h: 32m: 23s. Close enough. And yes, without a break in between.
Running past the finishing mark was exhilarating. I could feel my heart beating so hard and everything in my body was hurting. But pain was good!
I met this guy whom I had befriended right before the start, @Aynus Antony. We shared the jellies I had with me, collected our finishers medal and then went for refreshments before parting.
Muttu came to pick me up again. I couldn’t wait to eat!