Tuesday, December 09, 2014

After the TWCM14

So in April this year I planned to do the 10 km run in TWCM14 and probably loose a little weight in the process.
After the TWCM I see:
1. HM in DRHM14 - Check
2. HM (trail) in CTM - Check
3. 10km in Heritage Run - Check
4. HM in TWCM14 - Check
5. Weight loss 14 kgs - Check
Along the way
1. 120 kms cycle ride to Mahabalipuram & back - check
2. Lots of fun - check
3. New friends - check
4. Better eating - check

I remember my first run with my running group. It was early morning on the 2nd of April 2014 when a few runners and beginners met and set off towards the now usual route towards CSI Ewarts. It was pure murder to say the least and by the time I managed to walk, jog, run, stumble crawl back after a miserable 3 kilometre or so I thought that it was all a big mistake. For someone weighing 112 kgs it all seemed like a big mistake. I somehow managed to make it for the next run and the same story replayed again but somehow it felt just a little bit better. By the third run, I knew a few by name and some of them actually managed to run with me at my pace like Sathyabalan and things looked up.

Then I signed up for a training programme for beginners by another runner called George Anand and during the training I met my running buddy Lakshmi Devi. Lakshmi and I were the only two of the original group of 5/6 who signed up for the training and we managed to complete it. By that time I had someone to run with who could run with me, I made up for my slow pace with longer strides and things looked better. I also started looking forward to the regular runs because by now I found that the day started better after a run.

I next completed a 6x6 challenge under the careful eye of George and the walking encyclopaedia of running in this part of the city Venugopal Arunachalam who not only shared his experiences and knowledge also ran with us during the 6x6 challenge. By now running 6 kms and running everyday made me confident and after the 6x6 I did my first long run. My longest distance I remember vividly was a 8km run and it would not have happened if I was not pulled so far by Lakshmi when I planned to turn back after my regular 2.5 km turnoff. The high after the 8km stayed with me for some time.

By now I realized that I can get inspired by other runners but I should refrain from copying them as everyone is different. So despite seeing the distances of speeds of others I continued growing slowly and resisted the urge to do more paying close attention to what my heavy body was telling me. Sometimes I have aborted runs when I felt discomfort and came back halfway, initially it felt a little humiliating but then I realized that I know my body better and as the days passed the worrying signs gradually stopped.

Then Dream Runners had opened the registrations for their half marathon and many members signed up for the 10km and the half marathon. Since I had completed a 8 km run by then I confidently signed up for my first 10 km run six months ahead of plan. Some of the others suggested that I go for the HM, I laughed it off saying that is a distant dream.

Gradually 8kms became 14kms when one day George pulled Lakshmi and me from our planned 10KM to the next milestone the Anna or Gemini flyover.  Then one day another runner called Santhosh Sam completed his first half marathon distance with a three hour plus timing. What was amazing about this achievement was the fact that he doggedly kept up with the other runners who were faster and more experienced. Soon few others also completed their maiden half and they promptly signed up for the half marathon. I resisted the urge to join them because I had not gone beyond the 14. Finally in a moment of reckless or just plain madness I changed my run category to a half marathon after having done a 17km run.

I was at the start line of DRHM14 with a lot of trepidation and doubt and I was hoping for a miracle to complete the race. I started of very fast because I assumed that was the way to go and promptly realized that it was silly, I settled into an easy rhythm and set off with the other runners. I did not use the aid stations properly because they were new to me and just sipped on the water given. I got exhausted somewhere after the 15th kilometre when the miracle happened. ME Thyagarajan turned up and guided me to the finish, guiding me to replenish myself at the aid stations with citus fruits, bananas, salts, electrolytes, candies all of which I had ignored earlier. He gently coaxed me along slowing down to my pace and sacrificing his timing and pulled me across the finish line. I had a poor timing but I had completed my first half marathon!

Things started looking up and with a schedule that involved flyovers and different routes given by Vikram Mohan I was getting better and the strength trainings done by Jayakanthan (JK), Praveen Kumar & Sprinter Naveen played a part. Due to work and travel schedules I missed a few and that showed on the weak core especially during the longer distances.

The next race was the highly recommended Chennai Trail Marathon by the Chennai Trekking Club. Since they did not offer a 10km option I signed up for the HM with others. I trained for it and felt that I should do better in this race. However the days leading upto the marathon I had an attack of viral fever and was bed ridden for a week leaving me drained. Against all the good wishes of my better half and others I ended up at the start line yet again. This was an amazing race because you run in a part of Chennai that will seldom be seen otherwise. With experience of the earlier race I replenished myself well and moved from gradually ignoring time and looking for a finish. Again I had help this time from Raghu who pulled me along to almost the finish. I improved my timing over DRHM and could have still done better if it were not for one small annoying loop in a grass bank that simply made running a challenge.

My planned 10km run happened during the Chennai Heritage Marathon because I liked the cause and it was a fun run. As it was a fun run I took it easy and had fun running with others. I picked up an injury during the run and had to limp towards the finish. However the medal and the breakfast made up for the dampener.

My group by now started cycling as the preferred cross training option and led by the enthusiastic Krishnappan T we started going for regular weekly rides and one long ride a month. The first long ride was to Mahabalipuram and back which I missed due to other commitments. When the next ride came up I signed up again without any experience beyond 40kms. It was a long, tiring ride but the wonderful medal more than made up for the aches and pains. Also the fun of riding with others ensured that it was a good experience.

So December arrived and having done 2 half marathons there was little doubt when I signed up for the half marathon this year. However work, health and other reasons left me a little unprepared for the race and I had not done a 21 km run after the CTM. The race itself was a little anticlimactic for me simply because I had done little more than I planned. However it was well organized and running with a set of friends made it a lot of fun. Despite planning a run walk schedule the euphoria and the company of friends meant I ran the first 11 kms then I switched to the run walk mode to ensure a strong finish. I was exhausted but completed it inside my target of 3 hours.

So I have done more than planned and gained a lot of things among which friends, confidence and health rank at the top. I have lost a few things also of which weight is the top priority. I have exceeded my planned 10 kgs for the year and have lost 13/14 kgs in these few months. This was done without any drastic change to diet apart from reducing sugar and junk food. Work demands me to eat out often but I am becoming more responsible about what I am eating.

There are so many more that have played a part in my running journey and I would like to thank them all for helping me grow. You can meet them all when you join Tower Twisters.  Thank you Tower Twisters, if I have missed any names here I apologize but I will thank you in person when we meet.

As the year draws to a close I am looking back at all the things I have done well and what could be done better. I am looking to do more next year and excited at the challenges ahead.

The journey has begun…

Saturday, December 06, 2014

It starts with a single step...

In April 2014 I joined a group of runners with an intention of completing the 10km run in The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2014 some 8 months later. Today a day before the TWCM it all feels quite anticlimactic and strangely the excitement of the first race is no longer there. I have already completed 2 Half marathons of which 1 was a trail marathon and 1 10 km run and I am now encouraging new comers to run their first 10km race well. What is more, the group that I run with got named as Tower Twisters and is now over 100 members strong with nearly 40 runners meeting and running regularly.

There are many reasons for both the developments but in hindsight I would like to think it is the selflessness of some members especially the senior members of the group who were willing to sacrifice their personal time so that a new comer could run. The term senior refers not the actual age of the member but their age with reference to their running life and some senior runners could be younger than me in actual age. These runners do not mind running slower to ensure that the struggling new comer is able to finish his / her run, always generous with a word of appreciation and tips for better running. All these and more with a smile and usually they get nothing in return except maybe a grateful smile from the tired but excited new runner. Something similar will happen during the actual race when dedicated runners will don the role of a “Pacer” to guide new comers to the finish in the planned time.

It has been an amazing journey and I have lost around 14 kilos somewhere on the way to CSI Ewarts school during these 8 odd months. I have had to visit my tailor to get my ill- fitting clothes altered, incidentally clothes I wore a decade ago fit me again well almost as I have dropped one size.  I am having fun as I run and I am able to chat with new runners and gently pull them along to their first landmark. In a way Iguess I am doing a lit bit of pacing too. Along the way I still get mentored by senior runners, still learn to run better, still make new friends and generally have a good time.

Another development is that now I am also cycling and have discovered that it is fun. I have completed a 120km odd cycle ride recently and I know this will not be the last. I am part of an awesome cycling group that started as an offshoot of running and is now a complete team on its own strength.  In the months ahead I will finally complete my long delayed and twice discontinued swimming classes for which a new time has started. All along this journey someone is there with a smile to take me further.

If someone had asked me at the same time last year, you know the time when resolutions are made to be usually broken if I will run a race or cycle I would have probably laughed them off. Today I will say “sure why not?.”

It all starts with a single step…

I took mine on April 2nd 2014, how about you?