Welcome, fellow runners and readers-yet-to-be-captivated-by-running, to the sequel to my running journey which began last year with a bang.
The high of running the HM at TMM 2018, in my very first year of running was soon wearing off, and I was about to get myself into a tornado called Speed Training! In a way, I am really glad I did it this way – long distance training in sweet comfortable pace first, because I still needed to get my body and mind in sync with running – base building as they call it 😜. However, it is in these last 4 months that I finally learned the *importance* of body strengthening. Gone were the days when all you needed to run was a pair of shoes and running clothes. No longer a beginner here. To sustain running with improvisations each time, and to stay injury-free, it was really crucial to get the core, quads, glutes, calves and even the little toes real strong. I couldn’t avoid it anymore and decided to dive into the world of dumbbells and barbells 🏋🏻 (utterly scared of those!).
Post TMM, we (JJs) started off a month of strengthening routines coupled with small warm up runs. We were back on the mud doing our lunges, burpees, push-ups (yep, another intimidating exercise which I managed to….oops, getting ahead of myself here!) and explosive movements that got me dog-tired in just an hour. I used to reminisce the HM training days-the long beautiful runs ..sigh… Had to wait until July to restart that. Back then, hours of running brought in only calf stiffness for me once in a while, but this made the whole body ache, and how! Luckily, I had my old runner gang for company and my very own spirited confidante – who always merrily said- “Oh, it’s a good kind of pain to experience!” Anyway, exposure to the soil microflora got me sick and I missed couple of the workouts which affected the start of the speed training season. I felt I lost my stamina and maybe even willpower 🙄. But there was hope, coz, namma Bengaluru city was buzzing to prepare for the TCS World 10k – the country’s famous short distance race. The race that started my running journey! It was a very special one and I was totally looking forward to it.
We began our training with a carefully structured plan by our Coach Pramod, who has taken many beginner runners to the finish line faster than they expected, and experienced ones to the podium🙂. I started believing in the power of training last season but I highly doubted my own ability to get upgrade my speed level. The training runs included short and long speed workouts that tired me to such a great extent that I had to be coaxed into going back by my “sole-mate” 😇😬. Luckily, we are all filled with tiny powerhouses within each cell, called as Mitochondria, that helps us give those bursts as well as recover from it.
I found that running my fastest (short bursts of speed) isn’t sustainable even to a meagre distance of 1km. This required my muscles to be stronger than before. I took the Gym training seriously (no more excuses) and for over 2 months worked with good dedication. We also included regular practice of Yoga and that I feel has added great value to my speed training. We even gave up our fun badminton games for 3 full months to make time for the gym and speed work and of course, to avoid any random niggles. I was curious to know how am I going to go from running a 10k at 70 minutes to attempting one at 60 minutes. Yep, that was Riku’s…ahem.. my target time. I guess I was getting into a comfortable zone with running, not caring about what speed I ran with. It’s kind of a paradox – one should be able to enjoy running and also try to push one’s limit. The pushing part is never easy. Fortunately for me, curiosity didn’t kill the cat this time 😼😹. I was getting really interested to know how fast can I run. With relatively stronger muscles, I peaked well in my training and even though I wasn’t close to my target pace, I was really happy with the improvement.
Alongside, Riku’s running story was also unfolding – there he was keeping ‘unrealistic’ goals and training hard for them as well, and part of my job was to keep up his spirits and help him stay on the journey, just as part of his job was to keep me going 😊. There were times when workouts would have been missed and runs would have been slower if not for the steady stream of positive energy we directed at each other. This is why I believe it is important to get your spouse or partner or a good friend into running as well, if you are really into it – it converts some of the tedium of training into ‘quality time’, as some JJs like to say 🤗. There were even times when I had to pace him on a bicycle for a full 10k on the TCS route to match his target pace, even though it was supposed to be a day I was running as well (12km fast finish!). Pacing done, I was then ordered to go running to finish my own mileage while he went off to rest up and have breakfast.. Baaaahhhhh 😪😑… I told myself I’m a strong and determined runner, no complaining there!
Anyway, to illustrate how strength-building works, let us go back to the push-ups story 🙂 – I was gradually able to move up to 5 push-ups in good form! Woohoo! Why is being able to do push-ups such a big deal anyway? It’s a form of exercise that mainly utilises the muscles of the chest, arms and shoulders. Why was I so curious about it? Coz I have been hearing so much about push-ups challenges and the boys I know do it with ease whereas many girls struggle to do it. When I tried it for the first time, I could hardly lift my own body weight! I used to lay flat on my yoga mat and just glare at Riku for doing it cooly! Anyways, that was the past (15 push-ups now, Yo! 😎) and I’ll get to the point I’m trying to make here. The best part about body strengthening is that you realise that there are so many muscles in the body that you hardly gave attention to and they are all weak, stiff and meek. With good care and nurturing, they get well oiled and are able to do things once you thought was unimaginable!! And there is no age limit to start or restart body strengthening. However, studies clearly show that a fit body (not to be read as a highly muscular bulged body) helps in overall good health and slows down ageing. No wonder all these runners look barely their actual age. I know a 50+ JJs runner who looks over a decade younger than his age and many runner-moms who can easily pass off as college going gals.
Moving back to the TCS 10k training, as we entered May, things got heated up- thanks to the weather and the excitement. As usual, we loaded up on our nitrates (bloody beets!) and carbs before the race. This time we also got some of our close friends into running their first race which brought back good old memories of our own. As the race day inched closer, our running group, Jayanagar Jaguars, were hugely involved in making the race a real special one. Three of our running rockstars were part of the world’s first ever all-women pacer team. Few of us also got a personal interaction with the Grand slam champion, Mary Pierce who was the event ambassador. Excitement was in the air throughout. A day before the race, all of us got together to take our group photo with our new running tees. Only then did I realise, 500+ of our community are running TCS 10k! Wow! Thats over four times the JJ runners who ran TMM together. So, it was going to be a smile-fest throughout, and constant doses of energy and support to keep us pushing throughout 😬🤗.
On the eve of the race, Riku and I did our usual tradition of watching an inspiring running related movie (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, this time) to get those nerves pumped up with steel followed by an early meal and a good night’s sleep! We reached on time at the Venue on the D-day and soon entered into our line-up sections, warming up slowly to get the heart and the muscles ready.
As the clock hit 5.30 am, the first group of fast runners sprang out. It was amazing to watch their perfect form literally glide over the track and out into the roads. I had a bit of a crowded start but managed to pick up a good pace surprising myself in the initial 2kms. This was the speed that I had imagined in the beginning of my training and never quite reached there until that moment! Everything was going perfect till the 4th km came by. This time curiosity almost got the cat out of breath! Why is it that I lose my focus and speed at the mid distances? Did I start too fast? Or was I dehydrated? Many questions hovered over the familiar route that was slowly getting laced with humidity. Maybe I would be able to answer some of those questions, further along in my running journey – but for now this aspect of how my body reacts is a mystery 🤔🧐.
Luckily, due to the familiarity, both with the 10k distance and the course, I was able to get my drifting mind back into the race and the thumping feet of thousands of runners soon got me into picking up my pace. I knew then I wasn’t going to hit the 60 mins mark, but I also started getting doubts of hitting 65 (which was my previous best during training). My mantra then was the carefully studied route details by Riku – he had chalked out exactly where the downhills came – those are my favourites! My mood lifts up and my body goes into a dance-zen-smile-run mode ☺. I took advantage of that and ran faster when the terrain changed to my advantage. A potential sub-64 was soon blooming in my hopes, and I was into my 8th km that was led into by my favourite stretch of the Vidhana Soudha road. With just 2 more to go, I was able to pick up speed surprisingly with not much effort. Was that the 2nd wind? Hmm… Curiouser and curiouser! How did my muscles recover 😲?! Where did the exhaustion vanish?!
Enter 9th km and DISASTER STRUCK!! – I was literally thrown out of track!. A turning popped up along with a speed breaker and loads of runners getting their sprinting phase ready. In that hazy moment, I tripped over and scraped my knees. Luckily, I was able to keep cool and judge fast the extent of it – Verdict? Most likely it was only a superficial wound and my prized knees were alright. Three super kind runners (whoever you were, I am extremely moved by your gesture, thank you!) helped me get up and all I could tell them is that they ought to continue running coz its the 9th km!!! Runners are extremely compassionate, in addition to being people with great attitude and superpowers (my Coach keeps teleporting at all the required places 🤩)! If only I could go back and thank them again for their gesture. Coach saw me too and encouraged me to take it easy and be conservative. At that moment, I wasn’t at all behind my adjusted target time or pace. All I thought was to get to the finish line as quickly as possible and into the arms of my sole-mate. With my arteries pumping adrenaline and newly styled tights with knee-slashes, I started sprinting up to the finish line. I almost hallucinated Riku cheering me up and shouting my name towards the end and that gave me the energy to give a final push to seal my run to a strong 62 minutes finish!
I was in a daze when I crossed the timing mat and I stumbled into Deepesh (fellow JJs runner and high energy bubble) who helped me catch my breath. I walked down the stadium entrance in search of my people amidst beaming finishers with all their swagger, all the nerves now converted to jubilation. It took a few moments to find Riku and he immediately opened his arms for our congratulatory hug. He had finished super strong in 52 minutes! Such a proud moment for us. He had worked so hard for this which in turn inspired me to push myself. My eyes welled up for no good reason (mostly embarrassment for tripping over 😪😛!) and I blurted that I fell down. I could see his face immediately convert the huge smile into a concerned gasp after seeing my torn tights with bright crimson patches. After a few minutes of consolation, I traipsed over to the medical camp and got my wound checked and dressed up. All was good. No serious damage done.
Time to get back to the party🎉🎉! We caught up with our runner-familia along with their friends to share stories of our speedfest! Following that was the celebratory traditional JJs breakfast party which we enjoyed and chatted up spiritedly with our fellow runners, all gleaming after their newly minted PB’s🎖! This was very different from the TMM Half marathon after party. No one was tired… bringing back the memories of my last TCS 10k. I remember falling into my bed and waking up very late in the noon. There were so many positive changes in my stamina and strength after this year of taking up running and the focus on holistic fitness and nutrition. It is time to conclude my very first year of running and all the adventures it brought into our lives. I am extremely grateful to my husband, Riku and our amazing family for the enthusiasm and support. Come any race, there’s always an eager bunch to gather around and participate. It is this infectious enthusiasm that charmed and challenged me to change my lifestyle and outlook. I am also equally grateful to my amazing Coach and running buddies at JJs who have exponentially charged up the enthusiasm coupled with perfect training sessions that made all the achievements possible.
So, what comes next? Of course, we will keep running and I want to stay curious about how much I can push my body and still enjoy the process. We also would love to get more people curious about running/fitness and get them to experience adrenaline and endorphins flowing down their veins 😊!
Stay Fast, Stay Curious, Stay Fit – everything is possible! Happy Running! 🙂
Some tips and lessons learnt this season:
- Strength, Strength and Strength: It is immensely vital to get the body strong if one wants a considerable amount of improvement. Working on strengthening different muscle groups along with a good amount of Yoga has helped us to better our running performance.
- Nutrition: We noticed a slight increase in our body weight initially due to the reduction in our weekly mileage. It took us few weeks to alter our diet to suit the new training regimen. We also started experimenting on rice alternatives and discovered the amazing millets.
- Watching the pace: With all the interval and speed workouts, we had very specific pace targets. So, learned to keep an eye on the watch and a check on the pace. It is a bit strenuous to keep a track of the numbers but it all helps, come #Raceday! 😎