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Seven Lessons From My First Half Marathon

20/01/2015 8:08 AM IST | Updated 27/06/2016 9:54 PM IST
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Athletes run during the Delhi half-marathon in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2005. Kenyas Phillip Rugut of Kenya, unseen, won the race in one hour, one minute and 55 seconds. Ruguts victory fetched him US$20,000 form the total prize money of US$150,000, which made this race as the worlds richest half-marathon. In the background is the India Gate memorial. (AP Photo/Sebastian John)

Last year on 23rd November, I managed to complete my first ever half marathon. This was something I had decided on doing right at the beginning of 2014. For almost the entire year (including the morning before the race), it seemed as if I wouldn't be able to complete this wish as I wasn't physically prepared for the distance.

The maximum that I had run in 2014 was 7km and that too only a couple of days before the run. Things were not looking promising for me just a week before the run.

The half-marathon is, of course, now long over but the experience has taught me many things. I thought I'll share the few lessons that I learnt, some specifically for running, and some generally for life.

Lesson # 1: If you want to do something that's difficult--first step is to talk about it to folks around you, especially folks who matter quite a bit. It helps. First thing, I told some key folks--myself, my family, couple of close friends, my team, and my boss-- and that kept the pressure or motivation to at least try.

Lesson # 2: Break your goal into 'chewable' milestones instead of a single big one. It can help before and during the process (It helped me).

I broke my goal into 3 parts:

Goal # 1: Participate

Goal # 2: Do my highest ever distance in one go (earlier highest: 11km--only once)

Goal # 3: Complete half marathon!

In October when I registered, the odds were against me as every running plan suggested 3-4 months of preparation and I didn't have so much time (of course, if I had prepared since beginning of year, things would have been different). However, I decided to go ahead and register anyway to keep the hope going that I could participate.

Then I started running from October 17 onwards with one month to go, so that I could at least be able to participate. I started with 3km but touched 5km by October 25. I felt a bit better.

I stayed between 3km and 5km till November 16.

On November 17: I touched 7km for the first time in 2014. I'd read somewhere that one can do 1.5 times what happens in practice runs during the actual race. So, I was aiming for 7+ to have a shot at 12km (highest ever distance). Now, I was at least ready to participate.

November 21: Two days to go for the big race. I was on my final practice run and was very keen to cross 7km once again. I did it. Relief!

One day before the race: I was getting a bit nervous as I wanted to feel the best in the morning to be able to have a good shot at 12km. I was focusing on that as a key goal. The 21.097km was looking difficult. I wanted to stay in good spirits and not pull myself down before the race.

Race Day: I got up and felt good. I was surprised to see the number of people who'd come to participate in the run. It encouraged me, of course, one of the thoughts was--if so many folks can do it--why can't I?

The first 5kms:

This was key. It went well. I thought there is a decent chance of my getting to 12kms after all. There were a lot of people running--all ages, shapes and sizes. I saw some not-so-fit looking folks running, and I felt I really have to give my best shot today. I'm not mocking anybody else--but just using the case to motivate myself.

5-8 kms: Crossing my longest distance for the year

I was taking it easy. I was making sure that I was not stretching and getting slow as I do tend to get cramps after some time. I knew that if I got cramps the game was over. Once I got past 8km, I felt confident about getting to 12kms.

Lesson # 3: Follow your mind but constantly listen to and observe your own body signals:

8-12kms:

One of things that helped me was that I constantly kept sipping water or the 'energy drink' that the organisers had provided. The hydration kept me going and prevented any cramps.

I touched 12kms and gave myself a pat. The first milestone was done! I could imagine myself taking a shot at the full race now and I started thinking of it as a 9km run after the 12km run!

Lesson # 4: Drink enough water. Get enough energy. Don't wait for thirst or loss of energy. Don't let these come in.

12-14 kms:

There were a couple of scary moments at this stage. I got the first hints of cramps in the right foot during this time. At one point I had to sit on the road, remove my shoe, straighten my foot a little and pray that the cramp doesn't occur! It went past and the foot felt better.

Lesson # 5: If music (or any other art/hobby) is your thing, keep it with you. It'll help you at critical moments.

14-18kms:

There was tiredness setting-in, but I was looking at reaching the 18km milestone. I felt that I had a good shot at finishing the half marathon and, in the worst case, walking/limping the remaining distance to complete it.

I could imagine myself crossing the line and that removed any other thoughts that may have tried to set in. I'd run this distance without any music as I was enjoying the surroundings, the folks and the sound around, but I felt that some great music will help at this stage.

Lesson # 6: Imagine yourself as a winner. The feeling can overpower any tiredness, inertia and fear.

18kms--Finish:

It was already an unbelievable feeling to reach here as I knew that God has so far been with me today, and I was not going to stop now. I could walk in the worst case, but I was determined to complete it.

These last 3kms were slow, but the best part of the race, as I lived through the post-race emotions and kept feeling good about this. For the first time, while I was going through this, I felt the power of mind over body and how the body can follow the mind if one is extremely determined.

Lesson # 7: In the end, the race is with yourself. In the same race/world, everybody would have a different goal that'd satisfy them. If you know yours, you'd know what to do.

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