Monday, October 17, 2011

Fauja Singh - A True Spirit of Life

Fauja Singh - a name that will inspire me for rest of my life.

I came to know about him soon after I started running. After learning about him, I had no more excuses left for not running and keeping myself fit when there is a man who has courage to run at an age when most of people will be worried of getting engaged in any such activity.

His biography - Turbaned Tornado is a story very well told by Khushwant Singh (not the popular Khuswant Singh). I wasn't expecting much from this book (but still wanted to know more about the Legend). But it proved me wrong. It is short but very well written.

It amazed me that a person who could hardly walks till age of 5, could hardly walk a mile till age of 15, started seriously running only at age of 89 and then went on breaking one record after another in his 90s. This book isn't about how he ran his 21st, 22nd or 25th mile. This book is about he did it. Reading about enthusiasm in one 90s (and now 100s), leaving behind on all that tragedy in one's life, can only inspire me. Really a true spirit of life.

Yesterday, he ran his eight full marathon - first one after eight years and registered him as oldest man (and only man above 100) to run a marathon. Seeing him finishing in this video made me cheer for him.

Last week, he set eight other records. He broke existing records for 100m (23.40, previous record - 29.83), 200m (52.23, previous record - 77:59), 400m (2:13.48, previous record - 3:41.00) and 1500m (11:27.81, previous record - 16:46.41) for his age category. He set new records for 800m (5:32.18), 1 mile (11:53.45), 3000m (24:52.47) and 5000m (49:57.39). His performance defies all age-grading calculation. For more information on this, check result of this event at

Seeing his pictures with both feet raised in air, made me ask - Will I run like that when I am as young as him?

This picture is owned by Doug and has been borrowed from album -

Long live Fauja Singh and Strong live Fauja Singh. A Salute to you. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Marathon – A Non Runner's perspective

On our trip to Ramoji film city, taxi driver asked my wife "mam, did u come to Hyderabad for some work or generally?" (translated to English). Anu paused for few seconds thinking whether to just pass this question. Then she said we came for the run here. It was yesterday. She asked back if he knows about it. First he shook head with a no but then traffic block the previous day, struck him. And he exclaimed - that police one. My wife thinking this might be easiest way to explain as he would have seen lot of policemen deployed, she said yes. So, mam, is he (asking about me) selected? - he asked back. Anu didn't get his question. He framed the same question differently - mam, will result come later? She believed that he got it correctly. She affirmed - ya, it will come later. She meant the race timings. Just when she was getting to rest back, he queried again - mam, was this selection for constables? She moved ahead uncomfortably now. He continued - "or for SI?" Anu whispered to me - I don't know what to say now. And to him, she announced that it is not known yet, ensuring topic is closed.

I wonder what a non runner person (like this taxi driver) will imagine about hundreds of people running on road in the middle of day. Would he ever had imagined that most of these runners are just running for personal satisfaction with no hope of winning any competition (or police job)? And what would he think if we would have told him that we just ran 42 kilometers for fun? 

I do receive many such questions about running. The answers to many of them are just so normal to runners and sounds totally out of world to the non runners. Some of the most common ones are 
  • Did you win the race? Obviously no. I try to explain that long distance running is only sports where 90% of people don't compete with others but just try to beat their own time or simply run for fun.
  • So, do you run continuosly? Are you allowed to walk? When I try to answer this, I am made to feel, I cheated in race by walking somewhere.
  • How long was your marathon? More than anything, it is ignorance. But calling 5K as 5K marathon is simply insult to magical figure of 42.195 km.
  • Are you nuts? Why are running this much? Almost impossible to explain that running marathon is pretty normal. 
If you are runner, you would have received many such questions? What was most funny (or embarrassing) question for you?

Hyderabad Marathon - A New Strategy

My wife looked at me and said I look worried. Yes I was. Because I had not done my last full marathon in July due to IT Band Injury. Because I have just run once more than 18 km in more than three months. Because I have not been able to clear my bowel since I have been to Hyderabad. And here, I was standing at starting line of Hyderabad Marathon to run my 7th full marathon of the year. None of this would have worried me so much if it would have been any of those smaller runs. But this was full marathon - real test of the body and mind. Slow runners like me put their body to work for continuous five to five and half hours. And that is a really long duration. It is not easy to predict how the body may react to this test, especially if one hasn’t tried for sometime.

Nevertheless, I was there at the start line determined to complete this marathon, no matter what happened later. Race was delayed due to late arrival of chief guest. That gave me more time to meet up more folks and mark my pacers during this time. As I planned earlier, I wanted to get on to the 5 hours bus.

Race started approximately 25 minutes late. I started running pretty close to pacers. But I was not very involved with their talks. Approximately after five minutes of run, I hear five, four, three, two, one, Walk. I was little shocked. I asked them - Are you going to do this very often. Karthik said they are going to do 5-1 in first hour, 4-1 in second hour, 3-1 in third, 2-1 in fourth and 1-1 in last. I couldn’t believe that they plan to do a sub-5 marathon with a run-walk. Balaji, who had pacer balloon at back, told me that I should follow what I am comfortable with. I just moved ahead. Very soon they caught up with me. I was now sure they knew what they are doing. My mind got involved in convincing me that they must have thought about it. They are the pacers here. I anyway had no strategy other than just run. I asked them in what time they plan to do their 5K. They firmly answered - 32-33 minutes. Also, they informed me in what time they plan to finish half marathon. And how much distance they plan to cover in first hour, second hour and third hour. I was convinced with their plan. Next time when I heard Five, Four, Three, Two, One, I walked. :) I had new strategy - something that I never tried ever in long runs. 

Pretty soon, it was evident route is not going to be easy. There were flyovers one after another. I stuck with the pacers. It was quite fun with Balaji, Karthik and other Chennai Runners. We were going pretty strong. We could do half marathon in 2:17 hours. This was way far better than what I have done ever. But I started getting tired after this. Soon, I was left little behind. And then I was losing run-walk rhythm which I was getting with pacers. I was running just couple of 100 metres behind the pacers but it was extremely difficult to catch up with them. At this stretch I ran with my running buddy - K P Suresh. He runs with such an ease. And it is always so nice to run with him. He was running his half marathon. Our routes got diverted after I was done with my 25 kilometres. I was lone again. Good part was that I could still see the pacers. I caught up with another set of runners. I asked them if they are running for sub-5. I was wishing if I can get some company. When they said they are slow for sub 5, I moved ahead. I was somewhere still hoping I could catch up with my pacers. I was hardly walking now to put every effort to catch up with Balaji and group. I did my 27th km in 6:30 pace to reach as close to them as possible. They had target of doing 27 km in 3 hours. I was almost there but two minutes late. And they were ahead of me by those minutes. My desperation to catch them caused fatigue. And by 29th km, I was sure it will be difficult for me to catch up with them. I slowed down. During 31st km, I felt some pain. I stopped for a minute to give a little massage to myself. I was tired. This part of route looked little deserted in terms of runners. I decided to go on my own rhythm of run walk. My garmin was not set for showing detail timing in seconds. So, I decided to follow a vague 3-1 run walk. This was giving me pace of little above 8. I was satisfied with that then. After 34 km mark, route was through Hyderabad university. This was little better route. But, I continued same pace with same strategy till 37 km. 37 km has always been very important to me. That is when I start the count down with 5 km left. I improved my pace slightly by occasionally increasing my run time. At around 39 km, we left the university to face the traffic road. We were running in opposite direction to traffic. It was fine most of time but there were issues at some places. At 41 km mark, route entered the stadium complex. That helped me in further improving my pace and  42nd km came at 6:49 pace - something which is very easy on any other day but not after already running 41 km. Last 100 metres was to be run on the track in stadium. I was welcomed by 12m12m folks there. They cheered me up.  They paced me up. And I believe I ran the last 100 metres faster than I could ever run. According to Garmin, I touched the max speed of 17 km per hour. There I was crossing finish line at 5 hour 4 minutes 23 seconds. Failed by few minutes for my target but happy that I could do my personal best, beating my previous best by 19 minutes at what seems to be toughest marathon route I have been at. Felt extremely happy to receive my finisher medal.

Finally, Happy Me :)

Thank you Hyderabad Runners for this wonderful experience. Big thanks to Balaji and Karthik for pacing me up. And another big thanks to Suresh for running those tough part of route with me. Also, this race became so special for me as Anu did her first half marathon here.

Anu and Me after the race

Monday, July 4, 2011

My First Sports Prize

TCS 10K, an international gold label IAAF race, introduced corporate challenge. Corporate challenge is an inter company running completion in which two gentleman and one lady from a company participates as a team. Each team member runs 10 km. Team with least sum of individual timing wins. We (I, Anto and Arundathi) decided to participate in it. When we didn't get sponsorship from our company, we agreed to sponsor self. We truly believed we will be able to get in top three which means we will have some good cash as prize.

My training plan period was for 9 weeks. I have been doing one marathon every month. To make sure, I recover well before TCS 10K, I kept enough gap between them. I had interval, tempo, long run etc included in training.
At Finish Line
On Race day, we reached Kanteerava Stadium well in time. Weather was just perfect for running. Running environment was perfectly set up. Crowd in all colors were energized and enthused. We had Elite men and Elite women race before our race. It was so inspiring to see them. Only wish, i could run at a pace comparable to them. It was so encouraging to see Senior Citizen run. A commitment of good health to self and family.
Arundathi, Anto & I
Next was our turn. We had advantage of being at start of  five thousand plus crowd participating in open 10K. But that didn’t shield us from few pushes here and there. I fired up from starting itself. My first km came in 4:25. Probably my fastest ever first km. Second and third km came in 4:31 and 4:33 minutes respectively. Fourth km which had downhill stretch came in 4:26. This was totally against my plan. I intended to run slow in starting and increase speed later. But instead I went fast in starting. Fifth km was pretty difficult with uphill. It came in 4:56 minutes. That made my 5K in 22:51 - A PB. Run got difficult thereafter with 6th km in 5:08. I stopped twice in 7th km - Once for water and then for energy drink making this km in 5:30. Eight km came in 5 minutes. Then, I increased my pace completing 9th and 10th km in 4:43 and 4:38 minutes. Extra 70 metres by Garmin took more 19 seconds. I finished my 10K in 48:13 as per my Garmin. This was my personal best for my 10K, beating previous one by 86 seconds that I did long back. Also, I beat my last year timing by more than 16 minutes.

Anto and Arundathi did their run 51:08 and 48:43 respectively. We waited for another one and half hour. Then we were told that result cannot be announced same day due to technical issue. Result appeared on website next day. And our result was not announced though we knew we should have been second. We were told that my timing chip was not scanned at starting point. It took four days for us and organizers to agree on our result. This was more difficult time than to really run the race.

Merit Certificate
Finally, we were awarded 2nd position - My first ever sports prize in this life.

Silver Medal and Trophy

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Auroville 10K Run 2011 - Unofficial Ranking

This is unofficial timings and ranking for Auroville 10K Run 2011.

Please click here if you are unable to see the embedded document above.

In case you find any discrepancy, please leave a comment and I will get back to you soon.

Auroville Half Marathon 2011 - Unofficial Ranking

This is unofficial timings and ranking for Auroville Half Marathon 2011.

Please click here if you are unable to see the embedded document above.

In case you find any discrepancy, please leave a comment and I will get back to you soon.

Auroville Full Marathon 2011 - Unofficial Ranking

This is unofficial timings and ranking for Auroville Full Marathon 2011.

Please click here if you are unable to see the embedded document above.

In case you find any discrepancy, please leave a comment and I will get back to you soon.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My First Marathon Distance Run – No option to give up

A Full Marathon is one of the most important milestone for any aspiring long distance runner. So, was for me. I registered for a full marathon at Auroville scheduled on 13th Feb 2010. But, I didn’t want any surprise on race day similar to those I had in Bangalore Ultra last year where I participated in 37.5 kms category. I had practiced for only 30 Kms once before that. I didn’t know it will not be enough till I almost gave up in the race. I had zero heat training. And the Sun didn’t show any mercy that day. I had tough time completing my last 12.5 Kms which took 2 hours 13 minutes when first 25 kms was done in 2 hours 45 minutes. So, I didn’t want to run my first full marathon in Auroville. I needed to make sure I can run 42.2 Kms  before I could run 42.2 kms. That is running. How do I know I can run distance till I really run that distance?

It has been much less than a year since I seriously started running. I did my first 10K in little more than 64 minutes. Three and half months later, I ran my first half marathon in 2 hours 9 minutes. Then I just assumed that I can keep running at around pace 6 for any distance. I didn’t realize that when I ran first 10K, I was pretty na├»ve and slow. With decent practice, I could do 21 KM at same pace. But when I tried same in 37.5 Kms, I failed miserably. I wasn’t prepared for it. I needed to learn to run slower for longer distance. I don’t want to walk or finish dull. I want to finish strong. I want to make sure I can waive my both hands up in air and say, yes, I did it.

Many runners complains about running in loops for longer distance. And so do I. It is just so easy to give in any of loops. Your mind finds tens of reasons to give up. The time when you are not racing with anybody else, you need to keep racing with your mind. I didn’t want to give up again after 21 kms as I just gave up couple of weeks back as soon as I was back in Mini Forest from Lalbagh. I needed to make sure when I practice for complete marathon, I don’t give up. But that creates another problem, how do I manage logistics to carry lot of water and energy drink and something to eat during the run.

While I was looking for solution for all these to practice for Auroville, I got really inspired by Sabine, Gopal, Jagadish, Sindhu, Suresh and many others, who came up with idea of doing 12m12m  – 12 marathons in 12 months. I wanted to be part of that team.  I decided to join them and do as many as 12 marathons in 12 months. It may seem little crazy for a person who has not even done a single marathon. But I had to anyway do Auroville Marathon in Feburary. And I need to practice one before that in January. So, that makes two. Why not do just 10 more.

Most of 12m12m folks were running Mumbai Marathon. I hadn’t registered for it. Few of them would be running their full as part of Strides of Hope. I didn’t want to wait till that late in month.

I decided to do run my first full marathon on Jan 14th 2011. There was no event. My wife and friends agreed to help me. And that was all I needed.  I chose to start my run early from Mini Forest. I ran first 14 Kms in Mini Forest. I also made sure that I don't run faster than around 7 mins per km to ensure that I have energy to run longer. I was joined by Bharath after 11th Km. Anu joined us  at around 13th Km with a bag full of energy drink sachets, banana and glucose biscuits. We ran toward Lalbagh then. Anu did Run – Walk. I and Bharath kept making loops to make sure Anu stays with us. I was done with half marathon by the time we reached Lalbagh. Anu took break once we reached there. We were joined by Karam in Lalbagh. Lalbagh loop was approximately 3.5 Kms, thus not very short. Also, availability of drinking water helps in kind of self support running. Bharath was with us till we were done with 28 Kms. I took my first little food break of couple of biscuits after 31.5 kms. Karam continued till around 36 kms. By that time, I was sure there is no chance to give up now. I had planned to run back to Mini Forest to finish full marathon. But decided against it due to possible heavy traffic. Soon, I finished my first full marathon in Lalbagh itself. It look 23 minutes more than what I expected. But I was glad I finished it. The feeling of happiness, satisfaction and tiredness was just amazing. I am really thankful to my friends and wife who helped me in finishing my first marathon distance.

I was a marathoner. Who else knows what it means to run 42.195 Kms?