There are exactly 4 months to SCMM 2015. And 2 months (8 weeeks) to the Delhi Half Marathon.
It will be a long 4 months. Grueling. Hard. To go into the 16 weeks of marathon training with a good base is extremely crucial. Over the last month I have done between 50-55km on hills as a part of the training for Satara. My Hill-o-phobia is well known, and might I add quite widespread. To tackle this fear head-on, in this new avatar of mine, I jumped, literally and figuratively onto the train to Satara!
Without checking the route or elevation(of course I had heard horror stories…how bad could it be I thought?), I registered. 10.5 km up and 10.5 km down. Ok . Cool. A No-brainer. The road which went up would also bring me down. The main difference I figured was that these 10km were all UP with no rest..no break. So I started training…
For one month I ran only hills. 4 days a week. Explored every nook and cranny of the neighborhood, scrounging for any incline that I could find and put my stamp on it. Parul Sheth was here!
Peddar road (hill!)
Carmicheal road( should be called Mount Carmicheal)
Alatamount Road ( Altamount Hill)
As the rest of the group slogged with pace, long distance and intervals, Rahul and I huffed and puffed up hills. The Sunday runs were like a maze. Up and down endlessly. Pace was out of question. The weather was punishing. My mind was weak. But we kept at it prodigiously. One foot in front of the other.
I saw a remarkable change in less than 2 weeks. I found rhythm. Found my pace in going uphill. Realized that I could run nonstop. Once I accepted that this training was going to be difficult, but I wanted to do it, it did not seem as daunting any more. So I left my Garmin at home and cruised from one hill to another at snail’s pace. Deep breathing and willingness were my strengths.
Come Saturday, the Satara Stalwarts met at V.T. station. In a compartment full of runners, all headed towards the slaughterhouse, we were the noisiest bunch. 2 minutes was the maximum time that Urmi and I could pass without bursting into a stream of giggles. We were partners in crime and the unfortunate victims were Roshan and Rahul (R and R). We did not miss any opportunity to pull their leg, behaving like a couple of giddy city girls on their first train ride! What fun it was! And I must add here, they were good sports who smiled sweetly through the Chinese torture. And the others on the train had no choice but to tolerate our bad behavior. But, I think now, Roshan and Rahul will only chose to run those runs where Parul and Urmi are not there!
8 hours later we reached Satara station, where we had to make a 3 foot jump to the platform due to the level difference. I went for it, and scrambled across the stony tracks with my back pack, and clambered up to the platform again. This is when I developed imaginary pain in my right knee. Woe!
At the expo I saw the chart of the inclines. On calculation, it was Walkeshwar for the first 3 km and then 8 Peddar Roads over the next 7km. the gradient was the steepest from 3-7 km. that was the real battle. So this race was about the first 7km. One hour of my life. That is what it had boiled down to. The test of my mind for 60 minutes. Only Run. No walk.
The previous week Rahul had sent me an article about running hills based on perceived effort. I kept that as my guide and paced my climb. The steeper the incline, the slower my pace. When I felt it get easier I would up the pace. As a result my breathing never varied. After warming up for a couple of initial kilometers I readied myself and took on the Ghats. I did not look up. Focused on my breathing. Never let it reach a furious pace. Each kilometer seemed to stretch like a mile. As I encouraged the other runners fighting the slopes with me, I pushed myself along. 2 km of the toughest part done, only 2 more to go. And we kept going. The scene was beautiful. Lush green fields and amber hillsides. Deep blue sky and a smattering of white fluffy clouds. I did not let my focus veer. I had a goal in mind. I went for it.
The climb was relentless. I was determined. And then came the flat stretch. I was almost done. I heaved a sigh of relief and picked up pace and how. But at kilometer 10 came a short steep hill. That was the straw which broke my back. And I exclaimed loudly, ready to give up. That is when I heard an angel telling me not to give up. Go up faster! And that was it. I woke up from my slow motion. Pumped my arms. Lifted my knees and sped up the hill. My mind pushed me…”It’s a Hill, Get over it!” and I did.
I raced to the halfway mark and saw many familiar faces who were a couple of minutes ahead of me. And with this u turn everything changed. My spirit, my stance, my song. From “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” I was singing “Eye of the tiger!” I pick up pace, gathered momentum and set my feet rolling. Easy motion. Smooth. As I got into groove, I passed both the 2.45 hour buses. And then the 2.30 hour buses and a lot of the people who had passed me on their way up! I was flying. No time in this race for conversation! But I did manage to gather a few in my 2.20 bus. But they fell off along the way as I ran like a demon possessed past a misty sleeping Satara. I got faster and faster.
Come kilometer 18 a hill appeared.Was I hallucinating? No! it was real… And there I applied brakes. Broke my rhythm and slowed down. But then lo behold..Sunil Handa (a 1.45 Finsher) appeared. God sent. He pushed me in the last 2.5 km. motivated me to try for a sub 2.15 finish. When Sunil told me to sprint the last kilometer, my reply was, “I am already sprinting.” But fact was that I wasn’t … I could have picked up. I had just given up in my head… But I could bring myself upto pushing now. My pace remained 5.15 min/km. Only when I did see the finish line did I break into a sprint. Only 400m. Not enough. I finished 2.16 because I did not dig deep enough. All the rest did well. Abbas, Sunil, Roshan, Malay, Santa, Rahul, Urmi, Mulraj. Stars of Satara.
For me this Satara Half Marathon had been about climbing. Once that was accomplished I gave up on the timing. I tried only for what I had planned for. A small part. I had not thought about the race as a whole. Had I asked for more, maybe I would have got it. A podium position. Was I 50 seconds faster I would have been third place in my category! My mind was talking too much, Mulraj pointed out. Maybe its true. This shows is how small our brain is. A small voice can become a cacophony. I got what I wanted. This is why they tell us. Aim high. Don’t settle. Have faith that you can achieve it. That will give you the courage to go for it.
Yes, the race went well. It was well organized and the toughest half marathon that I have ever run. I am happy I ran uphill nonstop. Did I give this race all I had? Maybe not. No room in this training schedule for lethargy. No room now for slacking. Each workout and each run has to be maximized. The stakes are high. I am not ready to pay the price of failure. I aim to better my time from last year. Even a minute more than 4.09 will mean defeat.
So come SCMM 2015. No mind. Only run.