Yesterday’s run was very, very different from all the others. I know I say that after every race but it was.
It was difficult turning up for the half marathon. My training wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be. Sure, I trained for the distance but last year I wanted to complete ADHM 2017 in 2.15 hrs and even getting to last year’s timing was going to be a challenge. Entire 2017 has been about recovering from an injury, then illness and just trying to take one day at a time. Not every year of training is going to be about getting fitter or learning new skills. Sometimes it is about knowing how to pull yourself out of the mess you got yourself into and getting back on track. Trust me, getting back on track after a break is 100 times harder than staying on track.
I wasn’t able to run for 2 weeks due to the massive amount of travel. Basically, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind and shape for ADHM. To add to that, runners were dropping out like flies due to the smog. Even non runners had an opinion on whether I should run or not. I was getting bombarded with unsolicited opinions from all sides. And I didn’t know even one runner who was 100% positive about running ADHM, come what may. So I had to keep myself positive all on my own.
I had a list of 10 reasons why I shouldn’t run ADHM. Most people would have considered it a smart decision. But the commitment that I would run was most important. So, I ran.
I ran without a timing target. I ran to have fun (I can hear my friend saying “You do know that running for fun is not normal”). I ran for my love for Delhi, smog or no smog. I ran because ADHM is special. I ran because am juggling a lot of balls in the air and dropping even one of them will have disastrous effects on my mental equilibrium.
Throughout the run I didn’t look at my timing. I have been training myself to track my pace (not the average pace) while running. I have been trying to read my pace without a watch telling me. There are 2 ways to run a half marathon – either go fast, slow down, go fast again. This is why interval runs help; or run consistently at the same pace. It is easier to get a personal best timing with the former strategy rather than latter. I had trained for the former. But the smog made it difficult to sprint even once. And that has never happened before. I sprint several times on all my runs. I was completely thrown. I hadn’t trained to run in the smog. Then I started running at a consistent pace. Everytime my pace went below 6 mins/km, I had trouble breathing so I kept it between 6 mins/km to 6:30 mins/km. That worked.
At 16 km, I was nauseous. I wanted to puke and considered stopping. But then decided to stop if I actually puked or fainted. I hadn’t fueled well before the run. Both the bananas had overripe parts and I ended up eating less than 1. The Enerzal made me more nauseous and since I don’t eat on training runs, I wasn’t going to take the risk during the race. One step at a time I covered each km.
2 km from the finish line, a kindred soul asked me to keep running when I walked. When I started walking again, she told me to go slow but not to stop. I used her to pace me for another km. 500 m from the finish line, I didn’t care. Or so I thought till I saw the cameras. Going by the great shots they clicked, narcissism does have some positives.
Most runners who dropped out did so because of lack of training and not the smog. Most of the people I know personally, turned up and ran. Training or no training. Those who had trained with coaches in the last 3-4 months met their personal best timing. The smog was just an excuse. Just like life gives us ample reasons to not do something. We just have to latch on to one and get things done.
Has half marathon training added to my fitness this year? No.
Has it made me stronger? No.
Has it added any value to me this year? No.
Have the long hours and effort of training kept me away from trying new things? Yes.
I am retiring (don’t want to call it quitting) from long distance running after 5 years of training consistently. I want to explore more efficient ways of getting fit and strong. Certain parts of my body (left ankle/left foot) feel weak and I don’t want to get injured again. I want to spend my Sunday at treks or cycling or rock climbing instead of running. This doesn’t change my training regime in any way. I will run short distances on weekdays and 10 km on weekends.
Long distance running started me on the fitness path. But you have to close one door to open a new one. There is only so much you can fit into your life.