Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Return of the obnoxious posts

Delhi (Sep 5): It is that part of the year again, when I transform from an obnoxious blogger to a completely insufferable one. Yes, the marathon season is going to start from October, and I am so excited that I cannot keep my pants on (shorts are better obviously). So from now on, expect some completely boring-ass posts sprinkled with paeans of the marathon and some unavoidable narcissism.

This posts contains some details about the races, how to prepare for them, some checklists, dos and donts etc.

Marathon calendar

The tentative calendar looks like the following. Bear in mind that Indian marathon organizers have a pathetic track record when it comes to scheduling races. So double check each race yourself before making any plans:

  1. Hutch Delhi Half Marathon: Delhi, 28 Oct 2007
  2. Singapore Marathon: Singapore, 2 Dec 2007
  3. Shady Half Marathon: Delhi, 9 Dec 2007
  4. Bangalore Ultra Marathon: Bangalore, 16 Dec 2007
  5. Standard Chartered Marathon: Mumbai, 20 Jan 2008
  6. Shady Half Marathon: Delhi, 17 Feb 2008
A few points here:
(a) The distances in the Bangalore Ultra Marathon include 25km, 50km and 80kms.
(b) The 'Shady' half marathon in Delhi is called so because it is horribly organized. This year's episode was supposed to happen in Feb but got delayed to December 9th.
(c) The last I heard, there is another marathon on 28 Oct, in Hyderabad. Sheer scheduling genius!

Who wants to be a marathon runner?

There is only one rule of thumb. If I can run, then so can anyone. You just have to follow a good training schedule. There are some really good training routines on the web (e.g. here and here). They have separate ones for first timers, intermediate and advanced runners.

Unless you go to a high class public gym, there is a fat chance of any girl watching you train and being impressed by you. So do not try to show off by running too much in a single day. Take your stretching and rest days very seriously. After each run (small or big), do not forget to do atleast 5-10 minutes of stretching. I will not say more on this subject because I am myself just three marathons old, and there is plenty of material available on the web anyway.

The gear

This cannot be stressed enough. Running gear can make a marathon a comfortable smooth sailing experience or a living nightmare. If you are a first timer, then a fair amount of shopping is in the offing, so bear the following in mind:
  1. Running shoes. This one is a mystery to me as I myself am yet to find the perfect pair of running shoes. The so-called running shoes available for 5-7K at premium outlets do not guarantee a comfortable run. In general, the shoe must be very light, have a small surface area at the sole (for a snug grip and to avoid the 'flip-flop' behavior) and should 'breathe' for the foot. A normal pair of walking shoes, or tennis/basketball shoes is a strict no-no. A seemingly inocuous pair of generic sports shoes can cause physical problems like the Ilio Tibial Band Syndrome (ITBS), which affects the side of the knee. I had this problem with a pair of seemingly harmless sports shoes, and it is really painful. Also, do not run the marathon with a brand new pair of shoes that have hardly been used. They will cause blisters, and you never know how the shoes are gonna turn out, so it is better to play it safe. Further, do not borrow someone else's pair of perfect running shoes unless you are their identical twin with exactly the same foot structure.
  2. Wear a jockstrap while training as well as in the race. Enough said.
  3. Get a pair of shorts that have a netting inside. This will help in avoiding thigh chafing. So unless you want to walk like a prison inmate who has been dropping bars of soap in the bathroom, do protect your inner thighs. Chafing is very minor or absent during short runs like 6-8 kms, but is inevitable during 21kms, so don't forget it while you do your shopping! It is also important that the fabric does not stick to you while running. Most of the sport shorts do ok in this regard. And for the love of God, do not consider wearing biker shorts while running. They have a slight padding that is meant to help while sitting on a bike, but is uncomfortable while running/walking.
  4. T-Shirts are always underrated. Wear one that is not loose or tight. A bad t-shirt can cause extremely painful chafing at the nipples, and can cause them to bleed too. Yes, this is true for both men and women. Again, the fabric must be non-sticky (I will be the first to buy teflon coated t-shirts).

Checklist (before the race)

  1. From 2-3 days before the race, start eating meals with high starch/carbohydrate content. This will be stored in the body, and will be very useful during the race. Preferred meals include rice and pasta.
  2. All races start around 6am, so get your sleep cycle in place atleast a week before that. No one wants to see a sorry-ass figure sleeping at the 5km mark.
  3. Buy an anti-chafing cream. If possible, carry a small amount with you during the race. I myself haven't ever used a cream, but the grapevine says that Nivea works ok, and lasts longer than vaseline.
  4. Get an iPod.
  5. If you do not become self-conscious unlike me, get a wrist band to wipe off the sweat from the forehead, or wear a bandana.
During the race
  1. Do not eat on the morning of the race. Have a glass of water around an hour before the race, and at the most have half a banana or 3-4 biscuits.
  2. Around half an hour before the race, do visit the bathroom. Yes there are urinals along the track, but you don't want to break your rhythm now do you?
  3. Apply some of the anti-chafing cream to the chafing prone areas. Alternatively, put some bandages. All you want is that there should be minimal contact between the fabric and the skin.
  4. Do not try to match someone else's speed. This is a standard error made by almost all first-timers. They see a girl or an uncle running faster than them, and their ego takes a hit. Run at your optimal pace, and do not deviate from that. You want to finish the race on two limbs, not four.
  5. Drink just the right amount of water. Here is a loose rule of thumb. Each drink should not be more than 100-150ml. Have the first drink around the 5-7km mark. After that, have a drink after every 2-3 kms. The races also provide free Electral. Drinking that is a must. Try to take 3-4 Electral drinks during the race. It can work wonders. Just as dehydration can cause severe problems (you might faint or do worse), overhydration can cause bad cramps too. Overhydration is common mistake among rookies, and I too made it. It happens when runners take a drink at almost every kilometer mark.
  6. Do not walk. If you are tired, then reduce the pace but never walk. It is mentally difficult to start jogging again once you are walking.
  7. Be aware that the "wall" will strike you around the 14-15km mark. It happens to me everytime. You feel like sitting down, or walking, or abandoning the race altogether. It is a combined physical-mental state when you despair that the end is still 6-7 kms away. Just go on, and once you see the 19km mark, you will feel rejuvenated!
  8. Do not forget to stretch for atleast 10-20 minutes after the race unless you want to be bedridden for the next two days.
Phew! Thats it for now. If I missed out on any crucial details, please leave a comment and I will include it. Ofcourse the most important thing is that a race well run is an extremely enjoyable experience. That said, good luck training, and good luck in the races!


Bridget Jones said...

sounds like awesome fun ! all the best for your training ! :)

Vandana said...

Wow.. I'm feeling tired already.. he he he :-)
Good luck!!

Tweety said...

That's quite some r&d regarding marathons.. you are ready to write another paper now :p:p:p

Me looking forward to my usual Dream-Run in the Mumbai marathon though. Dont think I have the will-power to try for the 'half'.


Asterix said...

@all: Thanks a lot for your wishes!

@tweety: One would think that people would be put off by dream runs by now! How can you run with all those milling crowds :p

maria said...


I work for CRY - Child Rights and You. Just wondering if you would like to RUN FOR CHILD RIGHTS IN THE DELHI AND MUMBAI MARAHTON.

Tweety said...

That's all the publicity we get...
Why you grudging us our 7 kms worth of celebrity-status ;-)

- Tweety

Mudra said...

Just reading it makes me feel tired... enjoy all the bhaagam bhag. (I know, I just downgraded your marathon by calling it "bhaagam bhag". So shoot me.)

Asterix said...

@tweety: I hope you graduate to the half-marathon status soon.

@mudra: This bhaagam-bhaag is what keeps us oldies in shape, rather than flopping onto arm-chairs and reminiscing about good old days of yore :)

The Golden Silence said...

great... this really inspires me to start my training again... but the lazy bum that I am... its always difficult to stick to the schedule :)

ashes said...

nice relevant notes, agree with most save your comment on the "don't stop and walk".

There really is nothing wrong in breaking your rhythme and walking at times as you will find it extends your distance. Also, if you do this at the pit stops and slightly beyond - we are talking of a distance not more than 50m of walking - then you will consume water properly - rather than spilling water - and also feel refreshed to start running again

try it, and trust me, it works, especially for the longer distances

yes, i was initially against this - more a macho thing of that one shouldn't stop running but slow down at most - but tried it at the Bangalore Marathon 2006 and found it helped quite a bit

Asterix said...

@goldensilence: You got 4 months for the Mumbai marathon. Whats the rush!

@ashes: It is only partially a macho thing to not walk. I feel that resuming a run after one starts walking is a very difficult thing to do, particularly so after the half way mark, when the body is tired anyway. But you are right, walking helps in properly drinking water.

Solzaire said...

see you in the gym later this week :-)

Gauthaman said...

that was a nice read. thankfully did everthing properly during my 26k run in the bangalore ultra. I did not know that runners call that stopping and giving up sensation as "Wall". interesting to know

Gautam said...


Got here via a Google search for running shoes and thought I'd thank you for writing about bleeding nipples. I thought I was insane when it first happened to me..

What's a good place to buy running shoes in India? Shops don't seem to have a treadmill to check your form nor very knowledgeable staff...

Asterix said...

@gautam: Forget treadmills etc, India has no good place to purchase running shoes from. India's biggest sports shop is in Mumbai --- Okini in Malad. Haven't checked it out though.

Gautam said...

So a trial & error method is the only way to get a good pair of shoes?

Asterix said...

@gautam: In India, yes. Only a few shops have salesmen that know the meaning of arch-support and pronation. You can quiz them about these options. That seems to be the best bet.

Gautam said...

Thank you Asterix...

Gautam said...

Just to let you know that I visited an Adidas store, @ Touchstone off Commercial Street in Bangalore, and was very impressed by the staff.

Got a pair too.

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