Thursday, September 22, 2011


490 BC. The Persian Army invades Athens and a battle takes place at the Bay of Marathon. Against all odds and even after being outnumbered 4:1, a small army from Athens manages to beat the Persians. However, there are Persian ships fast approaching the bay and Athens will need reinforcement.

A messenger – Phidippides – is sent from the Bay of Marathon to Athens to break the news of the victory and the threat from the Persian ships on the horizon. He runs the distance to relay the news as there is no other means of transportation.

The distance? 26 miles.

Or man reaches Athens and relays the news. There is jubilation on the news of victory but Phidippides does not get to savor the taste of victory. He collapses from exhaustion and dies. Eventually, the Persian Army also defeats the Greek and Athens falls.

Cut to the present.

I get a call from a very dear friend. After chit-chatting for a while, the conversation turns to my marathon training. I bore him with the gory details of my IT Band injury (see previous post). He then tells me the sad story of this 43 year old absolutely fit guy who used to workout at the gym my friend goes to. The other day, in the middle of an intense aerobic work-out, this guy just collapsed and died. Take care, says my friend. Respect the warning signs of the body and don’t be brash.

I couldn’t help but think of Phidippides – the first Marathoner. Come to think of it, he set up a pretty low benchmark for the universe of runners. All you need to do is to come out alive after the run and you would have bettered Phidippides’ record. Come out alive. 5 hours, 6 hours or 7 hours…just come out alive.

Twin Lake Run and the IT Band Syndrome

Pre-dawn darkness of September 11 saw several members of the Hyderabad Running club driving towards the venue of the day’s run – the 21 km twin lake run.

Probably the most picturesque route in Hyderabad, it begins on the bank of one lake, hits the highway along the border of a deer park and goes on to another lake. The route is around 11 kms and a round trip is perfect for a Half Marathon

Here is the link of the route

It was great fun running as a group – though we all spread out very soon based on our speeds, there was a lot of cheering as we met the faster runners on the way back. We had one car doing trips on the route, stopping at strategic points and replenishing us with water, Gatorade and biscuits.

The best part was the finish – all the early finishers were waiting for us and the moment we came in sight all of them started clapping and cheering. I felt like a hero as I crossed the finish line.

What a great experience running with a group of highly accomplished runners.

The IT Band

Two hours into the run and about 6 kms from the finish, I made the mistake of stopping for a drink at the car. Filled myself with Gatorade and my near empty bottle with cold refreshing water. As I stood there at the side of the road munching on a biscuit, I reached out to massage the outer side of my right knee that had been getting worse with pain over time. I thought the massage would ease off some pain and give me relief.

However, the moment I resumed running, I was in for a major shock. There was so much pain in the outer portion of my right knee that I could just not run. I tried running with a severe limp for about 5 seconds hoping that I will be able to find my gait but to no avail.

The end, I thought to myself. Not only would I have to walk all the way to the finish line, my chances of running again looked very, very bleak. Simply kept walking for about 5 minutes, watching other runners disappear into the distance. A couple of them passed me from behind after asking me about my injury. I decided to give it another shot; and gingerly put my foot forward. Then another. Started a slow jog. The limp was gone. A sigh of relief. The pain was there but bearable. Decided to maintain the walk run routine and kept moving towards the finish with a determination. However, the last stretch was psychologically very painful. I kept looking into the horizon for the finish line but the road just kept going on and on.

Finally, reached the end to a rousing welcome from the people who had finished before me. I had done it. The timing too was not so bad; the stop and the walk included I finished in about 2 hrs 40 mins. Kept walking to keep the circulation going and had an energy bar, lots of water and some Gatorade as we waited for the others to finish.

The damage to the knee was considerable as I discovered during the remaining part of the day. I was just not able to put any weight on my right leg despite resting the whole day. Even the next day I was walking around with a pronounced limp. Also, climbing up or down the stairs felt like walking with feet of lead and fireworks going off in the knees with every stair.

Much later, while trawling the net, I found that my ailment is actually pretty common. I was surprised and comforted at the same time that millions before me have gone through the same pain. I found that it is called the IT Band (Ilio-tibial band ) Syndrome. The pain in the outer knee is caused due to stress on a band of muscles (called the IT Band)on the outer portion of the leg that run all the way from the femur to the knee. As a result of this injury, I have been out of action for the past 2 weeks and will attempt a long run again this coming Sunday. Keeping my fingers crossed.

There are techniques to stretch the IT band that helps relax these muscles and reduce the strain. Been trying some of these to see if I can hold myself for the time to complete the long runs.

And oh, if I ever come around starting a music band, I will certainly not name it the IT Band.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Happy Birthday

Turned 42 today. The time has come. I need to complete my marathon run within the next 364 days.


Bloody Nipples

One very common sight at long run events - men finishing the run with their tee-shirts completely red. Pretty amusing but very painful.

The fabric of your garment rubs the entire time you run and at some point the delicate skin breaks. Your blood mixes with the sweat on your tee and works its way downward. By the time you finish, it looks as if your chest has been crying tears of blood.

However, there is a simple way to prevent this agony and embarrassment.....vaseline. Just apply some before you begin running and you will be just fine.

Black Toes

Do you have black toes? Could be that your shoes are just a tad smaller and your toes hammer against the shoe as you run. Or, you are not properly hydrated.

Not hydrated?

Just heard on an interesting podcast that when the body is not hydrated well, all the available water is channeled to the core functions of the body away from the cappilaries at the end of your digits....

So, if you have black toes, not only change your shoes but start drinking more

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hyderabad Marathon Report: I ran the Half Marathon…..till the last flyover

Last Sunday we had the Hyderabad Marathon event and I ran the Half Marathon……till the last flyover. After that, I walked.

The event was organized by Hyderabad Runners – a running group that promotes the cause of running in the city. It was done with such class that it would put any professional event management company to shame. There were volunteers all along the route, water stations, pacers with balloons urging and guiding people with time targets, marshals on bikes, policemen regulating traffic when not cheering the runners, it was perfect……until the last flyover.

The weather was simply lovely; customized for the run. A cool breeze took care of the sweat and the cloud cover kept the sun’s harshness at bay…..oh, it was such fun to run. Until the last flyover.

The route was challenging; not many flat stretches in the entire route. There was one flyover right at the beginning followed by another one after a couple of kilometers and then this lovely rolling stretch with gradual inclines and descents that kept the boredom away. The route then turned left at Cyber Towers and was a very gradual downhill slope all the way till the Old Mumbai Highway. This section was probably the easiest on runners and I would imagine that most of the runners – including me – ran faster in this stretch and covered up for any lost time on the uphill stretch. Great going and I was feeling very happy with my timing….till I reached the last flyover.

So what was it with the last flyover? I guess, it was mostly psychological. This flyover has recently been completed and has not yet been opened to traffic. Since I don’t pass it every day, I was not even aware that it was ready and was expecting that the route would take us from below the under construction flyover. However, when I saw people ahead of me getting on to the flyover, my racing heart skipped a beat.

The second reason is that by that time I was close to hitting my wall and only determination would have helped push me ahead. The flyover completely crushed that determination.

Thirdly, it was a pretty long incline and would have completely knocked me out had I attempted to run while climbing it. The finish line was barely 2 kms from the flyover but that stretch was as good as running the whole run. Anyway, I resumed running on the downhill section and tried to maintain a disciplined run/walk schedule for the last stretch. However, I was running for much smaller stretches and walking longer.

A 50 year old gent overtook me during one of my walk breaks. And then a 60 year old whizzed by. I had crossed them sometime back and here they were, catching up with me, giving me words of encouragement before flying ahead. I was crushed. (at least I feel crushed now. At that point, I couldn’t have cared less even if an 80 year old would have run by…I just did not have any energy left to do anything more than what I was already doing).

And this was just the Half Marathon. My ultimate goal is to run the full at Mumbai in January. I had serious doubts on myself during the last stretch – how on earth will I be able to run 42kms when I have so much trouble just finishing 21? Why am I doing this? As any endurance runner would know, such questions are very common and keep popping at challenging moments. The idea is to trick the brain into not triggering a shutdown and keep going. I am determined more than ever to attempt my maiden full marathon in Mumbai but I know that I will have to train much harder physically and mentally. Thanks to the last flyover.

Anyway, coming back to the run, the end point of the run was inside the Gachibowli stadium. Thankfully, I had enough energy to sprint the last section. As soon as I entered the stadium and set foot on the track, I threw away my water bottle and started sprinting towards the finishing arch. Meters before the end, I raised my hands above my head in victory hoping that the photographer behind the line would freeze this moment for ever. I had done it. A doctor asked me if I was ok. I am fine, I said, panting. I looked at my watch. 2 hours and 30 minutes.

(Still waiting for the official timing; it could be off by a few mins)