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Wannabe Marathoner 3 – First Trail Run – MatheRun


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Check out our times and running schedule on this brilliant site designed by Tapan – MADVISION

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UPDATE : I have finally put up the map of the route as well and have coloured the various sectors as per their difficulty. I hope this is useful to others running this next year.

 

route map

Mathe-Run 10 KM Route Map

 

Its now been quite a few days since I last updated the blog. I definitely have had the time to do so, just been a bit lazy cos there is just so much to write! A couple of important events/runs have happened during my hiatus and whilst my practice runs had not given me much hope, both the runs have gone off better than expected! So, let’s go back a few days in time to where I left off with the 2nd entry.

After the 10 Km Powai Run on the 5th of Jan, next one up looked quite daunting. It was a trail run over the unpaved red soil roads of Matheran, India’s most environment friendly, pollution-free hill station (no vehicles are allowed here) This of course means that there are numerous horses and the omnipresent red soil kicked up by their hooves! So much so, that the leaves of the trees by the main paths are permanently caked in a thick layer of red.

A few photos of Matheran

bungalow

An Old British era Bungalow in Matheran

light beams

Lovely light beams in the morning

horses running

The Matheran “taxi cabs”

squirrel

One of the little denizens of the forest

Initially, we were quite unsure on whether we should take the plunge and register for it. The tough terrain – a few number of steep uphill sectors interspersed with long stretches of continually inclined grades, all along unpaved roads that had stones and rocks strewn about, was initimidating to newbies like us. Yet, we decided to take the plunge, and I am very glad we did it – its been the most enjoyable (and toughest) run we have had yet.

Fast forward to Jan 10th night – we caught the last train from CST to Karjat and got off at Neral at around 2 am. Walked off briskly to the hotel closest to the station (Hotel Rahi) booked in the cheapest room and in the company of a couple of mosquitoes and one cockroach, sat down to have homemade grub asap and then doze off.

Curious point here -> all hotels at Neral and Matheran have an unusual timing. You can check-in after 10 am at whatever time, but the check-out time is 9 am!! Pretty early and even more so for us, who went off to sleep at 3 am only to wake up at 7, get showered, have breakfast and rush to check-out and head up to Matheran.

We reached Matheran at 9:45 (it takes about 20-30 minutes from Neral) and first checked into the MTDC Hotel that is near the entry point at Dasturi Naka, which was where the race would flag off – thus maximising the time we could get to sleep. 😀

The race flag off was about 10 feet away from our room, so that was one job well done! We then moved off to the market to reconnoiter the route we would be running the nest day and also head off to the Library where the bib and t-shirts were being distributed.

As we moved along up the incline just a few 100 metres from the start line, it became obvious that we were in for a gruelling time. 15 minutes of walking later, we were grinning at each other, wondering why we signed up for this! Finally after about 20 minutes of walking up, we reached the market and the library. The bib distribution had been delayed, so we decided to stroll around till Charlotte Lake and double back up to the market. A few pics of Charlotte Lake below…

Charlotte Lake

The multi hued Charlotte Lake

silhouette

Sunlight playing on a tree branch on the banks of the lake

After lunch we returned to the Library and picked up the bibs from the group of extremely friendly and enthusiastic organisers – Mr. Paresh Pimpale and Mr. Shyam Lata – experienced runners themselves! They explained the route to us and informed us that we had 175 runners in total tomorrow divided among the 10 km and the 10 mile run. Seeing the small field of dedicated runners, I was absolutely sure that I would end up last 😀

The route led out from the market and this bit made us feel more relaxed since it was about a kilometre downhill and then came up to Pande Road which was yet another gradient upto the Polo Ground! We would have to do 1/3rd of the Polo Ground and then return the way we had come. Whilst the first 5 kms seemed quite daunting, the second 5 kms did look good and gave us hope that if we survived the first half hour, we would do it.

Long walk back to the hotel room, checking out the trail and making a mental note to be careful while coming downhill and not get our ankle twisted on a loose rock! Had a quick supper and went off to sleep early.

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Woke up at 5 am on race day, all pepped up. Matheran market was 2.5 kms away and anyway there was no tea or coffee stall open this early in winter! The earliest one was at 7:30 am that too at a canteen close to our room.

Matheran Tip : Make sure you carry a mug that can boil water so that you can make yourself tea or coffee in the morning!

Guzzled loads of water, had salted peanuts, did the trip to the washroom to clean our stomachs and we were ready by 7 am. The 10 milers began running by 7:45 am while our turn came at 8:00 am on a cool morning. (surprisingly it was not as chilly as we expected it to be)

As is the norm, we began from the back of the field (it always feels better psychologically, to overtake rather than get overtaken!) Our training up the Kanheri slope came in use as we maintained a constant pace up the slope – ensuring we took small steps to propel ourselves up. We finally crested the demonic starting slope making decent time and finally eased out as the flat stretch of the market came in sight.

marathon start

Beginning the run – Im the guy in the red cap

Tapan sped up while I was not yet confident of my ability, and thus kept up a slow pace to make sure I conserved my energy. In hindsight, I should have pushed ahead but well, that’s something now marked in my mental notebook for next year 🙂

After the market was the slight downward incline that allowed us stretch our legs a bit before the next daunting incline of Pande Road. I forgot to mention that when I had begun down the long slope after the Library, the leading African runner came loping across from the opposite side with complete nonchalance! Quite incredible the sheer grace and speed at which these natural runners run, makes the marathon look easy! They are truly super human. The leader did go on to finish the run in an incredible time of 31 minutes!

Back onto my run, and as I struggled up the slope to the Polo Ground, I met Tapan coming down (he had just done the Polo ground turn and was on his way back) I pushed on, did the turn around (which was approximately the half way point) and then gathered myself afresh for the second half which I was looking forward to.

As I began down the slope of Pande Road, I was still circumspect since I have always been pretty clumsy and was deathly afraid of twisting my knee or ankle! I then came along into the market and while running the flat stretch, I estimated that since I only had about 2-2.5 kms remaining with most of it downhill, I could charge ahead. It felt brilliant to finally power up and gallop across, a truly exhilarating feeling as I raced faster than the trotting horses with my feet feeling great against the soft red sand that was acting as a superb cushion. I was unaware how many guys I overtook but I felt just brilliant and absolutely energised!

I had to control myself as the next stretch involved a downward slope but as always I was uncertain of my flat feet and had to slow down. After that I came across a 100 metre section of a mild slope up, after which was the section I had been looking forward to – the demonic incline that I had hated so much and would be my best friend on the way back 🙂

I stretched my legs and began pumping down but as I turned to the right on the final slope section, I could see many loose stones, some pried loose by the runners who had gone by and I slowed down a bit fearing the worst. Unfortunately just as the slope was ending, I did indeed trip (yep that’s me!) but luckily, having been prepared for myself to fall over, I did not hurt myself too badly. Lost about 10 seconds, dusted myself off and began the final push up the incline to the finish line.

I eventually ended up with 1 hr 8 minutes while Tapan did it in 59 minutes 59 seconds which was incredible! What was even more incredible was that our estimates of the previous night were almost spot on! I had estimated myself finishing in 1 hr 10 mins while I had thought Tapan would finish in 1 hr (he finished in 59 mins 59 seconds which was just 1 second off!! BEAT THAT!)  I could have probably done 1 hr 6 minutes but well this was still way better than I expected.

It felt brilliant to be awarded the medal at the end of the race – this is one medal I will cherish! What felt even better was that I was definitely not the last to cross the finish line and had done reasonably well. When the results came out, we realised that Tapan stood 15th while I stood 26th! This was way beyond what I hoped and I can safely say that my first Trail Run was the most satisfying run so far 🙂

finish line

At the finish line with the medal – pic courtesy Man & Mountain Meet – thank you!

medal

Mathe-Run Results and Medal

My next blog entry will be about the next run we did – the biggest marathon in Asia – the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, fondly referred to as SCMM. This was a totally opposite run to the Trail Run – it is run on smooth tarmac roads through the most picturesque parts of Mumbai.

In the next blog post I will write about that experience, followed by a comparison and analysis between all our runs and what we have learned from them.

Thanks for reading! 😀

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Wannabe Marathoner : 2 – Running Times


If you are a beginner marathon runner like me, the greatest curiosity you are likely to have is “How much time do all the experienced guys take?!” or “Maybe I can run, but am I good enough to compete?”

running times

Marathon Running Times – image courtesy – http://www.winningways.org.uk/50mm-stopwatch-running-medal.html

If you are one of those who is running solely for keeping yourself fit without looking to take it to the next level, then honestly, you should not be thinking about distance covered vs running times at all. It should just be a nice, comfortable, constant pace for the target duration (20 mins? 30 mins? one hour?) If however, you are curious and (like me) have searched in vain for the “magic” answer to standard running times, then here is a quick overview from whatever I have gleaned from my research.

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5 kms

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a good time is between 17 minutes to 25 minutes

an average/decent time is between 25 to 35 minutes

Anything beyond that is a laid back time and if you wish to end up in the upper half of the field, you should start pushing yourself.

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10 kms

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a good time is 32 minutes to 47 minutes

an average/decent time is 48 minutes to 1 hour – 10 mins

Anything beyond that and you will be in the lower half of the field

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21 kms 

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I haven’t personally experienced this yet (my first half marathon coming up in Feb) but I do know that anything between 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes is a good time.

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In general, as a thumb rule, running times of between 6 and 7 minutes per km are decent mid level times while anything below 6 minutes per km will start pushing you up into the top bracket of the runners. 🙂

To put things in perspective, in the recent Run Powai Run marathon, we had 2664 runners for the 10 km run. My time of 1 hour 15 seconds put me in 510th place, while Tapan’s time of 56 mins 44 seconds put him in position 339. The winner had a time of 32 minutes! 😀

In Retrospect

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I would say you should not worry too much about setting times too early. Keep them in mind and perhaps look for miniscule improvements, but the important thing is to ENJOY running. In the beginning, I probably pushed too much, or maybe I was just exercising beyond my abilities; but for me, my initial runs used to feel like a chore that had to be done!

Luckily I persisted with it and read up about others’ experiences. I changed my running style, my habits, my nutrition and actually started enjoying my runs. This started to help me perform better and now I actually look forward to my runs! 🙂

A MOMENTOUS DAY – SLAYING MY DRAGON! 

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Today was a great day for me…there is this daunting slope – the final approach to Kanheri Caves, that I had alluded to in my previous post. It was the insurmountable dragon for me and after having tried 4-5 times previously, I had shied away from it. Since the last couple of days I have just begun using ankle weights to improve my runs and today I decided to retry this monster WITH my ankle weights.

I had decided that I would just not give up, come what may and would rather take small steps and go slowly rather than stopping. (but then I have said this on all previous attempts and have always failed) This time to my shock and surprise I managed to run all the way up without stopping! In fact right at the end, I was even able to sprint for the last 50 metres, which was such an amazing feeling for me!

http://agentagnes.com/images/html/stgeorge.html

This is what I felt like! 🙂 Image courtesy – http://agentagnes.com/images/html/stgeorge.html

It is these small pleasures that make marathon running worthwhile! 🙂

TOMORROW’S POST

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From tomorrow I will begin a daily log of my practice leading up to the 21 km Kihim/Alibag beach run. I will mix the daily schedule with any other thoughts or info that comes to my mind.

The countdown has begun for the Sunday 10 KM Mathe-Run and I’m already feeling the excitement 🙂

Matherun

The Mathe-run Man and Mountain Meet

Diary Of A Wannabe Marathoner – 1


Greetings!

This is the beginning of my diary of experiences about how and why I began running long distance and how I (hopefully) ended up being successfully able to complete an ultra marathon (yea, I know I have high hopes!)

run run

We all begin somewhere

INTRODUCTION

I am 38 years of age (39 in April) so I’m no spring chicken but thankfully I am reasonably fit thanks to playing squash regularly. I’m 176 cms and weigh between 66 to 67 kilos (the weight changes daily dependent on the exercise/effort put in)

I dislike doing weights at the gym or at home (which means I do NOT do any lifting at all) but I love playing squash and have at least an hour long session thrice a week.

IN THE BEGINNING

I have always been in awe of the great Himalayas and have always dreamt of getting as close to them as they would allow. One of the treks I loved and had always wanted to do was the Goecha-la trek (Khangchendzonga base on the Indian side) From reading up on various trek reports, it was quite obvious this would not be easy. So, in order to build endurance, me and a couple of friends (who formed our group heading to Goechala – Tapan Naubagh and Digvijay Singh) decided to run at least 5-6 kms.

Thus began our passion for long distance running (that we had always felt was beyond us!) Digvijay unfortunately has since then backed out, but me and Tapan are still at it, looking to improve every week.

THE RESEARCH

Since we aren’t exactly serious athletes (and have work commitments) we had to look at setting up a program for ourselves that would not be time consuming and would also be flexible (dependent on us) Finding a coach and doing proper training was ruled out since I personally have family commitments which I prioritise over all else and Tapan has a strong commitment with his beauty sleep. 🙂

So, we began reading through various blogs and looking at tips that other experienced runners had posted. A lot of motivational stuff and in the end of October, 10 days before our trek, we were ready to throw the gauntlet and accept the challenge.

THE BEGINNING

We had one major advantage, the National Park of Mumbai is not very far from where we are, which meant that we had a lovely, natural, pollution and traffic free environment to help our baby steps into the world of marathons.

national park road

The road leading to Kanheri caves

I remember the very first time we aimed for 6 kms and huffed and puffed our way to 5 kms with me and Tapan clocking 39 minutes, and Digvijay doing a jog, walk till he reached the end.

Whatever the case we were chuffed, cos we had actually done it! After patting ourselves on the back, we decided to come back in 3 days time and run again.

The next couple of days were a bit of an agony on the knee and calves (especially my left knee which has had a history of swelling up thanks to a ligament injury I had 22 years back) However after 2 days of the muscles tightening and then easing in, we were back on the 3rd day, determined to take on the challenge.

This time, Digvijay was determined and he shot off like a bullet, clomping away with his big feet. Tapan and me stayed together for 2-3 kms after which he sped off while I kept running at my pace panting along. At around the 4 km mark, Tapan overtook Digvijay and completed the distance. I gasped my away across till the end – my time being the slowest by far among the three of us. I clocked 5 kms in 38 minutes! while Digvijay put in 36 minutes and Tapan did it in 35.

Again we were all still very proud, I was very happy that I had done it yet again, whatever the time and that I might just be ready for the trek 🙂 There is of course always the easy way out for the ‘senior’ members like me – always blame it on the age 😉 Tapan is 28 while Digvijay is 24 so its easier to console and pep yourself (although Im aware that age has NOTHING to do with how well you run)

We did another run before the trek in which I set a time of 35 minutes and came in second behind Tapan and just before Digvijay and I was sure then that I could do the trek. To Tapan and Digvijay’s credit, they managed to go all the way up the steep incline of Kanheri, while I just could not manage that non stop.

Up to the caves

the steep gradient road leading up to the caves

POST TREK

The trek was successfully completed by the three of us and we were back to Mumbai in November. As expected we had the usual cooling period of about a week but then we decided that we should continue our distance running form and should try to run in a 6k marathon. So, me and Tapan went ahead and registered for the biggest marathon in Mumbai and the biggest in Asia as well – The Standard Chartered Marathon… but in the littlest category – the 6KM (Dream) run. We wanted to participate in the 21 k run but they demanded a previous timing certificate that meant we were effectively nixed.

PRESENT DAY 

As we began running more often, our times started to show quite an improvement. We were also now able to run 5-6 kms with reasonable ease and that meant we were looking at increasing our distance. While we were pondering this, the Mumbai Daud came up as a Godsend 😀 It had a 10K run… a distance which seemed achievable and both of us discussed long and hard and then finally decided to go for it.

The problem was, it was the second week of December and the run was on XMas day! which left us with only a week to prepare without us ever having done anything beyond 6 km! (even that had been done just once)

It was then that we started becoming serious and began preparing in right earnest with mixed stamins and endurance runs.

Finally in the Mumbai Daud on 25th December 2013, we finished with a reasonably creditable time of 1 hr 09 seconds (Tapan) and 1 hr 19 seconds (me) 

Mumbai Daud

My Mumbai Daud Official Time

Tapan stood 95th while I stood 101st 🙂 – out of a total of 330 odd runners. For rank beginners with barely a month’s running experience, this was a terrific start and boosted us up massively.

The COMPLETE REPORT has been put up by Tapan on his blog. Click on the link to view it.

After the Mumbai Daud, just as the New Year came across, we did our 2nd mini marathon – Run Powai Run. Me or Tapan will be writing up a detailed report about it very shortly and I will post the link here. In short, the Powai route was quite undulating and had a lot of slopes up and down, which meant it tested our leg muscles much more than the Mumbai Daud. We were not really expecting a great time… this is what happened.

Tapan had a spectacular run and finished with a time of 56 mins 44 seconds while I had a conservative run (I had a squash tournament in 3 hours post run) … still I managed to beat my previous best, albeit by only 4 seconds! 🙂 My time was 1 hr 15 seconds

 

Run Powai Run 2014 Timing

Run Powai Run 2014 Timing

As I close this chapter, its the night of 7th Jan and our next 10K run beckons – the Mathe-Run to be held at Matheran (a beautiful hill station close to Mumbai) on the 12th of Jan.

We are trying to prepare for it to run better than before, hope this time I can post a 57 minute run which will make me very very happy indeed! 🙂

So this brings you upto scratch with who we are and our experience level (or rather lack of it!) We are experimenting and learning things our way and are keeping track of what has helped us and what is improving or spoiling our runs.

From the next chapter onwards, I will talk less about the races but will focus more on the technical aspects and what difficulties we faced, how we overcame them, and what plan we followed.

wish us luck, our aim is to do an ultra marathon in a year’s time (among other milestones of course!) 😀

Till next time!!! cheers!

Travelling and games for me please :) Check our games https://twitter.com/blackcobragame

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