My NJ Marathon, Sunday 1st May 2011

I woke up early this 1st May Sunday morning, got ready and showed up at the Grove Path Station for the Sunday morning train to Newark at 4:42 am. I met Matt there and Patricia at the Newark Penn station. There was confusion for all of us waiting runners, as there was no announcement or signs in the station on which track the NJ marathon train would arrive. The train was right on time at 5:25 on Track 4, where the regular Long Branch train stops. It was most relaxing and memorable to travel with Matt and Patricia.

The 80 min train journey to Long Branch was scenic with the ocean, back waters, picturesque land views on a clear spring morning punctuated with the sky reflections of the breaking dawn, harbinger of a great new day. For us urban dwellers it was a visual treat. And so is the lovely beach resort town of Long Branch where the marathon is run, where the residents, young and old line the streets, play music, beat on drums, ring the cattle bells, high five, clap and cheer you on.

The race took off right on time at 8 am. The weather was cool in the fifties, there was no wind but it was sunny. It would get slightly warmer and a little windier on the waterfront later in the race. For me the first Half of the marathon was cool breeze, a run with breathing easy and a good workout as planned. It shows up as 1:48:03.43 in my result. I had run this route of the race here for the last 2 years. I knew where to turn, relax, where was uphill, where to speed up etc.

The second half was a new route this year. This was the grueling part, the real marathon race where you were required to put in everything you had trained, physically and mentally. I should have memorized/ noted down key things of the route, like 19 miles was the turn back. I kept watching the faster runners running back and the wait for the turn back was sapping my energy. While we went through intricate side loops it seemed the turning back was never coming, it was another and yet another loop or turn away.

For me I run well when I am in the present and not worrying whether I am tired or thinking of the finish line, I try to focus on my posture to run light and smooth with less effort. I dug deep to remember the motivations, visualizing the key focuses I had written on my left arm. I chatted, high fived, fist pumped lots of people I met on the run, especially the 3:40 pacer, Manyath Gavasker. Thank you Manyath your cheery smile and demeanor helped me, you are worthy of your honorable name!

My focuses worked for me in this race. The finish line magnet reeled and pulled me in! I sprinted with full spirit and force in the last 200m to finish when the clock time ticked 3:40:00. I stood 308th, my chip time was 3:39:31, I ran this marathon last year in 4:13:54, so I improved by 34 min.

I do not consider myself to be an expert runner or trainer, so please take the suggestions I make here as a result of what I understand from reading or experiencing things. Running is an honest sport — you need to respect the marathon or a long race and cannot sound too confident and brash, apologies if I come across otherwise. We basically run for fitness and fun and enjoyment, something we call as the runners high.

I never ever thought of myself to be a sub 4 hour runner, so how did this great time happen. I had maintained running 4 days a week for the whole winter. With my last 3 years of running that was a big store of confidence and experience. I saw Matt and Annabelle run faster on the weekend long runs this winter, and I started keeping up with them.

Now, when you push to run faster or run longer, initially it feels like dying due to breathlessness, or the effort is exhausting. After I did a self-body scan and found that I survived without much muscle soreness or pain on the next day(s), it was time for me to continue with the faster pace training. I got double lucky when Lou a strong elite runner and good coach to me became a weekly evening regular. There was no running slow this winter on fast paced tempo runs, no excuses!

I also got better with my breathing pattern. Breathe, 1-2 In 1-2-3 Out, says Danny Dreyer founder of Chi Running, but some others say 1-2 In 1-2 Out, that worked better for me as it is easier to keep that count in footsteps. Talking of rhythm using a metronome I was able to confirm my cadence was over 170. All I had to do to pick my pace and feet and repeat 1-2-3, right-2-3, left-2-3. Thanks David for putting up with the tick tip tip noise and everyone else for putting up with my warbling.

Some other things I did differently this year too. I added to my exercise routine some repetitions with abs/core training, chin pull-ups, pushups, dumb-bells, simple stretches, took time off either due to injury or vacation. I also became better at being aware and playing the edges, for example in breathing not to pump air in/ out but to be aware of breathing, in stretching don’t need to have the perfect pose but work on playing it to your edge, not to strain and overstretch. What I believe in now is play the edge, pull back, do not over reach or over exert in any of your exercise efforts, build the base and you shall get the benefits later.

Running with a group means you listen to what people are doing, feel less effort as you get paced in a group, chatting with other runners you discuss strategies, ideas, races, nutrition …..

The last 6 miles I remembered every one of our JC Runners who had done training runs with me! I have a long list of JC Runners to thank who have run with me. Harish started our meetup group. Donovan, Subbu and Ravi guided me when I began and ran my first races. Thanks Annabelle for reminding that pain is temporary and pride is forever! Thanks Abhi for saying he ran a consistent smooth race in September, your camaraderie and thoughts on relaxed running have helped me very much, Brigitte for making me start running from run/ walk, Nadia for the introspection and quest for answers, Lou for coaching me on the strength, speed, form, nutrition, Matt for the smooth rhythm and dedication, Kevin for running through pain with a large smile and many others Patricia, Scott for all the answers, Jackie, Andrew, Svetlana, Julie, Charlene, Desiree, Li, David, Sunil and everyone else I have not mentioned here, happy running!

NJ Marathon, Sunday 2nd May 2010

I woke at 4:45 am after a sound sleep and reached Grove path station at 5:30 am without rushing, met Abhi outside the station, Patricia inside and Ravi caught us in Newark Penn station. We were relaxed, talked, walked easily and took a few pictures too. The Long Branch train was in time at 6:22 am and the 80 minutes journey was pleasant and comfortable. Outside, I could see the clouds covering the skies and wished for them to stay there the whole day. Looking back, our pre run photographs show that we were going for a vacation.

I had good confidence going into this race as the training schedule I had followed, I had exceeded and done well. All the motivation and thanks go to the running with our fellow JC Runners meetup group members.
The race area was overflowing with the 10,000 runners and their friends. Soon our JC Runners group separated as we had to collect our race package, get ready, pin our race badges, drop our bags and wait in long lines to use the portable toilets. Abhi and me had planned to run together, luckily we managed to stick together, even after I ran back to get my heart monitor strap. All the excitement, the cloudy sky and seafront breeze helped me in forgetting it was hot and humid.

The race for the regular runners began after 9 am. I ran with Abhi for the first couple of miles, we started at a 9:30 min per mile pace and then I lost him in the crowd. There were so many people running packed together that running side by side was not possible all the time. I was selfish in not watching out too much for him, maybe he went ahead or is still behind nearby was my thought. During discussions of our paces I had been talking of me going to kamikaze this marathon at a 9 min mile pace to finish within 4 hours.
At the 1/2 marathon mark I had finished in 2 hours, and was meaning to finish strong. At that time I was strong on my feet, feeling good with my form, all body parts were running smooth, perceived effort level was as good as I expected at this juncture.

I kept pushing myself for the elusive 4 hour finish. I did run the next 4 miles at 8:30-9 minute mile speeds :-). In hindsight, I think this time I could/should have slowed down a bit and run within myself. It was getting really hot, the clouds could not cover the sun any longer and the little gusts of hot oven like air could be felt more and more. I was even sloshing some water on my head, neck and back at the water stops. In between the ambulance sirens and runners collapsing being helped by the emergency medical services had started occurring. One guy collapsed a little in left and front of me before 17, I think because of cramps, he was holding his legs in exhaustion and pain, I stopped and bent to encourage him, saw a volunteer coming to him, left him and trundled along. The same situation happened around mile 22 too. This did remind me to not try anything too much, it may be you next. Pain is temporary and pride is forever was still with me and I kept going. People say it went in the high eighties and it was definitely pretty epic conditions to run a marathon. Well it felt the hottest I have ever run, even counting my training runs. Then there were these great people who were spraying water on us with their garden hoses and cheering us on. For me, the nicest part about the NJ marathon is the great crowd. Yes, in their mind we are all Kenyans, and if the marathon was an easy thing to do then everyone would be doing it.

After 17 miles I slowed down to a 10 to 11 minute mile pace. Mile 20, I get my second wind and try a last ditch effort to run 9 min miles. Ran hard for 2 miles, saw that even with the extra effort the result was around 10 min miles, so I took it easier for the last 4 miles, or you can say I ran out of strength, taking walking breaks every mile & dreaming about the soup and food I would eat at the end.

Aaah, there were only bananas left, the best thing is that I like bananas and I learnt that they are one of the best nutritious and medicinal things to eat after the race. Additionally I had some other food with me and Patricia too gave me some bars to eat.
I tried the free massage this time but would not say it’s a must do for me, as it did not help my sore calf muscles much, though the stretching must have helped other parts. Thank you very much volunteer who was a student studying massage therapy and was a good person.

I finally found Patricia who looked cool and fresh as the other spectators, and for someone who does not run in the summer heat she had completed in a very fast time of under 2 hours. Abhi had completed his first marathon, for a guy who started running outdoors six months back in November he was very happy. Ravi had a harder time in the heat but never the less finished the race in one piece. We all took the Feeling Good Train (air conditioned) back at 4:06 pm.

Despite the horrible heat, all in all it was a Great Race day for me. I learnt a lot from this workout to carry forward for the next race, lot of things worked during the race and the journey before that.
For me the NJ marathon and its course shall be always be fondly remembered as very nice, neat nice houses, greenery, blue waters, clean white boats, live bands & the awesome spectators and volunteers along the entire way with sprinklers, frequent water stops, food etc and an ocean front finish. It’s enough to overlook some small things.

PS: My time this year was 4:13:54.75, last year’s time was 4:57:00, improvement of 43 min, yayyyy… Patricia asked for the pacing team’s small orange flag and we carried it back with us. I saw it first thing today morning to be reminded, 3:45!

One Turn at a Time – my 26.2 mile run at the New Jersey Marathon 2011

Taking you with me on my NJ Marathon 2011 race, one Turn at a Time through 26.2 miles. Get ready to run along!

Chapters

Race Morning

Mile 0: Waiting in the corrals

Mile 1: Start

Mile 2: Focus on

Mile 3: Execute plans

Mile 4: The Bridge

Mile 7: Lucky 7

Mile 8: The Second Bridge

Thoughts on running

Mile 9: Relay Station

Mile 12: Ocean Avenue begins

Mile 13.1: Halfway through

Mile 15: Focus, no excuses

Mile 19: Turning back line

Mile 20: Asbury Park Waterfront

The Wall: Climb it, and thoughts to summon effort

Mile 21: Ocean Avenue back

Mile 25: The Waterfront stretch at the finish

26.2: The finish

Some Stats

Background to writing this long essay on running

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Race Morning

I woke up fifteen minutes before the alarm went on at 4 am, and quickly ate the fruits I had kept on the table. Waking up and on the race day you have trained for the last four months, I wanted to do everything I had prepared for.

I had a paper which had points jotted down, for every single step to do in the morning. A paper like that makes me feel easy and calms me down. Then I do not need to think what to do, worry if I miss anything and quietly follow the routine which has been planned down. It saves me precious time of thinking while doing the next steps efficiently as I need to move to the train station.

I went straight to the kitchen and boiled my coffee without milk. On the race day morning I do not take any milk products, as these may lead to stomach upset and complications later. Today I will not be trying anything new, just put the plan into execution, learnt from experience and various advices on things to do and not to do in a race.

Then went straight for a quick bath and freshen up in the bathroom. All my clothes and objects and gadgets were lined up. And I am ready to leave in thirty minutes. I had everything written well, so no stress if I had forgotten anything. In any case the most important thing in the race to take is you, the running ticket and cash for the journey.

Easier said than done, we all have small idiosyncrasies, objects and gadgets which help us in the race. For me they are my Garmin watch and heart rate monitor, my Race ID bracelet, running hat, etc running stuff. Even when I go to run in the mornings, I need to set my plan and things the night before. Like you need to be out of the front door before the mind can say what you are doing at this odd time, running in the cold.

Enough with all these words, I had started writing this to tell about the race. I cannot wait for the race to start. The train journey is another story, the special train to Long Branch from Newark at 5:30 am, which is reaching Long Branch at 6:40. That was another experience.

Let me go to the start right now without any ado. Here we are, near to the beginning of the race. It is going to be my day! The race will start in a short while.

 


 
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Mile 0: Waiting in the corrals

It’s a little before 8 am, Sunday May 1st 2011 in the corrals, runners are separated by the speeds at which they run. When I was slower we used to joke that stay away or behind from the faster runners else you will get trampled. If you have seen fast runners it does seem like a herd of galloping horses.

We had to jump over the corrals as we were late to complete what all we had to do. We, meaning Matt Caulfield, with whom I had done some of my long training runs for this race, a fellow Jersey City runner. There are in all ten thousand people running the half and full marathon in the New Jersey marathon race in Long Branch. The place is overfull and spilling with runners and their friends and families.

We were not as relaxed as we wanted to be, as we were not able to do all what we wanted to do in our routine. We were standing in line for the bathroom for over 20 minutes and gave it up as we did not want to miss the start of the run. So we just reached here a few minutes before the race and are barely standing, no stretching routine, and no relaxation from having relieved ourselves in the portable toilets or the restroom before the race. After reaching Long Branch at 6:40 the half mile plus walk from the station was very pleasant like the earlier times I had run this race before.

I had thought we had plenty of time to do the bag check in, change to running clothes, use the restroom, talk to our pacers and take in the scenery. So while walking with Patricia who was running the half we had taken some pictures as well.

Now any changes on race day can spring surprises, the bag check in place this year had changed. To find it took us more time than expected. It was surprising that anyone we asked did not know where it was.

Lesson learnt is that try to reach as early as possible and do everything you can do as early as you can or whenever as soon as you can. Though things can work out at the last moment or they do work out or seem to work out at the last moment, you want to be relaxed for your optimal performance. At every race I have been, there are long lines of people at the portable toilets till the last minute. There are people who are running late, and then it seems somehow things work out. For Matt and me that meant that we decide that we would take our bathroom breaks on the course.

I had surfed the NJ marathon site and we had decided to run with pacers in the 3hr 40 min group. There was a pacer called Mike Lynch, whom I had mailed and got a great Marathon Race management sheet. What he sent me I have compiled in the Appendix III called — Race management sheet.

The other thing we had done was carb loading the days prior to the race. The intakes of carbohydrates in our daily meals are increased in the marathon week, as the fuel we use for running is carbohydrates. For those trying to lose weight one should know that while running for weight loss, first the body uses carbs, fat comes later. One needs to train a longer distance at a higher effort for fat loss. Usually one’s body has enough fuel for running at a time for one hour. For longer distance you may need hydration and nutrition.

So for this race in nutrition, it meant increasing carbohydrate consumption, for me it was rice and Indian bread called roti. Also lentils are a great source of complex carbohydrates. I was lucky that I read about the nutrition facts. A lot of runners eat pasta and bagels as that is what everyone advises, plus there are pre-race pasta parties. This makes many to think that these are the best source of complex carbohydrates.

I had never followed this preparation in earlier years as I never tried for an optimal performance. For me finishing the race was an achievement in itself. This time I was ready and prepared to break the barrier of a 4 hours marathon race for me. My first marathon two years back had been done in 4 hrs 55 min, the next one last year was accomplished in 4 hrs 13 min. I had done very well in a half marathon the previous month by getting my personal best time of 1hr 43min 12sec. That was an effort I ran, digging deep within myself, continuously telling myself one more mile before I take a walking break. I have never ever been able to run with that fire, pushing myself against my limits ever again.

So here we are, at the start line. The energy, the expectancy is amazing. The feeling is surreal. All are waiting for the race to start. The best runners are at the front and then come the slower ones, herded in corrals according to their estimated finish time. In some races the numbers on the bibs reflect which corral you are going to be lined in. In very big, the biggest one is the New York marathon; there are different corrals with different start times. Some of my friends started 2 hours after the main race which starts at 8:00 am. Here at NJ marathon standing is done more on the honor system. You line up according to the pace/ time you will finish. There are markers on the poles along with showing that.

I and Matt go and stand with the 3:40 pacer who is called Manyath Gavaskar. I am a little disappointed that Mike Lynch is not going to pace us.

There are things which I do not want to change at all for the race. I somehow plan small things for my race. What I am going to wear, the clothes, shoes. Nothing new needs to be worn to take no risk. What I am going to eat and even what I should be thinking for the race. I write down the focuses on my left lower arm so I can look at them and remember to refocus on them. It all sounds very funny and crazy, but then the marathon is a training process for me. I note down everything that works for me before the race. And on the race try and incorporate all that to the utmost of my abilities. Noting all the do’s and do nots make it easy to follow the plan. Anything which is a little different than the original plan can throw you off.

I feel I should not have mentioned to Matt I was wearing my blue t-shirt. As I was wearing our blue Jersey City runners t-shirt for motivation, my suggestion was he could do the same as t-shirts give you motivation. Else Matt is very comfortable with a singlet. The bathroom break fiasco and the last minute maneuvering to reach the start had not worked well with both of us either.

There is little time left now, you are trying to get a good position to do some exercises and then standing and fidgeting. A person like me uses the amount of moving to and fro before the race as a warm up. The walk from the railway station, and then around the hospitality tents, bag drop area, start line, continuously moving for over an hour, could be up to 2 miles in my estimation. Nevertheless I shake all my joints slowly and round and round. At the same time I am remembering all my focuses which I have written down. Then there is a quick chat, with runners around and your running buddy. I also try to slip in a quick prayer to gain as much confidence and motivation I can to assure myself that I have the strength and today is going to be my day. I stand behind the pacer and thank him a few times and tell him my name. I also look around at the other runners. This year I have been standing further up as I want to shoot for a great time. All runners I see look serious and good to me. The final sips of water to calm down the nervousness before the race and I discard my bottle of water.

Before the race starts there are PA system announcements by the Organizer, thanking all the participating organizations, the local municipality, police, fire depts., the hospitals, the charities. We genuinely cheer for all of them. They all are doing such a great job. There is uplifting music and the singing of the American anthem. By now we all are ready and at our best.

The start line siren, the race horn (in my hindi language bhonpoo) blares, well it is more of a squeaky blare.

The race starts. There is a reptilian movement in the race corrals, which wakes up. We all cheer and clap enthusiastically. We still cannot move as the runners in front need to go forward and make pace. Slowly the mass inches forward, first very slowly in slow motion, then walking and bobbing. I can see the start line now. I have got my watch GPS working and my right index finger is on the start button of my GPS for me to press as soon as we reach the start line.

With a start I realize I am at the chronomix timer start line and push the start button on my pedometer watch. By chronomix I mean that there are interval timers laid down on the race route. I take a quick glance to confirm whether my watch timer has started and I look ahead to follow the moving mass.

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Mile 1: Start

And we are off. The race has started for me; I have started thirty seconds after the starting runners. You find that you are being pulled along by the teeming crowd of runners. In such a big race you need to be careful of the people running alongside you. Like in a big traffic high lane road there is a steady stream of runners utilizing every space around you.

When running a marathon you have made plans how you are going to run and pace yourself. If you have calculated a time, then you can set your target marathon paces. I have wanted to run the first two miles, slower than my anticipated marathon pace. Usually the marathon pace can be anticipated and calculated seeing how you have been faring in your training runs or races you have participated in around this time.

Luckily I am running with a pacer, and I decided to follow whatever he does. I also needed to use the restroom as early as possible to provide convenience to my running. I tell Matt that I know there are some bathrooms on the right side in the first mile as I have seen them in earlier years.

The start of the race is something I have mentally trained for in the days which lead to the marathon. The New Jersey marathon is one which I have run last two years and this is my third one. It is my local marathon and I feel very much attached to it, it was the first ever marathon I ran. In terms of being well liked and famous it is not ranked amongst the top ones in USA. Earlier years it was a double loop and runners doing the half marathon did one loop.  This year they have increased the loop distance for the marathon, so you do not repeat the same path. Most runners I know like to run on a single way for the duration of the race, they do not like to repeat the same stretches. Here I am different, I am pretty much ok with repeating the same distance again and again. There is a half marathon in Flushing Park, Queens, near the same place which hosts the US Open. You loop four times in the park to complete the distance. I have no problems, in fact both the times I ran it I increased my personal best time by a large quantity, thirty seconds per mile, which meant over 6.5 minutes both times. This was the same half marathon I had done a few weeks back giving me lots of confidence.

While running there are mile markers and usually there are big clocks with timers showing the time race has begun. A mile marker is a stage of the race where you can find what pace you are doing. Whether you need to catch up, remain in the same pace or slow down. The first mile always is a surprise, as you come out with a very fast time for the mile. You need to be careful to run slower. Once in the Prospect Park 10 mile race in Brooklyn, called the race for the hardcore, run in the biting cold in February I ran the first mile in 7 min 16 sec. Those were the days when I was a beginner and I had to tell myself to slow down.

An issue other than pacing is the heel pain which I live with. I have Haglund’s deformity which means that the calcaneus bone of my heel has over grown, maybe due to the friction of the shoes or the podiatrist thinks I was born with it.

While training for the race I was lucky coping with the injury. I come from one of the hilliest areas of the world, the Himalayas. At around eleven thousand feet, my ancestral village of Milam is among the highest inhabited villages in the world, practicing transhumance/ winter migration my ancestors used to come down to the warmer villages in winter. Hope I got this word transhumance in the right context! It means seasonal movement of livestocks like sheep and goats. I try to run the hills thinking I have the genes for hill running, and imagine when I got injured running hills. One of the preventions to my injury is to avoid running hills. See Appendix for my notes on this injury, how I got it and what I did.

During my vacations in India in March, six weeks before the race, I was able to run a few times in Delhi. I visited my village Kausani in the mid Himalayas for a week, where I walked to different villages and locations. I am sure the walks and the height helped the blood become richer. I was also able to undergo some special sessions of Ayurveda massage and therapy. Plus a small effective lesson in breathing and shoulder posture, a lucky bonus from the massage center doctor, a yoga practitioner, I came back rejuvenated!

I use a smart gadget, the Garmin Forerunner 405, GPS Sport Watch, a sleek pedometer watch calculates your time, distance and pace, and wirelessly sends your data to your computer and to the Garmin Connect on the internet. There are so many field parameters to look on my Garmin watch. There is a virtual training partner, where we set a time, let us say 8 min mile. So I shall know if I am doing faster or slower pace than that over the course of the race. Then there is time, distance, heart rate, average time taken per mile for the race run, lap time for current mile. Nowadays I try not look at my Garmin GPS watch/ pedometer while running as much as I can. According to Lou who I consider as my running guru you are wasting three seconds every time you look at the watch, more importantly for me, your form changes when you look at your watch.

The Garmin watch software can upload all this data on the Garmin connect website. With the uploaded data you can see charts and graphs. Sounds very cool and when it works well, you have all this data to analyze your runs and plan and get feedback on your running and training.

When I started running I purchased a Polar heart monitor, as I was afraid that I may over exert. Nowadays when you read anything on health or exercise there is that warning, check with your doctor. As I do not frequent doctors, though my wife is one. I have seen that doctors usually will tell you to be careful with most things, I bought a heart monitor. I could track my heart beat rate to see how much effort was going in. It is a great tool to push yourself more when you are a beginner. You come to know what percentage of effort you are making. For cardio vascular training you can target 50 to 85% of your maximum heart rate. I have spent considerable hours analyzing this boring topic, if I run out of ideas and words to complete this novel; I could create an Appendix on Heart rates! So yes, my Garmin watch and heart rate monitor are a part of my run. I have data on the last 3 marathons I have done and shall study that to compare my efforts in a separate study.

My Garmin device is a gadget I use and is my loyal aid. More on it please look at Appendix Garmin GPS.

Sorry for the diversion let me come to my run now. Knowing my heart rate, speed, distance and all my comparisons does help me plan for the race.

The other important part is the mental preparation for me. I have run the race many times in my head. As I had run it earlier and on training runs I plan to run the NJ marathon well. The race begins along the board walk on the water front. Two hundred yards and it finishes abruptly turning left on an empty road, an undulating broken stretch of tarred road, and compares poorly to the rest of the great course. As soon as you are trying to steady yourself on the pot holes and avoid the rushing mass alongside, you turn right on a nice smooth stretch, where you can put your pedal to the metal. The right side of the road is a green lawn, then a park and then the sea, which is The Atlantic Ocean. Well I have not mentioned The Atlantic Ocean earlier. Talking and thinking about these great landmarks, places and occasions in a marathon keeps me very well motivated.

The first mile is crucial for the plans to be implemented well.

In this NJ 2011 marathon, I am a bit disoriented; already I needed to look for the portable toilets. I spot them at the same place on the race, on the right side. And I am lucky; a green sign indicates that one of them is empty. I yank the door, it opens, and luckily it is empty. Well I am in and out in a few, great pit stop. I could compare it to the Formula one pit stop of less than 10-15 seconds. Writing this I feel how much focused energy I had to jump in and out in so less time. On my races I have spent considerable more time on these pit stops. I need to benchmark them to F1 pit stops. Sometimes it seems every second counts when you are motivating yourself looking at your time, and here I did not want to let go of the pace group.

My pacer and the group are much ahead now. I see the bobbing balloons on the stick which Manyath Gavaskar is carrying, far ahead of me. I am running behind with the slower pace groups. I inch myself forward, going extreme right side of the road to overtake other runners to catch my pace group.

First mile continues, there are a lot of people behind us and there are many running ahead. I have started observing the cheering along the road. The large number of runners had overflowed on even the side roads at the beginning. Now there is more discipline as runners have aligned themselves to lanes.

There are some of us who want to go through, “on your right”, “on your left”, “coming through” are the words you say and hear to pass other runners in front. Also to give indication for sudden turns to runners behind, raise your hands to give turn or stop indications. This helps in not hitting someone or getting hit.

I would advise to stay away from the middle of the pack. In the Marine Corps Marathon, I was trying to follow the pacer pack. We were turning up the hill and the person on my right was using her hands vigorously for climbing up the hill. Ouch, I get a hard elbow on my lower arm. I am packed inside, no place to move. Ouch, its bone on bone again. I look on my right; the person is strong athletic and not even showing any response. I wince, say sorry as a formality and slunk sideways. Stung by such aggressive running I remember a good advice of running on the right side of the road.

Then I remember that I should be running the first mile at a slower pace. I slow down. I start relaxing and aligning my body starting from my toes, foot, heel, ankle, knees, thighs, hips, chest, neck, shoulders, chin and look ahead. I have practiced correct alignment and correcting my posture in my training runs. At every turn and at every event I remember to refocus on the posture.

I follow the Chi Running method by Danny Dreyer. I have read his book many times and use the technique to suit my abilities. This summer after the marathon I attended a course run by a Chi running master to reinforce and learn the technique.

I take good breaths and make myself aware to breathe in a proper pattern concentrating on the exhale. Nowadays I no more gasp for breaths even while running faster. For that I have practiced running with breathing in on two foot strikes, and exhaling on three foot strikes as per the recommendation of Danny Dreyer, the inventor of Chi Running. This is not a compulsory way but regular pattern helps a lot in using the breathing efficiently. Keeping the chest in proper posture to accept air helps. After all if you can take in ten percent or more air you shall easily run that much faster without getting tired. Deep breathing learnt through a yoga teacher has helped me know how to take the air in and feel relaxed. This is still a work in progress and I hope to meet more teachers. One of the questions I always ask good runners is how do you breathe.

And I am constantly overtaking the other runners to move towards my pacing group.


 

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Mile 2: Focus on

A big sign of Mile 1, on a tall pole and a big digital timer at eyes height showing the clock time from the race, looms at the left side. This is the time when the race started. You subtract the time you started the race from the clock time to calculate your running time. I have not been looking at the pedometer watch I wear to save my running form from movement taken to glance awkwardly at my watch.

Also some of us think that our Garmin GPS watches are not 100 percent accurate, when it comes to race running. The organizers have their own method of putting the markers and distance of the race. A personal gps watch will take all your sideways motion also in your distance. Then some of us blame the clouds or the tall buildings for the satellite reception; technology is still not perfect etc. And there is the batch of conspiracy theorists who say that not to give terrorist advantage of using the Global Positioning System for nefarious activities they have been intentionally creating errors in the measurement.

So all in all the pedometer is different to the race timers, and are just indicators we need to follow to make an estimation of how we are faring. These race timers are at different places and are synchronized, you see volunteers at times having handheld timers which they may call out. At certain crucial points of the race there are measuring instruments taking your chip and calculating your personal time.

This does a dual purpose, it detects whether you ran the course or not also you get your split timings at various check points. Usually now it is at every 5 kilometers and the half way distances. In the Marine Corps marathon your friends could track you in real time through social media like Facebook, twitter, email or text. Your race time and projected time was sent to them! What do you say!! I had friends in Europe, my brother and his friends in mid-east, family in India and our fellow friendly runners in Jersey City and USA tracking my progress.

The first mile in NJ marathon 2011 is over and I have caught up with our pacing group. I am lucky to find them as the pacer is running with a stick with balloons on them. Last year when it was a very hot day and everyone had broken down I had been looking for pacers to stick with on the last part of my race, but I seem to find no one. The pacers had carried a small triangular orange flag. Patricia who is running the half marathon this year was there the previous year as well. She had asked the organizers if we could take their flags. And she had presented me the 3:45 pacer flag. Now I am running the marathon with the 3:40 pace group this year. I find my running partner Matt and start running along with him.

Matt Caulfield like me started running three years back. He is over ten years older than me and he runs much faster. It was because of him that I started training faster. Last year I had done the New Jersey marathon in 4 hours and 13 minutes, and this year my target had been to run under four hours. I run in a group called Jersey City Runners and we do long runs on Saturday mornings to the Liberty State park. Some of us may run to Hoboken and back as well before that. I happen to be the current Organizer of the group. Well I became that by default, that story a little later.

During training runs Matt used to run at a consistent pace averaging either 8:30 or 9 minute miles. I used to feel tired and could not make the effort of keeping up with him at that pace. Then I saw that another runner Annabelle was keeping pace with him. That led me to rethink and start tagging along. Now when you increase the effort, the body feels like quitting or tells you to slow down, or plays all mind games. After overcoming a certain threshold of effort, one can start keeping up with the even pace without making a larger effort. I would advise that one can seek to find your threshold.

Maybe it was better endurance, maybe it was increased training, or mental overcoming, after a couple of weeks I became better at keeping up with these two.  There was a day when Annabelle was not well, she was very tired and not keeping up with us. After taking a break at the New Jersey Rail Road Terminal I kept going forward. It had snowed in the night and the path was blocked near the marina. I had to come back on the same road and I saw Annabelle still running. It was a cold day and I was sure she would have given up long back to run at a slower pace or even walk. We ran back to the Grove Path station where we start and finish our runs. That day, I felt and saw a tremendous effort from a fellow runner. That has stayed with me and motivated me ever since that pain is temporary and pride is forever, a quote that lot of runners, like Annabelle and me use.

I also saw Matt run ahead and alone at his constant pace even in high winds and on very cold days. He always found the energy to run long distances at fast paces, while we used to be running at much slower paces. The other thing about Matt is that he did not take a break while running. While we used to wait for other runners and talk, Matt would keep running around blocks.

Matt and I ran the Manhattan half marathon in Central Park, New York city on a Sunday in January together. He ran the race seven minutes faster than me in Central park. He was in the top 10 honor roll in his age category. It was very cold; there was snow all over the park. My shoes insoles, the gel in the inserts were frozen for the first fifteen minutes. The temperature was between 15 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 7 to 9 degrees Celsius), and if you added the wind chill factor the feel was much lower. I remember after the race it took me a while to open my bag. My hands were ice cold and it was very difficult to get them steady to open the frozen zipper.

Central park is a very up and down race track of 6 miles. It is the best experience for any runner to run here. At any given time of the day there are people running, cycling and walking. The Central park loop is a runner’s paradise and is a must to run for a runner when in New York City. Thank you Matt for the great company and motivation you have provided in my journey as a runner.

In all this euphoria where we are all running with high adrenaline and energy I start to focus. You just get sucked in by the race animal, the juggernaut which moves like a fast python. I quickly glance at my left arm and pick a couple of the many words I have written there.

My main focuses are tied to the action words which I have written on my lower arms. Some of these are Stride back, Hips, Ankles, Chi bowl, Chin, Chest, Lean, Peel heel, Light Steps, Run on Water, Helium balloon, Bungee rope, Pedal, Arms, Shoulders, 1-2-3 Cadence, Breathe, Relax. Ha, ha you will say, that how do so many words, firstly fit in so I can glance.

Well, when I am relaxing and doing no running the couple of days before the race and have been reading my notes on running. I pick the main focuses and jot down the action words. These I then whittle down. I write them on my left lower arm, where I can glance quickly by looking at my arm. Patricia took a couple of photographs and posted on our meetup photo album of the race, captioning: Jitu shows of his running tattoos.

Matt is running along with me. He is not happy with the pace. The pace is not even and faster than our plan, he says. I nod and see his perspective. Matt is a much planned runner. I have benefitted a lot from running with him while he is following his training methods. I have been running more comfortably now, race has thinned a little bit. I have focused and got back into a good posture. At Mile one we are running next to the ocean and see the sea from a little distance.

Now we turn left into the neighborhood of Monmouth Beach and run away from the sea. As we cross the Ocean Boulevard, the first live band is on our right side. I can remember this gig every year. Thank you guys for the performance, it feels great. In all there will be eleven live bands on this route. And then there will be those two people banging on paint drums after a mile or so. Those two older gents I have seen every year between mile two and three when you are going to round the corner of Riverdale Street.

Hey yes, I know this course, this is my race. I have run 3 marathons and three training runs on this. The first two years the marathon was a double loop, we looped the same route a second time. This year they have stretched the race and taken it to Asbury Park/ Ocean Grove south of where we have started from. I am very very wary of these changes. I had always loved the old double loop as it gave me a comfortable feeling of having done it, and I have no issues with repeating things. But most other runners love to run on single loops.

And yes, I do know most of the roads and turns. So I know which side of the road I need to keep to run optimally. How should I run and then slow down, I catch my breath or let us say relax and replenish my energy when I slow down. There are slight slopes on these roads and I know those too, helping me to plan my strategy of conserving energy on the up and making up time on the down slope.

Great, Good, Ok, Fair and Poor are the feelings I have classified for my running. Poor is when you cannot run and need to sit down. The Fair category for me is to run and walk. Ok category means I am laboring to run though I would be mentally happy to walk. Good means better than ok, and I am happy and running with a bit of effort. I have mentioned this more in my Appendix – Race variables.

Great is a surreal category, it is when you start the race, you are flying, there is no effort. In the Great stage you need to slow down. Sometimes during my runs I start feeling great, the barrier of effort has been broken; my body has become a perpetual machine, requiring no effort. At times when I am feeling Good, I try making an effort to race better. In the Ok stage my body can still take labor well; this is the category I will be running my main marathon race. Yes I feel Ok, I felt Ok in my race. Ok in today’s slang does not mean good, whereas when and where I grew up Ok meant good. Good meant something exceptional for us.

In today’s meaning Good is the old Ok or for some it seems maybe Great is yesterday’s ok. We were so miserly then to reply to how are you, we said Okay. How did you do in your test, it was Okay.

Mile 2 and I am focusing on my posture and relaxation of the body, tip of my toes to the top of my head. And on Mile 2 I start feeling very good. I am trying to keep up to my planned marathon pace now. The pacer is a little bit ahead than us. The pacer is running faster than the planned speed says Matt.

I look around and practice my breathing routines and take as much fresh air in and out as I can when I am feeling good. Do not forget to breathe as much as you can when running slow, had been once advised by a very good runner I know called Scott. I always try to remember this and try to bank as much breathing as I can. Ha ha, how can you bank your breathing, well technically maybe you cannot but I try to be as much aware of breathing as I can while running slow. As a beginner when I ran, the effort of running was there and so was the panting and gulps of air we took. Now I have practiced steady pattern while running fast and guess what, I can run without making the loud panting noises I made a few months back. I have been trying to improve my running ever since I got hooked three years back by trying all tips.

The deep breathing exercises I learnt from a yoga teacher also helped in a big way for learning to breathe deep. The difference in running breathing is that you do not hold the air in your lungs, it is a steady in for two paces and expelling out on three paces for me nowadays, whenever I remember, that is. While breathing you need to expel the whole air, the stale air. The more fresh air inside you, the more oxygen you have and more fuel you can burn to get the energy. For this the other thing is to keep your body posture well to accept as much air in the lungs as you can. I have found again Scott’s advice, thinking as if you are an Olympic Kenyan runner running a race, to keep the chest up and forward posture, be careful it is not chest out. And you may breathe and expel air out by contracting from the diaphragm. Increasing my lung capacity or efficiency by ten percent I hope that I run ten percent faster or more.

I have been running regularly since around June 2008. In the year 2009 I did my first marathon yes it was the same one as this New Jersey, then in 2010 I did it one more time and this time makes it three in a row. In 2009 it was the first year I ran over a thousand miles in the calendar year, and I repeated the same in 2010, now it has become a habit and it is a given thing that I should be doing this distance for the rest of my calendar years. This requires you to be a regular runner, I target four days a week, am happy if I can push it to five days while I am training. Running drops to zero when I am on vacation or during injury, but I try telling myself a small jog or longer walk goes a long way in seeing many more things. My training program I shall mention later on or in an Appendix.

I have liked running this mile in the NJ marathon, I am getting down to the pattern which I had hope for what I had planned.

While making my mental preparation plans I try to set myself to how I will feel. The feeling while running is not of sitting on a movie theater and seeing a picture. Or that you are completely relaxed, in that case you shall slow down or ultimately walk or sit. It is an anticipation of seeing how you are going to go about making this effort. Though right now at mile 2 I do not think about the end, the feeling is that the body is warming up to an effort.

I tell myself that maybe this is going to be my day if I keep this good feeling up for a few more miles! You are in this race for the next few hours and you have to play your moves as they come. You have made all your plans. Now is the time to execute them.

In the Marine Corps marathon one ran under a bridge, a train was going over it. The runners cheered for good luck and motivation in the race. There are many more runners and many things that I remember who played a significant part in my running journey. The next Mile sign is coming up; let me focus on my race and execute my plans.


 

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Mile 3: Execute plans

We have run on and crossed the mile 2 marker after a few turns inside the Monmouth beach neighborhood. There are people outside their houses on the streets banging on bells, they have banners and posters and cheering us on. This is not a crowded section but I remember last year, on the second loop when it was a hot day with temperatures over eighty degrees they had offered us water and encouragement, and turned on their sprinklers for us. I am starting to run on my marathon pace. The marathon pace means an even pace for the whole race. I have kept it at 8 min 24 sec for this race. The pacer is still further ahead.

In some races volunteers call out the time every fifteen seconds at the mile markers. You calculate your pace and understand what is the time taken and whoa, here we have run the miles faster than planned. It has happened this way in some other races. You have to stop yourself from going fast in the first few miles. But then luckily I have a good pacer I am following, so no problems to me, I am a good follower.

Matt is saying he will run his own pace and forget the pacer. He tells me he is going to run his pace. I have a decision to make, either go ahead with the pacer or stay with Matt. I mull on it, I had run the twenty mile training run with him at such a record pace for me. That time I had said let me try keeping up, then I will see and we had completed that. The only reason I am running with this fast group is because I did that fast training run, else I would have been lined up with the four hour group.

I have more confidence in Matt’s abilities than in mine. Still I feel I would be better off banking time in the beginning. Here lies an anomaly in my running style. I feel I run well when I am ahead. It gives me more mental strength and power when I am ahead. Then I tell myself to keep the pace or time or some way I am mentally able to propel myself later in the race. I somehow have seen the first few miles in the race define my finishing time. Some statistics even have agreed with this stupid theory.

Most running articles agree and say that a negative split is the best method, where you run the second part of the race faster than the first. Empirically I believe less than ten percent achieve that, well I may be wrong, I am saying from seeing the race results I have studied. When I am in front, the euphoria propels me. If I have run 15 seconds slower than my target marathon per mile pace I feel I have to make up those fifteen seconds.

Running articles and gurus warn you that if you are banking it shall cost you double the time when you slow down at the end. As I still run with more heart than power I am still training my mind and body on this aspect. I wish I was strong to persevere and do the right things in my race. I am still learning by experience and reading. Reading about racing is my hobby. The other thing I do is ask good runners many questions when they have the inclination to answer me.

I plan to run and not let the pacer go far away, I take a deep breath and a prayer and am on the way. It is still a distance to the pacer. I see the group bobbing ahead. Those runners look serious and strong; maybe I look serious to them. I think they will make it surely in 3:40; and we will have this group running all the way through. I want to be in it and not miss the ride.

In my first two marathons I have run with the happy runners telling stories and talking to each other. When you are running with someone you know and are muttering something or the other, it does relax you. Last year I had run with Abhi my fellow Jersey City runner, whose origin is from the same Himalayan state as me. It had been very crowded then as the half and full marathons started at the same time. We had over ten thousand people starting together then. This year there are around two thousand marathoners, the half marathon starts half an hour later, so the running is not crowded like last year. Then I had lost Abhi in the crowd, it had been difficult keeping together in that crowd, I thought we would find each other later, either he or me would catch up or we would meet again. It seems I lost him somewhere in the first five miles. Matt also may catch up in some time or more.

I am running smoothly now, my heel is peeling well and I am striding back. I have to remember this one, the focus of the heel peel. In my stride I need to ensure I pick, I repeat pick my heel smoothly up in behind. This helps to keep my heel issue down, plus it gives me the great propulsion in running faster. Last year in August I had injured myself by increasing distance disproportionately that week. Also running in Bayonne Park in Jersey City, I ran up the hill without proper warming up. Even when I had winced with a slight foot pain, I had ignored it and kept running. I ran a few days more and the pain was less while running.

The podiatrist diagnosed it as Haglund’s deformity, increase in calcaneus bone growth. To put less pressure, I had found and tested with help of the internet forums that proper peeling of the heel puts less pressure on the back of my heel. Also I cut the plastic insides of my running shoes at the back of my heel.

To increase my speed I have practiced increasing my strides with a little help from the cross movement of pelvic bone and hips. Earlier my hip used to be stiff while running, a lot of runners run with straight posture. Now, if the hip is relaxed and allowed to stretch with the trailing leg you get a couple of inches of extra stride, with less effort. To incorporate such a pattern in my running took me a long time of learning. I always need proper focus and awareness to get proper strides else I am not able to get the best results.

Running smoothly now I am settling down in my zone and I am happy and relaxed. Usually it does take me a couple of miles to hit my stride. And in my relaxation I am reminded of the morning route where we run in our Jersey City downtown.

There are so many nice things on our water front. We are blessed to run on the Jersey city water front. I think about the area where we run, the water front and the Hoboken loop and the Liberty park loop. We say we run in a loop. Faster runners can go ahead and do the longer and slower runners can do short cuts on the loop. We start together and finish together at the same place, as it is a loop.

Also here we have amongst the best man made view in the world, the magnificent Manhattan skyline of buildings. This skyline is awe inspiring which I compare to the Himalayan peaks we observe from my villages in the Uttarakhand Himalayas of India.

This word Manhattan is referred to in my favorite game cricket too. How so! With the advent of television coverage in professional cricket, like in all other forms of mass entertainment and sports it has provided an impetus to develop new and interesting forms of presenting statistical data to viewers. These include displaying graphs of run scored and plotted against overs, a set of 6 balls pitched/ bowled over a 50 over match. This shows the score progression as the overs progress; and is called the Manhattan justifiably so, for its resemblance to the Manhattan skyline.

More on the Jersey City waterfront, Hudson River and surroundings would be in the appendix Jersey City Runners and the water front

It is going well now. This is the best part of my run. I am warmed up and my body parts are working well. This is the time when I start speeding up a bit. I am breathing well, taking in the cool air, looking at the nice houses. There are a few people on the road cheering us on.

The children have their hands out if anyone shall high five them. I usually like to do that. Gives me energy, it is like connecting to more people. When I run a race at a new place, I somehow try to gain as much energy as possible from my surroundings. I am very happy and feel myself blessed to run in these pristine surroundings. I am breathing easy and easily striding.

I always want and try to improve my strides. I imagine myself to run more smoother and glide along slicing through the air. As a runner you should imagine and visualize running smooth. For now I try to ease my pelvis and hips to gain a bigger stride, I lengthen my back legs along with the hips to gain an inch or more with every stride. When I am able to do this effortlessly I know I am improving my speed. The pace time on my pedometer proves it.

While running, when I am running smooth I let myself go forward, as the effort is not much. This again may mean going faster and you may tire out in the later part. As I am competing I like to keep with the runners in the pace group besides me. This is tricky as this is a marathon, a very long race and you need to pace yourself not to tire out. At the same time you need to keep pace even if you are tiring else it is difficult to catch up.

Now is the time of the race when you are feeling good but you may control yourself. In the Marine Corps marathon I ran the 3rd to 4th mile below a 7 minute mile. The pace I had planned was eight minutes. Luckily I had not looked at my watch; I do not look to see my watch as earlier discussed and try to run more by feel. In all I feel you need to control your pace at this time. It is said and I have read is the faster you run your first half the slower you will run each mile in the second half. My brain always tells me that for me it is better to bank time in the first half and rough it out in the second, mind over body shall be helping to push the effort for the last miles.

Running past the tree lined boulevards we twist and come through to a street called Paton Avenue. I know that this inclines up and I need to take it a little easier on this stretch. I know this distance is a few hundred meters, the incline gives you a little false concern and then there is the slope up the small bridge. This and another bridge is the only part of this marathon which has a little change of elevation and could be termed as a hill. Did I mention we are running the mile four now.

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Mile 4: The Bridge

The highlight of the first part of the marathon a bridge between two neighborhoods Monmouth Beach which has the first four miles of this race and Oceanport is the next four miles. These neighborhoods have nice houses and serene surroundings and lovely to run through. This lovely bridge is called Port-au-peck Bridge and the bay is Pleasure bay which has the loveliest of lovely boats. The surroundings have the whitest of whitewashed houses, the bluest of blue water and greenest of greenery. Everything is simple and gives much pleasure to the eyes. And from the bridge you can see the Atlantic Ocean too.

If I have a choice of finding a residence on the east coast, I shall be looking at this real estate very closely. Then I will surely be running the New Jersey Marathon, walking to the start line, enjoying the morning stress free walk from where I would live, very sweeeetttt…. That is what my running pal Kevin shall say, he grew ten miles west of here, one guy who will read what I write about this place. About Kevin, he inspires me to run with his enthusiasm and the way he overcomes his injuries. After viewing his injury I had felt that I could run and overcome mine too.

This bridge has the view of my dreams. All my tiredness gets over when I look at the tidy boats, white sheds, and expanse of green and blue of the river, bay and the ocean. I stretch both my hands wide apart in a swan pose, enjoy the view, take some deep breaths, and let myself go down the bridge, invigorated.

Down the bridge I am effortlessly hurtling and overtaking everyone. I know it is recommended not to race down, but I just let myself glide down the slopes, as I can make up much time on them. When I was growing up in the hills we used to race down from our school. Also while trekking or walking hills we tend to hurry along by running down as I have seen the locals do so. For now this works for me big-time. In races I see few run like this to gain some time, but there are some like me who race down the slopes.

As we come down the bridge and turn right and then straighten we have a playground on the left which has a small parking lot. There is water and there are some porta potties at the back. We have a long section for water and Gatorade along both sides. The volunteers of this stretch are happy people, cheering us on.

While some of them sheepishly offer Vaseline, some other offer with a wide smile. For non-marathoners it’s a little embarrassing to tell you guys, some runners need to apply a lubricant like Vaseline or Body Glide to areas which chafe, like the nipple area, like thighs where constant rubbing of clothes can chafe and bruise you, or other parts of the human anatomy. After lots of sweating and drying the salt on the clothes can act as sandpaper. Luckily I do not sweat that bad, but I know what chafing can do. I did chafe from my back pocket in my first marathon. I was carrying some food in my back pocket which I did eat mid-way. When I found the painful bruise next day I was surprised, only later did it dawn that I was lucky it did not rub more badly.

Ever since that day, no extra thing is ever kept in my pockets on a marathon race by me. Also we have all been warned not to wear any new clothing or shoes on race day. We should have broken into them in our training runs.

In my first marathon race I lost my right toe nail. In my second I lost both big toe nails. It took more than seven eight months for it to grow back.

Immediately after the race I had seen the dark black nail. The great internet let me know that this was no big deal and I need to let the blood out by sliding and puncturing it with a needle. That was very easy and the pain subsided. I was horrified when the nail started decaying and dying. The internet had explained not to pull it, but let it drop by itself. Before this I used to think how can people lose nails, or how difficult a feeling it is to have no nails. After losing the nail and feeling bad, I waited forever for it to grow back.

For my next marathon, I did every suggestion I could find on this. I bought good running socks. I cut my nails the way suggested by some experts. I cut them well. I had now started wearing one full size bigger shoes. How can you wear a loose shoe, used to be my concern earlier. Well, after getting used to the bigger size you never go back. My second marathon I lost both toe nails. Will I always lose my nails and live to see them grow to lose them again? I thought.

Luckily I discussed this with my friend Lou and came up with a strategy for this race. The first time it had rained during the marathon. My shoes and socks had become wet. The next time it was extremely hot and we had enjoyed being sprinkled down by the friendly house owners and spectators. Again the shoes and socks got wet. This time I was not going to get my shoes wet, and was going around any sprinklers. I don’t lose toenails anymore.

We are running forward and I know that we need to go straight and then go right on another bridge. The same bridge takes the runner out of the Oceanport neighborhood.

We have not been lapped by the runners who are at the front; I take a deep breath and thank my stars. It is not a happy experience and feeling to see the guys in front beating you so badly. Though I always cheer and shout encouragement at them, I do not think it does any good motivation to me. For us after this bridge is a little less than a four miles loop inside the Oceanport neighborhood. I run up the bridge slowly, this bridge does not give me the same enthusiastic vibrations and energy as the first one. Never the less I am happy to reach up and sprint down.

We are going to bypass the first right lane, on the second right we enter Comanche drive. I like the word Comanche, I am a fan of American history, western books and writers like Louis Lamour. A nice banner invites you to Oceanport. This lane has a slight incline; you slow a little and push on.

We are past the fifth mile now and it is always good to get past the first number five. For me this is the first stage of my race. I celebrate every fifth mile run. I am happy that I will be covering this distance in a little over forty minutes and under forty five minutes. This means I am well under four hours pace. Yes, I do mental calculations of my time to say I am doing good and achieving my pace goals. I have printed time bands on my wrists to benchmark myself too. And I had set my goal of 8 min 24 sec for this race on my Virtual partner on the Garmin watch gadget, which shows whether I am ahead or behind. So five miles in forty two minutes and change is what is required.

Quick look at the cheat sheet of written words on my arms and I pick a different focus. I tuck my arms and elbows in, keep my fists light as if holding a slightly warm pancake, cross my thumbs lightly on my forefinger. I say to myself focus, run as if walking on water and keep your head up like a helium balloon. Counting steps one, two, three, left, 2, 3, right, 2, 3, I start moving on the straight road. The straight road I either try to count steps to get my pace faster or choose some runners to run with or cross and go ahead.

This is a race I have discussed and read, and as many people are supporting me, I use the energy and go ahead. It is supposed to be a marathon and a personal run, but hey anything which can divert the mind from the effort and keep you going faster and faster on the course, I will use it.


 

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Mile 7: Lucky 7

In the Lucky 7 dice game or any dice game it is good to know the probability of any given total to be thrown. I feel it is the same with running in some places.

Now we are going around the Oceanport area. The Oceanport section of our run is through neighborhoods where we do not have market places with huge crowds. Crossing the playfields on the left, there is a left turn. We are running between a small forest.

It is a slight incline up on this quarter mile section. Having run this course nine times already, I have a good idea and I motor my way up. The ending of this stretch you need to slow down on the left turn. Luckily I have anticipated the effort I was going to put in this section.

This section I remember from my training run in the second year. We were running with more runners utilizing the water and facilities lined up on the way. After a break with water, Gatorade sports drink, de fizzed cola for caffeine, gel, jelly beans, pretzels, yes they had provided these and more that year. I was running and on my way. It is a slight slope on that part for maybe a quarter of a mile and straight run. Try as I might I was surprised that I could not get ahead of other runners as fast as my mind could work. Sometimes your mind wants you to run through runners fast, even if you are running faster you will still see them at a distance. Usually if you are running a straight road unless someone is sprinting away or you are relatively running faster than others you will not see much progress.

In a long run sometimes the mind can play games, especially when you have such a gradual incline, it is an incline none the less, and you feel your effort is more and the progress is less. On an uphill you need to use your upper strength of the body to pull yourself up. This section is maybe the only section where there are no houses and consequently no people. It is a gradual effort.

These are the times you need to overcome the feeling of losing energy. These are the sort of places, I know with experience are the places you conserve your energy.

At the end of the upslope there is a t junction, where a crowd is waiting and cheering us on. These types of T-turns have lots of people with posters for their friends and encouraging words for all. I thank them all and high five the children who line up the way with arms stretched. Encouraged I move ahead and go towards the right as the next turn is on the right.

Relieved that this stretch is behind me I am trying to relax and veer right on the course. The next turn is to the right after which we shall cross the same bridge back, where we came in. The incline gives away and I am back to my light run approach to focus on the road.

I size my situation by body scanning from the tip of my toes to the top of my head, and I am feeling quite good. There are no thoughts of tiredness, or there is concern that the race is long and I have a long way to go. Mentally, that is what you expect and train for. In my mind and mental conditioning, I have imagined myself running the course, competing to finish it in a good time. At each stage if I meet my targets the race begins anew. Also it means partial stress is over, and here 30 percent of the race is over. I usually calculate the distance done by percentages of the race. So each percent is happiness and that keeps increasing.

And after every turn is where I shall re focus and take off again.

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Mile 8: The Second Bridge

And here I am in the marathon race, an hour has passed while running. We are approaching the bridge we had crossed into Oceanport earlier. It is crossing the same bridge twice. I am aware of the significance of this landmark, and am happy it means the Oceanport stage is over. I celebrate in my mind this end of the stage. Usually the main stages I look forward to finishing are the five, ten, half marathon, fifteen, twenty miles. But this stage of the bridge is special.

At this moment I am feeling good to be going up the bridge. The experience of the slight breeze hitting your face, the amazing view of the ocean and horizon from ahead, make me excited.

I am running ahead of the pacer group and feel at ease. After this it is a long straight run. Not on one single road, there are many twists and turns. And if you look on the map it is onward to Asbury Park, which is on the opposite end.

This bridge has rails and I do not have the same luxurious view of the scenery as the other bridge. We have a swarm of runners coming on our left entering this neighborhood, these runners began after us. And hey they are the half marathoners, who started half an hour after us. The running bibs for the half marathoners are different, we have blue and they have orange color. There is lot of shouts and encouragement passing from the groups towards one another.

It is just amazing and a coincidence that I spot Patricia and shout and call her, she does the same at the same time. It is marvelous to see someone you came together with for the race. After not spotting many of our friends in the New York marathon it is a surprise now to me, that I saw her there. Patricia is one person, who has run many marathons, is a source of information of wide variety, an animal lover; she is a source of good energy and my motivation guru. Seeing her on that bridge is a great feeling. We high five and move forward with our races. More on Patricia later, we had run last year too, on that hot marathon day.

And then double surprise, there is Laura, she shouts encouragement, I also holler. I believe one of the main reasons to find each other was we were running wearing our Jersey City runner tee shirts and could spot each other.

One of my most memorable meetings during a race was with Li a fellow Jersey City runner, in the New York 13.1 at Flushing park in April 2011. She saw me, paused and jumped straight up a few feet. It was an amazing positive feeling. That leap I can compare to Phil Mickelson’s jump up, his winning leap when he won his first Masters in 2004. Golf was my passion before I took up running. I could not improve that. I believe that with my new fitness, if I put the same effort I can do much better now.

This New York 13.1 at Flushing park half marathon has four loops. Sometimes when you criss-cross you are running facing other runners, on different sections, either behind or ahead of you. It is a continuous blur of action. Many people do not like such loops. I am one of the few who love loops and repetitive running. I say it helps me to know the exact way I can pace myself by repetition. I focus, zip up my posture and run faster on the straight. On the turns, slowing down I take deep breaths and relax. Then regain the relaxation, focusing and posturing again. One turn at a time….

And I am wearing my Jersey City runner tee shirts. I have had people call out “Go Jersey City”, my bib number “159”, even my name “Jitendra” in small lettering on that bib. People who are shouting encouragements read the runners bib numbers or signs on the t-shirt to give encouragement. Having been to races as a spectator, I would say the marathon race is a spectator sport.

Whirring down the bridge, meeting my encouraging co-runners I am feeling Great, the pinnacle of my running feeling. I let myself keep rolling as I see the pacing group fall behind. Let me keep up my pace I reason, they will catch me later to reel me in when I slow down. I swing straight down and am on Atlantic Avenue, a quarter mile turn is going to be the Long Branch avenue. The neighborhood is changing. Earlier we had more trees and opened out neighborhood. The roads were quieter and smaller and there was less traffic. I know that at the Mile 9 marker we have the relay changing station.

The Port Au Peck Bridge, I like that name. It is a local name for the town. Maybe something to do with Port as it is near the ocean. It has got the rhyme and it gave me the rhythm!

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Thoughts on running

This section is a diversion from the race details. The thought of running back and forth on the bridges lead me to write this to fill more in this adventure.

Time management, prioritizing or focusing—call what you may—are but a way to solve such a situation on our time and resources. You can say that here is a man facing a crisis, of demands on too few resources. Our life is a constant battle against time, money and/or some other precious little resource. The choices or the decisions we make determine not only the quality of life we live but also the course of our lives. Only wisdom can discern which one is the tiger eating goat, or goat eating the bundle of grass. Faced with such a loss we need to manage our situations. That man with the tiger, goat and a bundle of grass puzzle is a metaphor for the decisions we face. Heh heh! Looking back, there is more to this than just a puzzle.

I was trying to fill in time in this write up, but yes finding time to do the practice runs is juggling and balancing your time. Having a great set of running buddies makes it easier to commit to your runs.

I like to think of my running of how determined or stubborn I can be, in a way knowing more about myself. By getting perspective of exercise and health from talking, discussing, reading and thinking, I would say my running is mainly for relaxation, it’s a great stress buster and gives me good health. Running the marathon and achieving a personal best is for self-satisfaction.

One may play the edges of the body and the mind but I agree that there is no need to push over them if you know the pain can injure you. If you need to slow down and adjust according to the circumstances then that is a wise decision to live and race another day. You never need to stress and sweat over meeting a timeline which is for your own personal satisfaction. Hey if it gets you stress then it is not helping my goal of busting stress. Being competitive is good to achieve some goals but is not going to give you an Olympic medal or pay your rent.

Having said that, at times when I am tired and feeling like to stop or slow down, by just hanging in there and waiting for my second wind is what keeps me pushing on and going. With experience I have found that one can hang in there and get your speed, pace and energy back. And what do I mean by second wind, it is that after all the strength is gone, all of a sudden your breathing comes back. With experience you just know the “second wind” will come soon and one is rarely wrong.

Slowing down a little and keep breathing usually does the trick. More oxygen gives the body strength to recuperate and rejuvenate. You have done your training, done this distance before, the endurance, you have been there. With training and practice, one knows that lowering your pace one can relax to keep going on. Earlier when I was a beginner one thought of the distance as a limit but having crossed that barrier one can stop panicking and wait to feel better.

While running and overcoming tired feelings, distractions or visualizations are a great help for me. How I run, when I run I sometimes try to use a relaxed, flowing, running image in my mind. Even if my running is crabby in comparison, I would like to see myself running easily like the Kenyans, smooth animal strides. Well they are leaping forward like the antelopes; I know this would create injuries. I would say relaxed natural running without tension and easy movement of joints.

You have to have faith and believe in miracles and thinking that you are feeling good. I would say one needs to give yourself breaks and not be very rigid over deadlines either in your training or in the race.

Reading the Chi Running book I have made myself stand taller, feel taller and at the same time keeping the body relaxed. In my postural alignment I try to have the neck, hips and ankles in a straight line. Keeping shoulders down and relaxed, chin straight I am reminded while stationery to look down and see my laces to find if I am not leaning too back. Holding the lower abs and pelvic higher but not out in front, pushing the butt back. A little counter intuitive, but this works for me.

While running faster I use the body lean forward, at the same time keeping straight alignment of neck, spine, hips and ankles, with no bending at hips. Another thing about body balance which I understood more after playing the Nintendo Wii game. While playing games and doing exercises on the balance board, you need to tilt your body towards one side or the other. Earlier intuitively I only thought of tilting and I used to press left side or right side with the feet, and that did not get me the result. Instead unless I tilted or swayed on my legs I got the result on the screen. That was a big feedback for me, that in getting the right balance you need to move a part physically, however small.

Taking body straight alignment from head to toe, I figured very late, that the knees are flexible and should not be considered while you are imagining a straight alignment. In your mind’s eye one needs to draw a straight line from the hips to the ankles, without going via the knee because that is a little bent. Take your alignment straight through the air and feel the ankles in line.

Keeping a level chin and keeping proper chin alignment is another posture trait I am still working at. Now when I start training to get towards the correct straight posture I stand straight, pull my neck back and try to level my chin to look straight. Earlier I had a habit keeping my head up, which resulted in my chin up while running or I used to hang my neck forward trying to peer ahead. And looking down while running means you are tired, you need to keep your eyes straight and run with your eyes.

I try doing my neck exercises and am still trying to keep the chin straight during running, walking or sitting. I would like to believe it shall make a big difference to my running. Having a good form converts to better efficiency and less effort, resulting in less injuries and faster pace. Look up while running does not mean, chin up, but chin straight.

Making changes felt strange when I went through them. The way elite runners’ run is that they have larger strides. Running like them is still not possible, but I have been practicing increasing my stride backwards in increments. For that I need to stop doing my slow shuffle and pick my heels up the way these good runners do. This is a work in progress as this needs effort and work.

The pace increases while doing good form, but to keep up with the pace the body needs to do more work, so you need more oxygen. You need more strength too to keep running at a faster pace.

By utilizing the diaphragm and increasing the efficiency of lungs helps maintain the tempo of good breathing. Earlier I used to huff, puff and pant while putting more effort in my running. Now unless I am sprinting to a finish I do not breathe like a fish out of water. Getting my breathing better is going to make the run better as it will allow more work to be done by the body.

When following the instruction in videos or making any changes to my pose after reading well written suggestions, I have become wiser in making these in very small increments. Usually it looks, sounds and feels so nice when you see or read something which is a good technique explained very well. You seem to have an aha moment as if that is going to work on you and is the missing link in your training. This I have learnt after trial, error and facing injuries. Your body gives feedback when you do changes and when you are running. I try to be very much aware and scan every part of my body from toe to head, every little and single part as much I can remember in my routine. The aha moments come and go and get assimilated in the running.

The body scans besides giving relaxation makes every part aware of its function and make corrections. If you are feeling any stiffness and soreness, making your mind focus on relaxation on that part can help make it recover. This is easier said than done many will say, but being aware of the issues which create the pain of that part helps in making you focus to relax that part.

A quote I like is that relaxation is absence of extra effort. There is no extra effort I guess than just to remember that body part and make it move easily. Any stiffness is tension, keeping it easy and relaxed means being aware it is not tense.

In my mind I have what I imagine I run. I practice my posture in my mind. I practice my races imagining that I am there before; making it easier during the real race. When I am very relaxed while mentally preparing for the race, I try to practice my runs in my mind’s eye. So I remember what I need to work on. Usually it is simple things like keeping correct posture or increasing the distance

In the Chi Running book by Danny Dreyer I follow, I keep going through the Chapter 4 Techniques, and Chapter 5 Transition into and out. I believe and advise that beginners may benefit from reading these type of things to work on their running posture and form. For me it gives me new running thoughts, focus and planning when I go to run. There is a life / philosophy / mind / body approach the author of Chi Running takes, if you follow it then it comes together. By the way, please note that not all are impressed with this technique & philosophy.

More in the Appendix — Running Form, compiled with help from the web. & another Appendix — Thoughts on running, training and life balance

Running a marathon is an experience, every jogger can’t dream of being an Olympic champion, but he can dream of finishing a marathon. Some people joke that running the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over. Basically the body does not want you to do running at times.

Here I would say that, the runners high you get is something only one can experience after finishing a hard run race. And especially it multiplies exponentially if you are there with runner friends.

Annabelle, a fellow runner said this wonderful thing: The beauty of this sport is although it is an individual sport; it is definitely a team effort.

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Mile 9: Relay station

The relay changing station is a festive place. In the NJ marathon, this is the first of many places you see the big crowd and hear the buzz a street event generates. As you approach the area, the crowds overwhelm you. I pick my feet and try and bring my best foot forward in this stretch.

I have never run a relay but we have talked about running a longer one which may entail a few more runners. There is the fun and flavor and excitement of the camaraderie of a team relay event. The Long Branch relay is a Half Marathon Relay. It runs on the same course, and at the same time, as the half marathon. The Half Marathon Relay enables some runners with shorter distances experience to get the half-marathon experience. Some businesses sponsor their employees. Family members and friends work together to finish the 13.1 miles to be fun and achievable for the casual runner / walker by breaking up the distance between two people. There are prizes here too, so do not be surprised if we have good runners here. Sometimes while running I have been surprised by fresh and fast runners. I tried to keep with them in previous years and found that yes they were the relay runners, a faster runner running the second lap of the relay.

This stretch has the people lined up deep till the corner which is Broadway. On Broadway the road is inclined. The cheering of the crowds helps me push ahead. There are the shops on Broadway and ahead is the first food station which gives you cut oranges. I pick two slices and suck the juice and pulp. Bless the person who kept it ice cool and refreshing to taste. Here I must add that ice cold water and drinks help the body to cool down. I always try to slosh some cool water down my head. And I must mention I always get my hair cut short to keep a cool head, temperature wise too.

Less than a quarter mile on Broadway we turn left, on to a boulevard called third Avenue. I have always like running here. One, the incline is over, the crowd has thinned, and you are going down slope. I like running downhill as I can concentrate on breathing deep and getting rested for the push later on. Whenever there is less effort I am aware that I need to breathe deep, I am reminded of my friend Scott’s advice that breathing well much before the effort is always a great thing to bank. I feel good to take the twists and right turn at this place. This neighborhood with lined trees is a little different experience as it is a long smooth curve. The crowd has been left behind in the market side. I run on the extreme left side of the road hugging the pavement. Somehow running the pavements and roads in our daily runs has got me more used to running on the side of the road. Not an advisable thing for running as road camber is more at the sides. Luckily I have no injury issues with camber, the slight angle/ arch from middle to sides of the road.

I am running alone on this stretch. I have not tried looking back to see where my pacing group is. I know I am running eight minute miles, so I have been gaining on them. I was with them at mile eight. I feel good that mile ten is coming up and I am ahead.

Somehow in a race, I feel happier banking this time, knowing I will run slower later. Most experts do not advice running faster in the first half of the race; they say every mile run fast in first half you lose double that time in the second half when you slow down.

I have run a few races and feel that my race times are doing well with the way I am running, so I am going to let this strategy of running for now. I usually follow the same stuff which has worked for me with small tweaks.

The tendency of one object to force another adjoining or interconnected object into vibrational motion is referred to as forced vibration or resonance. Examples of resonance are musical instruments, tuning forks where when one object vibrating at the same natural frequency of a second object forces that second object into vibrational motion. I studied science and mechanical engineering and worked with automobiles so bear a little more this lesson on physics. In physics, resonance is the tendency of a system to oscillate at greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others. When two bodies are resonating at smaller frequencies, even small periodic driving forces can produce large amplitude oscillations, because the system stores vibrational energy. The tendency of one object to force another adjoining or interconnected object into vibrational motion is referred to as a forced vibration. In a car at a certain speed or frequency you may find some part of the car vibrating, which when you bring the speed up or down vanishes.

I like to think of resonance in running as matching paces with a fellow runner, where the frequency of the other person’s steps helps me to be pulled along. The beat of the footsteps makes running effortless. For this your running style and frequency should match else this does not work for me.

I talk to a fellow runner, with whom I am resonating paces for some time now. By resonating I mean, I am running matching strides with another runner and we are running abreast.

Basically it means that one body resonating can help another and I derive energy from fellow runners. Or as Lou says the pacer carries you along with his or her pace. Again this does not occur with every runner or at every event. It requires relaxation! I was happy that I had the same cadence as the pacer Manyath Gavaskar who was running the 3 hours forty minute pace for us.

At a separate point in the race, there was another runner whose cadence was very mixed up and I fell out of my rhythm. That made me feel extremely odd and tired, I was happy that I could recoup my composure but the feeling from the other runner was bad and sapped me and left me with negative energy.

Most times you get good vibrations from fellow runners. Ever since I started running at a faster pace I have found that runners are more serious and you need to respect their privacy. A word or two of encouragement or greeting is okay but any more than that may be rebuffed as one is trying to conserve the energy for running. There are runners who do not acknowledge the presence of others too.

Usually I like to talk and answer people. I had a great time in my first marathon when I chatted with many people along the way. This time I have been running a pace which is almost three minutes faster per mile. Well, I ran the first marathon at a eleven minute per mile pace, now I am running three minute per mile faster. Wow that is a big change of pace and attitude in runners right there. The eleven minute pace is more recreational in nature for some, it is a good pace I am extremely proud of which I will run again to enjoy another race. That year I swapped stories with runners the way we in India talk when we are on a train, like where are you from, what do you do, who is here with you, how many marathons, pull each other’s legs on what one is wearing. I used to be not knowing anything then and its another story of what I was wearing then. Running shoes bought in Sears which looked like basketball shoes and a nice green polo shirt, looked I was going to golf or play basketball.

I remember this stretch well from the last few runs. Earlier it was a double loop so I have run through this place many times. This was the place I had to start doing run/ walk to finish my race last year as it was very hot and we had sapped all our energy. The last three miles had me doing one minute walk per mile then. In the first ever training run I did here, this place had a nice table of goodies and food with the water refreshments.

There were stronger runners passing by and seeing guys like us walk had offered that we tag along with their pace. Yes, there are good guys out there who will give you a hand. I take back my words on some runners being unfriendly or self-absorbed I said a little while earlier. There are all types of people who run this race. Maybe many do not talk much; maybe they do not run with friends or running buddies.

Where I run in Jersey City, we have our support group of the Jersey City runners. Running is a social event for us most times. Go for a jog, meet friends, have a long chat, sometimes do some quick runs, and hey presto your exercise is done. One of the main things I concentrate on these runs while talking is to look straight ahead and maintain form. While talking one has a habit of looking at the other person by turning your neck and sometimes half your body turns around, that is not a good thing and every good runner will agree.

After this stretch of Second Avenue you turn left at Brighton Avenue. Earlier the New Jersey Marathon was a double loop and the race went back earlier to the waterfront. This time the marathon is run onwards to Asbury Park and we shall be running on Ocean Avenue. I dread the Ocean avenue stretch, more about it later. That is the real race.

I start talking with this person running besides me as we were running and matching steps for over ten minutes now. He has run Boston he says, wow I say you qualified Boston, man I want to keep with you for another five miles and then would see what happens. It is not my day today, I will be lucky to keep up with you is his reply. I feel this guy is humble and saying this to pep me up. We go on together for another mile and my friend is slowing down, he tells me to go ahead. I take his leave wish him the best, and move on. So, I have been running with a Boston qualifier for some time now, a mile or more, and he surprises me by saying that I should go ahead. And I have planned that mile twelve to twenty is the real race for me, where I should not lose time if I needed to meet my goal.

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Mile 12: Ocean Avenue begins

I am running on the Ocean Avenue now. The road stretches straight and far far ahead. There are no trees to shade. It is a bald straight road and going straight up. I just see the inclines and feel the inclines in my eyes and brain. I know this road is rolling up and down, but my vision always sees the slight slope up. And where there is a slope up there should be a down, right? But the illusion your tiredness create and hey I don’t see any downward running road. It is like those pictures, those crazy pictures of isometric illusions which show different shapes matching backwards etc.

And there is this road I am running on which always seems to have an upward slope. During the training run I felt that coming back would be a breeze. Guess what! The slope and incline now was on the way back. Then I had felt disappointed and not happy. Oh the mind games that goes through your efforts. During my mental preparation for the NJ marathon I played this stretch in my mind and prayed I would overcome my fear and phobia.

I switch off my mind and focus on my strengths to keep going.  For some local reason, there is a peculiar course turn on this long road. We cut right and take a loop of an inland water lake. Not exactly a lake, it is joined to the sea, but we loop around this water body which is around a quarter mile in perimeter. In this entire melee I see a couple of fishermen trying their luck. There is a marathon on, so much disturbance, I think that should disturb the fish not to come this side, but how should I know that.

How is the fishing I ask one of them. He cheers me on. That conversation helps me roll ahead; else this is such a stretch which gets you irritated and a bit angry. A lot of times you just like to run straight, seeing people ahead whom you are following. But here, wait you got to loop a long way. It throws your rhythm off. I am rounding off this small loop, I have passed two runners on this, the third one talks with me, his name is Tom, we exchange courtesies. Nice day, no wind, good run. He smiles and we lumber on.

I am passing other runners slowly. There are very few runners I see on the course now. I am running basically on my own. There is a runner who is some twenty or more steps ahead of me and I can see another one more ahead. At this time I am just thinking of keeping myself going on this incline and not to get tired. It is going well I try to say to myself.

My mental preparation seem to be working, surprisingly I do not have either positive or negative feelings here. It is just me and the course. I am not trying to focus on anything I have written on my hands about posture in this section. I am just trying to remain calm and it is working. The sun is bearing on my head, the undulating road is straight and I am moving on it.

I am approaching the midway mark. I have not seen the lead runners start coming back, so I have not been lapped yet. I know that my half marathon time will easily be much below two hours. The lead runner will be running two hours twenty minutes for the course. I have seen the map that the half marathon mark is after mile twenty three of the marathon race.

The marathon makes its way back on the same road. I have Lou ahead of me on the course. I think about him thinking he must be way ahead. I am hoping that Matt will catch me soon. For now I am not daunted that I have half the race to finish. I am breathing easy and things are good. I remember the previous year, and yes that was a hard race. At the half way mark I was tired, you knew you had to make a great effort, and it was hot. Today it is cool and I am enjoying the run instead of thinking about the effort.

I pass the thirteen mile mark in good spirits.

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Mile 13.1: Halfway through

A little surprising that in my way of running I totally forget I crossed the mark. So I am not sure whether there was a marker but I have a chip time in my results which show it as 1:48:03, a 8:15 min per mile pace. At that time I know that the half way mark must have been crossed sometime. Maybe there was a mark, maybe there was not, I think. The sun was shining, it was not hot or warm for me, the road stretched ahead and I kept going.

The half way mark is always a big stage, but I usually count the five, ten, fifteen and twenty miles as big stages as I take the race five miles at a time as for me its easier to think something on those terms. I knew I was below one hour fifty minutes for the half, as that was the time my pace group was running at as an even pace. I felt good to finish the half marathon ahead of the planned split time.

Right now, there was no thought in my mind of the finish or the finish time. I was in a right frame of mind. I was not thinking much. There was no stress of running the marathon. On hindsight that was the reason I had such a good time. I ran the race one mile at a time. I was at the right focus I wanted to be, just being relaxed and running. And yes I had forgotten that the road was sloping up and down. That issue was over for now. I was on cruise control in this section, my mental preparation had worked big time.

Everyone should just focus on small goals rather than getting daunted by the big ones. Those will make you tired or give thoughts like how will I do it, how long to go, will I be tired. For me I did not care what was going to be happening next, I mean I did but I felt I would cross that bridge when it approached. In any case I knew I had done the marathon before in tougher circumstances and I could definitely walk it, crawl it, no way there was any chance I would not finish now. Right now my training was standing strong.

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Mile 15: Focus, no excuses

Here I should say or repeat I love focuses and if I were ever to get a tattoo, which I would say never, it will be there on my hand, right in front of my eyes, “Focus”! and “No Excuses” comes a close second. If I were to ask for a wish, the gadget like the watch, Garmin 405 which I wear for training and pedometer purposes, should be able to remind me the text messages with focuses. Better still there could be a reminder with my calendar to give me these messages at the times I set.

Some would say that a smart phone may already have all these applications. But a watch and smart phone are worn differently. Even if you use an arm band for the phone, you are not able to balance or watch it nowhere near a watch. Plus the way I run is on balance. Even carrying a wallet like object in my pocket, holding a water bottle or power aid drink disturbs my balance. My relaxation or my chi energy flow is interfered!

I have been ahead of the pacer and the pack and am happy I have banked time. I do not think I have the mental and physical toughness to do negative splits, where you run the second part of the race faster than the first. Once behind, for me the effort starts dropping. For me the race is run in the mind. If I feel good I feel even if the body is not so much good, I may get a second wind and start doing better. But at the same time I have been trying different things on most fronts so someday I will be a negative split runner. I have tried things on nutrition and carrying energy gel packs with me. I have not practiced drinking Gatorade so I give that a miss in the cool aid stations.

I ate my first gel after the first hour of running, around mile 9. Energy gels give me caffeine and hundred calories which perk me up. For the uninitiated an Energy gel is a gel or paste which provides carbohydrates to the body. Energy gels are available in gel packets. The packet can be peeled off at a notch on top and an intake of energy gel has to be followed with a drink of water. And they have sodium and potassium too, great to balance the fluids in the body and prevent muscles from cramping. Some gels have caffeine, for me a habitual tea/ coffee drinker that is a definite performance booster.

If the body runs low on carbohydrates, runners commonly experience hitting the wall and hence perform carbohydrate loading; good nutrition in the race and leading to the race can help a lot to achieve optimal performance. Here I must say that I feel the gel has a funny medicinal taste. Gel type of stuff is available in different forms too, like chewy stuff or even as Jelly Beans.

Usually I do not get any rush immediately after eating a gel as some others say, but I feel ok. Over a period of running I have found it helps. Maybe if I did not have it I may not feel this good is my reasoning. I have two more gels in my pocket which I shall eat in 45 minutes intervals. It takes around 15 to 30 min for the nutrition to kick in is my thinking.

I miss the glucose and lemon mix we used to have when playing sports in my college. But now no one takes glucose. Some articles are vehemently against glucose saying we need the sugar from carbohydrates not the sugar from glucose. Anyway why argue, these gels have to be sold. These gels I feel are costly, I cannot think how they can cost more than a dollar. Someday I will open a factory to produce this stuff, but by that time the price will come down.

I have been drinking water at every drink station and am well hydrated. Some water I slosh on my head. It helps your body temperature to cool down. And yes, I had gone for a haircut a few days before, shorter hair to keep the head cooler.

There are gels available supplied by the sponsors. I am running with the brand I have trained with so I pass ahead. I am feeling satisfied with how the half marathon has gone for me.

The race for me is now. This is the real part which is till mile twenty, which is my race. Everyone talks about the hitting the runner’s wall after mile 20. But at that time I try to imagine that as coming home to the finish line. The finish line magnet pulls you home.

I am trying to focus on my running form. My center and posture is held with my lower abs, and I am running the way I have been visualizing and training. Here I must say that my form and posture it is still a work of progress for me. In the ideal state of my run the movement on focus and relaxation and would be based of the center. This is the dantien or chi as in the way of tai-chi. When it is correctly done the movement is relaxed and the stress on the body is lower. Trying hard to keep the body in motion does not work in the same way as reaching for the feeling of moving strongly through the center strength and keeping the limbs relaxed. I have been trying to move with this concept and have seen good results.

Again, it takes many thousands and thousands of steps to achieve muscle memory to repeat the same steps. Just like in golf the swing is perfected by practicing it thousands of times on the range, the correct technique should be learnt for any sport by doing repetitive action in training. Doing it correctly and efficiently means your stress level and effort is lower. Having less stress shall definitely allow you to hold the posture correctly.

Another effort for me is to keep the foot fall and foot pick up correct. I have been practicing to keep a neutral flex of my feet and to make it fall mid foot strike.

A lot of times just knowing that my center of mass and hips are on top or just ahead of where the foot strikes the ground helps me in checking that my feet are striking right. I am not having any braking force to my motion and one is moving ahead with light steps. This is my goal when I visualize my rhythm in my running. Light running and my feet skimming over water. Just like the stones skimming when you throw it with perfect flat accuracy, they go on and on and do not drown or slump in the water. I imagine running across water and stepping lightly.

Neck is straight, chin is parallel, eyes are looking straight ahead effortlessly running forward. I like the visualization of the bungee cord pulling my chest from a distance. I imagine using the external force, the forward pull of gravity and lean helping me when I get perfect balance sometimes.

And I say that you run with your eyes by gazing ahead and directing your energy through your eyes. I have seen the good athletes, the soccer stars, the baseball hitters and their eyes. It is the y’chi concept that you can direct your energy thorough your eyes. Hey, any concept any direction, any prayer any story, any encouragement on the run and I will take that energy to go forward.

Thoughts motivate me, more about that later. I shall use them in the last few miles.

I always want to tell my body that I will not let anything disturb me or slow me down, it shall be me and my will only which should affect me. Not the weather hot or cold or the wind, or the terrain, I should be feeling good. When I am feeling healthy I say that I train for a desire and hunger to run the marathon race. Here I do not want to say that I am being narcissistic, I have got overtaken by the flow of words. A marathon race is a long race, it is a distance you respect and you train for this journey. It’s a journey which tells you a lot about yourself. This you can analyze later, for the time being it is you, your body and the race.

Mile 17:

I am running and surprising myself. I know that this is the toughest part of the race for me. Sooner or later I shall start feeling more from the effort. I keep going on till mile seventeen. Every water stop I take water and slosh some of it on my head. Keeping my body and head cool has been part of my effort. I am very happy when I get ice cold water on this cold day. Not every stop and every glass is chilled water. Every person or volunteer needs to make extra effort to provide such services. Chilled freezing ice water goes a large way in bringing my temperatures down. I put ice cubes on my head inside my running hat too. I have been getting a finisher’s hat from the NJ marathon in the previous years. Initially I did not realize how good this hat was for running. I was disappointed that the hat they gave us was not of high quality micro fiber. It had more of a synthetic feel. After running hundreds of mile wearing these hats I found it suited me very much. One, it fitted my head so strong winds could not dislodge it from my head. That is a very plus thing for a hat, as strong gusts of wind easily remove hats off. Secondly, I can easily pour ice and water inside the hat and wear it. It cools down my head. Less body temperatures while running helps a long way in keeping good functioning of the heart beat and effort.

I know I run well when it is slightly drizzling and moist and the humidity is higher. I see the result in my heart rate monitor shows my heart rate is low.

While I am happily running, I do not try to look at my heart rate or speed on my watch. There are different screens on my watch where I can glance how I am doing, consciously I try not to look at my watch. I have discussed this aspect with Lou and agree that we waste time trying to follow this.

I can look up at the large watch timers on the course. Doing mental mathematics I can calculate how I am doing overall. Usually sometimes you want to figure out the last mile pace to benchmark the effort. For now my efforts show that I am slowing down compared to the pace I was running five miles back. Though I am still around my marathon pace goal.

Mentally I am gunning for another milestone of my race. This section of the race is being run on the waterfront stretch of Asbury Park. I am seeing the faster runners returning. I want to be on the way back as soon as I can.

Maybe I have told you that seeing faster runners on the course does not help me run faster, it shows that I am far behind. One thing which has helped me is the realization that the effort the racer who stand first and last in the race may be the same. The person who is winning and coming first the body is crying on him too. That person is feeling the same discomfort as any of the other person on the course who is trying to do their best effort.

To get your personal optimal best performance your effort needs to be more than what you are comfortable with. For me I try to come out of my comfort zone especially when I am doing good. When I am running well I try to match paces and strides with better runners to go ahead. But right now I am working hard to keep up. Seeing the faster runners coming back I too want to be on the way back. I know that the turning point is not far away now. Now I realize that I was very lucky to overcome one of the biggest mistakes I made in my mental preparation for this race.

This is a mistake I will not want to repeat again in the next races. I had prepared very well for the first half and knew the distances and locations of different landmarks. In fact you run from one landmark to another. Here I had not committed to heart this part of the race especially where the turn to come back was in terms of mileage. This was because we never ran this section in our training run which was only twenty miles. This section was the six miles I had missed. I was guessing when the turn would come. I am hoping Matt Caulfield is following nearby and run with me.

I realize now that I like to plan my thinking for the race, anything other which comes up and does not agree makes me anxious. Here I wanted to know where the turn back to come was, and not knowing when it would come. The runners’ running back and we are running on the same waterfront stretch.

All of a sudden I see Lou in an orange t-shirt coming towards us and raising his hand. In typical Lou fashion of running he swings in an arc and reaches towards my side. I also like to run in that style of taking a curve rather than turn suddenly. We high five, shout encouragements and move on. Meeting another runner you run with in your training runs gives a lot of encouragement. Lou is a faster runner whose help and guidance and speed work has always helped me. His presence energizes me to move forward.

The road turns right into a residential area taking a loop around a park. And then the runners come back on this same waterfront road. I lumber my way forward and do my motions and come back on the same way after finishing the loop. A little forward and there is yet another mini loop. I finish this one and go forward. The waterfront road does not go straight but turns slightly for another run inside. I have been waiting impatiently to see if I shall be turning back.

On the aftermath I realize that this sort of seeing people in front of me is not conducive to my efforts, it saps my mental energy or it could be that my body was tired.

Meanwhile I see that this loop structure has helped some supporters to meet their runners again and again. These supporters have been running along and meeting them multiple times. I think the turn back is not far away. But it seems there are still more turns. This is the roughest part of my run.

My foot seems to tell me that there are blisters under my sole. I have never had blisters. I think the skin under my sole must be peeling off. It bothers me, but I say to myself that I am on my way and whatever happens just keep going on. And there is yet another turn into the neighborhood from the waterfront.

————-

Mile 19: Turning back line

I realize I had not seen the map well. I had expected a straight run and back. I also had not noted down the mile we would make the turn back. Later on I see on the map it was around mile 19. Had I noted and memorized these key features of the course I would have been stoically running along waiting patiently for the marker.

One of the reasons I can run the last few miles without bonking or hitting the wall is that I know the race will finish at 26.2. As the mile markers keep progressing you have an idea how more you need to run.

Doing all these turns I had been glancing to and fro and had spotted the pacing group. I had been slowing down and they had been catching up. Reflecting back this slowing down happened because my mind played too many games of not being happy with these twists and turns I did not anticipate. I am soldiering on and sense that the pacer and the group is nearby.

Joining the pacer group I keep going on. I think the others are running strong. Everyone is looking strong. We must be less than ten of us now. The race turns to the waterfront. There are lots and lots of people on the boardwalk and cheering. Nice light sunlight and the wind is very less, but there is a slight wind. The sightseers are wearing jackets, it is a little chilly.

For me it is perfect running temperature in the fifties. No wind would be ideal for running but I am feeling a little better towards good now. Great is my best feeling when I can run without effort, but now I am feeling much better than ok.

Running on the waterfront boardwalk I can feel the wooden planks under my shoes. I like the feeling of the wooden planks, some runners do not as it was not a smooth plank path. I run on a straight line on the wooden planks, focusing my footsteps to run straight. Luckily for me the planks have a straight line of travel, assisting my focus of traveling and pronating straight.

I try to keep the pronation of my feet straight. I visualize running on a tight rope. My feet are onto the imaginary line’s left and right. Slowly I get my body relaxation back and focus on my relaxing every body digit from the toes, feet, ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, pelvic, abs and center, chest, shoulder and neck, chin to the top of my head.

I get my straight alignment of neck, hip and ankle to my satisfaction, and work on my breathing pattern to get as much air into my system. I count my steps to get my cadence right and I am back to running good.

I get my second wind. Back from the mental tiredness of the dead back to living and I am running good. I have not even looked at the runner’s coming back. I have just kept with the pacing group.

Meanwhile I have drunk some water, refused the gels offered at the aid stations. I have practiced on chocolate gu, they were offering vanilla. I am sensitive in my mind to eat only what I want. I refuse all the other offerings of fruits, m&ms, chocolate candies, jelly beans and other goodies. I look for pretzels or for salt and carbohydrates intake but do not find any in this section.

Someone was sprinkling water spray on runners which I avoided by taking the wide loop around them. I had discussed with Lou that I would not be getting doused with water spray. The previous two marathons I had lost my toe nails. A lot of runners lose toe nails after the race. I had planned that running socks and shoes getting wet would be avoided by me this time.

I was sensing that the turning back was not far now. We were going under pier bridge structures where there were big crowds. We passed maybe a few of these. Some places even had food and refreshments under these big structures. It was a refreshing place to run for me. For some reason it gave me the same cool feeling as like on a hot day you come inside an air conditioned building. Going under a few hundred feet of large hanger like covering gave me rejuvenation.

The turning back line was finally in front! I whew a sigh of relief, punch my right arm in the air as I swing around the turn. A major milestone of my race is finally over.

I run smoothly on the Asbury Park waterfront. I am stepping lightly and the form is feeling great. I tell myself it is back to the finish now, while trying to overcome the little anxiety about what will happen.

I have run the race in my target time up till now and am expecting to see what happens next, as a third of the race is still to be run by me. Some of us divide the race in three parts, the first 10 miles, the next 10 miles and the last 10 km (6.2 miles).

————-

Mile 20: Asbury Park Waterfront

We have just done mile 20. An important stage is over for me. The race is on and the last six plus miles to be run.

The major twists and turns of the mile 15 to 19, are not there anymore as we are running straight. By that I mean the small loops inside the neighborhoods we had done before. The waterfront road does turn with the shape of the waterfront but there are no neighborhoods in the water.

I see Matt running from the other side. He is not far behind me, I think around the distance I was from Lou. I shout encouragement that he should catch up with me. He says something like not feeling well, but he is looking running fine to me.

I go on my race, and go under the few big structures on the waterfront where we go under a roof. I feel better after running under them. My running is looking much better now.

I try to move ahead by keeping pace with runners who are passing us. One runner I try keeping pace and my rhythm goes awry. The cadence of the other runner just does not match mine. I lose my steps, get tired and fall back. Luckily for me, it is definitely my day as our pacing group is behind and I step right back with them.

Our group has become smaller and there are other persons on the group. We share hellos and running with the pacer.

We are with a pacer. What pace you are running is the general query from spectators and other runners on the course. Everyone is trying to figure out where the runners lie on the course. Hearing the pacer repeat 3:40 many times, I also chime in at times. Maybe that helped, maybe the steady running, I get my pace and run easily. I chat with fellow runners and our pacer, the cheerful Manyath Gavaskar.

The sun is shining on us, it is the winter sun which is weak, does not give much warmth but does spreads cheer and light. I breathe in the fresh cool air and feel good on this stretch. The waterfront portion is finishing and we need to turn onwards to the long Ocean Avenue, not lined with shade giving trees to be termed as a boulevard.

I try to forget the blister I may be developing under my foot, which I had felt around mile 17, but which has not troubled me any more. I start using all my motivating thoughts in the next few miles.

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The Wall: Climb it, and thoughts to summon effort

There are different things written about hitting the runner’s wall which you encounter around mile 22. Some or many runners feel the sudden hit of their bodies giving up. And after that is supposed to be a tough painful journey to the finish.

Usually it shows up as sudden fatigue and loss of energy during the race. A brief rest, reducing intensity of running, the ingestion of food or drinks containing carbohydrates may be good remedy for this. Lot of runners say that they had cramps, which made them stop, walk or shuffle.

I think it is that sometimes the body does not do your bidding.  A lot of runners are not able to train fully for the marathon, and are not sure how they will do at the end.

In my first race I kept waiting for the wall to hit me. Like in any exercise or game I was tired at the end, trudging along and I found that I was running evenly and faster. The last two miles turned out heavenly in the sense that I knew that I am going to finish and finish strong. I thoroughly enjoyed the waterfront view and the cheering crowds at the finish.

The year before in May 2010 the race had been run on a hot day. I had run and walked the last few miles. It had not been pleasant running but knowing how I had fared in that heat gave me confidence that I could survive well at the end. I have written earlier too and have a feeling that knowing there is a finish at a certain distance gives me the hope; that there is an end where the pain will be finally over. Having undergone long distance training runs I know I can definitely sustain myself to the end. I will quote what my runner friends say – there is a large finish line magnet at the finish line, the finish line magnet shall reel you in like a fish reel.

About running and walking I had mentioned earlier that in I was earlier using the Galloway run walk method and had finished my first marathon using a run walk strategy.

I think about how far I have come in my running journey where I do not run walk any more. For that I remember and thank my Jersey City running buddy Brigitte. She ran regular and steadily without stopping, I started keeping up and that finally cured me of running and walking. And with Brigitte are other fellow JC runners Nadia, David, Abhi, Andrew, Ilya, Jacob, Hristo, Charlene, Jackie, Laura, Julie, Li and many others with whom I shared the meetup runs which helped me keep motivated to run and complete my weekly mileage and training runs.

I think of some instances of special runs, like really cold days, or the cold blustering windy day with wind gusts which pushed us back. On a rainy day David said he will be there come what matters, and then Paul, Colleen, Will, Matt and me went on to run in Liberty park in pouring rain. I think about people like Nadia, Anna, Lou, Sunil, Ravi and others who commute to come and run with us, that gives me motivation. So I tell myself to just keep moving and the distance would take care of itself. I have many thoughts that motivate me. They concern my parents, relatives, brothers, children, wife and JC Runners.

I run through my father’s ascent to Mt Everest on 29th May, 1965. After a restless sleep in the Death Zone so called because of less oxygen (height above 27,000 feet) they are up after 2 am. It takes an hour for them to unfreeze their reindeer boots. Melting snow in their little stove; preparing liquid food and tea takes an equal time. The sun a red fired globe rises up from the depths of the mountain valley. Getting ready is slow and around 5 am they have their crampons on and are ready to leave. His rope partner tells him to go ahead as he does not feel well and wants to go down. Climbing alone at above 28,000 feet; the wind is shrieking and flaying him mercilessly. Both side of the mountain are sheer drops of thousands of feet. There is no partner to belay him on the arête. At times he crawls on all fours on the snow to not get blown away. He walks and climbs steadily for a few hours to catch his other two companions ahead of him. Before reaching the summit they climb across Hillary’s chimney and scores of undulated humps, summit always seem to be after the next.

Two world records were created – nine climbers on the summit of Everest for the team and three in the final party. Another record not mentioned much was that he was the first man to climb alone above 28000 feet. He could have been the first man to climb the peak solo had he not caught up.

It sets into perspective my marathon run, diverts my mind and gives me the impetus to put in effort even if obstacles come in the way. Thereby it gives me a break from the monotonous feel of the marathon.

Another of my favorite visualizations are the images of Lance Armstrong and other cyclists climbing the Alps on the Tour de France. It is the man and his cycle against the mountain, pedaling up and down steep mountain landscapes. It is a compelling effort and I visualize the steep uphills to get the rhythm to move in my marathon pace and race.

And I remember a quote, where my variation is – Like each man carries within himself his own mountain, a runner hits a wall which he must climb to attain a fuller knowledge of himself.

Running signs, banners and people cheering also help me.

http://running.about.com/od/runninghumor/a/inspiringmarathonsigns.htm

I think of the effort farmers and laborer’s put in their work to summon every ounce of effort. I think of all my friends who are following this race with me, rooting for me.

I smile when I think of my son’s comments, “dad, win the damn thing”. My daughter’s comments: “I told everyone I met that my father ran a marathon!” makes me commit more to keep going.

All these are thoughts which I have planned to use. I have dug deep inside of me to find what works. During the race I do not think of new things to put any extra effort on my brain. All my thoughts have been rehearsed by me and require no effort.

I just need to be reminded of them. For those are the hint words, I have written on my arms with a pen, my running tattoos! They are my action items! And at every turn I remember to refocus on one of them.

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Mile 21: Ocean Avenue back

I am back at the straight Ocean Avenue stretch, the same one which I have dreaded and mentally prepared for, and which shall bring me home back to the finish. In my mind there is a little apprehension on what shall happen next, how things are going to fall for me.

As I have reached the Avenue I have broken this part to be a stretch of over three miles. The last two miles to the finish I hope to run purely on mental energy like earlier years. I have been talking cheerfully to the pacer and everything is good and peaceful.

The number of people running with the pacer has gone down. The runners I thought looked strong and serious have seemed to have dropped back. There are still around four of us around the pacer. Running with others I am matching footsteps with them. For me it is easier when I run with others that I am keeping pace with by matching stride to stride. I call it forced resonance, the frequency matches and transfer of resonance helps in the strides gaining automatically.

Some runners are still running to the halfway mark and greet us on our way back. We shout words of encouragement to them.

We run around the famous house where past US president James A. Garfield, lived and died in the late nineteenth century. Compared to some large mansion and estates in Long Branch, this house is smaller, but it is on the beach and we approach it as a loop from the Ocean Avenue. By now I have a spring in my step and am not having any issues with loops and turns. Anyway this is the last one.

Back on Ocean Avenue our group and pacer are asked many times which pace. He is running with a pole with balloons and wearing an orange pacer shirt. He, we say 3:40, the 3:40 pace.

We shall again be on the waterfront in the last mile and a quarter. That final stretch I know very well. I even know a mile and a half before that, as the loops of the previous marathon came to do a few miles down this side.

We shall be reaching that section, does not appear at all in my mind. I am running in the present and am repeating the focuses to keep my body going. Remembering my toes, feet, ankles, knees, thighs, hips, abs, chest, chin and head, I am able to relax them. I mentally body scan that all parts are functioning properly, for now and for a few miles more to come.

The runner who has joined our pace group, is a Boston qualifier. He has run a few marathons and more and says today is a tough day. It gives me pride to run with faster runners specially a BQ, Boston Qualifier, and keeping pace with them. A race for elite runners, qualifiers for the Boston Marathon must meet the designated time standard that corresponds with their age group and gender.

I chat and give myself repeated encouragement that the finish line magnet is pulling all of us in. We are running on the straight stretch of this few miles. A stretch which I have considered my nemesis while preparing mentally for this race. For this stretch I had prepared the hardest and in the toughest conditions. I had prepared and imagined running these inclines against a head wind.

The last couple of years the marathon had been run in rain and then heat. This one I felt would be windy and weather channel had some indications of that too.

My wind visualization on runs is leaning in the wind and letting the lower body be pushed back by the wind. The upper part would fall forward and lower legs and feet would stride back.

With that imaginations running in head winds you forget about fighting the wind. This works at times for overcoming the pushing back wind. Maybe this is what is called relaxation, when you try not to meet resistance with force.

But at times it feels surreal, this time. I am running this pace makes me a little anxious at how things will go, as I need to last the race. The weak sunlight cannot provide as much comfort and assurance. I shiver, more from fear of the unknown, refocus and carry on. I know my body is running on resources I have never used or experienced. I battle within myself and push along counting my breathing and steps.

On the way back on Ocean Avenue, this time I have prepared a landmark to run to. There is a restaurant which I can spot from far. This has architecture of a cylinder and is slightly taller than other buildings around.

I also know that the waterfront turn is just around that. Knowing this building as a reference works big time for me. I have no problems as I run to the building in a smooth way without wondering where the turn is and I feel full of energy.

I talk to the pacer on what the plan will be in the last stretch. There are only the pacer, the BQ runner and me running together. He says we can make a run for it anytime now and says he encourages all runners to do that near the finish. I say thank you and say I will make preparations for my sprint in the last mile.

I know the spectators and the shouting and cheering shall help me overcome the tired legs. I have always loved to finish my runs with a kicking sprint. It gives satisfaction of having got your body tired and perspiring, working up the sweat and cranking on the acceleration.

I always like to run with runners who love finishing with a kick finish. Like we have Andrew who loves to finish our morning run loops with a sprinting, no holds barred race to the finish. The morning commuters at Grove Street look at us, usually New Yorkers do not show any emotions but some eyes are full of bewilderment at the craziness displayed by the pounding feet, especially on very cold early winter mornings.

I am pleasantly surprised as the run is going smoothly for me. My breathing pattern is great, there is no panting, and there is no feeling of out of breathlessness. I have run over twenty four miles. It is just the waterfront stretch, finish is a couple of miles away and I feel good.

When I feel great I shall take off I know. Do not be greedy for pace I remind myself. A marathon race is to be respected, you need to be careful and follow your plans. I am following the pacer and am chugging along. Now I am passing the same place where I have run the previous years.

I remember my first marathon two years back and the memories. That year was my first and I bought the pictures from the company which takes photographs on the course. There are many photographers with large camera and larger long lens sitting and lying or standing on the course. Then I had not realized that they shall be selling these pictures to us.

Now after being through more races, I am not so much keen to buy their package. But the pictures they take, they post small images and memories on the net.

And now the experience of running has increased and is called the social media. In many races you can follow runners whose bib numbers/ names you know on twitter, face book, emails etc. There are chip timers, sensors along the route which track if a runner has passed a point. With advancement of technology the chip tags are disposable on our running bibs. Earlier we wore plastic chips on our shoes, which needed to be dropped and returned to their bins. We were charged money if we did not return as these chips were reusable.

The forerunner of these improvements in race technology is the Los Angeles marathon. From the photographers who sell your race photographs, you can buy video cds as they film parts of the course where the chip times are being taken on the course.

The Ocean Avenue is over, yayyyyy…..

My main advice in a race at this stage would be not to look for mile markers, anguishing why the mile marker is so far, or where is it. I also feel at times on a straight road the perspective of distance does not favor, it is like a mirage where you are waiting and waiting and the mile marker is still far away.

Picking landmarks on the training run help a lot. Like I knew the waterfront turn would be near a taller round building. That was my reference, and I patiently ran till I reached that.

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Mile 25: The Waterfront stretch at the finish

This is the waterfront stretch. I take in the sweep of the Atlantic Ocean as I approach the boardwalk. Then as we turn left, the sea is on my right, where I can see it from the corner of my eyes. Right then the final stretch of the race is in front of me.

When I term the sea as The Atlantic Ocean, I realize the breadth and width of how it spans across on the world map to Europe and Africa. If I say the word seashore it is just the beach. I like rolling the word ocean on my tongue; gives me more power, gives a feeling of being a smaller speck and helps me in making my effort and pain smaller and puts in perspective my place in this huge celestial place. I enjoy the sea, the breaking waves, the clean sand and the horizon. And knowing I am running next to the vast Atlantic Ocean.

I cannot wait for the race to be over and am battling my anxiety to finish it fast. It is just that my weary legs will not move any faster, I know I am tired. I would like to go faster and I also do not want to burn out before the finish. I breathe deeply and keep gazing ahead while trundling along.

It is still more than a mile for the finish. I am tired mentally for the first time and need to last out the whole race and not decrease my speed. There are many signs of encouragement. There are many spectators who are enjoying the boardwalk walk. This is a plain stretch; there are no shops on this waterfront in the beginning. About half a mile before the finish we shall see the shopping and parking center on the left. That is the place you park when you come for the training runs. I know very well that the finishing line is still very far from there and plan that I will try running faster after that.

I run conservatively but I know that I will want to sprint at the end. I tell Manyath the pacer that I will take off any moment when I get the urge in me to burst free. He encourages me to do so right away. My tired body will not let me unleash myself and I keep running doggedly. The crowds all around are cheering shouts of encouragement. All of a sudden after turning a slight curve I get my second wind. Instinctively I know the moment has arrived, I wave and thank the pacer, take off and start running freely.

As I round a final turn from where we can see the finish line banner and sign I am in rhythm. For every runner nearing the finish, the crowds are cheering louder and louder. Over the buzz and cheer I hear someone call my name “Jitu, Jitu”. I look left and a little ahead there is Annabelle waving and cheering wildly. I swirl a left turn, swing in an arc, high five her and accept her good wishes. This diversion has done me good to get my breathing better.

The finish is a few hundred meters away. I see the ticking finish line clock; see with relief that there is plenty of time to finish under a chip time of 3 hours 40 minutes. Now is the final sprint, for which I have all the energy. I remember my running buddy Andrew Boulay who loves to sprint at the end of our runs, whom I try to compete with in sprinting. I use all my focuses, the arm motion, leg pick-ups, lean and keep accelerating wildly to the finish, remembering to smile for the photo opportunity at the end.

Here is a link to the photos Brightroom photographers took of me on the course that day.

http://www2.brightroom.com/78996/159                                          

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26.2: The finish

Yes, it is finally over, the grueling, exhausting effort comes to its logical end. This one is scripted in my favor. The finish is one thing which keeps me going. I know for a fact that the race shall end sometime and then one can take rest and food and recover physically and mentally. As we jokingly say, why not run it fast for the pain to be over a.s.a.p. The race is run, a big PR (personal record) has been achieved, and the journey for this marathon race comes to an end, big smiles and bigger relief.

The finisher medal is on my neck, given to me by a nice elder lady. I thank her as I clutch on to two water bottles; and keep slowly jogging over a few hundred meters down the boardwalk, sipping the water, letting my body cool down, I want to make sure that I can do the little things in the end which aid recovery. I am happy that self-body scanning does not show any excess signs of wear and tear. Soreness and stress on the muscles is par for the course. My quads, hamstrings and calves are tender and I know they will stiffen up some more. I want to hydrate and eat food to help in the recovery. Joint and bone pains are one I do not want. I walk back and head towards the food tent and do a few basic stretches wherever I wait and stand.

After last year I have no expectations that food will be available. I know most of the people are the half marathoners have finished and so the main food will be over. I pick up whatever is available, the energy drink, some bananas and apples, much better than last year. I know I have kept some food and fruits as reserve in my bag. Then there is a Dunkin Donut and Subway in front of the train station. I will pick some more food from there before catching the train.

I have tried the massage provided by the organizers before and have found that self-exercise and stretching work better for me, so I skip the massage.

I pick my bag from the bag check area, find some empty space near a wall, lay out my food to take small bites and start my stretching routine. Taking my shoes off, I look for the blister I felt in mile 17, well, there is none!

Happy running everyone, thanks for reading this and Run on!

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Some Stats

My Garmin GPS watch measurements for the run

Mile

Avg Pace

(minutes per mile)

Avg

Heart Rate

1

8:36

163

2

7:54

170

3

8:13

167

4

8:17

167

5

8:08

168

6

8:16

167

7

8:09

170

8

8:02

170

9

7:56

171

10

7:56

172

11

7:58

171

12

8:18

168

13

8:24

169

14

8:07

169

15

8:31

167

16

8:29

167

17

8:22

168

18

8:20

169

19

8:16

171

20

8:23

172

21

8:28

171

22

8:22

172

23

8:36

170

24

8:38

170

25

8:41

170

26

8:22

174

27

8:09

179

26.52

8:18

170

Summary from my watch Time=  3:39:58.7 (I turned off my watch some time after the finish, The distance the pedometer shows is usually more than marathon distance, most probably due to sideward movements like taking wider turns)

From Race Results on the NJ marathon website

Distance Time

Pace

First 10K (6.2 miles)    50:31

8:07

First HM (13.1 miles) 1:48:03

8:15

Second Half (13.1 miles) 1:51:28

8:31

Marathon (26.2) 3:39:32

8:22

 

Concise training log for the last 16 weeks

  NJ Marathon May 2011   Compare with Planned

Week

Long run Total for week   Long run Total for week

16

10

22

 

9

25

15

10

22

 

6

22

14

13.1

30

 

11

28

13

15

32

 

12

32

12

15

32

 

9

26

11

15

32

 

14

36

10

16

33

 

15

37

9

15

44

 

13

26

8

6*

12

 

17

41

7

15

22

 

18

44

6

9*

22

 

13

36

5

9*

25

 

20

43

4

13.1

31

 

12

35

3

20

37

 

20

43

2

15

32

 

12

32

1

10

27

 

8

24

0

26.2

38

  Marathon

35

* travelling/ vacation

If you compare with the Intermediate training plan I was benchmarking myself with, I accomplished around 85-90% of the plan.

http://www.halhigdon.com/training/51139/Marathon-Intermediate-1-Training-Program

I did what I could with the limitation of my time schedule, and what I felt I could push my body without getting injured.

I would say that I did around 20% of the runs better than my marathon pace of 8:20 min per mile.60% of the runs were easy paced, more than a minute to two minute over my marathon pace, and 20% were even slower.

I could not go to a track so I combined the faster tempo runs inside my everyday runs. There was no exact science but I ran fast when I kept up with the faster runners or on some days I felt good. On slow paced runs I tried to keep my cadence high, foot strides small and kept trying to keep my posture as good as possible.

I also did three to five hours of low intensity exercise, light stretching, basic yoga, abs workout, pushups, light dumb bells to try getting flexible, fitter and more strength in the body. List of the yoga asanas I incorporate in my workout
the triangle, side angle, the warrior poses, head up dog and head down dog, shoulder stand, plough poses

Trikonasana, Parshvakonasana, Virbhadrasana 1 & 2

Shvanasana (Head up dog and head down dog)

Konasana

Padmasana (I cannot do it, I do partially)

Sarvangasana

Halsana

Paschimottasana

I have been doing upper body strength training and deep breathing exercises. My deep breathing exercises are more of an awareness of taking the air out by exhaling with the diaphragm and inhaling it deep to the belly. I use the pranayama yoga techniques of diaphragmatic forcible breathing, alternate nose breathing, closed eyes with buzzing bee like chant or deep breathing with aum chant. These seem meditative and cure the body by generating positives vibration/soothing effect thereby giving positive effect on the brain and the body. Here I must add that the running breathing is different as there are no pauses in breathing while running.

In the last week I was able to do proper tapering, carbohydrates loading and gain adequate rest before the race.

————-

Background to writing this very long essay on running

I started running as part of an exercise routine for health and fitness and to relieve stress. A good sweat gives you relaxation as well as a good feeling of having done some good and fruitful work. And now after running races this has become a hobby and a passion. Running special races with friends makes it a social event as well.

Earlier I could never think that it was possible for me to do long distance runs. How do the long distance runners run these long distances, I used to wonder. Is it enjoyable, what do they think while they are hours on the road, don’t they get bored of the monotony of just running on and on. After running yourself and going through the paces it all dawns that running happens to be a truly spiritual experience as well. It leads you to know a lot about yourself. Like any effort in life, the journey and the preparation for the race is in itself the destination.

Running also gives you something called a runner’s high, a feeling of euphoria and happiness from a well-deserved effort which you celebrate.

This essay was part of my National November writing month plan. Fifty thousand words was the goal to pass it. How to go about writing this book, making it a little interesting, also how if it sound a bit intellectual, a bit adventure and thrill of the run, a bit spirited about the journey, that would be awesome to let you know my observations. I am just hoping I did not drag my feet too much on this as I had to write a long essay.

Yes, the practice of running does help my understanding of empiricism, the practice of relying on observation and experiment. When I go about my observations of body scans, as well as feedback of heart rate, speed through my pedometer GPS watch gadget, health benefits are accruing as well! There will be questions of why running so long distances et cetera but for now the results are coming in very good as the body is standing up to the steady beat of the footsteps on the road.

And that is what I want to be known to myself, a practical approach to problems, to my running as well as towards other things. This practice and approach, has gone on to interrelate and benefit my work and life.

All of this gives me a special frame of mind of feeling relaxed in my existence. Well, I have used these long sentences and words, makes me feel good when I can make use of such good sounding stuff, hope I have used them in a proper perspective.


 

One Turn at a Time – my 26.2 mile run

I always liked reading or hearing about marathons. I did not even dream that someday I would run one. The runners were supermen and wonder women to me.

I started regular running in 2008, slowly my endurance and distance of running increased; I met the right people, trained and did my first marathon in May 2009. In all I have completed four marathons till now. Now friends and others ask why I run, why I run so much, how do I run, how do I feel, etc. I live and run In Jersey City, NJ, USA which has amongst the best waterfronts in the world to run on.

Here I will talk about my running journey and more specifically about my New Jersey marathon run on Sunday the 1st of May, 2011. In the coming chapters I plan to write by remembering what all went through my head for the 26.2 miles.

After doing the marathon, doing another big, fun, scary thing was compiling my thoughts together and asking you to read this. Writing this essay has definitely helped me excavate my memories and discover more about myself and my running.

I wrote this as part of my National Novel Writing Month, Nov 1st – 30th 2011, thirty days which was fifty thousands words of verbal babbling because I registered on http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/jsrawat.

While writing this adventure I moved on different tangents, my thoughts branched out in different directions with my writing blocks. Anything which was separate from the narration of the race has been put aside in Appendixes. I hope to put them in proper shape to tie all events and write-ups together. I wish I was using fewer words, but then it would require one chapter. So bear with the long drawn and branched elaborations embellished in jargon I hope which is understood.

It is humbling and emotional when you run the marathon. During a marathon race you see the young and the old, the strong and the frail, the efforts and the hurting, you hear the cheers and the slogans on the course, and the experiences remain with you forever. The journey of the training and preparation is what defines you.

My friend Scott’s comment sums it up very warmly: I have run thousands of miles …. And have finally learned that if you have any goals, it is best to have some great people on your side. Thank you all!

I have feel good bragging rights about me, when my daughter says: I told everyone I met that my father ran a marathon!

As a side note, this novel is for my and purely very much mine writing pleasure. If any chance it touches or helps someone, thanks. And lots of thanks for reading, let me know your feedback, I shall go through it to incorporate changes in the write-up.

 


 

Appendix: List to work on/ edit

Jersey City Runners and the water front

Running gadgets – Garmin watch, shoes, apparel

Running Form – compiled with help from web based on Chi Running

Running outside – winter, summer, rain

Race day variables

Marathon Training & Life Balance

How I started running

My Injury – Haglund’s deformity

http://www.meetup.com/jcrunners/messages/boards/thread/12583141

My NJ Marathon, Sunday 1st May 2011

http://www.meetup.com/jcrunners/messages/boards/thread/10781649

NJ Marathon day, Sunday 2nd May 2010

http://www.meetup.com/jcrunners/messages/boards/thread/9049817

Marathon Race management sheet

http://www.meetup.com/jcrunners/messages/boards/thread/10740542