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My First Full Marathon – Magical Beginnings

by Tanya Agarwal

Get Busy….Living…Training

If you are chasing a superfast marathon, you should get off this blog right away and read this one here that one of my favorite fellow bloggers Parul Sheth had written a month before running the Boston Marathon. You should continue to read this blog if you are many half marathons down and now are looking to living a life less ordinary.

Know what I mean??? I didn’t either, till I got busy training for my first full. 

While running a half marathon became a habit for me, committing to investing myself training for a full marathon daunted me. Do I have the time? 5 days of running? Plus strength sessions to keep myself injury free? And then there were another set of questions – Can I grow great in my eyes? Can I get past all that is going on? Can I get myself to look back one day – to say – dear circumstances –I got the better of you?   

Why we Run – I think I cracked this, finally!

In the movie ‘The Help’, a nanny of African origin whispers “You is kind. You is Smart. You is Important” to her American ward sitting in her lap, holding her small hand, to help her way through obstacles. Every time the little girl hears those words – she transforms into a beaming child even though she has just finished crying a storm at the hands of her dominating, nagging, physically hurting mother.

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This is what running does to us adults. While our jobs get tiring, relationships get complicated, it is running that reminds us – We are strong. We are amazing. We are enough!

I stood at a point in time of life, when I needed to hear these three words

I am strong, amazing and enough. I didn’t want any other human to feed me these words – I wanted to feel this. I looked for a goal to distract myself from constant chaos around me. A goal – physically painful, time demanding, mentally toughening and something  fresh. There it was – I decided to train for a full marathon.

My coach – Alfredo Miranda

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I have trained under Alfredo for the last 3 years. He has a run philosophy combined with science that has made me a better runner over the years. I have been running injury-free eversince I started following his plans. He understands my strengths and weaknesses. There could have been nobody better than him to guide me on this new ambition of mine.

A lump in my throat

The race I had decided to go for (New Delhi Marathon) was less than 2.5 months away. I had faltered with the plan twice before that. There was a lump in my throat when I finally decided to take it up with no more excuses.

I wanted to feel the magic of training yet again!

The first week of training was pretty miserable for me. I was overwhelmed looking at a 5 day plan with some 60+ odd km to be done every week. Christmas, New Year – everything was coming up,  there were kids’ holidays. I knew it was going to be hard. But I wanted to grow great in my own eyes. Didn’t I? The debate on how I would do it was mine and mine alone!

The weeks of 80+ km training plan stopped looking daunting to me. It was hard to train early mornings on regular basis given the school timings of my kids.  So I decided to run when I could. I started doing my backward maths pretty well. I ran to my son’s school, to meetings – they had to deal with me in my running gear. Traffic, sun, dust – what??? I took whatever route I liked or wanted to. Loops were fun.

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Training is Fulfilling

I spent a lot of time training solo. While it was hard and tiring at times, it is so fulfilling because it is about ‘unleashing’ – layers of mental and physical blockages that I had created for myself. The deepest thoughts of my mind worked together in a way that made me ready for any kind of mileage. Ticking the plan every week was fulfilling. Waking up with a personal mission that is truly mine, slaying it and sleeping exhausted is fulfilling. Getting a thrashing lecture from your Coach on how you messed on your run paces, is truly fulfilling because you know they care! Watching my kids ask me if I managed to get my training run today – is so fulfilling. My parents calling me to ask if I needed their help so that my training doesn’t suffer is fulfilling. It is fulfilling to run on tired legs, mind and body day after day.  That feeling of seeing your heart, your actions and your passions aligning is fulfilling!

Taking care of basics:

Deeper into the training, I now was warned by Alfie to take care of basics. My vitamin D, foam rolling, nutrition, and loads of water. He would ask me every other day if my food had good portions of carbs and proteins. He also made me wary of any upcoming niggles. I did develop a mild tendinitis of the left calf and took physiotherapy for about 4 weeks.

On a lighter note – My wardrobe was very predictable!

I had a Team. Of Believers. I had another team. Of Naysayers

I realized this after I got completely focused about my training. I had a team of believers – those who made adjustments in their own running for me, kept me pepped up with motivational quotes on whatsapp, called me over to sit with them and eat ( I had become lean), or just called me to ask me how my training was going. Some silently prayed for me ( my mother for instance). Some of them had nothing to do with running but they loved my focus and became a part of it. And then I had a team of naysayers – to them running a full marathon was no big deal, to them this was not going to lead me to a Boston Qualification (Yes – It wasn’t). This team of naysayers made me stronger in my resolve every run. We need them. They push you more than the believers. Thank you, naysayers!

I told myself – Don’t let someone else’s vision of success take away your dreams, Tanya.

Everybody asked me the timings I was targeting

Some struggles are deeply personal. You attach a number to it and you lose the essence of that struggle. You deviate from the ‘why’ of your mission. The winning of my marathon was actually coming more from the training. I had rebuilt confidence in my strength. My physical reserves were building up yet again. But I didn’t want to explain any of this, so I said 4 hours 30 minutes to everyone who asked what I was targeting. All this while – Alfie said – “look forward to your training runs: they will tell us your target. Don’t impose a number on your body but let your legs find it – for the first time we should not try to go by a determined number, we need to “discover” what our body can do, more than trying to impose a certain timing, which can lead to pushing too much and getting injured or not enjoying the experience and never try again.

The D-Day Morning:

1.30 am wake up, eat, get dressed, and travel to Delhi for 40 minutes and start running at 4 am. The 40 minutes drive from Gurgaon to Delhi, I reread the race day strategy that Alfie had written to me a couple of days back( I have saved the golden words – they make for timeless learnings). (You could read about all that I did in the last week before the race here)

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My Excitement

On race day, this 39 year old ran with an excitement of a 10 year old.

This deserves a special mention. The excitement of running ‘this’ particular full marathon matched very few events in my life .The excitement was at par with what I felt at the age of 16 when I was travelling international for the first time to Germany for an exchange student program, all alone. I could also compare it to the day I got my first job. Or when I saw Machu Pichu, Peru or was travelling to Cuba at the age of 26. or when I went to Shahrukh Khan’s house in Bombay at 22.

The Race

If I had to sum up Alfredo’s mentoring  – there was one thing he was trying to teach me constantly –  “Settle into the run, invest yourself gradually, build your reserves and then unleash! The entire training is about learning to run for hours continuously without exhausting yourself and then end it with a sprint! That will be victory”

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A Garmin snapshot of my last 12 kms

Exactly that’s what I did – till the first 30 kms, I ran at a controlled pace. Said hello to my running buddies as we ran past each other, got into small conversations with a few  – an effort to keep myself from striding too hard because I really was feeling extra energetic. Did not slack out on my hydration and nutrition.  It was delightful to see Alfredo standing at Rajpath cheering on the runners. He reminded me to stay reserved till the 30km mark.

At the 30k, I picked up pace and after 36k ran as fast as I could. I sprinted hard and with full energy in the last 3k. My kids and husband met me when I was 200 meters away from the finish line. They ran with me and I finished on an exhilarating note! I believe, it is a magical beginning for me as a runner.

My Learnings:

  1. Running is natural to humans. Running a marathon is not.
  2. You must set yourself up to prepare for a Full Marathon. The taste of it is in the training – the pain, the fatigue, the time management, the learning, the newer you – everything is going to be worth it.
  3. Get yourself tunnel vision – whatever you are chasing through this training, you will need to build focus.
  4. I didn’t need anyone to push me – I am a self-driven woman but I needed a coach who told me when I was straying from the plan, how to come back, what not to overlook and why we are doing the way we are doing. I had the right person guiding me. Even though I don’t enjoy the science of running, I needed to understand the logic behind what I was applying myself to.
  5. Your nutrition, hydration, adequate sleep hours is your responsibility. Look after yourself a lot while you train.
  6. You are not sacrificing anything. Infact you have selfishly agreed to take out time to make yourself stronger. You get that, don’t you? So please don’t push away your family, your friends saying how hard it is to train for a marathon. You are doing it because you want to. (on January 12th, 2019 – After celebrating my son’s 5th birthday in the morning, I left him with my parents and came back to Gurgaon to train for my first 37km run. I did not want to tire myself out the day before the run – Selfish? Yes. Choice? Absolutely!! Regrets? NO! A happy woman IS a happy mother)
  7. Don’t ignore your niggles. Seek a physiotherapist before it flares into a major injury. An injury at the moment of training is a big dampener.

And yes – I now know why they say “Life is a marathon, not a sprint’.

Some of my favorite moments post run:

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Proud Mumma Marathoner
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Post run, bursting with happiness, I decided to do my signature split
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Signalling the 42.2 with Ripudaman who found me amidst a large crowd to hand me over 100ml of Coke to push me through the last 3 kms.
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My kids would ask me everyday after school, if I had managed to get my training run in.
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Sumeet Virmani, who gave me company for most of my training runs, paced me the entire 42.2k. He reminded me “We will save it all for the last 12kms”.
Website | + posts

Tanya Agarwal is Founder and Blogger at WellthyFit - a health and fitness blog on Yoga, Running, Healthy Living, Nutrition, Travel, Joy and everything Life! She reviews fitness products and experiences. WellthyFit is her platform where she invites passionate fitness writers to share their expertise. With her blogs and fun videos she motivates people to stay the course of health and fitness day after Day.

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3 comments

Dipali August 10, 2019 - 12:08 am

Truely INSPIRING.

Reply
Vivek Raj Bhatia August 13, 2019 - 1:26 pm

You are really an inspiration for many who are dreaming for full , half marathon and even to those like me who are dreaming to start the running and one day they could run for marathon. I wish I could get proper training , guidance and coach like you to fulfill my dreams. Stay Blessed Always Keep Rocking, Keep Running and stay fit.
Regards,
Vivek
9910267696

Reply
Vikram August 15, 2019 - 3:24 pm

First one is always special and you will carry it to your grave. It’s a beautiful description of a stronger run. Wish you injury free and blissful running bouts in future.

Reply

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