"Always an observer, never a participant" is what I felt whenever I saw marathons happen in my city. I always wished I would be part of one, but running was not my forte, so I did not sign on any. However, this year when I saw the opportunity with the 10K organized by Decathlon and the interest shown by friends, I ended up signing up for the 10K.
The idea of crossing a marathon off my bucket list was intriguing, and I wanted to see if I had what it takes to complete it. I got my sister to sign up as well and together we prepared as well as we could for the run.
You may ask, how did we prepare for the race? Well, with a little advice from a friend...
We also watched the Office Season 4 Episode 1: Fun Run, the marathon episode and learnt what to do and what not to do from the boss himself, Michael Scott.
From the other side of the 10K, here are my lessons.
Don't carbo load
Avoiding eating anything heavy before the marathon. Definitely, avoid Fettucine Alfredo, ideally even the night before, so that you don't have a load weighing you in your stomach, when you are running.
Aim to keep it light and you will find yourself held back by one less thing. I have been advised that having a couple of bananas or some electrolytes will help with your energy.
Although Michael makes fun of Toby stretching, I can stress the importance of it enough. Stretching helps to improve flexibility, which in turn reduces the risk of injury. Stretching also helps to improve blood flow to the muscles and helps to reduce muscle soreness and stiffness after the marathon.
So, remember, in this case, follow Toby, warm up and stretch before your run.
Pacing yourself is important. You know yourself the best. Listen to your body and push your limits, but don't go all out crazy and try to be the fastest runner like Michael did in his run. You will find yourself burn out too quickly. Your goal should be to "complete the race, not compete with others."
So, start slow and steady, and kept that pace throughout the marathon. It will help you conserve your energy and ensure that you finish the marathon without getting totally exhausted.
Considering this was my first run and longest distance I was going through, I paced myself by a mix of jogging and fast walking. Fast walking is better than regular walking so that you don't lose your momentum. Again, I knew my limits and worked with it.
Wear comfortable and appropriate attire
A good jersey and shorts go a long way to help during your run. Like we were advised above, it is not necessary to wear the t-shirt given by the organizers. Choose a sportswear that you are comfortable with running, ideally one that is sweat absorbent, coz trust me, you are going to sweat like hell.
And definitely, avoid wearing tracks. Running is easier with a pair of shorts
Footwear is key
Wear proper footwear. Don't wear a pair of new shoes on the day of the marathon. An old, worn in pair (without any tears) are way, way better than a new pair purchased close to the day. Ideally, get a new pair of running shoes a few weeks before the marathon, and break them in. They will prove to be the best investment.
Your shoes should be comfortable and provide the necessary support for your feet, so that you don't strain your foot or your ankle or cause unnecessary strain on your leg.
Staying hydrated is another crucial aspect. Make sure to grab a glass of water at every hydration station, a costly lesson I learnt as I was running today. I did not pick a glass at the 4KM mark, a decision I ended up regretting, as the organizer had so poorly prepared for the marathon that they did not stock enough water at the next 2 hydration points (about 6KM and 7KM). Fortunately, there was a tea shop on the way, Divya Snacks, and the gentlemen was kind enough to offer me water on my request.
There maybe kind souls on the way to help, but my advice to you is to carry a water bottle with you. That way you can always have a source of water with you, and even get a refill on the way or even help another in need (be that very kind soul).
It's good to have some company
10KM is a long way to go, and it kind of does get lonely along the way. I was left alone with my thoughts and composing this article in my head. Observing the people around me and occasionally trying to push myself. As I neared the 8KM mark, I was noticed a friend of mine and then matched his pace. Making it all the way to 8KM was an achievement in and of itself, but to have someone to chat with and complete that final stretch was even better.
If you can convince your significant other to join you, that is the best company. Sadly, I did not have such a chance. Again, my priority was not running the marathon, but creating an experience and to share that, even a part of it with someone, trumps in my book (Forgive me, marathon runners and those who get a high from the run itself 😅).
I would, of course, advice you to avoid any estate or garage sales on the way, but to each their own I suppose, esp. if you find a bargain on a lamp (yes, it is an Office reference for those wondering).
Finishing is Satisfying
As I crossed the finish line, I felt a sense of satisfaction like never before. I had achieved something I never thought was possible and can finally cross off, running in a marathon, from my checklist.
Crossing that finish line, I could hear the music playing, you know the famous running soundtrack from the 80s (seems it's the Chariots of Fire theme).
Carry some cash
I chose to leave my wallet and mobile at the start point. I wanted to avoid being bogged down by the weight in my shorts. This, of course, created a bit of a problem for me, when I was feeling thirsty and did not have any cash to buy a water bottle.
Remember to carry a bit of cash with you in case of emergency esp. if you choose to leave behind your mobile as well.
Leave your mobile behind
Apart from having it weigh down my shorts, I did not want to use my mobile for any part of the run. Unintentionally, I ended up having a digital detox for the hours that followed. I was aware of the craving I had at various points during and after the run, but it was good to have a brief respite from technology.
The downside is that I do not have any record of the exacts steps of my run or any photos from it, just my plain old memories, that fade even now (a small price to pay for the weightlessness, both literally and technologically).
Update: Turns out the organizers did make sure to get a few photos and provided us the facility to search by our bib number. In the end, I did have photos from the marathon. It all worked out🙃.
It was great to be participate in the 10K. Finishing the marathon was exhilarating and I learned that sometimes it's good to step out of the comfort zone and try something new. I had considered that participating in this marathon would be a first and last for me, but now that I am on the other side, I am second guessing myself. Perhaps there is some scope in the future for me to apply these learnings.
It was an experience that I will never forget, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a challenge or simply to even cross something off their bucket list.
Epilogue: Enjoy the beach and some breakfast
The marathon was organized right by the beach in my city. We started at one end of Marina Beach and ended close to the start of the Besant Nagar beach as you can see in the map above. So, at the end of the marathon, as my sister and I contemplated on our way back to where our scooter was parked (where we started a good 10KM away), I decided that it would be a better idea to go to the beach and wind down there. You spend a good part of the morning running by the beach, it then is very important that you at least pay respects to the ocean.
We took a little rest by the beach, walked down to the water on the sand and dipped our toes in the cool, nay, cold water of the ocean. A most satisfying end to a most challenging start. Sand and water serve as a good relief to your feet, trust me.
And, to top it all off, we had an amazing breakfast of Dosa, Podi Idli and Vada at a nearby restaurant (Murugan Idli for those wondering) complete with a south Indian filter coffee.
Not a bad day, not a bad day indeed...
A special thanks to Lokesh for his advice and permission to use the audio he shared to us, and Ranjith, who gave me company for the last few km.