As the city gears up for the Wipro Chennai Marathon to be held on December 2, Shonali Muthalaly meets some experienced marathoners and trainers

You’re not just conquering distance. Running is much more than that. Irrespective of whether you’re attempting the full marathon, the half marathon or the ten kilometre trail, it’s about conquering your mind. About proving to yourself that nothing is impossible. And that hard work always pays off.

On December 2, 340 Chennai-ites will attempt the full marathon, 1250 will attempt the half marathon and 4700 will attempt the 10 km run. As the city gets ready for the Wipro Chennai Marathon, we meet some inspiring runners and trainers. For those of you who are running, good luck. For those of you who aren’t, perhaps this will encourage you to lace up your shoes next year.

THE RUNNERS

Ridhima Suri

Business Analyst, Wipro

This is my sixth marathon. I started running, essentially, because I was bored. To kill time. Then, in 2007, I attempted my first half marathon. To be honest, I made really bad time. I took three hours to complete it. But once I did, it felt great. So liberating. I felt ready to try a full marathon.

With my job, it was difficult to find time to run. So I stopped for a couple of years. Then, in the beginning of 2011, I joined Chennai Runners, and became regular. I’ve managed six marathons in two years. Everybody is really encouraging. They make you believe you are ready. But it’s only when you actually do it that you realise what you are made of.

It doesn’t get any easier. No matter how many you run, you’re only as good as your last marathon preparation. If you don’t train, anything can happen. With a distance of 42 kilometres, there are lots of surprise elements, You can never be completely ready. So it’s important to be mentally prepared.

Most people train on the last week. I don’t do anything! I eat, sleep, be lazy. On the morning of the marathon, I’ll eat a couple a bananas an hour before the run. And a chocolate 20 mins before we start.

Yes, it’s more challenging for a woman. There are practical issues, like finding time between work, the kids and cooking. It’s hard. But not impossible.

Karthik Padmanabhan

Director, Cognizant

I started road running in 2009 with an intension of losing weight and getting fit. It quickly became a habit. Now I run for the sake of running alone.

There’s nothing like it. Very often I might be in a bad mood, but after my run I’m always in a much better frame of mind. It’s motivating. It’s fulfilling. And it teaches you how to pick yourself up every time you fall, and try again.

I’ve run nine marathons. My first was in Auroville in 2010. It’s more by default than design: but I’ve run three every year so far.

A marathon is a commitment. It’s character building. It’s a big step. Therefore it is hugely fulfilling. Even once you achieve it, you can never conquer it. This kind of a distance is always a challenge. I learnt the hard way. I took my 9th easy and it showed me how big a fool I was. Made me struggle every inch of the way. There’s no way you can underrate that distance. It will take your nose and rub it in the same trail you are running! I did complete it — but just about. And I take no pride in that. But it taught me to respect the distance.

My best timing was in Munich where I completed my run in 4 hours 37 minutes. In Mumbai I took 4.41. But I consider Mumbai a bigger triumph, because it was tougher, hotter and more humid. Munich was cold, flat, beautiful. This is my first marathon in Chennai. The heat and humidity will be a challenge. But the trail is beautiful. IIT is an oasis.

Anandhaselvan

Graphics Designer

I am now aiming for the 2016 Olympic qualification. I run about 12 km per hour right now. For the Olympic A category you need to complete the marathon in 2 hours 15 minutes.

I began running in 2008 for my health. I used to be a long distance runner in college. Training for a marathon gave me a challenge that motivated me. I quickly got addicted. There are so many opportunities when it comes to running. And I was out to prove my talent. The year I started running, I did two marathons and one half marathon.

So far, I’ve participated in 32 runs. I’ve done the 10 kilometre races in Chennai and Bangalore four times. I have run 18 half marathons. I did one 25 kilometre race. And a total of 9 full marathons, all over the country: Chennai, Hyderabad, Mysore, Mumbai…

Every week I train for 6 days and rest for one. My schedule changes daily. One day I do a long run, the next day I do a short one. Then on another day I concentrate on speed. My goal is to improve by one minute in every race.

For the joy of running

Celebrity nutritionist and author Rujuta Diwekar started India’s first marathon training programme for beginners in 2006. She’s trained hundreds of runners, including Anil Ambani, for the Mumbai Marathon.

“If this is your first run, just enjoy yourself. Don’t worry about timing. Remember the most basic rule: Stretch or stretcher. Begin with a nice, easy, controlled pace.

This is your tapering week. No drinking or partying. Work on getting restorative sleep of at least six to 8 hours. Don’t overdo the running. Cut down on distance and intensity.

You don’t have to carb load — that’s for the pros, who know how to run like that. Stay nice and comfortable in your stomach. Eat wholesome homemade food you are used to: roti-sabzi, kichadi, paratha. This is not a time to try new things. If your gastro intestinal tract is upset, you can’t run.

Whether you’re running 10, 21 or 42 kilometres, the basic rules are the same. If you’re doing 10 km, in your mind it might seem like less, in comparison to what the rest are running. But remember, it’s not small for the body. Every race is a challenge. You’re still tackling physical, emotional, mental barriers. Don’t reduce it in your mind.

Psychologically, you may hit a wall at some point. It happens when your body has zero glycogen stores, you feel like you’re unable to continue. You can absolutely fight it, and keep going. Pop some dates, or a packet of sugar. It’s just a phase. It will pass.

I always tell my runners to have fun. This isn’t life or death. If you get uncomfortable – stop. There is no reason to push yourself beyond your limits. For most of us, even at our fastest speed we’re not going to win a medal. We are running for our well being. For the joy of running.”

What are the runners eating?

Shrikant Wahkarkar, General Manager of the Westin Chennai, hospitality partner for the event, has run a couple of marathons himself and is a believer in ‘super foods.’ Hence, the hotel’s executive chef Pravin Bagali has been working on a special menu for the runners featuring nourishing foods that restore energy and reduce fatigue. They suggest you eat light, eat healthy and eat smart.

Their specially designed post-marathon snack box has been designed for the runners by in-house nutritionists. It consists of herbed focaccia with tomatoes and cheese, homemade chocolate, an apple and flavoured milk.

Here are their suggestions for a pre-marathon snack:

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

Blueberries (when not in season, use frozen): 280 gm

Banana: 169 gm

Soy milk: 13 ml

Apple juice: 177 ml

Lemon juice: 44 ml

Kosher salt: quarter tsp

Granola brittle

Method:

Blend blueberries, banana, soy milk, lemon juice, apple juice and Kosher salt till a smooth puree is formed. Pour into a soda glass and serve with granola brittle.

Steel Cut Oatmeal & Banana

Steel cut Oatmeal: 145 gm

Water (thrice the quantity of oatmeal): 250 ml

Cinnamon stick: 0.1 gm

Salt: 1.5 gm

Banana ripe: 120 gm

Honey: 21 ml

Pecan, pieces: 14 gm

Method:

Bring water with salt and cinnamon stick to boil. Add oat meal and let it simmer for 20 minutes while occasionally stirring. Cut banana into 1/8" slices and arrange in a single layer on top of oatmeal. Sprinkle pecan on top and drizzle with honey. Optional: serve with milk and butter on the side.

Factfile

Full Marathon: 42 km

Half Marathon: 21.1 km

10k: 10 km

The Wipro Chennai Marathon will begin at 5 a.m., on December 2, 2012. It begins with the full marathon followed by the half marathon at 5.15 a.m. The 10k run, one of the largest ever in South India, will start at 7 a.m. Besides, there are CEO and Special Run categories.

Venue: IIT-Madras (Indian Institute of Technology Madras), Sardar Patel Road, Kanagam, Taramani, Chennai 600 036.