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Heartfelt finish

KALYAN ASHOK
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MARATHON Ashok Nath participated in the Boston Marathon and is exhilarated with the experience

I t has been a dream for veteran long distance runner from Bangalore Ashok Nath to participate in the Boston Marathon, one of the premier mass marathons in the world. Last year, Ashok Nath's bid to run in the event was tragically cut short, following the Icelandic volcano ash, which spread across Europe and forced the cancellation of all flights. Boston-bound Ashok was stuck in Frankfurt airport for days together, before the mess cleared. But he had missed the run, despite a good preparation. “It was an unfortunate turn of events, totally unexpected and I prayed everything turns out well this time,” says Ashok Nath.

Ashok realised his dream of running the Boston marathon and participated in the run, which left him exhausted, but exhilarated.

Top five marathons

While there are several marathons across the world, the top five are the Boston, New York, Berlin, London and the Chicago Marathons. Why Boston? “Among these marathons, the Boston Marathon is the most prized as no other marathon can match this race for its colour, glamour, prestige and a history stretching over 115 years,” says Nath.

“The best runners compete here and to run the Boston Marathon is not an easy task. You must qualify from strict timings to be eligible to participate. You are assured of a highly competitive race. The race was held on April 18 and saw around 26,000 runners from 93 nations.”

He adds, “It is amazing to see the city, people, organisers and commercial establishments come forward to support and benefit from the event. This year, the Boston Marathon Charity Program generated over $120 million. And even the Mayor of Boston ran this race.”

Prior to the race, there was an expo on the marathon which saw the organisers and officials representing apparel, footwear, accessories, support aids, interact with the runners.

Thoughts on running

“The runners were also able to attend the Runner's Seminar Series and Sports Medicine Symposiums. I attended a few and was privileged to hear renowned runners like Amby Burfoot, Bart Yasso, Dick Beardsley, Greg Meyer and the team from Runners World share their thoughts on running,” says Nath.

On the race day, it was unusually chilly and windy, causing some discomfort for Nath. The initial section of the 55 km course was largely downhill, levelling out and then taking runners from the 25 km mark through four inclines stretched over eight kilometres and a gentle downhill home stretch.

“The start was undertaken in Waves (1, 2 and 3) with corrals within each wave. Depending on the qualifying timing, you are designated a wave and a corral. I started in corral 5 in Wave 5, The corralling of runners ensures one is running with runners of similar capability. The run went through nine separate townships, though the last few kilometres were in downtown Boston,” says Ashok.

Most stretches of the race had cheering spectators. The toughest part of the race was on the Heartbreak Hill at the 33km section. “It is the last of several hills in quick succession. You are a weary runner by the time you reach the hill. The speed dilemma also creates some issues. The false promise of early ease across the initial section that takes you downwards turns into trauma as you are fighting against g-force and the crowded passage of runners.”

He adds, “By the time you cross Heartbreak Hill and approach the city, each stride forward feels like an ice pick to the quads. I made the mistake of running in racing shoes that did not provide for cushioning against the stress.”

He finally finished the race in three hours, eight minutes and 27 seconds, which he considers as his personal best. “I wish I could have done it under three hours, but I am happy with the result. I hope to improve it as well.” He plans to return to Boston next year. “It grows on you. In marathons, you run with your legs and finish with your heart.”

KALYAN ASHOK

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