Sunday, December 30, 2012

Auroville Marathon Training Program : Week 6

December 24 - December 30, 2012

Up to the 5th week of our training for the Auroville 10 km run, I was suffering with severe pains in my knees. Especially the left knee was very painfully. The stiffness of my knees was so severe that I could not squat on the floor with the knees folded. I could only run very slowly with a few walk breaks in between. Also, the knees stiffen and tighten and it used to be difficult to climb stairs and generally walk.

I have come to believe that we are always able to run come what may. Irrespective of how we feel both physically and mentally, once we start running, we are able to run and finish the distance, no matter what. Its only later that the recovery is hard. The pains start to surface and the muscles stiffen and tighten. 

But, this week has turned out to be the miracle week! I must have done some things right. I followed the icing advice given by the coaches and the physios, used the foam roller, though only sparingly which has helped. Especially, icing the knees or the injured areas after the run for about three to four times a day on the rest days is the best possible solution for all aches and injuries. 

Consequently, I was able to run with a lot more ease this week and also the pains in my knees have all but disappeared. My knees are still stiff and I still am not able to completely fold my knees to do the cooling yoga posture or sit with folded knees. But it is much better than what it was for the past 5 weeks.

The week began with the arrival of Santosh's mail. I did the Tuesday run in a park close to our house along with Meena and her kids. Little Sirish who is 10 yrs old and Tanvi who is 13 yrs old. It was great fun to run with them and then to do the stretches and the drills amidst their continuous chattering and ribbing each other.  I hope that we can form this into a group this and do our Tuesday runs and Friday yoga on a regular basis as a group. It will be fun and also it will help us to be regular and not miss a single aession.

The Wednesday running was in Cubbon park and me and my daughter went thirty minutes early and completed our run and stretches ahead of the group and left so that she could catch the bus to her college.

Bangalore is a city with salubrious climate throughout the year. The weather is perfect for us to run any distance and we never get tired, dehydrated or suffer from a heat stroke or sun stroke ever, But on the flip side, since we are so used to running in this beautiful weather, Bangaloreans who run in other hotter cities like Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai or Delhi occasionally suffer due to the heat. Since we are all preparing for the Auroville marathon in Pondicherry which is again situated by the sea side and is a very hot town our coach Santosh had planned to train give us some 'heat-training' and had planned the Saturday to start at 7:00 am.

We al hoped that the sun would come out by 7 am at the very least and we would get some much needed 'run out in the sun'. But much to Santosh's dismay and to our amusement, Saturday remained a fully cloudy day with even a little bit of light drizzle towards the afternoon and the evening. The run took place on a beautiful and quite road off Kanakpura road. It was an eight km stretch and has a few inclines which are not very steep and are fairly gentle slopes. The run was very exhilarating with a lot of chatter and friendly banter among our girl gang. The stretch is a bit lonely and there are a few rowdy elements who pass comments and tease the girls. So, we were very thankful to Santosh for going up and down the road on his scooter to keep a watchful eye on us and to look out for our safety and well being. After the run, our buddy group went for a hot breakfast to Adigas.

The Sunday recovery run was in Cubbon park. We did the warm up and the form drills. After that we did a short run of 4 km. We had the core training session and it was a very tough and strenuous session. As our coach Chandra wanted it to be intense, she gave us just 10 sec break between two exercise and due to my earlier sedentary avatar, none of my muscles are strong and hence they cried and screamed on being awakened after such a long slumber.

There are many things that keeps me going in this runner's group like the camaraderie, the friendships and the buddies and community feeling. Looking forward to the next week and more fun and enjoyment.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Auroville Marathon Training : Week 5

December 17 to December 23

Sambandh Run
@ Mallehswaram
on December 16
After being in training and running long distances (by my standards) like 7 km and 8 km and with good pace and longer strides than what I have been used to so far, I had started developing pain in my left knee by the second week itself. The pain was so severe that I could not climb stairs and even to this day I cannot bend my knees. I can no longer sit in the Indian lotus position. Also, after the long run on Saturday and the recovery run on Sunday, when I go to the office on Monday, sitting at my desk  for a prolonged period of time used to stiffen my body in that posture with the legs feeling like two blocks of lead.

I spoke to our coaches and physios about this and they gave me a set of exercises that I can do even when I am sitting at my desk in the office and also advised me to ice my knees 3 to 4 times on the days of the run. I have been following their advice regularly and the icing really helps. It helps to reduce the stiffness of the knees and the recovery is hastened. The stretches that we are advised to do after the run and the foot drills also help in the recovery process and I have noticed that the days that I skip these are the days when the stiffness is more and the days that I follow the routine are the days when I feel much more relaxed and agile.
Apsara and Tanvi
@ Sambandh Run

On the flip side, I have started noticing that my lungs have started working better. I might have left more than 50% of my lungs unused during my couch potato days. But now I am beginning to realise that slowly the lungs are opening up and their efficiency is increasing. The other improvement that I have noticed is that my muscles might be getting strengthened as I am able to run longer distances before I have to slow down and walk a bit to catch my breath and give my muscles a short rest. Running also leaves a tremendous impact psychologically. The mind feels refreshed and the heart feels a sense of having done something. I suppose that this sense of well being felt is known as the Runner’s High. In the end I suppose it is different strokes for different folks. Each individual’s experiences are different.

The week 5 again began with the arrival of Santosh’s mail. It was very exciting to see what he had lined up for us for Saturday and Sunday.  Monday was the day of rest and I completed my Tuesday short run of 30 mins around the storm water drain. The Tuesday runs have become very important to improve my endurance and stamina as it is followed by the Intense Wednesday workout which develops our strength.

Sambandh Run to create
awareness of the needs of
children with special needs
On Wednesday, my daughter and I reached Cubbon park at 5.30 and did our warm up runs. The rest of the folks started arriving early as there was a 10 minute session of Pranaayaam that was scheduled before the run. But we two were not able to attend the pranaayaam as we had to finish our runs and she had to catch a bus to her college by 6.45. Coach Srini hwlped us to do our drills and after the drills we both completed our 8 laps of strides and stretches and left.

The Wednesdays are very tough as I have to go to the office after the run. I developed severe pain in the knee. I did continuous icing and also did the foot drills at home. The pain was most when I climbed stairs and even on Thursday the stiffness of the thighs and the knees continued. Despite continuous icing, it was only on Friday that the pain in the knee reduced but did not disappear completely.

Saturday was the long run. This week it happened at Decathlon, Sarjapur Road. This time we had to run 10Km. It was a different route that we had to take. The weather was perfect. Chilly Bangalore winter morning with thick fog.   The temperature was 12.5 deg C when we started from home. I usually start running with a jacket and a cap to protect myself from the chill as I have low tolerance for chill and winds and catch a cold very easily. After I am nicely warmed up, I remove my jacket and tie it around my waist. But as we were running in the open with no houses, buildings or trees to act as screens and shelter us against the cold breeze. After I was warmed up and removed my jacket, I regretted each time I ran through open space.

The trail was very soft mud with patches of tarred roads and the run was easy. My had a slight niggling pain in my knee and the right shin. There were a few ups where the running was tough and I had to walk. I completed the distance in 92 mins which is consistent with my time trail of 9.13 mins / km. I was in enormous pain after I came home. My knees hurt a lot and I iced my knees twice. I tried to massage my legs using the foam roller, but it was very difficult and painful. I could not continue the foam roller exercise.

IIMB on a cold foggy morning.
Pic courtesy Apsara Ashok
On Sunday, we had the run at IIMB. It was a short run for the recovery after the long run. We started with a short warm up and then did the foot drills. The morning was chills and there was a mist. Since the foot drills are in the open football field, it was all the more cold. But we had a lot of fun dong the drills as there are some comics among our midst who make each and everything that we do fun. After that we continued with our run of 3 kms. It was fun to run along side coach Ajay and we chatted about my school and the work that we do. We had core training where coach Chandra and coach Srini V. made us do specific exercises to strengthen our glute muscles. Finally we had a cool down session with pranayam and a couple of yoga asanas.

It was one more week of fun and frolick at training Its so much fun to run with friends that I find it least difficult to wake up at unearthly hours. Sharing a cup of tea with friends is also the most calming experience that there is on earth. The mindless babbling that I subjugate all my friends to and the continues blabbering during the car rides and finally sharing of my experiences with anyone who listens to me and who have been patiently reading through my blogs, all this support that I have been getting by family, friends and colleagues had really made this an enriching experience and a very enjoyable journey where the goal finally does not matter at all.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Auroville marathon Training : Week 4

December 10 - December 16

Yet another week began with the arrival of Santosh's mail. But I could not do the Tuesday short run nor go for the Wednesday. 

The Saturday long run was at Cubbon Park and we had to run 8 kms. It was a very large group on Saturday and the run was full of fun and good amount of friendly bantering on the way. By now I was running at a good steady pace and could run for linger distances before I had to stop to walk a few minutes. Also the time I required to walk and catch my breath was also becoming shorter. I also noticed that once I was nicely warmed up, I could run with longer strides and a little bit faster. 
We ran the first 4 km around the Cubbon park in front of the Central Library and the 4 laps around the Queen's park. After the run we had core strengthening session conducted by coach Chandra and Srini V.   Earlier, I used to be so stiff that these exercises used to be very difficult and I used to get catches at various places if I tried to stretch even a bit. But of late I am becoming a bit more flexible and am able to bend just a few millimetres more and stretch with a little less catch. After the core strengthening coach Ajay had scheduled a session of Pranayam that helps us to improve our breathing during the run and get into rhythmic breathing and thus increase our efficiency during running. 
However I was unable to stay for the entire session as my friends who I had car pooled with wanted to go to eat breakfast at Konark Restaurant. So I chose the gastronomical  outing to deep breathing. This is what makes running fun and interesting. After running and burning calories, we immerse ourselves into unabashed gluttony and indulge our taste buds to various delicacies that are available at every nook and corner of Bangalore. Hot idlis, steaming hot vadas in yummy sambar, lovely masala dosas that are the best in the world and soft as sponge and tasty set dosa or piping hot pooris with saagu. These are the things that motivate us to run with that extra vigour so that we can enjoy the delicacies and not feel guilty about the amount of calories that are going in.

The Sunday run was to generate awareness about the special needs of physically challenged children prganised by Rotary club at Govt. Girl's School Malleshwaram. The run was through Malleshwaram roads and amidst dense traffic. The beginning was good as we were running downhill on Margosa road and than once we took the turn at 4th cross and turned left the run was uphill on Sampige road. I had to walk through most of this stretch. After we took another the left and came back on Margosa road, the run became easy as it was downhill again and we could complete the run to loud cheering and applause from cheering squad of fellow runners.

We did a quick dash to the nearest eatery Shri Sagar or the erstwhile Central Tiffin Room or more popularly known as CTR. It is always surprising to see half the Runner's High fellows at the chosen eateries. We had to wait a good 30 to 45 minutes to get the coveted table only to discover that the tables had been occupied by fellow Runners all this while. Once we got the tables, there was no stopping us. We dug into all the tasty eats and rewarded our taste buds with every dish available and flushed it all down with two cups of steaming hot and strong south Indian filter coffee. Our very boisterous group caused much amusement among the waiters and they served us with good humour and great flourish and even greater efficiency.

All in all it was a very rewarding week of running with good food for the tummy and even greater and satisfying food for the soul. It brought even bigger smile to everyone's faces and the grins only got wider.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Auroville Marathon Training : Week 3

December 3 to December 9

There are some days that seem just right and you wake up feeling that today is the day that you can conquer the world! By now the running bug had bitten me and bitten me hard and I was addicted and was determined not to miss even a single training session. I was also particular not to succumb to frivolous excuses.

The week began with the arrival of the weekly schedule mail by Santosh. I was very exited to know that we would be running at Kanakpura again.

It was raining very heavily on Wednesday morning when I woke up at 3.45 am. But as I had made all the preparations the previous night to go for the Wednesday workout, I began making the chapathis for my daughter. I was ready by 4.45 am and all set to leave at 5.00 sharp. But, 

My friend called at 4.45 and asked me if I would be going as it was drizzling continuously outside. I told her that I would go no matter what. She said she would  not come as her asthma would get aggravated if she runs in the drizzle. At times like this I am always in two minds whether to push or to give space. Usually I end up not pushing much and giving people their space and letting them make their own decisions. I have come to realise that sometimes, especially when it comes to people pursuing fitness regimes, it requires some amount of motivation and gentle push from well meaning people because the mind is always looking for excuses to skip and go back into the warm blankets especially in Bangalore during the winter months.

I have realised that we can always run, no matter what the time is, what the weather is and how our circumstances are. So, it is important that we do not allow ourselves to give in to those small moments when our mind is testing us with doubts and questions. 

My daughter and I completed our warm ups, drills and runs along with the hill run on the small rock at Cubbon Park and I was able to drop her at her bus stop and come back home feeling very exhilarated. The rest of the group went to Kanteerava Stadium for the hill work out.

The Saturday, Kanakpura run is always the best in the entire training program. The trail is very beautiful and traverses through a quaint village. We pass through the village bus stop, school and temples. There is the beautiful lake and the route is full of ups and downs. We are greeted throughout the way by village urchins and school boys  who take their cattle to graze before their school begins and bring the cattle back after the school.

This time I ran along side Raji. Raji is 58 yrs old and a very fast runner. She has always been a source of inspiration to me and I felt that on Saturday she was running much slower than her normal pace just to be able to run along side me. As we were chatting non stop and exchanging notes and swapping stories, I did not realise that we had already come up to the 3.5 km mark and the aid station. Very soon, we touched the 5 km mark and came back. Each time, we took a moment near the lake to savour the view and feast our eyes on the sheer beauty of the surroundings. It was a sheer pleasure to see Raji keep one stride after the other and run at a steady pace even at the steepest slopes on which I had to walk. Towards the end, when I had to walk a little more, she raced ahead at her normal brisk pace and I carried on at my normal pace. Throughout the route we were greeted by cows and dogs that Raji was scared of and she needed support to run past them. 

The next day, I could not go for the Sunday recovery run due to a terrible family tragedy and thus ended my week 3 of the Auroville Marathon Training.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Auroville Marathon Training Program : Week 2

November 26 to December 2

This was the most fulfilling week and a week of great learning for me. The week began with the arrival of Santosh's mail on Monday morning. As soon as I got the mail, I read through it and saw that the run for Sunday was scheduled to be a charity run which we will be running in aid of the children who are affected by HIV aids, of the Sneha Care Home. The run was a training cum fund raising event for these children. Earlier the previous Sunday, Santosh had asked me if I can get the children of JGRV school ( to run in this event and I had told him yes, as I am a 'yes person' and say yes without thinking about the why, how, where, when etc.

 I spoke to our P E master and he asked the children of the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th Std if they wanted to run. I had 25 children in mind and we got an overwhelming 44 children who gave their names. I sent the list to Santosh and appealed to my friends in the Runner's High community if they would support the children's registrations. Within hours of my mail, all the 44 children got sponsorships and Santosh magnanimously offered to pay for the transportation. We even got a runner who offered to buy the children breakfast. 

All this was too good to be true and I realised Paulo Coelho's famous quote that if you really desire something,  the whole world conspires to help you. In this case I had just wished that the JGRV school children get an opportunity to run along with the Runner's High community and the Ananya children and the entire Runner's High community joined hands and made it happen!

The first day of the week, Monday is a rest day and the next day, Tuesday is the short run of 25 minutes on our own. I usually drop my younger daughter at her bus stop and run around the storm water drain. After my second loop, I meet Rashmi and her cute daughter Ruthu and we spend time chatting as I do my stretches. 

I had planned the Wednesday session with Santosh such that me and my elder daughter go to Cubbon early and we start our warm up at 5.30 am itself. Coach George was there as ever marking the routes for the runners. We started our warm up and he guided us through the drills. After the drills, I was able to do my Time Trial that I had missed the previous Wednesday and I did the 3.2 km in 30min19sec. I dropped my daughter to the Shivajinagar bus stand from where she catches the bus to her college and came home. 

The Saturday run was at Cubbon Park and we had to run a distance of 7.5 km. I was quite satisfied with the way I ran and I was slowly able to run longer and longer distances without having to stop and walk. Even though my pace is still slow and I am usually the last person running once the whole pack runs ahead, personally I was getting better. My strides were longer, my lungs were supporting me more and not threatening to burst and I was running at a steady pace for longer distances and the walk breaks that i require are also shorter and I am able to catch my breath and recover faster than earlier. These are all personal mile stones that I crossed which gave me confidence. All the fellow runners from the Runner's High community who had committed themselves to supporting the JGRV school children's participation in the next day's run, true to their word, handed over the amounts that they had committed themselves to. 

The Sunday was the most memorable day. Anupama and Subhashini joined the JGRV bus along with Anupama's daughter and my daughters. We drove to Decathlon, Sarjapur, with a bus load of highly energetic children who were very excited by this outing, amidst loud singing and chattering. Just before we reached Decathlon, we instructed the children to stick together and run together and not leave the pack. That advice turned out to be the wrong advice as there were prizes to be won at the end of the 5 km run which I did not know about. If we had allowed our JGRV children to run to their potential, who knows, they might have run a few trophies. Lesson learnt. 

Once we arriver at Decathlon, the place was buzzing with activity and energy. The registrations were completed with quick efficiency as the organisers had organised several counters and we were all given our bibs. The race set off after a short oath taking ceremony by all the participants in support of HIV affected children. 

The runners set off nice and strong. Santosh had asked the Ananya kids to guide our JGRV kids. I though that it was a very nice gesture on the part of the Ananya kids. If they had decided to run at their pace, they would have all won the trophies, but instead they decided to support the JGRV kids which was a highly commendable gesture. We were guided through the traffic by traffic wardens and pretty soon we had passed the main roads and were running through village lanes. We passed by many small and quaint temples through the route and arrived at the first aid station that was manned by the Sneha Care Home kids with great efficiency looking bright in their green uniforms. They greeted us in a very friendly way and were smart in distributing the water glasses. Santosh came riding on his cycle to check on the progress.

We later ran through the Shining Star School to loud cheering by the children who had lined up on either sides of the road and were cheering all the runners. We then ran through Sneha Care Home and even here there were children lined up on both sides of the route with glasses of water in their hands. Their continuous cheering infused fresh energy into my legs.

We had to run the last part with some amount of heat and sun and the route had a slight gradient. After the previous day's 7 km run I had developed a slight pain in my left knee and the heat was making each and every step difficult. As we reached the main road, we were again greeted by volunteers and traffic wardens who cheered us along and helped us to finish with flourish.

Our JGRV kids had run very fast and had reached the destination quite a while ago and even they cheered me as I entered Decathlon. They were all thrilled to receive certificates from the organisers. As we started our way back to Kalyan Nagar in the bus, they all expressed their desire to run again and they wanted to know if they will have more opportunities like this in the future. Finally, they were treated to a sumptuous and yummylicious breakfast of hot hot Poori Saagu and searing Masala Dosa (thanks to the donor who does not want to be named) at Srinidhi Upachaar and they ate like little princes and princesses which they deserved and had earned it as a right as they had all run in aid of other children.