A few years back like so many others, the long-distance running bug bit me. It is always heartening to see so many people in the morning on the road running. One common grouse that runners usually have is the common misconception about the distance which, I would like to clarify to all, that a marathon is a run for 42.2 KM and half marathon is 21.1km. Recently someone had posted a picture about finishing a marathon, for 2 km; well, it is a good start though! While running events of late, have become a business opportunity in itself, I wanted to share some personal thoughts around learnings that I felt came out of the hobby. Building up from couch to long-distance, dietary and lifestyle choices, etc are deep subjects in themselves, more importantly, I feel it is a way of mindfulness and gave life lessons.
SLOW IS SPEED
I still remember my first 10k run, when I had a rush of adrenaline and started sprinting as though I wanted to finish ahead of all. Almost by the 1st kilometer I started puffing and panting and in another 500 meters, my fuels were down. By the time I completed the run, I felt my heart was already on my mouth! This is when I realized it is important to slow down. Every individual has a pace and it is important to identify the same. If you have a capability run at 9km per hour, it is impossible to deliver a 12km an hour run. Believe me, running at 12km an hour for 2 minutes is not the same as that for over 2 hours. Essentially it is important to slow down, take every step, clear every milestone and you’ll be surprised you’d have left behind all those adrenaline junkies who started off like Usain Bolt! If you want to increase the speed gradually, you need to work for that through continuous practice and learning.
BREAKS ARE IMPORTANT
I read somewhere that the time you actually feel thirsty or hungry is actually about 15 minutes after the body needs the food. This is the reason nutritionists advise you to have food at regular intervals and not wait for the hunger pangs. This is applicable in long-distance running too. In the initial 8-10 km, you may not thirsty but suddenly when you cross the halfway mark, the body will start crying for energy. The solution is to take a short few seconds’ water breaks right from the initial 2-3 km. After a few runs, I started carrying my own water source and made it a point to sip every 3 km. And also during these points, it is ok to take a 5-10 seconds break and it doesn’t impact your overall timing at all unless you are aiming to finish on top of the table. I feel this is true in our various life and career activities too. We end up working on things with a sense of obsession and in the process miss noticing signs of stress and other toxic underpinnings around. I feel it is important to take that sip of water before it is too late and the body starts to give up. Take your short breaks and you’ll see yourselves finishing faster than others.
In my first half marathon (remember, it’s 21km), all through the length, I was anxious about finishing the length. I realized the energy spent in that was more than the actual effort in running. But the 21 km is comprised of 10 X ~2 km or 7X3 km. I started breaking my distance into this lot and started tracking the same. For example, I started timing myself in chunks of 3km and started celebrating every chunk with a small break for a few seconds and enjoy some water, Gatorade, etc. This I realized, took away the stress of the mammoth task ahead and was only bothered about the immediate 3km. The chunk where I was feeling worn out, I chose to slow down slightly, promising myself to catchup in the next chunks. Around the same time, I started applying this approach in my workplace and other life goals and has been working well for me. Basically, focus on every effort along the way and celebrate small milestones, the end result will definitely happen along the way.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
While you are at it, constantly listen to your body. It is during my runs, did I realize that each muscle and part of the body actually communicates to the brain and it is important to listen carefully. Carefully observing the feedback from your body, it is easy to avoid injuries, blisters and a whole lot of discomforts. And more importantly, keep your eyes and ears open for external challenges. Ask the runners the number of times they have tripped and fallen down. Essentially, take feedback and be aware of the surroundings and the journey will be enjoyable where the entire body will be happy. Just replace the body with your team members and the surroundings with your workplace.
COMPETITION WITH SELF
One great trait I learned along the running trails is to smile at other runners and show some etiquettes. When you are on the trail, only two things matter – your and others’ skills and one you should be aware of and the other you cannot control! So no matter in taking stress being belligerent to others. Smile and wish along the way and continue your efforts. The energy this gives is amazing and actually helps in performing better. Remember always the competition is with yourself. Make competition part of your celebration and try to outdo your earlier delivery, and be friendly to people around you, it will make the entire surrounding happy and bright.
PAIN IS A PLEASURE & DIRTY IS BEAUTIFUL
If you want to be comfortable and clean, the best place is your couch. But trust me, pain is a pleasure and dirty is beautiful, this I experienced every time I finished a long-distance run. The energy on the spot is amazing with everyone hugging and congratulating each other with a broad smile on their faces, despite excruciating pain in the body and covered with sweat and dirt. Nowhere else you’ll feel like hugging a friend who’s dripping of sweat, not at home, not even in the gym. Appreciate efforts, congratulate achievement, get hands dirty, this helps on the trail and at the workplace too.
HARD WORK WORKS
One thing that I’ve always found working is hard work. Ok, this sounds quite clichéd, but I realized it many times while running. There was this half marathon once which was flagged off at around 5AM and I had a long previous day, reaching home at around 2 AM. Adding to the woes, it was constantly raining. Around the mid-way, my body was exhausted and felt like taking an auto-rickshaw to end (while roads are usually blocked, 1 lane was available for common public). I resisted this thought and ended with the worst of the timings that day, but with great learning. There is no replacement for hard work. You may have been the last one to finish, but that feeling of quitting or cheating will haunt you forever.
Weight loss, fitness, etc aside, one great realization that I had was that a career or a job is pretty much like a marathon. Running helped me to take a relook at various things around and felt share-worthy. Do share your experiences!