Running is like mouthwash; if you can feel the burn, it’s working!!

That’s a quote by Brian Tackett. It’s true though. If your feeling too good during a race your just not pushing yourself hard enough.

We’ve all had that. I’ve not quite gotten to a fell marathon yet or an ultra but I’ve had my share of tough races. Like the first time I decided to run 19 Km almost a year ago. It felt brutal. Grossly overweight, Mumbai’s sun in all it’s glory on my 9th round of Mahalaxmi Racecourse where there’s nothing to protect you from the heat. It felt good, especially given I had my first ever half marathon race coming up in 2 weeks. That moment on I knew I could ‘Run’ my half marathon.

Then there was my first attempt at a full marathon training run. Given how cocky I’d gotten with the ease with which I was going about my 13.1 miles I thought this would require just a ‘LITTLE’ more effort. I hit the ‘WALL’ at 26 km, crawled on till 30. Stop!!!

Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.
-Dean Karnazes

It’s funny how you wanna keep punishing yourself, just to move a little bit further. Nature’s trigger for an endorphin release.

For something to hurt that bad, and feel so good, it’s just inexplicable.
– Adam Goucher, NCAA Cross Country Division 1 Individual Champ – 1998

All these lines are nice to read but should definitely come with disclaimer. Don’t get too messed up in all that motivation. That’s precisely what happened a couple of weeks ago. I decide to take on the Chilly Half  Marathon in the beautiful town of Newton, Massachusetts. Nothing compares to an Autumn run. The view of leaves falling almost forming a carpet across the grass, with those that are fortunate enough to still be hanging onto the trees turning a nice color of red. Then there’s the cold wind blowing across keeping you comfortable during those long runs. It’s truly a magical time. Mind you, watch out for the leaves, they make for a slippery surface.

Presuming this would be the last race of the year, all braced for the famous Boston winter, I’d prepared really well. A training 21 km two weeks out from the race ended in disaster. The ever inspiring words of all those great runners kept ringing through my head when I felt the tweak in my ankle. ‘Keep running’. You can’t give up now.

Ofcourse walking became difficult the next day. An ankle sprain wasn’t allowing me to train. 5 days on I got impatient with no training. An extra hard cardio session at the gym resulted in patellar tendonitis now.

From then on I dared not train for fear of missing out on the race completely.

Race day was finally here. It was an absolute torture. From mile one my knee hurt. I kept slowing down to try and find a pace and stride that inflicted the least amount of pain. The downhills were especially painful. I vividly remember at around mile 10 stood someone with a sign which read ‘Don’t worry it’s all downhill from here’. I’m sure that’s motivation enough for anyone to hit top speed. I cringed.

Well I finished the race. Hal Higdon’s famous words came to mind as I struggled with stairs and walking in general over the next few days.

The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals.

The shock like sensation I’d get everytime my knee locked up still flashes through my head. I remember refusing to stop at the aid stations for water, just because it was so painful to stop and start running again.

Was it worth it? Hell yes. Was it a wise decision to run? Hell no. I could have seriously injured myself. Would I do it again? I don’t know.

This is your moment. Celebrate the pain. 

As I sit and plot my training schedule for my next race, I smile reading this line. Enjoy your run!



Author: The Kale Runner

Ramblings of an Atheist Vegan Trail-Running Neuroscientist

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