I finished (the race) 30 minutes faster than I thought I would,” Green Lantern told reporters at the finish line of the New York marathon back in 2008, “And an hour after that, I thought I would have to go to the hospital.” Of course he was really just American actor Ryan Reynolds back then (the movie wouldn’t release till 2011) running to raise funds for the fight against Parkinson’s, a disease his father had been diagnosed with years earlier. Heroism is much harder without super powers. “And dangerous too,” says fitness expert Sunil Kudva, dubbing the marathon, “an ultra-endurance event.” So it’s important to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. This is what the experts recommend:
The group advantage
Praful Uchil of Striders Fitness Training Group, who used to represent the State of Maharashtra in 800-metre races at the national level, stresses the importance of working out with others. “Running in groups is essential,” he explains, “as it motivates and adds a fun, social aspect to the training.” Besides, he adds, “Working out with a personal trainer can get boring and monotonous.”
He also recommends working out outdoors. “A person who runs about 10 km on a treadmill won’t be able to do even half of that outside,” he says, “You can’t prepare for the challenges of a real marathon in a controlled, air-conditioned indoor environment.” Telling us that his trainees practice on different terrains and hence are prepared for changes in slopes, surfaces and temperature, Uchil also stresses the importance of stretching, core-strength-training and breathing exercises, all of which can be done in groups.
Gear up to get ahead
With more than 14 years of experience in the fitness industry, Kudva, proprietor of Elite Fitness Studios in Gamdevi, says you need at least 10 full weeks of committed preparation to be able to participate in the marathon event.
He offers this indicator. “To gauge whether a person is capable of running the marathon after 10 weeks of training, the person should be able to run for 45 minutes non-stop right now.” Of course, it’s not a problem if you plan to walk through the 42-km stretch. Kudva also highlights, “Before signing up for any exercise programme, it’s important to consult a physician, and the marathon is no different.”
“If you can run for 30 minutes non-stop now, you could attempt the 21-km run this year,” Kudva says, listing these tips for such enthusiasts (twice as much for those attempting the full marathon):
> You need to go for three to four runs a week, a short run of four to five km at a speed faster than your marathon running speed, a seven to 10 km-run at your marathon speed and one long, slow-paced run (increase the distance steadily each week). Interval-training runs are also an important part of the regime. For approximately 45 minutes to an hour, here, you need to alternate from fast to slow and run at varying inclines as well.
> Apart from this, strength training twice a week at least is a must. This is not to build your muscles, as muscle weight actually impacts speed negatively, but just to ensure that they’re strong enough to withstand injuries.
Eat to win
“Eating right,” says South Mumbai-based nutritionist, Dr Niti Desai, “will boost your performance and accelerate recovery.” She recommends a diet low in fat, but one that has sufficient carbohydrates, especially before those long runs. So, the night before a long run, ensure you include whole grain, proteins, whole-wheat bread, pasta and bananas. “They’re good complex carbohydrates that add no fat to your diet,” she explains. Your overall protein intake must be increased (unless your diet includes sufficient eggs and meats; usually Indian diets don’t) as this sort of running leads to wear and tear of muscles. So, increase your intake of milk, curd, dals and pulses. Eat eggs and fish if possible .
Seasoned marathoner Savio D’Souza interjects with breakfast advice — “Avoid fatty food in general, and on the day of the run, avoid milk and butter (all dairy products in fact) as these are hard to digest. Avoid eggs unless there’s a long 3 to 4 hour gap between this meal and your race. On the day of the run, your breakfast could consist of a light fruit, or dry fruits, dates perhaps or plain toast and jam and maybe some fruit juice or light tea.”
If your run extends beyond 45 minutes, sip water as you run and if it extends for longer than 90 minutes, you should also replenish carbohydrate and minerals like sodium and potassium during the run. To stay energised, intermittently pop those little jelly shots that are now readily available. After the run, drink lots of water. A lot of marathoners say they have no appetite after the run, so eat energy bars until you develop your appetite and then, consume carbohydrates and proteins.
Carry on to the finish line
Formerly a national marathon champion — he held the title from 1984 to 1988 — Savio D’Souza now trains others for the event at Marine Drive, Priyadarshini Park and Mahalaxmi Race Course. Though he recommends training for a minimum of two months at the very least, this is the very least you need to stay on top of your game:
> Ideally, it’s important to check how your foot sits in the shoe and how your foot falls when you run before recommending a shoe, but here are some basic things to consider — you need running shoes specifically designed for running on a road. They should be light and flexible. Bend the shoes before you buy them. You should be able to bend them in the middle. The cushioning and fit are important to consider as comfort is crucial.
> It’s also important to tie your shoelaces properly. Don’t tie them too tight or too loose — runners often find their laces open up while they run — and tie them in a double knot, ensuring that the foot is secure. Also, ensure the elastic bands of socks aren’t too tight.
> Wear something light as even in January it remains hot and humid here. A dry fit shirt and shorts would be ideal. Ladies may opt for cycling shorts or tights and again, a dry fit tee.
> Carry a small bottle of water — the 150 ml or 200 ml size you get on airplanes will do — even on your practice runs and training sessions.