Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Chennai Marathon 2015 - Kays 5 hour pacing bus

The Wipro Chennai Marathon (TWCM) is a fabulous annual running event attracting over 13000+ runners in various marathon categories.   December is a runner friendly month due to the best weather in Chennai.  I ran a half marathon on the TWCM's first edition in 2012 but missed the 2013 edition.  Year 2014, I was privileged to be part of the 5 hr marathon pacing bus (called the Comrades bus, including Aravind and Tanvir).  This year proves to be yet another lucky one for me to continue my role as a pacer (there will be additional talented pacers including Dharma, Ashok, TT Balaji for the 5 hr bus). I'm thankful to Praveen & Praveen, and Chennai Runners for providing this opportunity to be a pacer for the second consecutive time.
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There are many factors contribute to the success or failure of a pacing bus. The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2015 is just a month away and I thought it will be a perfect time to compile several ideas around some connected topics and present to several runners who are aspiring to finish their dream Full Marathon in a specific time target.  

What is a pacing bus?

A pacing bus (oops...there is physical bus to look for :)) is a group of runners running at a specific pace till the finish line led by a bus driver (இந்த பஸ்ஸுல கண்டக்டர் எல்லாம் இல்ல!). The lead runner or the pacer usually carries a flag which bears the intended time to finish the race.


Who is a pacer in a Marathon pacing bus?


A pacer is usually an experienced runner who calls the shot (shouts, uses a whistle etc.,) and also plays a key role to motivate, cheer, encourage and help other runners in pacing bus to complete the marathon within a specified time target. The pace leader must be a good time manager and runs at a steady pace, also keeps track of the marathon day variations so that the group can achieve their goal of finishing the marathon within the goal 
time.

Other similar terms

pacemaker or pace-setter (sometimes colloquially called a rabbit[1]) is a runner who leads a middle- or long distance running event for the first section to ensure a fast time and avoid excessive tactical racing. Pacemakers are frequently employed by race organizers for world record attempts with specific instructions for lap times. Some athletes have become essentially professional pacemakers. A competitor who chooses the tactic of leading in order to win is called a front-runner rather than a pacemaker.


What are the benefits of running in a pacing group?

A pacing group is best suited for someone who gets motivated while running in a group setup.  Also suited for someone inexperienced or doesn't have a racing plan and relying on running with someone experienced.  It is believed that there is a higher chance of achieving your target when you stick around the bus.

Alright, now you know what a pacing group is all about, how can you benefit from it?
  • ride a bus from the beginning to end (டிக்கட் வாங்கவேண்டாம்!) 
  • hop between buses, if you feel the bus is too fast or too slow
  • use a bus to take a short ride at a stretch where you need some extra push.  taking a bus could be crucial choice at the last few kilometers when your body needs an extra control through your mind and the mind needs some extra push.
  • chat with the other runners in the bus, interact with the bus driver, sing and shout to keep yourself and others energized throughout the run.  Who knows your next friendship is hiding somewhere in the bus
  • have fun :)
Will the pacer be responsible for my race finish?

Absolutely not.  Running a marathon is very individual and the pacer doesn't guarantee you a finish.  You will still have to use your natural strengths, intrinsic motivation and tools (including GPS watch / heart rate monitor / pacing charts) if you are not comfortable in a pacing group setup.  But, few additional things to look for,

  • use your own pace to start - you know better about your body and how your respond, when you warm up, when you feel the fluid motion in your body
  • don't get too carried away by the speed of a bus - if you feel the pace is too fast - drop back and catch up later
  • listen to your body - pacers are not going to finish your race, they are available as a support system, you have a choice to take advantage of them or even ignore them
  • don't rely 100% on the pacing group - but do take good advantage of the pacing group - use the pacing bus as a marker and for motivation during the race
What will be the strategy followed by me / my bus ‪‎#TWCMKays5hrExpress‬?

My pacing bus will cross the finish line at 4:58+ hrs.  roughly finishing the race sub-5 hrs.  On an average we have to run 7:07 pace every kilometer.  Since its a full marathon 5 hr bus the pacing strategy will factor various factors, in short,
  • at the start - first few kilometers will be a slower than the average pace - just to ensure the bus pace doesn't kill some of the slower starters.  In 2014, the start was smooth and it just took less than a minute to cross the start line mat.  I don't see much of an issue with the crowd here.
  • fuel stations - this bus will not stop at all the fuel stations (read LSS-Limited Stop Service :) - the fuel stops are part of the overall pacing strategy and will be evenly spaced out (don't expect me to shout - வண்டி ஒரு பத்து நிமிஷம் நிக்கும், காப்பி டீ குடிக்கிரவங்க இறங்குகப்பா :)) ~30 secs allowance is given and the bus will keep moving after that.  Of course I'll be hydrating too, I'll slow down, grab water or electrolyte, and walk a little bit but will keep moving, the bus will not wait...
  • pacing - the bus will set on a cruise mode for the larger part of the race, second half of the race will be slightly slower, I'll make adjustments to the pace to take of the elevation changes (flyovers), fuel stations, possible crowding situations.  I'll also be employing run-walk-run at specific intervals to make allow the runners to recover, bring in the best experience, make the running less painful and more enjoyable
  • runners / passengers - anyone can join, no rules, there are higher chances of picking up a lot of passengers during the last 3-4 kms.  Also look for other 5 hrs pacers whom you can interact and run with.
  • crowd factor - the last 5 kms we are expected to plough through the 5k and 10k race runners walking / running through certain narrow Chennai road stretches.  We will lose some precious time but my pacing plan will have this as a factor too.
  • race time tracking - the bus time will keep the gun time as a reference and I'll be using my GPS watch to track the progress.  I also will have a km by km pacing chart with me.  But, that's only for my reference - if you are part of the bus - just focus on running and enjoy the overall experience
  • Refer to the TWCM website for the route map for this year 
Why should anyone be running in my bus?

I've been an athlete for most part of my life and the running bug deeply bit me in 2011. Over the last few years I've run >7000 kms, indulged so much into running and fitness, and running has become an inseparable part of life now.  I have experience different running events, half, full (PB 3:53 @ SCMM, 2016) and ultra marathons (my best experiences include Bangalore Ultra and the Comrades Marathon).  I'm a constant learner, a good motivator and a mentor to several aspiring runners.  I ultimately derive happiness in supporting others in achieving their goals.

On the marathon day, you can find me to be cheerful, shouting and calling your name to motivate you or even push you.  I'll run shoulder to shoulder with you, pledge to be part of your running goal, share my experiences, share some running tips, help you in realizing your dream of running a Sub-5 marathon or even to provide the best running experience on that day.

Final few words,


The next few weeks are very crucial for your training and also for tapering.  Don't do any new crazy exercises or unfamiliar running routines.  Injuries at this moment will take a long time to recover and it might even cost you the long awaited marathon dreams.  The pain is much enjoyed by running the marathon than sitting in the sidelines.


You can call me or even tweet or write to me or connect with me on Facebook if you need any preparation tips or even questions about the race day.  I would also encourage you to connect with the other pacers who are out there to support you.


Wish you a good luck for the preparations!!  Signing off for now!!


Facebook | Twitter | Kannan Sundarararajan


Optionally, you can connect with the pacers by posting your questions in the form below.  Your questions will be promptly answered.



References:

I'm extremely thankful to all the capable pacers around the world who teach a lot of wonderful things about running and leadership. I certainly get runners-high whenever I finish a marathon but as a pacer I get multiple-runners-high by helping and guiding others to finish the race.

1. http://www.alsoranrunners.info/busses.htm
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacemaker_(running)
3. http://running.competitor.com/2013/09/training/the-pros-and-cons-of-following-a-pace-group_59107/2
4. http://www.livestrong.com/article/427304-what-is-a-pacer-for-running/


About me,

I'm an ACE certified personal trainer, an Ultra Marathon runner, and a running coach.  A writer here and there and always enjoys the basic act of sharing and teaching others.  I left my corporate job after 24 years of working and have founded KaysFIT Academy, with a mission to promote overall wellness, provide best possible fitness coaching & mentoring, and fitness education.  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Bangalore Ultra Marathon - another wonderful Ultra

Ultra race #5

Event: Bangalore Ultra 2015 - 50k (Bib 5051)
Date: 7-Nov-2015
Time: 5:19:30 my fastest 50k.  Happy to have chopped 40 mins from the last time I ran this course in 2013 (27th rank).
Overall position: 10th rank out of 101

Looking back, at the start line of the 2013 Bangalore Ultra, I was so anxious for attempting anything longer than a full marathon for the first time.   Everything was fine till the first 35k and I started bonking after that.  From that point, I din't have much control, finally finished the race with so much pain, fatigue and a big fulfillment.  It certainly tested my physical and mental strength.  That was the beginning of my love for Ultra / endurance races.  It took almost 10 days for me to recover from it.

2 months back when I registered for the 2015 Bangalore Ultra, I was ambitious to run the 75k - reality struck (knew I wasn't really prepared) after the Bangalore Marathon and I changed my race category to 50k.  I also decided to measure my performance against that of 2013.

2 years later, yesterday at the start line I was much more confident. After the Bangalore Marathon, I focused on strengthening my quad and back and included few speed runs.  I was fine till the first 40k and slowed down after that.  I was deliberately fast to see how long I could endure.  I used this race to try out few other things and at the end walked away with plenty of learning.



Pic credit: RFL Bangalore Ultra

The last few days of downpour in Bangalore had left its damage.  The trail was wet, slushy, slippery and had some surprising tree stubs on the ground making it even difficult to walk in some stretches.  The weather at 6.00 am was simply awesome.  Cold, misty, humid and lots of dew in the air.



The course had plenty of bamboo branches protruding dangerously in many places, cutting and tearing the skin.  All the runners have to carefully maneuver and avoid them.  There were many who had cuts and bruises, twisted ankles...  I was so glad to have finished this tough and mentally challenging trail without any injury.  My fuel and hydration was near perfect and the support received on the course was fabulous.  The sun was up when I was returning back from the second loop, but did not bother me much.  I finished the race with a last 2 kms sprint.

I was extremely delighted when I learnt I finished the race in the 10th place out of 101 runners (7 in my category).

A day after the race - my recovery has been very good.  No significant pain anywhere and I'm feeling great about it.

Another wonderful RFL event.

Pic: Overall results - individual results link

About me,

I'm an ACE certified personal trainer, an Ultra Marathon runner, and a running coach.  A writer here and there and always enjoys the basic act of sharing and teaching others.  I left my corporate job after 24 years of working and have founded KaysFIT Academy, with a mission to promote overall wellness, provide best possible fitness coaching & mentoring, and fitness education.  

Friday, November 6, 2015

Bengaluru Marathon 2015 - sub 4 hrs still elusive

Event name: Bengaluru Marathon 2015
Date: 18-Oct-2015
Time: 4:07:26 Personal Best (previous Amsterdam Marathon 4:15:49) 
Official result link... 

Bib Number: 1334

One of the most beautifully organized races... kudos to the Bengaluru Marathon organizers.

Lost momentum and crucial final few minutes when the police stopped the runners at the Cubbon road at two road junctions... 

Very happy about the race for a great experience....a PB time....lastly for not having any plan but ran the race with my heart content...:))

more to come...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

AA Independence Day Marathon - Second Edition - a humbling experience

Dear Residents,

A bit long one....huh! you know its all about a marathon and simply can't be a short one anyway :)

I would like congratulate all the participants and finishers of the second edition of our AA Independence Day Marathon concluded on the 15th morning.  Despite the cold and the chilly weather, it was fabulous to see our senior members of the society, young and few pets...arriving at the start line with so much enthusiasm.  This year we had 89 participants ~10% increase from 2014 - including 5 pets.   I'm very happy that we concluded this event without anyone complaining about injuries.

I would like to thank the cultural committee for displaying a fabulous show, Yamin Khan for his candid and superb pictures (I bet these pictures are already floating in your Facebook pages....with so many likes already), Race volunteers including, Anand, Sahan, Shankar, Sajit, Sudhakar, Alban and his team, the security guards, house keeping staff - and last but not the least....all the residents who came down and cheered the runners to make this day a remarkable one.

I'm happier this time that we could give away 18 trophies for the podium finishers (as against just the 8 last year).  It was fun planning for this event - right from the announcements, building the momentum, making and distributing BIBS, ordering the trophies, designing the stickers and getting them delivered at the neck of the moment..... Aditya (my son) designed / painted the special bone shaped neck tags for the pets participated in this marathon with unique 'paw prints' as secret codes for their bib numbers.  ("Hey! have you checked their pet Facebook pages :)?? - it was an amazing sight to see all the pets running the marathon and leading their masters....till the finish line.

With the combination of the mega Badminton tournament and this Marathon event, it is proved that as a society we all love sports and its just that we just need excuses to be involved in a grand scale.  I would like to encourage each one of you to create that 'excuse', every single day - call a buddy to run with or to play a game of badminton or even tennis.  Elation is guaranteed at the end - especially the feeling of the 'runners high' after a run.

The running bug has bitten me for the last 4 years and on May 31st 2015, I had experienced something unique for the first time in my life.  Some of you already know that I finished an Ultra Marathon in South Africa - I've compiled my experience and would like to share it with you..........  When I started running I started with a random 10k run with my friend and eventually ended up falling in love with running Ultra Marathons- I believe this could even happen to you.  One needs a strong passion and perseverance to get there but the results are amazing - could become fitter, stronger and happier too.  You may wonder and ask "Yes - this is for someone who can run but what about others who can't or simply feel that running is not their cup of .....?" - There is an answer.  You can walk or you can even do Yoga, play games.....it doesn't matter what or how you do it but make sure you keep moving, but move with a purpose - to become fitter, stronger and happier!

Please encourage your children to write about it, attach it with the picture that Yamin has clicked....store in the memory box....it goes a long way in their life.

I've summarized the category wise stats/results summary below - again CONGRATULATIONS to all the winners and the finishers!

Last but not the least, as an organizer I feel that 'my job is done' if at least one of you respond to this mail describing your experience.

RESULTS

5k Open

Total participants 14 men, 17 women

Francois (B-12) - First place (men)
Roy (#2091) - Second place (men)
Amanda (B-18) - First place (women)
Jaya (#3073 - Second place (women)

Note: Rob (#3134) was the fastest runner of the day covering 5 kms in little over 22 mins.  He was kind enough to pass his trophy to the next position winner.   I would like to thank Rob for his wonderful gesture

5k Open <18 years, 12 boys, 5 girls

Total participants 12 boys, 5 girls

Thomas (#1092) - First place - boys
Nikhil (#2014) - Second place - boys
Amrutha (#2064) - First place - girls
Shreya (#2014) - Second place - girls

3k Walkathon - Senior (60-69 years), 

Total participants 6 men, 3 women

Mr. Rahul (#2131) - First place - men
Mr. Vijay (#3073)  - Second place - men
Mrs. Preethi (#2131) - First place - women
Mrs. Srimathi (#3071)  - Second place - women

3k Walkathon - Super Senior (>70 years)

Total participants 3 men

Mr. Raman (#2092) - First place - men
Mr. Joseph  (#2023)  - Second place - men

3k Kids <10 years 

Total participants 15 boys, 9 girls

Joseph  (#B-18) - First place - boys
Aditya (#1122)  - Second place - boys
Anjali (#2102) - First place - girls
Dhriti  (#2041) - Second place - girls

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sobha Althea and Azalea Independence Marathon - Final Race Instructions

Final Race Instructions
Thank you for registering for the ​second edition of the AA Independence Day Marathon.
Please review all information in this email, as it contains your final race instructions. There is important information about ​the last minute BIBS pickup, ​safety instructions and ​rules for the race course. If you registered another person (especially a child​ or a senior member of your family​) it is your responsibility to share this information with them and make certain they understand the rules and safety of the ​event.

​​Pre-race

We have 118 registrations so far and 80 BIBS were already collected so far.  Due to limited time to complete the BIBS distribution today I'll make an attempt to drop the BIBS with your names written on them in your letter box.  The registration ends today at 3.00 pm - so hurry up to call me on my cell phone to join this beautiful running event.

BIBS

The BIBS must be worn in the FRONT side of your race day shirt - make sure you fasten them with the safety pins provided to you.  

Starting point & Time

​P
lease be on time
​ to ensure we start the race on time.​

3k Walkathon and 3k Kids Run will start at 
​​
6.00 am
5k Marathon will start at 6.45 am​ - there will be a 5 mins warm up session before the flag off.  

Please gather in front of the club house - the race start point for both the events.

Running route information

Please see the attachment for the running route for both the categories
​.  3k and 5k runners will go around Althea block and Azalea.  5k runners will have to run the ramp behind the Althea - please follow the route directions carefully.  A humble request to runners not to take any short cuts.



F​inishers tracking

Like in the olden days we will be tracking and counting the number of loops completed by runners by manually recording your
​BIB ​
numbers.  A lot of care will be taken in recording each and every runner.  Please be aware that its a manual process and prone to errors.  At the end of the race - we expected to pick the top 2 finishers in each category and the prizes will be announced post the flag hoisting event.  The results of the race and your timing records will be published sometimes during this weekend.

Safety guidelines / warnings

​Running a marathon short or long comes with few risks and can be damaging sometimes.  Risk related to heart, tripping & falling injuries, sprains etc.,
  • Do not push yourself - you can't produce anything new on the event day if you are not trained for it
  • Listen to your body - take a call whether to stop or keep going
  • Stop running if you experience any kind of pain
  • Be considerate to fellow runners and give way to other runner wishing to over take you, do not push or block anyone
  • Hydrate very well during the run (~100-200 ml of water every 10-15 mins) - also hydrate well today - throughout the day.  Eat some small snack (a banana, cup of coffee, bowl of cornflakes or some fresh fruits before the race - certainly not all of them :) ).  Do not run / walk empty stomach.
We will provide only basic first aid.  Please do take a good care of yourself!

Final Words

Have Fun! We have everything from first timers to
​experienced 
runners
​, very young (5 years to run) to old (80 years),​
 in
​this event
.
​We also have our tiniest participant, a 1 year old baby on a pram and few pets - all peppies, candies and toffees and brownies......(don't mistake them as race day refreshments :)) The Independence run 
is a fun race. If you are first or last
​, it doesn't matter - ​
we want you to have a good time. Please be supportive of your fellow-runner and treat everyone with respect before, during, and after the race. We will have
​few 
volunteers to make sure you have a good time. Please don't leave our race without taking the time to say "thank you" to at least one of
​the volunteers.

Good luck - enjoy the run!!!

DO NOT MISS THE ATTACHMENT WITH THE RACE ROUTE INFORMATION

Cheers,

Questions??? Reach out to K
ay

​Race day instructions - inspired from http://www.sweetheartrace.com/2008/02/final-race-instructions.html

Saturday, August 8, 2015

AA Independence Marathon - 2015 (2nd Edition)

AA Independence Marathon - 8 DAYS TO GO

6.00 AM

3 km's Senior Citizen Walkathon (First and Second prize for male and female)
3 km's <10 years (First and Second prize for boys and girls)

6.45 AM 

5k Open Race (First and Second prize male and female)

WE HAVE ALREADY 44 KIDS, ADULTS AND PETS ALREADY REGISTERED SO FAR.....HURRY UP AND FILL YOUR ENTRIES HERE.... (last year we had 80+ runners)

Ever since the announcements for the Independence Day Marathon was made, there has been a lot of enthusiasm about this event.  There are several kids and adults have come forward and shown interest in participating in this second edition of this mini Marathon.  

I've been chatting and encouraging whoever I've been meeting to participate in this lively experience.  I have also come across many of you having a general apprehension in participating in this event since you feel its all about 'running'.  

The good news is any one can participate, you can run, you can walk and run, you can walk and just walk, you can run slower, faster, or even run like all hell broke lose............run backwards....side wards....hop, run upside down....doesn't really matter.  Whatever you do, be assured its going to be fun and a lot of fun!!! No one will judge you and if you have to prove something to someone....its none other than just YOU!!

It is not a competitive event and we are going to gather on the Independence Day, to be there together, be connected with each other on that day for a single reason....to have fun!!! 

Bring your parents, young kids, toddlers, babies on prams, pet animals, anyone on wheelchair, walking sticks, fancy running gear, barefoot, GPS watch - we might be different by our looks and appearances but one thing is for sure.....you will find a beautiful smile in each others face....  reason is simple!! running is actually a fun activity only when you experience it and be there in such events.  Ultimate is reached when you are there for you!!! or for your friends or even for a cause.  

Please note that BIBS with your running number will be issued on the following days,

WEDNESDAY between 5.45 pm to 7.15 pm
THURSDAY between 5.45 pm to 7.15 pm

Request you personally come / send your kids and collect the bibs also get your name properly written in it for tracking.  Please note that we have the BADMINTON tournament FINALS on the Friday and I'll not be in a position to distribute the bibs on that day.  

Hurry up!!! please provide your entries for the Marathon event in a separate sheet.....

Do you know there are crazy people out there who do crazy things (some for good causes) by running!!! here is a short digest...

Many of us love bees in our society....do you know what Farai Chinomwe also called as the Rasta Man is known for?
Farai Chinomwe is one of the world’s most surprising marathon runners. His unusual running technique certainly brings him attention with loud shouts of “Hey Rasta Man!”, jeers and whistles as he runs past. Farai has run a number of short marathons and fun runs backwards but it was only when he ran the 56km two oceans marathon in 2015, backwards, that Farai noticed that he was being noticed. It’s difficult to not notice someone doing something very different.
​..........MORE HERE...

Some of us love domestic animals and few others love the wild ones....how many of you love the rhinoceros? you will be amazed to know about this Rhino Runner.....who is known for running marathons and ultra marathons with a super heavy costume weighing 11 kgs..........isn't that crazy?..........MORE HERE

Also there are the vertical runners....who can go up in super lightening speed....
​​
Australia's Suzy Walsham earned her record-setting fifth title, while Norway's Thorbjørn Ludvigsen captured his first. Walsham and Ludvigsen (above) climbed the 1,576 stairs in 11:57 and 10:06, respectively.
​......MORE HERE

P.s - request parents to share this with your young ones....who knows one day we will find a crazy runner from our own community!!!

​Cheers,

Kay

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Comrades 2015 - Race report


Read my Comrades Marathon 2015 preparation story here..

Jump to my preparation checklist and running essentials at the end of this blog


"The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart. —Helen Keller"

I'd like to huuuuuuuuuugly thank my friends and family for showering me with love, care and excitements during my training for this super ultra marathon and also on the big Comrades marathon day!!! It was a very humbling experience to complete the Comrades Marathon 2015 between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in 11 hrs and 46 mins 17 secs just 14 mins well within the official 12 hours cut off mark. Yes!!! 11 hrs 46 mins of running, it looks absolutely crazy to me when I look back. There were 16588 runners who started the race on that day and I finished 10822nd. Being a solitary runner by myself, I ran this race with the company my alter ego, the inspiration from other runners and the energy gained from the hi-fives and cheers from the charming spectators till the finish.

Now, I have another medal to adorn my wall of honor and a proud bearer of a fondest memory that will stay with me and my family throughout our life. A 50+ miler and the longest ultra marathon in 4 years since I started running, truly tested my endurance, commitment, perseverance and patience. At the end of this short journey I'm a happy soul to finish it with flying colors.

Running is such beautiful thing and every time I step out to run I experience something so unique. Comrades Marathon provided me an experience of lifetime to witness great athletes (get a lots of inspiration from them), people of all kinds from many parts of the world, the charming spectators, the way the running had stuck on to so many lives and much more..... Its truly wonderful.

Last year I ran the Comrades Marathon down run and I aborted running after 46 kms soon after crossing the half way mark at Drummond due to an injury. This year, with a better care and preparation I went back and thoroughly enjoyed the taste of the Ultimate Human race every bit of it till its finish. Even though I've recovered from the physical pain, exertion and soreness, and a bit of jet-lag+flying long hours+8 hrs waiting in airports in just under 3 days, I’m still recovering from the pleasant shock from attaining a celebrity status during the last one week. There were so many wishes, mails, messages and phone calls from all those who cared about me. If this is what Comrades is going to do to me….I will go there year after year :)

For an endurance runner Comrades is not a difficult race to think about as it is described. This is something I realized after the race. Anybody who can plan and execute a long run can very well crack it head on. It is certainly a wonderful race and also an experience to be part of. I can confidently say that with a thorough preparation and a realistic race day plan combined with the belief to stay focused for multiple hours while enjoying the run….minus stressing about the whole thing again staying away from injury at the start line....will guarantee a finish.

I’ve experienced what it is to run in steep and rolling hills on a sunny day shoulder to shoulder with thousands of runners. Not to forget sweat, pain, cramps and of course myself. Its wonderful because I heard many spectators shouting my name “Kanaaan go for it!!!”, “hey he is from India, Go India go!!’. It was wonderful because some of the runners touched my shoulder and said "you are doing great" – these were free supplies of fuel available to my sore legs. It was simply magical. South Africans and the runners were truly amazing. The best part was even I had the opportunity to fuel many others during the course which suddenly made me very powerful.

I was so inspired to see runners of different sizes and shapes shattering the myth that runners have to always 'look' fit. The capabilities seen there were simply unbelievable. I had a great respect for a pair of runners who went past me after Lion's park.  Anton, a blind runner, was assisted by Tobie by barely connecting him with a yellow band.  They were looking absolutely stunning, focused and running steadily.  I did not see them till the finish and later I found that both had finished in 11 hrs 28 mins.  Wow!!!   It is also common to find many veteran runners (green club members who have 10+ Comrades finishes) who show you that they are the masters of the 5 big hills. Cancer survivors, biggest losers (obese turning into good athlete through sheer determination). There are so many inspiring stories to read at the end of this super event. Also, some crazy runners running for some amazing causes....like Farai Chinomwe, the master beekeeper, who's unusual running style has inspired the millions, also called 'the Rasta man' who runs backwards. Last but not the least....the Rhino Man who is known for running marathons and ultra marathons with his crazy super heavy outfit weighing 11 kgs.

I had a surprise party on the 3rd Jun upon my return back to India.  What more to ask...caring friends like Anands, Srirams, Sajits, Kannans + a lovely chocolate cake with the big C logo on it....
My cute little family including my Father in Law converted a wooden plaque to hang my Comrades medal.



Training for Comrades

My training for the 2015 Comrades started on the 29th of Dec 2014.  Having missed the 2014 run, I decided to have a a very conservative plan (ran 1038 kms as part of my training between Jan and May before the race).  Last year I ran 1400 kms (including the 248 in Dec) without a proper foundation.  Last year with a lot of running and little recovery during the training I was struck by an injury.  This year I focused on optimizing my mileage and also improving my training methods with adequate amount of recovery in between. 
Pic: Comparison of my training mileage between 2014 and 2015

From December I also started focusing on optimizing my weight in a healthy way and bring my BMI closer 20+.  I was very successful in doing that so by saying strict no no to Sugar and a big yes yes to a more balanced diet (lots of protein, soups, fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and legumes) and sticking to a strict healthy soup only diet almost on all nights.   Thanks to my expert chef and nutritionist, my wife for her loving care and attention that I received during the last several months.  Even after the Comrades the soups appear in our dinner menu almost every day.
Pic: My weight goal (in blue) vs the actual weight
My running gear


My race kit

My race day plan, cramps and the joy of finishing

During the last several months I spent a lot of hours in understanding several aspects of this race.  I paid special attention to the running strategy and how the Comrades course should be run as described by those who tasted it in the past, the elevation profile, the expected weather & temperature on the race day etc., and combined with my own performances in the past - I came up with two plans.  The Plan A was to target a sub 11 hour finish and Plan B (red in the pic below) to target just a Finish - and decided to be extremely happy about one of the results.  The plan also helped me in adjusting the pace on the race day.  I also decided to stick to the Plan A till the half way point and then continue to pick one depending on the race day experience.  

When I reached Drummond - I was very closely following my Plan A - but I was skeptical about three things.  Firstly, I had never run beyond 67 kms and had no clue on how my body will react after that.  Secondly, the temperature was not much in favor as it was soaring close to 28-29 degs and I was concerned about cramping severely - this was affirmed by the time I had reached Drummond I had already witnessed multiple runners bailing off due to cramps.  Thirdly, my fuel / hydration plans were never tested beyond 67 kms and I had strictly decided not to bonk and suffer at the later part of the race.  At that time, I decided not to chase the 11 hr finish but to stick to the Plan B to finish the race comfortably.


I never liked the design of the traditional pacing chart which usually comes in as a snap on wrist band;  it lacked intelligence and did not really provide anything beyond just the KM mark and the pace.  I decided to make one for myself.  2 days before the race while sitting in the hotel lobby in Durban, I decided to make something that could be conveniently carried and has all the information that I wanted during my run.  I created one with the comrades up hill profile in the backdrop and marked the elevation gain and loss, the cut off points, the Plan A and Plan B paces, expected time to reach and finish etc.,  I took a printout of it in A5 size paper and carefully put it in a soft plastic cover.  The elevation details helped me in understanding the profile that I would be hitting in every 10 kms interval also helped me in focusing only that particular section.
Pic: my Comrades 2015 pacing chart.

I setup my Garmin for a 10k lap and it helped me to focus on my race in 10k intervals.  I never bothered about constantly looking at Garmin and adjusting the pace every single km.   I also did not use my heart rate monitor this time just to reduce one element of discomfort even thought I had trained with my HRM during all my long runs.  I was so confident that my average HR would be in the range 135-145 BPM and decided not to bother much about it.

After 60k, my right leg Vastus Medialis started cramping and I had to use salt tablets at least 4 of them till the finish line.  My fuel and hydration went really well otherwise and I used Gu gel till the first 30 kms and then the Enegrade, water, coke (initially diluted with water and the raw one after 65 km) and potatoes till the end of the race.  I also had realized that the cramping intensity increased whenever I switched from walking to running.  My walking and running strategy early on came handy during the Comrades.  This is something that I must really work on the next time.

The Polly shots was a killer climb at the end and it took away a lot of time from my reserve while walking up the hills.  I spent almost 40 mins walking between the two Polly's.  I was so elated to reach the top of Polly and decided to run without stopping anywhere till the finish line.  I was all set to finish the race just before the 12 hour cut off but when I saw the 4 kms to go sign I decided that I will finish the race before 11:40+ hrs.  The final 2-3 kms I sprinted with joy while crossing hundreds of runners slowly marching towards the finish line.  The last 500 meters was a further good sprint and I did not even realize that I forgot about the cramp or any kind of discomfort; nothing bothered at that time and I was just flying.  Finally, when I touched the finish line, it was a very emotional moment and all that I wanted was a warm hug from my my wife and children who provided me everything to reach the finish line on that day.

After collecting the medal and posing for a picture :), I called my wife, spoke to my children.....what a great moment it was!  Truly the stars, moons and planets with a perfect alignment on that day.  I'm also grateful to good friends like Pastor Samuel and his family, Pastor Nathan and his family, Lincoln and Nisha for their wonderful hospitality - they just provided space in their heart to make me feel South Africa my second home.


What next?


This race has really altered (in a positive way) some of my internal belief systems.  I love running again and again...as the Olympic motto says Citius, Altius, Fortius....and behaving simply like the honey thief - I have tasted Comrades twice (one and a half to be precise :)) and I will take efforts and go there again.


Next year being a down run - I will focus on different aspects including cross training especially swimming which I recently fell in love with, more reading and research to do, more exciting time to spend on re-discovering me further.  I still have my unfulfilled dream of running a full marathon under 4 hours and I'm planning to focus on cutting the time by 16 mins this year- this will also be a good Comrades 2016 qualifier and also to get into the D pen next year while giving me a 2-3 mins advantage at the start line.

As Norman L Kerth suggests, I would continue to mine the timeline for gold and wisdom however tiny the find would be.


I've an innermost desire to identify someone who finds this as an inspiration and starts focusing on leading a healthy / happy life especially by running or through any active sports.

Post Race analysis (from Garmin/Comrades site)
Time

Time: 11:46:18
Moving time: 11:43:35
Avg. Pace: 7:56 min/km
Avg. Moving Pace: 7:55 min/km

Elevation

Min. Elevation: 10m
Max. Elevation: 826 m
Elevation Gain: 1,887 m
Elevation Loss: 1,272


Elevation vs. Pace graph


Lap timing (I'd set the lap distance as 10 k in my Garmin)





















The official race distance was 87.7 kms and the Garmin finally showed 88.93 with an error of 1.2 kms.
Results from Comrades website



Pic: race day timing results





I compared my performance with Gift Calahe (hey why not!!!) (1st in Men) and Caroline (1st in Women) - utter craziness they ran almost twice my speed :).  Amazing to find Caroline picking up her fastest course run during the last 10 kms.

Final thoughts

Alright - you are a novice runner and decided to run the Comrades - you might wonder what you could be doing besides running....here are my thoughts.

Firstly congratulations for having thought about this.  This is the first thing that any novice runner can do to start thinking about Comrades besides running smile emoticon - in my opinion - do indulge, indulge and indulge...in reading a lot about the Comrades marathon, read the greatest stories written by runners from all walks of life, fastest runners, slowest runners, success as well as failure stories, get inspired by watching Comrades marathon, start - end videos in YouTube, especially the spirit of Comrades and the good luck video posted by @peterslaufblog, keep dreaming about it day and night, get charged up every time you imagine you at the start line, running through the big 5 hills and also crossing the finish line, get ready to fail and get ready to succeed and improve.  

At last, make sure you have a life outside this running, spend adequate time with your family and do take good care of your health.

The section below this contains Comrades marathon related tips for novice runners and also especially from the international runners point of view, what to expect and recommendations from me based on my own experience.

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Running essentials


Pic: I prepared this kit one day before the race
  • Dri-fit shirt + Bibs safely fastened in front and back side
  • Compression pants / shirt
  • Band-aid / nippies 
  • Compression Socks
  • Shoes with Timing Chip safely fastened
  • Vaseline (feet) / Bodyglide (nipple chaffing) + Sublock
  • Band aids or Nippies (nipple chaffing)
  • Cap / Visor
  • Dri-fit hand gloves
  • Head bandanna
  • ID card or band + emergency contact numbers
  • Fully charged Garmin / GPS Watch / ensure you have taken backup and emptied the history
  • Heart Rate Monitor
  • Salt Tablets
  • Energy gels / Protein bars
  • Personal cell phone wrapped in a plastic cover 
  • Good quality+strong safety pins (8 nos)
  • Light sun glasses
  • Camel back / hip pouch
  • Post run food coupons
  • Pacing chart / band - ensure its covered in plastic / make it waterproof
  • International credit card + cash
  • Recyclable plastic (usually the transparent ones) bag (protection against cold wind) - size of a garbage bag - create a hole for head and hands
  • Wear the international runner band (wear it loose - your body bulges as you are running and it will be a major irritant during the race - you need a pair of scissors to cut it out)
  • Wear the bus ticket band to travel back to the start point (or keep it safely in your hip pouch)
  • Stick the tog bag tag behind your bib (or keep it safely in your hip pouch)
  • Gatorade or energy drink to keep sipping at the carol
Expo day

First thing you must ensure is to prepare a tog bag with the few bare minimum essential items.  The tog bag can be deposited at the Expo (look for a truck outside the expo building where the tog bag is collected - separate truck for international runners).  The tog bag is your most important need at the finish line with all essential post race needs,
  • Change over clothes + socks + plastic sheet wrap or a jacket
  • Recovery drink (vitamins / protein shake)
  • Water
  • Energy + Carb + Protein bars
  • Body spray + soap
  • Hand towel
Best time to visit the expo is on the first or the second day (third day is usually crowded). Carry the entry confirmation printout along with your passport and directly go to the international runners counter.   Collect the race kit - 
  • Check the T-Shirt size
  • Verify champion chip for its accuracy
  • Tog bag number sticker
Do visit the international runners area to meet and greet other runners and also have coffee, cool drinks, energy drinks etc., / rest and relax.

Tracking runners + live telecast of the race (share this information with your family / friends)

  • The race is shown live in the www.comrades.com website.  The runner position also can be tracked there.
  • The race results can be tracked by a smart phone application ULTIMATE LIVE.  Download and find the Comrades Marathon race, search for the runners to track and add them (click the Star) as your favorites to track their movement during the race.  The app also shows the approximate position of the runner based on the average pace recorded at the timing mats.
At the finish line
  • Open your arms widely, finish with a big smile :)
  • Collect the medal
  • Ensure your picture is clicked - find a photographer right at the finish line or after collecting the medal
  • Go to the international runners tent
  • Collect your tog bag
  • Give the food coupon to get a drink (beer is also available) + your choice of food (noodles, soup etc.,) 
  • Stretch, rest and relax
  • Protect yourself from cold
  • Meet and greet other finishers
  • Don't miss the action at the 12th hour cut off at the finish line - there are also televisions inside the tent covering the race live
Race day photos and videos

The race day photos and videos are uploaded in the following site - the pictures will start appearing in this link 2-3 days after the race.  Wait for at least a week or 10 days to consolidate the pictures and then place your order.  


http://www.jetlineactionphoto.com/


The race day video shot at various points (wherever the timing mats were located) are uploaded in the following link

http://mysports.tv/site/en/


Also look for the video posted by SABC (telecaster) in the YouTube site


Comrades Marathon Facebook & Twitter


https://twitter.com/ComradesRace

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2573515385/


Join my Twitter Ultra Marathon Listing

Comrades Qualification

To run the Comrades Marathon one must qualify by running a full marathon in sub 5 hours. Unless you are a very slow and steady runner and you feel like running another 2-3 hours after running a full marathon in ~4 hrs 45 mins you may find Comrades a difficult race.  Focus on improving your PR and take it closure to a sub 4 hr 30 mins comfortably before signing up for the Comrades.  Allow at least 6-8 months before running Comrades after your PR is achieved.


I ran a 50k Ultra in 6 hrs in November 2013 and a 4 hr 19 mins full marathon in Jan 2014.  This gave me a lot of confidence for mentally get prepared for signing up for the Comrades.


References



Tata Mumbai Marathon, did they compromise the runners safety and experience?

Tata Mumbai Marathon, did they compromise the runner's safety and experience this year? Credit: https://thenypost.files.wordpress....