“I ran 20 minutes non-stop," said a colleague the other day. “Earlier, I was running a maximum of six minutes non-stop, but in an overall programme of 20 minutes. So isn’t this good?" “That’s fantastic," I replied. It’s amazing that you can get yourself to do three times what you felt you were earlier capable of.
Dean Karnazes is an ultra-long distance runner in the US and has just run 350 miles non-stop. I met him on 2 June, before running the San Diego marathon. He orders pizza from a delivery service to a point which is about 15 miles out, so he knows he will reach there at the appropriate time. Then he eats as he runs! That’s super human! I have a friend who ran from London to Paris, and I know someone who has run from Delhi to Dehradun.
Many people ask me: “How do you manage to run a marathon? It seems impossible." I tell them that I couldn’t run a mile without stopping, exhausted, and then, over a winter in Chicago—thanks to a treadmill in our basement—I could finally run three miles non-stop. That was a big moment in my life. And then I decided to run a marathon. I was 41, and it took me 18 weeks of dedicated and focused training to achieve that. I then felt I could accomplish ANYTHING I set my mind to. All it needed was focus, and determination. I tell my daughters: “Nothing is impossible. It may just be very, very difficult." I really believe that, and so should you.
1. Focus. Sleep a bit earlier, party less on week nights, laze around a little less to gain that extra hour you need in a day. Something’s gotta give.
2. A time-bound stretch goal works: it could be a 7km run or maybe a half marathon. It could even be a full marathon, or may be it’s that thrill at the 20-minute walk. Each of us have our own landmarks that are our stretch goals. You need to define yours.
3. Have intermediate, bite-sized goals.
To be able to run 10% more than the same time last week.
To be able to run 5% more than the longest in the last two weeks.
To run at a pace faster than last week, and so on.
4. Sleep. Try sleeping 30 minutes more than your current average, whatever that is. This will ensure that your body is rejuvenated and ready for the day when you wake up.
5. A reasonably healthy lifestyle and a basic healthy eating plan are a must. So try and cut down on alcohol and smoking. Just step back and look at your life and its ingredients and figure out your plan for balance, and how to get an hour-and-a-half out of it: one for exercise and half for sleep.
6. Running gear: Shoes, water bottle belt, clothing, etc. Check past columns on www.livemint.com and tips on www.runninganddiving.com.
7. Celebrate your progress. Never mind that super stretch goal. Celebrate the mini triumphs. Don’t forget to see where you have come from, and where you have got to (and this does not apply to just running or exercise)
8. It’s a mind game more than a physical one beyond a point. So, think positive thoughts, before, during and after your run, That’s what keeps you going in your run, and through life, and maintains a more positive frame of mind. I tell friends that if you can run three miles non-stop, you can do a 26.2 mile marathon. Just focus, and it’s a mental game after that.
9. One broad statistic to get you going: One in 100 people thinks of running, of those, one in 10 actually does. Of those, one in 10 runs a race, and of those, one in 100 runs in a marathon. So, you could be one of those 1,000 or so Indians to run a marathon.
10. Remember that every day will not be great. Focus on the days when you felt like you could go on and on, and wondered why you stopped.
On a philosophical note, long-distance running, training and racing are much like life. Think about it.
And even if you NEVER run, the points above apply in many ways to everything we do in life.
(Rahul S. Verghese is director, Global Consumer Insights, Motorola, India)