Gargi Pal Chaudhuri
Gargi Pal Chaudhuri

Gargi Pal Chaudhuri | Racing towards half-century

She has run one Ironman and two Half Ironman races and wants to do 50 marathons in under 5 hours each by the time she is 50

On the Run | Gargi Pal Chaudhuri

Gargi Pal Chaudhuri, 35, is constantly on the move. The Manhattan-based director of an investment firm was actively involved in sports activities while in La Martiniere for Girls school in Kolkata, and rediscovered her love for physical activity when she ran her first marathon in 2004. Since then she has run 12 marathons, one Ironman and two Half Ironman races, 18 half marathons, a 120-mile (around 193km) stage ultra marathon (a race run over a few days in which one has to cover a certain distance within a given time limit every day) and several shorter distance races and triathlons. She has set herself a target of completing 50 marathons in under 5 hours each and also aims to make the qualifying mark for the coveted Boston Marathon and Kona Ironman. Edited excerpts from an email interview:

The basics first, why do you run?

I love running. I love the adrenalin that rushes through my system before a race or a hard workout. I love setting different time goals for myself and working towards achieving them. I love the sense of accomplishment after finishing a race. Mostly, I love unravelling the mysteries of a new city on foot when I travel and discovering a million new things in my own city when I run.

You tried registering for the Kolkata Marathon (2009) but couldn’t run. Why?

I was told that the full marathon option wasn’t available for women since women can’t run so far. It was quite amusing since I had run about eight marathons by then. I ended up running the 11km instead, which was a fantastic race.

Your favourite running gear and soundtrack.

Dri-FIT T-shirts and shorts in the summer; full-sleeve shirts and capris in the fall and spring; winter brings out a lot of layers, warm hat and gloves. I typically don’t run with music because I find that it distracts me during a hard workout. But once in a while if I am running solo, I listen to Jay Z, Kanye (West), Beyoncé and Rihanna.

What is your training regimen like?

I do a long run (15-21 miles) on the weekends, two short runs—usually hill and speed training—during the week and then swim, cycle, yoga or do weights on other days. I take Mondays off. This summer I trained for an ultra marathon where I was running 20-28 miles on Saturdays and Sundays, another 13-20 miles during the week.

For Ironman or Half Ironman, it’s typically running twice a week, cycling twice a week, swimming twice a week and stretching every time I get an opportunity.

What is your pre-, during and post-race diet?

I try to eat a balanced diet at all times. The whole “carb-loading before a race" concept doesn’t work for me. I do, however, try to increase my water intake substantially during the week leading up to the race.

During a marathon, I try to take about 100-120 calories every 40-45 minutes in gel form and drink water every mile. For triathlons, it’s liquid calories on the cycling portion of the race and gels during the run.

Why Ironman?

It was on my list of races to do before I die. In 2008, I finally bit the bullet and went for my first swimming lesson. Four years and many training hours later, I completed my first Ironman in August 2012. It was a very fulfilling and fun experience.

Do you find any difference between running in India and abroad?

I have run in India probably five times in my life and I have run in the US five days a week for the last 10 years. Each of these five times in India I have loved it and found no difference.

Which marathon next?

The Philadelphia Marathon on 17 November.

Have you set yourself a personal goal in terms of number of races, time, etc.?

I’d like to qualify for the Boston Marathon some day. I would need to take off about 15 minutes from my current marathon time or stay where I am in pace and wait till I turn 45. We will see which comes first.

I’d love to race the Comrades Ultra in the next few years and perhaps a 100-mile race sometime after that. Ideally, I’d like to do 50 marathons
under 5 hours by the time I am 50. I am at 13 now and I am 35…so the clock is ticking.

In terms of triathlons, I want to do the Ironman Lake Placid and like all triathletes in the world, I dream about qualifying for Kona some day…might have to wait till I am 75 for that one.

On the Run is a monthly series that profiles India’s most enthusiastic marathon runners.

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