Marathons in her DNA
Seven years of running, one marathon a month, more than 30 marathons and 12 podium finishes; a single mom and marathon addict. Meet Sayuri Dalvi. “Running means everything to me. I want to run all my life and even the thought of ever being unable to run gives me goosebumps. It’s like cutting off a vital organ from my body.” As a child, she always took to athletics but in 2007 she started running owing to health reasons. Besides shedding the post pregnancy weight, running helped hervent the frustration she encountered in her personal life. “On days I don’t run, I face withdrawal symptoms and get really cranky. It’s one of the basics of life for me– eating, drinking, sleeping and running!”
Sayuri has never missed the Mumbai marathon, since 2007. Last year, she ran for Khushi Paediatric Therapy Centre, an NGO that supports autistic children who cannot afford therapy. “I managed to collect approximately 1,50,000 for the NGO. This cause is close to my heart as my son is autistic.” This year, at the Mumbai marathon, besides Khushi, she will be running for Nike.
Running has taken this 33-year-old to Goa, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad, Satara and Bangalore.
Her favourite run was at the 50 km Ultra marathon in Bangalore, in November 2013. “We had to run through forests and had to dodge bushes. The path was uneven and I tripped four times. At some spots I could see no other participant. But I enjoyed every minute of it,”she gushes. Her dream run is on an international level. She’s got her mind and heart set on the Sundown Marathon in Singapore, a night marathon and Comrades, a 89 km time-bound marathon in South Africa. “It’s one of the most challenging marathons where you have to cross five points within a given time limit. It’s something I definitely want to do but it will have to wait, even if it takes me 10 years to get there,” says Sayuri with an apparent passion.
After seven years of running, competing in one every month, Sayuri finds “running in low temperatures challenging. The recent marathons in Ahmedabad and Delhi took place in 11 degrees Celsius and I had to breathe through my mouth. During the Ultra marathon in Bangalore, after 30 km I could feel my legs giving up. But I realised this is what I want. I have always liked challenges and I kept motivating myself to go on.”
How does this super woman train? With a certified course in fitness management and a whirlpool of information on the web, Sayuri never believed in seeking professional training. She trains on her own based on her schedule. On some days, she trains at noon to acclimatise herself to running in the sun, something she cannot avoid on the day of the race. She alternates between tempo runs, interval and long runs, and speed work outs. Her favourite routes are Shivaji Park to NCPA and Mulund to Powai or Ghatkopar along the Eastern Express Highway. Sayuri believes that a simple home-cooked meal of dal, rice, pulses and sprouts offers the best of carbohydrate and protein intake.
Sayuri begins her training, everyday, once her home chores are done and her son is in school. “When my son comes home from school at 4.30 pm I devote all my time to him. Sometimes we swim together or he cycles and I run with him. We talk, we have fun and we both enjoy ourselves.”
A doting mother, Sayuri schedules her outstation runs one weekend a month; her son is happy to spend some time with her ex-husband. Saturday is no-training day. Her training format includes a combination of one of these patterns: gym and swimming, gym and cycling, running and stretches or running and a short work out. The focus is rigorous training coupled with one slow-paced activity each day.
Age is only a number
I'm here to enjoy my run and not to win or be the best,” says 59-year-old Pervin Batliwala, who started running at the age of 50. Pervin who works for a leading multinational company in Mumbai ran her first half-marathon in 2006. Besides the fun factor, Pervin runs to meet new people, stay fit and keep her self-confidence boosted. Running, she says, gives her a sense of liberty, “I forget everything else when I’m running.”
Pervin, who was introduced to running by Savio D’Souza, her coach, has run 21 half marathons and one full marathon—The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, where she finished at 4 hours and 48 minutes. Besides successfully completing half a dozen podium finishes, Pervin did the unthinkable—she ran the Leh-Ladakh marathon, at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Time management, right breathing and following a disciplined training schedule are the mantras she follows for a good run.
Pervin emphasises on a strategic approach to every marathon. “If you are running the half marathon, focus on your legs and speed; while for the full marathon it’s all about the mind and endurance.” An easy-going, happy-go-lucky person, running at 59 has definitely drawn a few fans and inspired some souls in her coterie. “I have managed to get a lot of people to run for the marathon this year. Some of them want to train with me for the 2015 marathon,” she says with an unmistakable sense of pride and fulfillment.
Pervin keeps fit by swimming twice and working out three times a week. Her diet includes a lot of protien-based foods such as bananas and eggs.
For Pervin, age is merely a three-letter word. “An unfit young person is too old to run. I started running at 50 and wish to run for the rest of my life.” Her plan after retirement is to run at the Comrades 89 km time-bound marathon in South Africa, which is considered to be the ultimate feat of endurance.
An inspiration for women who believe that running is only for the young, Pervin says, “Run with your heart, listen to your body and you will be a ‘run-away success story’.”
When 25-year-old Ashween Anand went to cheer her friend at the Dream Run in January 2013, little did she know that eight months later, she would be training to run for the Mumbai Marathon in January 2014. “Jogging is a way to keep fit without necessarily joining a gym. I decided running the half marathon was my way to stay fit and have fun at the same time”.
A national level skater, Ashween qualified for the open category of the Mumbai Marathon in July 2013, when she ran the 10 km qualifier in almost 82 minutes, surpassing the time limit by three minutes. She trains regularly and does not restrict herself to the track. She planned the gradual progress of her training and more importantly kept up to it—September 3 km, October 5-7 km, November 8-10 km and by the end of December she was training 15 km. While her work schedule doesn’t permit Ashween to run every morning, she either cycles on her exercise bike or skips at home. When she does run, on weekends, she constantly attempts to improve her time limit.
So how has she been preparing? “The first few things you need,” she says, “are good shoes with shock absorbers that can keep you going. Besides her pair of Nike training shoes, her running gear for the marathon includes good cotton track pants and t-shirts as lycra does not absorb sweat and can make you tired. She also reads newspaper articles on marathon training and follows Runnersforlife.com, a blog which nourishes marathon runners with eating tips and motivational stories.
Ashween is physically fit and exercises regularly, but she realised the importance of warm-ups during the qualifier, “I learnt this the hard way when I ran the 10 km qualifier. My legs were sore and I couldn’t walk for the next three days. Warm-ups are a must before you go for a long run, especially for first-time runners. If you don’t, you could get a hamstring or muscle pull,” emphasises the state-level gold medallist in skating. Ashween’s 15 minute warm- up includes stretching for 10 minutes and a slow jog for 5 minutes. Her strategy is to start at a slow pace and gradually pick up to a sustainable level. While to qualify for 2015, she has to finish the marathon in 2 hours 45 minutes, Ashween plans to complete it in 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Ashween runs every weekend and chooses different locations to practice. “If it’s Jogger’s Park on one weekend, it’s Juhu beach the next. This gives me a different environment and a different surface to practice on.” On days when she is fighting for time, Ashween jogs for 30 minutes on the jogging track, in her building.
An active sportsperson till she entered the corporate world, Ashween was part of the Indian team for the World Skating Championship in Venezuela in 2003; she participated in the 42km skating marathon from 2002 to 2009 and has also won several marathons organised by skating clubs in Mumbai.
Running for life
“I love running and enjoy it thoroughly. I understand my body and what works for me and I strive to improve at every marathon,” says 29-year-old Ankita Mittal. Her tryst with marathon began when she ran the Standard Chartered 21 km in 2008. Since then Ankita has completed seven full and three half marathons with two podium finishes in the amateur category. Before she took to marathons, five years ago, Ankita was a regular at the gym and ran approximately 10 km a week.
A track runner in high school, Ankita has run full marathons in Paris, New York and London, which have left her with some of her best experiences. Her personal best is 3 hours and 40 minutes when she ran the 42 km London marathon; she has only improved over time with the right training. “People often talk about runners' high or the adrenalin rush, and as a runner I definitely experience that,” she proudly says.
Ankita, who works with her father in real estate development, began running with Savio D'souza in 2010 when there were around 20-30 people in the running group. The group strength now stands at 80. “We run four times a week, typically doing interval training on Wednesdays, tempos on Fridays and long runs on Sunday, along with a recovery run”. Her typical running day begins at 5 am, she goes for her run at 6 and winds up by 8 am, has breakfast and leaves for work by 9.30.
Her work day ends by 5, after which she runs a few errands, and then has a quick dinner either with friends or at home. “Training to run does take a toll on your personal life. If you're running the 42-km marathon, especially, you can't have too many late nights. I generally sleep early if I have training the next day.”
Ankita hopes she is fit enough to run her entire life. “Age is no barrier. We have people who are 65-70 in our group. Internationally, I've met 80-year-olds who are still running!”
Families that run together, stay together
This year, Ramesh Panicker, a recreational runner who has been running the Mumbai Marathon whenever time and schedule permits him since the marathon started, will have his wife, Reshmi supporting him not from the crowd but by his side as she participates in it this year. While Ramesh aims to complete the full 42 km, Reshmi will run the 21 km half marathon. Their preparations differ and requires different intensities, but their common training schedules has brought them closer. “Running the marathon requires discipline. Both of us want to be fresh in the morning to train, and together we have decided to avoid late nights. The marathon has led us to have more common objectives,” says Ramesh.
With one more mutual topic to discuss, running the marathon together has deepened the bond that the couple share. “We have more time together–in the car when travelling to the racecourse where we train and back, and one more common subject to talk about. This is one of the things that I think has motivated her to run this year, besides wanting to keep fit,” Ramesh tells me excitedly. What are the other factors that motivate Reshmi to join her husband this year? The couple have common friends who run and listening to 'running talk' at the social gatherings with them, is another reason that has motivated her. “Our friends had been urging her for the last couple of years to run the marathon. After giving it much thought, she decided to go for it this year. And our friends have encouraged her all through.”
An executive vice president at Reliance Capital and the president of Piramal Realty, Ramesh and Reshmi both have hectic schedules. But a disciplined lifestyle enables them to wake up at 5 30 am to train and be in office by 9 am. While they train for the marathon four days a week (Saturdays are spent in training for Sunday's long run and on strengthening the body; Sundays, they do a long endurance run; Tuesdays, a recovery run and on Thursdays a tempo run to work on speed), the couple do yoga the remaining three days. While Reshmi's aim is to finish the marathon at any cost no matter how long it takes, Ramesh wants to run as consistently as possible and beat his last years' record of 3 hours 50 minutes. “I compete not to win, but to improve myself,” he finishes.
Dr. Ijaz Ashai, Physiotherapist for CCL and founder of Ashai International Rehabilitation Center and Savio D’souza, India’s former national marathon champion offers tips for women marathoners
Training: Women should understand that there are males who are weaker than them. Indian women beyond the age of 30 need more calcium. They should take to swimming, non-weight exercises and strength training such as leg extension, leg curl and calf raises. Functional training should follow strength training. Train on the beach, if you can. Running on sand gives resistance. Or opt for track running. Continuous running puts pressure on the shin, which can cause an injury in the long run. So after your run, dip your legs in a bucket of water with chilled ice.
Diet: Never change your diet a few days before the marathon. Try a new diet only a month in advance. If you’re not used to eating before running, don’t try it just before the race. A high-carb diet is a must for long running. Include rice, roti and bananas in your diet. Keep a 24-hour gap between your carb consumption and running. On the day of the race, eat early in the morning—you can eat bananas or dates 45 minutes before the race. Stay nourished with one of these combinations: oats with or without little milk, tea and biscuits, tea and toast or toast and jam. Milk can sometimes cause nausea if you’re not used to it. Drink a glass of energal or water as soon as you wake up. Slow runners should carry a small bar of chocolate, dates or a small banana. Sip water at regular intervals. Don’t gulp it but hold it in your mouth and allow it to moisten it.
Warm-ups: Work on dynamic warm-ups. Once you finish running, relax for 20 seconds. When you run, your maximum strength is on the hamstring. Stretch your hamstring more than your thighs. Back stretches and light stretches are a must before the race. Don’t start the race at a fast pace. Once you have warmed up well enough, get into a rhythm and maintain it. Tie your shoe laces properly in a double knot and tuck them between the shoes so the laces don’t open up as you run.
Clothing: Dri-fit runwear should be your preferred choice. Don’t run with new shoes, socks, or clothes. Wear light shorts, tights or even 3/4ths as far as possible. Tracks for 21-42 km are heavy and hot. For red marks, use Vaseline or petroleum jelly on the insides of armpits and thighs where there may be friction. Sweat can cause red bruises.
Sleep: Sleeping well two or three nights before the marathon is very important. Even if you go to sleep early, you may wake up early due to stress or because you might worry about the race. The day before the run, stay off your feet as much as possible.