To get readers up to speed with my story, I would urge them to read part 1 of this series.
I had never given a serious consideration to the thought of running. It appealed to me often, but the inevitable physical torture somehow scared me. Now that I had decided, I needed to start somewhere. What had started with a ‘get healthy’ drive began taking shape to reach that ultimate dream of finishing a full marathon.
My room-mate and I had taken a collective decision to lose weight and work on our health; and running seemed to be a great idea to achieve both. We decided to help each other in this drive, and religiously started going to the gym for 1-2 hours, 5 days a week. Our eating habits needed serious retooling, especially mine as I hardly kept a tab on what I was eating, even though I had a good metabolism. Determined as I was, I did change my diet, and kept in constant touch with my ‘runner’ colleague.
The routine was tough initially. The very first day before stepping on to the treadmill, I assured myself that this had to be a cakewalk; after all I was a good enough athlete back in school. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It took me a while to get my groove back, but once I did, I was able to run 40-45 minutes in one go. It revived the warrior within. Sadly though, my waist size did not register any decrease. I wasn’t disheartened, being the patient guy that I am. I gave myself 6 months to see if there were any changes in my huge body structure.
My colleague coaxed me into running 3.1 miles (5 Kms) with him, which was not much if I compare by today’s standards. I was confident about finishing the distance comfortably, considering I was easily completing 5-6 miles in the gym. It ended up being the most painful 5 Kms I have ever run, and I still remember the date: 27th November 2007. It took me approximately 36 minutes to complete, and I felt elated. I had tasted blood, and was hungry for more. I decided to take it up by one notch, and ventured for a 10 KM run on 15th December 2007. I finished it in 63 minutes. My determination of continuing with the gym and persevering with the controlled diet was helping a lot. I started shedding weight, and feeling lighter. Still, the full marathon was nowhere on the horizon. Winter was getting brutal and it was no fun running outside. Routine gym was getting boring. So what was the next motivational spark?
In late January, during some random conversation with my colleague, the topic of marathon popped up. He pointed out that I had already dome 6.2 miles, with just 20 more miles I could have a full marathon to my name! Just for the information of the readers, my colleague in question has already finished 12 marathons, which qualifies him for making that kind of a statement. It sounded so easy coming out from his mouth, but I had an idea how tough it was. I pondered over it for a while, and did some light research on marathon preparation. Then I asked myself what was the worst thing that could happen to me? That I would start the marathon and not be able to finish it? Why not give it a try! In a moment of madness, pumped up by male testosterone, I decided to sign up for the marathon. I must have been crazy at that time to do it, but I did. It was time to come up with a plan, and I had no clue what I was going to put myself through. My parents thought I had suffered a fit of insanity. Their simple concern was that I could have controlled my diet and continued to exercise instead of doing something so outrageous. After all, marathon running is not a very popular hobby in India. You will be branded a bonafide madman if you tell them that you plan to simply run for 42+ kms. Noble suggestions, but the logic centers of my brain had stopped functioning. Blame marathon fever.
My journey to 26.2 – The Final Undertaking!!
All said and done, I started preparing for the Marine Corps Marathon scheduled for 26th October, 2008. We were still in January with summer 2-3 months away. By this time, I had lost 30 pounds and felt like I was on Cloud 9 with a 192 lb body. Most of the marathon preparation guides suggest a 6 month training period. Being a first timer, 6-7 months was a good enough time to prepare. I started slowly running a distance of 6-7 miles for 5 days, helped by the fact that spring had arrived. It is always good to start with 4-5 miles for 2-3 weeks to condition your legs. Once the body gets used to running outside, distance needs to be increased gradually. I used to have my short runs (3-5 miles) for the first 3 weeks in the evening and long runs on Saturday mornings (5-7 miles). After a month I started running an additional 1.2-1.8 miles for my long runs on Saturday. I started to get a hang of it, though I was still unaware of the nutrition required for long distance running. During my training, the longest run I did was 17 miles and the short runs every week used to be 5-7 miles. I got married in March 2008, and my wife Kalpana came over to the US on October 4th 2008. For that day till the day of my marathon, 26th October, I did not do any training, which was a huge mistake. It is imperative to clock in at least one 20+ mile run during preparation. Never mind what was not done. Marathon day arrived. It was time to finish the journey that had started 7 months ago.
The morning of 26th October, 2008, I was feeling all jittery. The nervousness of not having trained for the entire last month was killing me. Then I saw 30,000 people around me, everyone with the same goal of finishing the marathon; and it was a revitalizing feeling that cannot be put into words. All my fears were alleviated at that moment of comfort. I knew I just had to finish the race.
I had a good start, being able to knock off 6 miles in one go. Must have been the adrenaline. One hour gone – 20 more miles to go. Another hour and a half and another 8 miles conquered. I was having a great time, and actually enjoying the run. The others who are running with you and the crowd that is there just to cheer you up makes you feel really good. 12.2 more miles to go, then it hit me. I was getting tired and beginning to have cramps. The under-preparedness of not having trained for a month was taking its toll. I started gorging on a lot of fluids and nutritional bars. I had to relax and curb the panic. So I slowed down and started walking.
The good thing about these events is that there are people every step of the way to encourage you. Strangers will come up and say a few kind words to cheer you up. But for them I would have surely quit at that point. I continued my holy quest, stopped thinking about the cramps and concentrated on running. I could see a large gathering of crowd in front and heaved a sigh of relief, assuming it to be the end of the race. My heart almost stopped beating when I later realized that there were still 4 more miles to go. I was in serious pain and my legs were screaming for help. All my brain could do was register strain from every nerve, every muscle of the body. I won’t bore you with the details, but every moment of excruciating agony stands out.
All my strength had been drained away. I just hoped to finish the race. I can’t tell you how many people gave up on those last 2 miles, with some of them even needing medical attention. I had finished 24 miles, and just 2 miles separated me from my goal. It is like a mirage when you are on those last 2 miles, the finish line appearing and disappearing every 10 meters. Extracting the last ounce of strength left in me, I ran the last 100 meters and crossed the finish line.
I had done it. 5 hours 49 minutes was the official time registered. Unofficially it seemed like an eternity. I, Atul Mishra, had finished his first marathon on the historic day of 26th October, 2008. Forget winning the marathon, I had achieved a victory over myself.
I let out a big cry: Hoooooraaaaay! I get goose bumps whenever I recall that moment.
I used to maintain a daily tracker of my calories consumed and burnt, a sample of which is tabulated below:
|Date||Breakfast||Mid Morning Snack||Lunch||Evening Snack||Dinner||Calories Taken||Calories Burnt|
|24-Jul-08||Muffin=300 + NatureValley=180||1 Green Tea=50||Garlic Chicken=450||Mixed bean Salad=200||Mixed Bean Salad=200 + @ wheat Bread=200||1650||750|
|25-Jul-08||Muffin=300||NatureValley=180||Chilli Mac=280||Apple=100||Garlic Chicken Rice=400||1500||1300|
|26-Jul-08||Cereal=300||Coffee=100+ Snack=120||Idli=250||Rice Daal=400||Quiznos Sub=570||2100||500|
|27-Jul-08||Bread omlette=250||Banana=80+ cofee=70||Chicken Sandwich=450||Coffe=100||Chicken puffs=500||1700||300|
|28-Jul-08||NatureValley=360||SnackPack=120||Chicken Burrito=520||NatureValley=360||Mysore Masala Dosa=400||1850||300|
|29-Jul-08||Slimfast=190 + Banana=80||Rice w/Meat=600||Apple=100||Cereal=450||1600||1200|
|30-Jul-08||Slimfast=190 + Banana=80||Turkey Panini=700||Wheat bread=180 + Naturevalley=180||Masala Dosa=500||1900||400|
|31-Jul-08||Protein Bar=310||Coffee=100||Grilled Chicken Sandwich + Chicken Wrap=640||Cereal=400||1650||0|
|1-Aug-08||Slimfast=190+ Wheat Bread=100||Coffee=100||Chicken Burrito=520||Apple =100 + Nature Valley=180 + Wheat Bread=100||Vegetable Fried Rice=400||2200||1200|
|2-Aug-08||Slimfast=190||Protein Bar-350||Veg Fried Rice=400||Apple=100 + Nature Valley=180||Lamb Biryani=700+ Coffee=150+ DP=150||2200||300|
For those who are interested, you can find the excel sheet detailing my training and eating habits. Hope it is of some help.