Run The World #2 – Achim Aretz

Put your best foot backwards!

When Achim Aretz runs, you can’t follow him. At a pace where many can’t even move forward, Achim’s ingenuity has caused him to run himself  into the record books by completing the world’s fastest backwards half-marathon and full marathon.

On 31st October 2010, Achim Aretz broke the six year old world record set by Chinese Xu Zhenjun over the marathon distance in reverse by 58 seconds, and his new record still holds at 3:42:41, set at the Frankfurt Marathon. Aretz reveals how Kenyan Wilson Kipsang couldn’t believe that a 3:40 hr marathoner could be in the record books. At the Hochwald Middle Rhine Marathon in Koblenz on 28th May 2011, Aretz broke his own previous record in the half marathon retro distance set in 2009, by completing in 1:35:49.

Achim Aretz was born on March 13, 1984 in Essen, Germany. He studied Geosciences in Münster and obtained a doctorate in Darmstadt from the Technical University. How does a passionate runner suddenly decide to run the other way round? The reason is “a crazy idea”. Aretz chanced on retro-running when he woke up with a hangover. To shake it off, he went for a run with a friend. Aretz was so slow that his friend started running backwards to while away the time. Aretz joined in for fun, and found he preferred it. He later discovered from the social network “Studivz“, that there really is an international retro-running scene, and decided to henceforth compete as a retro-runner. He says the attraction was the mental challenge, and the fact that he was developing different muscles compared to runners who run forward. His runs are both solo as well as with friends. “When I am running alone, I have to look back maybe every ten meters. When I am running together with friends, they tell me what lies behind me.”

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En route at the Frankfurt Marathon
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At a press conference after the Frankfurt Marathon, where he set the current world record for fastest reverse full marathon.
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At the Hochwald Middle Rhine Marathon, where the current world record for fastest reverse half marathon was set.

 

Medical specialists have confirmed that running backwards allows better recovery from certain knee and ankle injuries. Retro-running has been found to burn more calories with twenty percent less effort than running forward. Performance analyst Mitchell Phillips has underlined the benefits walking or running backwards brings – it is a great way to cool down, and also improves balance and increases neuromuscular efficiency. Phillips describes it as the perfect remedy to cure the imbalances between anterior and posterior chain muscle groups (like the hamstrings and quadriceps, for instance). In his book “Backwards Running“, Robert K. Stevenson describes retro-running as a fantastic activity for physical conditioning and training. It is considered healthy to occasionally tear the body out of everyday movements and break out of set habits. Not only other muscle groups, but also senses such as hearing are strengthened.

Running backwards has a meditative character“, says Aretz. “I perceive the environment differently when I walk backwards.” He does not see what lies ahead, but what he has already done. His ambition is not to win medals, and the main thing in competitions around the world is an opportunity to meet old acquaintances.

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With his friend Gregor Schlüter and centenarian marathoner Fauja Singh at the 29th Frankfurt Marathon

The 35-year old geologist runs up to 80 kilometers a week backwards. He explains how reverse runners start with the forefoot, thereby avoiding the typical rolling over the heel motion that occurs while moving forward. Beginners struggle with sore muscles at the beginning (as in any other sport), and many with knee problems have found it to be a beneficial alternative for relieving pressure on the knees. Several other sportspersons have also incorporated and benefited from retro-running, including boxer Gene Tunney and wrestlers William Muldoon and Ed Schultz.

Achim Aretz shares some tips in the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung for those who want to start running backwards:

Started very slowly and for a short time. It’s best to use a flat surface, such as a tartan/synthetic track. One needs to get used to going into the unknown. Bumpy terrains are not the best places to start to train. Not seeing the track is an unfamiliar situation for the mind and there is always the fear of falling. He cites the most difficult obstacles being dogs who can’t figure out what he’s doing. Training with a partner can be very useful for beginners because the partner can give instructions and set the direction. It helps when the retro-runner does not have to turn his head constantly – which can cause sore neck muscles. In addition, the mind is trained differently, because when one goes forwards and the other backwards, “right” then suddenly becomes “left” and vice versa.

In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Aretz reveals how Germany is a strong reverse running nation – they have many record holders up to the 5000 meters distance, and Aretz himself hold the records for the half marathon and full marathon distances. Achim Aretz has also authored a book titled “Faszination Marathon Andersherum“, where he talks about his journey as a retro-runner, shares scientific insights into the physical differences between running forward and backward, the challenges to the brain to break out of set patterns, and how changed perceptions bring new ideas and insights into running as well as to life.

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Achim Aretz’s book on backward running, originally written in German.

 

Sources:

~www.welt.de

~www.faz.net

~www.waz.de

~www.achim-aretz.de

~www.baukasten-dateien.de

~In The Running – Phil Hewitt

Run The World #1 – Violet Piercy

Our running group here will be celebrating its ninth anniversary next month. Over the last nine years since its inception, there has been a tradition of a city-wide coming together of all distance runners, to run a 21 km (13 miles) stretch on the city roads every first Sunday of every month. As a result, the anniversary run is going to be held on the seventh of July this year. As a line up to the celebrations, I will be writing a series of articles, featuring international distance runners.

First up is Violet Piercy, considered the pioneer of women’s running.

Violet Piercy is recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federation as having set the first women’s world’s best in the marathon distance. Now-a-days, women of all shapes and sizes run along the streets and compete in marathons around the world. But there was a time when running was considered injurious to women’s health, and one of the rules of the Women’s Amateur Athletic Association (WAAA) was that no race should exceed 1000 meters, since any distance over a kilometer would be a “strain” and adversely affect child-bearing ability. Violet Percy blithely broke the rules of the WAAA and even broadcast an account of it on the BBC.

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In 1926, probably in response to the acclaim received by American Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel, Violet ran from Windsor to London, thereby becoming the first Englishwoman to attempt a marathon and the first to be officially timed when she ran 3:40:22 on 3rd October 1926 on the Polytechnic Marathon course. She started at 4:27 pm, and was slowed down by suburban traffic outside Battersea Town Hall, till she finished at 8 pm. This time stood as a world record for the next 37 years, until American Merry Lepper ran 3:37:07 in California’s Western Hemisphere Marathon on 16th December 1963. Englishwoman Paula Radcliffe currently holds the world record for the fastest women’s marathon, with a time of 2:15:25 set in London in 2003.

Piercy fell into obscurity over the years, and athletics historian Peter Lovesey conducted a series of investigations into her athletics career. As we inch towards 2020, almost a century has passed since Violet Piercy ran the marathon in the 1920s, when the rules barred any woman from running more than two laps. Research by various historians shows that Violet ran five marathons between 1926 and 1936, in a pair of walking shoes with cross straps and heels. Piercy’s white jersey, black shorts and dance-like shoes serve as a priceless insight into a runner from a different era.

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An iconic picture of  Violet Piercy accompanied by three cyclists and followed by a car during a race in 1927.

Violet Stewart Louisa Piercy was born in Croydon, Surrey on 24th December 1889. She was 36 at the time of her first distance run, and her athletics career carried on till the age of 46. Over a period of 12 years and between two world wars, Piercy was widely regarded as an eccentric and feisty runner, who had a flair for slapping court cases against people who upset her. Rules were “tosh and piffle” to Violet, who ran solo marathons to prove to the world that women could be good at sport and endurance events. She referred to the sport as being based on rhythm, co-ordinated movements and clean living.

Reactions to her feats at the time?

The Westminister Gazette wrote: “It must be hoped that no other girl will be so foolish as to imitate her.”

Piercy’s response: “I am the only long-distance woman runner in this country, and people rather shout at me about it. I really don’t see why they should. Running is about the healthiest form of exercise a woman can have.” Piercy worked as a doctor’s secretary and encouraged others to take up distance running, but no one took up the challenge in her lifetime, and her runs were always solo.

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A news clipping of Piercy in 1934 from the Clapham Society

The second world war affected her stream of marathons, and there is no trail of hers since the 1950s. She is known to have passed away in a London hospital in April 1972, having suffered from brain hemorrhage, hypertension and chronic kidney-related infection. Violet Piercy had languished in obscurity for about 70 years, but the British Pathe archives, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and Track Stats magazine have been instrumental in finally securing for her the recognition she deserves.

The link below is from the British Pathe website, and is a copyrighted video of Violet Piercy.

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/camera-interviews-the-runner/query/Violet

 

Sources:

~www.claphamsociety.com

~www.britishpathe.com

~www.clappedoutrunner.com

~In The Running – Phil Hewitt

Autism and Running

Autism Awareness Month is celebrated in April, with April 2nd being the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day. Let’s meet the Schneider twins. Alex and Jamie are identical twin brothers, diagnosed at 21 months of age as being severely autistic. Neither can communicate verbally, they cannot cross the street alone, and display self-injurious behaviors. But with running shoes on and a spring in their steps, they’re making a statement larger than any words can convey. They are runners. Alex ran the Suffolk County Marathon in 2016 in 2:56:20 (finishing in second place overall), and completed the NYC Marathon of 2017 in 2:50:05, his personal best. The siblings have run 26 marathons and over 400 races in all, with Alex even having run ultrathons. The boys are also accomplished pianists.

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Alex and Jamie Schneider

Now 28, the Schneider twins started running when they were 15. Their mother Robyn Schneider reveals how the family had heard about a running club that paired experienced runners with those with developmental disabilities. According to coaches Shaunthy Hughes and Mike Kelly of the Rolling Thunder Running Club, Alex and Jamie were natural runners; the only hurdle being finding a running partner for Alex who was exceptionally fast along with being especially gifted. The boys didn’t know when to stop, and would only stop when told to do so. They didn’t understand pacing, and every run was a race. Kevin McDermott then became Alex’s personal coach, and under his tutelage and methodical training, Alex consistently began setting new records each year. The boys participated in numerous races for their high school cross country team. After eleven years of coaching Alex, McDermott moved away in 2017, from where Boyd Carrington and Sal Nastasi took over.

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Alex with coaches Carrington and Nastasi

Robyn runs shorter races with Jamie, and her husband Allan runs with him on longer distances. The boys have limited communication skills but display receptive language – they require simple words and slight gestures to understand and respond. They cannot fathom how long a race is and will only stop when they cross the finish line. When the Boston bombings levelled the finish line in 2013, Alex had already completed the race, while Jamie was still on the route with their father (ultimately being stopped and ushered away at mile 22). They don’t know the difference between a 5K and a marathon. They won’t eat or drink if food and water are not offered. They have no sense of the weather or temperature. Their coaches pace them to direct them through the course, hydrate them when thirsty, remove hazardous obstacles on the route, offer a jacket if it’s cold, are attentive to road crossings – all requiring great diligence and responsibility that goes beyond merely training an athlete to finish strong.

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The Schneider Family

Tommy Des Brisay was a highly active child. He began walking at 8 months of age, bounced on his trampoline for hours on end, and slept only 3 hours a night. He was diagnosed with autism at age two, and would run whenever he was stressed or upset. Running was all he knew – without comprehending traffic, weather, strangers – thereby exposing himself to all sorts of dangers. When he was fourteen, his father took him along on his daily run, hoping to channelize his movement. “Take something someone is instinctively driven to do and make it into a positive“, says his mother Mary Ann. The medications he was taking to cope with the challenging symptoms of autism, caused Tommy to battle weight issues. Consistent training helped him shed 35 pounds and brought down his 5k race timings to 24 minutes. The first time he won a race, he was confused about where everyone else was, so he turned back and ran the route again. Tommy, who will turn 27 this month, now runs the 5k at 15:17, a half marathon at 1:10:34, and a full marathon at 2:38:50. He “passes time” on the route by reciting lines or singing songs from his favorite movies. The speedy timings don’t sync with the seriousness of the runner, because he doesn’t realize he’s competing. According to his dad, Tommy’s pace usually keeps him surrounded by serious runners who look at him in bewilderment while they’re breathing hard and he’s humming a tune from a Disney movie.

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Tommy Brisay

Scientists are beginning to explore what makes running as a sport a potent tool for people with autism. Autism is a spectrum disorder with a wide range of symptoms and behaviors, along with individual variations that go along with it. The spectrum is primarily characterized by deficits in social communication and interaction, and restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviors, interests and activities. Both, the Schneider as well as Brisay families, have pointed out how running has reduced anxiety in their children. It increases their social circle, giving them opportunities to practice their language and communication skills. Over the ten years that Tommy has been a runner, he has been less reliant on medication and experienced fewer meltdowns. Tommy did not speak till he was seven and his verbal abilities only grew through his teens, which his parents credit to running as being the catalyst. Research has also confirmed what both families have noticed with regards to running and autism. At the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy section in the 2016 Pediatrics Annual Conference, researchers from Achilles International and New York Medical College presented the findings of their studies on autism and running. Statistically significant improvements in social awareness, cognition, endurance, communication and motivation, and fewer restrictive and repetitive behaviors were seen in those who ran for a minimum of two days a week.  While exercise in general can benefit people on the spectrum, running offers it’s own unique advantages.

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Mikey Brannigan is one of the most prominent runners known to be on the autism spectrum. He was diagnosed with autism at 18 months of age, and couldn’t speak until he was five. Team sports were out as he couldn’t understand rules and scored for opposing teams. When he was fourteen, his dad Kevin took him to Rolling Thunder (the same club where the Schneider twins trained), where he was found to keep up with older and more seasoned runners. Organized running got him on the high school varsity team, and by senior year he was one of the top runners in the country. According to his mother Edie, running also brought about boosts in his academics. In August 2016, the then 20 year old shattered the four minute mile barrier, running at 3:57. Brannigan hopes to make the US Paralympic team in 2020 or 2024. Jonathan Bruno was diagnosed with autism at age two and a half, and was sixteen when he joined Rolling Thunder. He ran his first full marathon in 4:48:08 at the 2008 NYC Marathon. He has run 10 NYC marathons and 8 Boston marathons so far, along with one 50k Ultrathon, running for various charities. According to his brother Verlaine, he doesn’t understand the concepts of pace or time and needs help with reading and directions.

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Mikey Brannigan
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Jonathan Bruno

19 year old Zoe Jarvis runs a 5:16 mile and credits running to helping her make more friends. The running community is inclusive and a runner is a runner, says Tommy Brisay’s dad. “He’s not an autistic guy or a different guy, he’s just a guy running“.  21 year old Grace Ling was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age eight, and credits running to giving her the motivation to do things. Andrew Novis, 55, is also afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome (one among the autism spectrum disorders), and ran his 18th Boston Marathon in 2017 in 3:11:24. He runs both marathons and ultrathons. “You can choose to look at autism as a disability or as a collection of abilities“, says Tommy Brisay’s mom, and it holds true for all these runners on the spectrum.

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Zoe Jarvis
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Grace Ling
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Andrew Novis

Repetitive behaviors, fixated interests, strict adherence to routines – all characteristic of autism – are also helpful for training. Coaches of runners with autism need to be diligent about their athletes being impervious to pain and not communicating about pain the way other runners might. People with autism are usually prescribed occupational therapy, speech therapy, applied behavior analysis, and social skills groups. According to Russell Lang, director of the Clinic for Autism Research, Evaluation and Support at Texas State University, all conditions do not require complex interventions. How does one decide which form of intervention is better than the other? Most professionals recommend exercise only to counteract weight gain as a side effect of medications prescribed to manage symptoms associated with autism. Exercise, however, could eliminate the need for or reduce the dosage of these medications in the first place. (Christopher McDougle, Lurie Centre for Autism). According to Tommy Brisay’s dad, running is the best medication for his son. Russell Lang reiterates how running as a sport emphasizes repetitive behavior, which aligns itself well with the characteristics of autism.

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Jonathan Bruno sees himself as an Autism Superman

Sources:

http://www.autismrunners.com

http://www.runnersworld.com

http://www.theartofautism.com

http://www.autismsuperman.com

The Autism Anthropologist

When Wonder Woman Turns Long Distance Runner

A belated write-up of the Halloween Run I had participated in earlier this month. Every edition of the fear n’ fun themed event is held on the first Sunday of November – the weekend nearest to Halloween. While last year I had to orchestrate the event myself in the capacity of SPOC (Specific Point of Contact), free from organizational tasks this year, I could dress up and run. The run is organized on a 21 km route from the Otter’s Club in the Western suburbs to the NCPA in the South of Mumbai, on which participants can run varying distances either as a point to point run or in any desired loop pattern within these points. Being racing season, many runners did a half marathon or distances above 30 kms ( for those training for full marathons). I did a 15 km run – a little after the start point, and up to the end tip of the city. A large number of runners opted for distances of 10 km and below, on account of this being a costume event.

Runners were required to run in costume, in keeping with the Halloween theme. We had Two Face, Batman, Catwoman, Superman, giving company to the great many vampires, witches, zombies and devils.  I went as Wonder Woman! In consideration of the distance required to be run in costume, I settled for a handmade costume constructed out of readily available materials – comfort in long distance running being the priority. The Wonder Woman costume comprised a basic red racerback top, and blue skorts – both in dri-fit fabric. The ‘W’ logo, bracelets and tiara were crafted from glitter foam, and star stickers were used for the skirt, bracelets and tiara. I didn’t make the belt on account of the running pouch occupying space on the waist. Here’s what I ended up with:

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Protecting the bay!

Overall, it was a fun event, racing through the city dressed as Wonder Woman, and receiving peculiar glances from morning runners who were not part of the event and/or not in costume.

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At the early morning start point.

15 km was the longest distance I had attempted since the accident, and pleasantly received company from the halfway mark onward, with a runner attempting 32 km. Step by step we trotted along to the finish point.

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When you feel like you’re the only one racing around like a weirdo!

It was a joy to see volunteers at the various water stations dressed up in their spine-tingling best, hiding behind parked cars, jumping out and scaring runners, and capturing a cornucopia of expressions.

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When Wonder Woman meets the Devil.

A common sight on Sundays are the vintage car rallies that occur within South Mumbai. Clicking pictures and taking in the sights on the seafront, the never ending run finally came to an end.

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Appreciating beauty on the route.

The only disheartening feature of the event was that many runners didn’t really run, but only showed up at the end point to click pictures dressed in costume. The idea behind a Halloween Run was to run the distance in spooky or fun attire. Merely showing up in costume for the sake of pictures defeats the purpose of a running event. Ah! The flip-side of social media.

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The ghosts and ghouls at the finish point.
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With Captain America cum Wonder Woman cum Super Girl

NavRun 2018 – Adding Color To Fitness

Another year, another edition. The fitness based concept by the Mumbai Road Runners (MRR) recently concluded its sixth edition of the Navratri challenge called “NavRun“. Navratri is a nine nights (and ten days) Hindu festival, celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. A color is fixed for each of the days, symbolizing the nine avatars of Goddess Durga. The running community celebrates all festivals as a means of bringing people together, irrespective of religious affiliations.

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Image courtesy MRR

The goal of NavRun is to run nine kilometers or engage in any other workout for nine consecutive days, wearing the color of the day. Workout details need to be submitted to the organizers at the end of each day, along with a brief description of what the color of the day means to you. A leeway was allowed for submissions since people were participating from around the world, across different time zones. On certain days, the organizers threw surprise challenges which we had to undertake in addition to our planned workout of the day. Here’s a summary of what I accomplished this year:

Day 1 – Royal Blue

The challenge began with a flag off two weeks ago, on a Wednesday, which is a strength training day. I accommodated the run with a modest 4 kilometer run, and upper body weight training.
Chest – 4 exercises – 3 sets, 15 reps each
Shoulders – 3 exercises – 3 sets, 15 reps each
Triceps – 3 exercises – 2 sets, 15 reps each

True blue stands for loyalty, trust and faithfulness. Royal blue (or imperial blue) manifests at the convergence of violet and blue, and represents superiority. The perfect color to kickstart the NavRun challenge, with a workout mix of endurance and strength training.

Day 2 – Yellow

Sunshine yellow on Leg Day! Hence no running here. Being a classical dancer and runner, lower body strength, balance, flexibility are very crucial for me. Here’s what I did with my yellow tee. (Incidentally the official tee of a hill half marathon💪)

Quadriceps – 4 exercises – 2 sets, 20 reps each
Hamstrings – 2 exercises – 4 sets, 20 reps
Calves – 3 exercises – 2 sets, 20 reps each
Single-leg variations for all the above exercises – 2 sets, 10 reps each
Abductors – 2 exercises – 2 sets, 20 reps each
Adductors – 2 exercises – 2 sets, 20 reps each

Yellow is the color of positivity, optimism, clarity, energy, warmth and friendliness. The brightest color on the visible spectrum signifies creativity and cheerfulness. The perfect color for a day of lower body strength training – high energy workouts comprising some of the largest muscle groups of the body.

Day 3 – Green

Celebrating the color of life, renewal, harmony, freshness. How better to workout with green than in the lap of nature. A short run in a park with pretty little bonsais dotting the landscape. Cardio and Core in verdant surroundings.

6k run
Skipping – 5 variations – 3 sets, 200 skips each 
Hanging abs – 2 variations – 3 sets, 15 reps each
Planks – 6 variations – 3 sets, 1 minute each
Pushups – 1 set, 15 reps (as requested; I had already completed my chest workout for the week).

The color associated with eternal life is soothing and refreshing, and evokes a feeling of abundance. A simple routine for cardiovascular endurance and core strength, which provides tremendous fitness returns. Cardiovascular fitness enhances the ability of the heart and lungs to supply oxygen-rich blood to the muscles, and improves the muscle’s ability to use this oxygen for movement. The transverse abdominis, erector spinae, obliques, pelvic floor muscles, glutes work as stabilizers for the entire body and play an important role in everything the body does. It’s the simple things in life that yield the maximum joy/benefits, as proven by the color and workout of the day. 🐢

Day 4 – Grey

Rest Day. It’s a grey and gloomy day when one has absolutely nothing to do. But rest and recuperation are imperative to growing stronger for the days ahead. 🐱

The following day was going to be a busy one – a run followed by a dance show. Accommodated an hour of structural training here, to keep the joints well lubricated. Even the fittest of bodies display some kind of imbalances or structural kinks, as a result of regular wear and tear. The basic framework of the human body consists of bone, cartilage, ligament, tendon and muscle. The vital feature of the body’s structure is its joints, and their integrity determines structural fitness. There was no fixed exercise routine, but a variety of movements covering the major and minor joints of the body. 

Grey is a neutral and balanced color, emotionless and conservative. It can be viewed as drab and depressing, or elegant and formal. It does not have a personality of its own, and is associated with conformism. Structural fitness is essential fitness on which all other fitness depends, making us more structurally and bio-mechanically aware. Like the color grey, a structural routine might not look or sound impressive, but goes a long way in prepping up the body and keeping it sound for other forms of activities. 🐩

Day 5 – Orange

My church feast, plus the 19th anniversary of my Odissi dance institute. (More dance details in another blog-post.) While one event was the celebration of Mother Mary as Our Lady of Fatima, the other was an invocation of myriad gods and goddesses through classical dance. That’s what I love about the NavRun challenge too – it goes beyond religion and brings people together. And the color of the day was perfect – orange being associated with kinship.

A run couldn’t be accommodated in the morning, and I settled for a modest 5 kilometer night run. Nocturnal running takes you into another world, physically and mentally. It goes against the human circadian rhythm, and the absence of ambient light amplifies the challenges faced during a day run. But it also brings perspective – a whole new world of nocturnal creatures all prepped up as darkness dawns. It makes us think beyond ourselves, about those different from us. 🐹

Orange is associated with sunshine, light, brightness. But it is also said, “Be the light you want to see in the world”. I could not manage a morning run, so donned flaming tangerine and ran around like a ball of sunshine in the dark. Orange is known to be extroverted and uninhibited, after all. It also corresponds to a thirst for action, proven by the additional squats post a highly active day.

2 sets of squats, 30 reps each (as requested in the challenge of the day)

Margaret Thatcher’s words rang true as I sipped on some golden-orange colored chamomile tea. “Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing: it’s a day you’ve had everything to do and you’ve done it.” 🧡

Day 6 – White

Kickstarted the week with a Back workout. The back plays a huge role in how the entire body functions, since it attaches to the neck, shoulders, chest, abdominals, and hips. A strong back keeps posture aligned, helps performance and prevents injury, thereby being critical to fitness. The day’s workout comprised a mix of Weight training, Pilates and Yoga – rotational movements and flexibility being as important as building muscle and strength. 🐼

Dumbbells – 3 exercises – 3 sets, 15 reps each
Resistance bands – 3 exercises – 3 sets, 15 reps each
Pilates – Prone series, 4 exercises
Yoga – Backbend series – 4 asanas
Concluded the routine with a few roll downs to neutralize the spine, and a forward bend as a counterpose. 

A strong and flexible back is invigorating to the entire spine. It releases tension along the front of the body, leaving you uplifted and energized. White is considered to be the color of perfection, and a strong spine keeps the body perfectly aligned.The color of light, goodness, purity, brilliance and illumination was a perfect start to the week. White is everything and nothing. The day’s workout could be seen as everything (strength, flexibility, mobility) or nothing (just one muscle group – the Back). But it leaves one feeling fresh and serene, like snow or white kittens or fluffy clouds.💭💭💭

Day 7 – Red

Red Day following White is a pleasant sequence. As an Odissi dancer, red and white are important colors for our saree costume; red also finding its place in the red bindi and red alta. 👣

Started the day with 10 Surya Namaskars, as requested in the challenge of the day. My workout was originally planned for the evening. The nocturnal regime included an hour of cycling on the stationary bike, followed by ab exercises to counteract yesterday’s back routine.
Planks – 6 variations – 1 set, 90 seconds each
Pilates – 4 exercises
Concluded the session with 4 rounds of Chandra Namaskar. 

Red is associated with energy, power, determination. It is an emotionally intense color, raises metabolism, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. Surya Namaskars in red offered a stimulant to kickstart the day. I, subsequently, toned down the evening workout to balance energy levels closer to bedtime. Sipped on some rose tisane to unwind after a long day.

Day 8 – Sky Blue

Cardio Circuit in true blue attire, with matching skipping rope and hula hoop.
~5k run
~Skipping – 3 variations – 3 sets, 60 seconds each
~Hula hooping – 3 times clockwise and anti-clockwise, 100 rotations each set
~Agility ladder drills – 9 variations, 2 rounds each
~Shadow boxing – 3 rounds, 3 minutes each round
~Capoeira – 3 movements – 30 counts each

Sky blue or azure is the hue halfway between blue and cyan. It signifies contentment, inspiration, determination, freedom and intuition. Like a clear, cloudless sky, the color encourages you to be free and fearless. The day’s workout was set around agility and proprioception – bringing together balance, speed, strength and control; sense movement and be aware of how the body is moving as a co-ordinated unit. Like the color of the day, there is no limit to how much we can do, if only we challenge ourselves each day. 🏊‍♀️

Day 9 – Pink 🐷

Culmination of the nine-day running/fitness challenge. Leg day! I usually don’t run on leg days, but needed to collect the official Pinkathon tee for their event on Sunday (more on this in another blog-post) and decided to run at the venue. The day’s workout was therefore split – Running in the morning, Strength training in the evening. 🌸

~5k run
~Lower body strength, balance and flexibility training:
Pilates
Yoga
Structural training 

My favorite color, pink, is associated with playfulness, charm, innocence and laughter; the color of universal love for oneself and others. The delicate color was completely in contrast with the workout of the day, but that itself was the perfect combination – donning a color symbolic of tenderness, while working out some of the largest and strongest muscle groups of the body. Reinstating the belief that one can be fierce and feminine, delicate and dynamic. Pink is a color of compassion and is associated with giving and receiving care. And how better than to blend it into a workout – we take care of our health and our bodies support us in return. 🎁

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An assortment of workouts in the nine colors of the festival.

Day 10 – Camouflage

Navratri is celebrated for nine nights and ten days. A bonus day was allotted with a special color, as a tribute to the armed forces – the people who strive tirelessly to keep our country safe.

A Chest and Shoulder strength workout: 
~Dumbbells
~Resistance bands
~Yoga – Arm balancers
~Pilates – Mobility and strength for the Chest, Pectorals, Rotator Cuff, Deltoids

The camouflage color was selected as an ode to the armed forces. Nothing compares to their physical, mental and emotional strength – where the nation is considered more important than self or family. ☘️

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All in all, a holistic conclusion to the festive based fitness challenge. From cardiovascular and muscular strength and endurance, to flexibility, mobility, balance and proprioception, various elements of fitness were catered to. Health and fitness are, after all, lifelong endeavors. We haven’t received our medals yet. I will share a picture of that too when I receive mine. 🙂

 

Come Back Stronger Than The Setback

“It’s never too late, it’s never too bad, and you’re never too old or sick to start from scratch once again.”

Post-accident racing mode on! 

The week took off with a spectacular start. I ran my first timed race on Sunday, since the accident last year. For those who are unfamiliar or have recently begun following this blog, I had an accident last August and suffered from nerve damage with subsequent paralysis of the right leg – from hip to foot. I had resumed running earlier but wasn’t yet racing. Sunday’s event marked a comeback to racing. A measly distance compared to the marathon distance I am usually accustomed to, but some start is better than no improvement at all.

The race was tricky, as expected. I had practiced the distance in training runs, but in events one needs to be aware of other racers as well. Some runners overtake you and suddenly stop right in front of you, others sway from one side of the road to the other when they spot photographers, not to forget those who throw disposable water bottles in the middle of the road. Racing throws its own set of challenges, besides the training the body and mind undergo. The weather on Sunday was 34°C, with a humidity of 59% – the monsoons began waning a few weeks ago with some abrupt showers in between, but overall the weather was hot and humid. I did take several walk breaks through the course – the race strategy being more of a walk-jog rather than high speed running. The goal here was to return to race mode and finish injury free. I’m working with distances at the moment instead of speed, having being warned of a possible nerve compression recurring.

Each medal comes with it’s own story, and means much more than merely the name of the place or date of the race. A medal is a reminder of how the run was, the people you met, the challenges you overcame, and your entire journey to get to that place and pace. Another cherished one added to the seven year old collection.

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And of course, one can’t fail to mention the support of the running community, where friends are almost like family. Long distance runners have their own training routes, and events bring everyone on the road together. I had met many people on practice runs, but had missed many others who would usually connect through races. It was great catching up with all. The official race pictures are not yet out – I’ll post some running ones when I get my hands on them. Just a few friendly ones for now.

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Breaking Barriers In Marathon Running

“I lack the words to describe how I feel. It was really hard, but I was truly prepared to run my own race.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

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Yesterday was a great day for the long-distance running community. For those unable to fathom our excitement, a new world record was set at the Berlin Marathon. Imagine stepping on a treadmill, setting it to 13 mph, and running at that pace for over two hours. Or let’s use the analogy given by BBC Sports – imagine running 100 mts in 17.2 seconds; or if that’s feels slow, try it and repeat for 420 times without a pause. That’s just what Eliud Kipchoge accomplished at Berlin yesterday – setting a new world record by completing the marathon distance of 26.2 miles (42.195 kilometers) with a timing of 2 hours, 1 minute, and 39 seconds.

The first time a marathon was run as an official race, was at the London Olympics in 1908, where American Johnny Hayes emerged victorious with a timing of 2:55:18. Of course, a lot has changed since then in terms of training and technology. Four years ago, Dennis Kimetto from Kenya had created a new record of 2:02:57 in Berlin. Fellow Kenyan Kipchoge broke this record on Sunday by 78 seconds – recorded to be the largest single improvement in a world record marathon timing in over fifty years. Australian Derek Clayton had knocked down 2 minutes 37 seconds way back in 1967.

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Reductions in marathon timings over the years.

Kipchoge, 33, has competed in eleven marathons, out of which he has won ten and finished second in one. He has won both, the Berlin and London marathons three times each, and holds course records at both places. His split times astonished viewers and runners, both amateur and elite, the world over. Kipchoge’s average speed on Sunday was 13 mph, an average pace of 2.52 mins/km for each kilometer of the 42.195 km race, or every 400 mts in 68.8 seconds. He clocked the first 10 kms in world record pace, as led by three pacers from the start.

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With pacers, early on in the race.

Shortly after the halfway mark, all three pacers dropped out, leaving Kipchoge to run the remaining 21 kms alone. Rather than struggling or falling off the pace, he defied the odds and rather sped up, covering 30 kms of the race in 1:26:45, which is the fastest time ever recorded for that distance. He ran the first half of the race in 1 hour, 1 minute, 6 seconds, and went 30 seconds quicker in the second half. He ran from the 40k mark to the finish in 6 minutes, 8 seconds – the fastest known in any major marathon, without any obvious sprint. His overall pace was 4 minutes, 37 seconds per mile – for 26.2 miles. Jon Mulkeen from the IAAF (International Association of Athletic Federations) pointed out, “imagine running 200m reps in 34.60 seconds, and repeating that for 211 times with no rest in between”. That’s what Eliud Kipchoge did in Berlin yesterday.

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His splits up to the halfway mark

Long-distance runners might remember the “Breaking 2 Project” of Nike last year – an unofficial race to break the sub-2 hour marathon, on a track at Monza. Kipchoge had created a world record of 2:00:25 at the time, guided by a team of pacers. The race did not qualify as an official time, and was seen as more of a project. Kipchoge, however, did show his frightening potential as a long-distance runner, which manifested itself as he obliterated the competition on Berlin’s streets on Sunday. “I believed he was capable of smashing the World Record. He delivered in outstanding fashion and rewrote history”, said Paula Radcliffe – former record holder of the women’s marathon. Roger Robinson from Runners’ World added, “I have watched great runners for seventy years, from Emil Zapotek to Haile Gebrselassie, and not since Abebe Bikila in 1964 have I witnessed a world marathon record set with such focused mastery”. “I felt very confident. I am grateful to those who worked with me”, Kipchoge said after the race. Impeccable pacing and the focus of a Zen master have sealed Eliud Kipchoge’s place as the greatest marathoner of all time.

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“The lesson of running is to train well, and then have full faith in your training and show the proof in the race.”

 

 

 

Sources:

~www.bbc.com

~www.edition.cnn.com

~www.runnersworld.com

Forging Connections

Another well spent Sunday morning in the company of fellow runners from around the city.

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And then I came across this picture in today’s news, featuring people practicing yoga as part of the La Parisienne event in front of the Eiffel Tower.

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What is it about community events like these that bring people together? They are extremely beneficial for recreational athletes and fitness enthusiasts who might not be professionally trained in a sport or particular activity, but look forward to being active as a form of healthy living and fitness. One doesn’t need to be engaged competitively in order to practice an athletic endeavor. In such situations, people seek to connect with other kindred spirits who share the same interests.

Our run this weekend, comprised people running across varied distances. The route was the same, but some ran the half marathon distance, some did a 10k, while others completed any chosen distance on the route. It is the friendships that people forge with like-minded individuals, and the camaraderie they share that make community events fun and fruitful affairs.

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Touring The World Through Races

Running season resumed here last month, post the scorching summers, and the next couple of months are going to be busy with race strategies, nutrition regimes, schedules for running and cross training – all in preparation for the upcoming races. Our running events here cater to various distance categories – 10k races, half marathons, 25k races, full marathons, 12-hr ultrathons, 24-hr ultrathons. In keeping with the race mood of the season, I have been looking up race scenarios around the world, and the escapades of long distance runners who spend hours on the road, trail or hills. Nothing like a little fun read to tide over all the serious training. In yesterday’s blog-post I wrote about canines who unwittingly entered races in the US and Australia – making themselves at home on the route, running side-by-side with human participants. Today, I came across a parody on the Mumbai Marathon (scheduled for January 2019). Marathoner and author Cdr. (Retd.) Bijay Nair presented a novel take on the marathon race, the route of which covers prominent landmarks in the city of Mumbai, enabling runners from around the world to breathe in the city as they run the distance.

Now the full marathon distance in the Tata Mumbai Marathon begins in South Mumbai, reaches up to the Western Suburbs till the half way mark at Bandra, from where there is a turnaround to return back to South Mumbai – the start and finish points are the same, thereby taking runners on a tour of the city. To avoid overcrowding at the start line and ensure participants are spaced out, registered runners are allotted race categories. Amateur runners begin at 5:40 am, while the elite start the race at 7:20 am. Unsurprisingly, the elite runners overtake the amateurs at certain points on the route (in spite of starting after them.)

Cdr. Nair has composed a hilariously novel approach to estimate one’s timing in the full marathon category based on where the elite athletes overtake you on the route – usually the Kenyans and Ethiopians who win the race. Using prominent city landmarks as indicators, one can calculate what the finish time would be depending on where you were on the route when you got overtaken. Below is his esteemed analysis from years of racing at the same event, and having the elite overtake him at various points of the city landmarks as he edges closer to the finish line. Cdr. Nair has humorously added emojis to aid this “serious” analysis from years of racing experience on the same route. The race literally takes you around the city, as evident from each of the landmarks on the route.

“The Amateur Full Marathon kicks off at 5.40 am and the Elite begin at 7.20 am, thereby providing a difference of one hour and forty minutes.  

If the Kenyans cross you at Worli Seaface while they race towards Bandra, then you rather stop running and play kabaddi. 

If they cross you at the start of the Bandra Worli Sea Link, then your finish time will be 
6.40 hrs. 

If they cross you at the Bandra toll point, you will finish in 6.10. 

If they cross you at Mahim Junction, it will take you 5.45 hrs to complete. 

If they cross you at Hinduja Hospital, then your finish time will be around 5.20. 

If it’s at Shivaji Park, it will be 5.05. 

If it’s at Siddhi Vinayak Mandir, then it will be 4.50. 

If it’s at the Passport Office, it will be around 4.39. 

If it’s on the return of Worli Seaface near INS Trata, it will be a 4.37 finish. 

If it’s near Worli Dairy, it will be 4.33. 

If it’s at Mela restaurant, it will be 4.30. 

If it’s at Mahalaxmi Race Course, it’s 4.28. 

If it’s at the Haji Ali Seafront, then it’s 4.26. 

If it’s on the Peddar Road flyover, it’s 4.23. 

If it’s at the Antilia building, then it’s 4.21. 

If it’s at the Babulnath temple, it’s 4.18. 

If it’s on the Marine Drive Seafront near Wilson College, then it’s 4.12. 

If it’s near Taraporewala Aquarium, then it’s 4.06. 

If it’s near Jazz By The Bay, then it’s 4.00. 🍸🍷

If it’s near Flora Fountain, it’s 3.55. 

If you find yourself crossing the finish line before the elite runners, congratulations!!! You win two nights and three days at Nairobi or Addis Ababa. 

~Copyright@BijayNair-2ndAug2018

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The Full Marathon route map for a glimpse of the city.

*kabaddi – a team sport from South Asia, played on a field

*Bandra Worli Sea Link – a cable-stayed bridge which literally connects the city from South Mumbai to North Mumbai, and is only accessible to pedestrians on the day of this marathon.

*Antilia building – a twenty-seven storied skyscraper in South Mumbai which is a private home in it’s entirety.

Some pictures I found online of different sections of the route.

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Tata Mumbai Marathon 2018

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If you ever find yourself racing at the Bay, now you know how to pace yourself!