What I Learned, When I Missed My Marathons

Runners are a lot like salespeople, who get bigger goals to chase from their managers once they achieve their sales targets. The only difference is that runners are their own demanding managers.

Last year, I was at an all-time high after surpassing my own goals of running a sub-2-hour half marathon, that too by quite a decent margin. It was a strong finish given that I was just a rookie runner. For this year, I had set myself an ambitious target to lower my run-time by another four minutes and complete the half in 1 hour and 45 minutes

Training began on a good note and I was almost feeling like the invincible general Maximus in the movie Gladiator! I made the training more rigorous by clubbing cross-fit sessions with my running. A 10-km run after an hour of rigorous Boot Camp Yellow cross-fit session became the norm.

My training momentum, which was beginning to pick-up, came to a grinding halt suddenly. I am not sure about what happened, what triggered this collapse—was it over training, a change in running shoes, was it an injury that I couldn’t figure out? The result was that my 2015-2016 running season was simply over. It was very disheartening, to say the least, after all the hard work and preparation I had put in.

Really, when I look back now to evaluate what happened, it wasn’t difficult to understand that there is truly great power in failure and disappointment, in setbacks.

In an earlier piece, I wrote about what I learned from running my first sub-2-hour half marathon. This one is about five lessons I learned from missing marathons.

While I wasn’t running the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM), I still went to cheer-up fellow runners and pepped up many others in their last laps.

  • Learning # 1: I experienced a whole new concept of happiness; achieving your own goals gives you happiness, but helping others to do better is pure bliss. This resonates with an interesting ‘Harvard Business Review’ article that I had recently chanced upon. Aptly titled Purpose of Life, it says, “Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved, worry about the individuals you have helped become better people. Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success”. This possibly also explains a most inspirational moment at the Rio Olympics when American and New Zealander runners helped each other finish the race after a fall during the 5,000-metre race.

No one needs to learn running and it comes naturally to most of us. However, a proper running form doesn’t come naturally. It requires awareness, training and practice. Most runners get injuries because of improper running form. I learned this the hard way after missing the marathons. So, to correct my running form, I enrolled for ‘Run with Ash’ a 2-day skills workshop that helped me pay attention to how my body and mind were responding to running.

  • Learning # 2: It is important to go back to the basics once in a while and refresh our fundamentals in every area of our life–work, family, or play. The higher you want your structure to be, the deeper and stronger must be its foundation.

When I first began running, each run had short milestones and was almost always full of shorter walks. However, I was told early on that once the target is decided, no matter how exhausted you feel and even if your mind tells you to give up, you must push yourself to complete the goal. Recoup and restart, quitting was never an option. This behaviour after some time really becomes a habit.

  • Learning # 3: Setting goals and achieving them without becoming affected by distractions of the mind, the body and the external environment is the key in today’s world full of distractions. Running is a great way to train anyone to be goal-oriented.

I remember pushing myself to the limits from the very first km itself during the ADHM in 2014. While I did finish my first sub-2-hour half marathon, it felt like I had moved a mountain. Cut to ADHM 2016, coming away wiser from my recent injury and thanks in no small measure Siddarth Choudhary who kept on reminding me to conserve my energy and stick to the planned pace. He paced me till 18 kilometres and then it was really a matter of time. I met my target quite easily, completing the run an hour and 44 minutes.

  • Learning # 4: Trying too hard often derails the best-laid plans. Consistent and measured efforts often result in achieving the best results.

Thankfully, I am injury free today but challenges still continue and they make every run interesting for me. On the day of the half-marathon, my son wasn’t well and had to be taken to the hospital. I had given up on running that day but when the doctor said that he was fine and everyone in my family pushed me to make it to the run, I made it after all.

  • Learning # 5: There will be difficult times with seemingly no light at the end of every tunnel you look into. It’s important not to lose faith and remain focused. The strength of your support system — like family and true friends—will help you hit the curveball and take you over the hump.

This is just a beginning and I am looking at next year’s goals already laid out in front of me. The full marathon in three hours and 45 minutes and the half in one hour and 40 minutes—now wouldn’t that be something!

This post was first published on Linkedin.