This is a short story of mine as I moved from being a hesitant 5 kms runner to a long distance runner over the years, especially after crossing 40!

Aug 2003 – Playing football, fighting to take charge of the ball, misbalance myself and fell face down with knees hitting the ground. Diagnosis – ACL tear with meniscus. Adviced for surgery and not to run or play physical contact games.
Jul 2005 – After months of postponing and apprehension, finally get the surgery done, back to normal walking in 2 months. However, lack of confidence and Doctors advice keeps me away from physical activities. Weight continues to increase.
Jul 2009 – Experienced severe back pain while playing lawn tennis, comments from Dr“ Sir, your MRI shows injury in L4/L5. It’s bit serious and I advice you to refrain from running or taking part in any physical contact games henceforth in your life”. Advice taken…we all are basically lazy people!!
Nov 2009 – I am overweight by almost 20 kgs, unable to adjust my shorts or hide the paunch! I joined a running group and tried to run but was out of breath and panting in the initial 500 meters only! Wake up call ”…this is disgraceful, look at your health and physical fitness, you are young but so unfit!! something about it…and how can a Dr tell me what I am capable or incapable of?”
Dec 2009 – Mar 2011 – Yoga for back, light food with boiled dinner, no fried items, run/walk five times a week with distance ranging from 5-11 kms, timely sleep, weight decreased from 105 kgs to 84 kgs, MRI shows no trace of injury, back totally healed!
Apr 2011 – Aug 2015 – Continued with my normal running activities, was happy completing 10 kms and sometimes challenging myself with 15/16 kms also! dream of half marathon takes birth!
Aug 2015 – I read an advertisement of registration in Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) for 29 Nov 15, dream re-surface, I find a training schedule and start following it.
Aug – 28 Nov 2015 – Follow training schedule religiously, wakes up anytime from 0230AM to 0430AM depending on the distance to run even in harsh winters of North India, strict diet and core exercise plan with adequate rest in-between.
29 Nov 15 – ADHM, its 0530hr, standing amongst so many enthusiastic and young runners, bit excited and tensed too, can I really do it?..body says ‘NO’…mind says ‘WATCH ME, I’ve trained hard for it’. After close to two hours, I finish my 1st Half Marathon, body did try to give up few times in-between but mind controlled everything.
Jan – Apr 2016 – I ran three more Half Marathons and felt comfortable and confident. Another dream takes birth – run a 42 before turning 42! Decision taken – I register for Hyderabad Full Marathon!
Apr – 27 Aug 2016 –I found a suitable training schedule, followed it religiously, have to wake up very early so as to avoid sun and heat exhaustion of North Indian summers!
28 Aug 2016 – Starting point near Husain Sagar Lake, Hyderabad. It’s 0330 AM, wonderful weather and bit cloudy, great group of people dressed in orange t-shirts, again that feeling of excitement and tension, this time the self doubt is bit more, only 1% of human population have completed 42.2 kms!…can I be one of them?

…..after close to 4 and half hours which involved lot of silent but strong fight between the mind and body, I am standing on the other side of the Finish Point…and my 42nd birthday is still two weeks away!! I am totally amazed and 100% satisfied with my run. Lesson learnt again – mind is stronger than body and no dream is impossible.

Now its been more than 3 years and I love being on runners high , have completed 7 full marathons, (including the energetic TCS New York Marathon in November 2018) and more than 25 half marathons across India, including the most famous Mumbai Marathon.
I believe there should always be some run planned and marked in the calendar so there is a target to train for!…life is always exciting when there are new runs to train with more early morning runs and different exciting routes to discover!…and so the next run on the calendar is Big Sur Marathon in April 19….supposedly the most beautiful marathon in the world!

Few of you might ask why did I start long distance running?…especially my class mates and neighbors who know I was never one of those school team members! I will try to answer this question by giving few major reasons which I realized during my numerous morning runs and also after interacting with other runners.Majority of people start long running due to following reasons:–Physical fitness.
– Bucket list.
– Something kick-starts them!
– Just to prove a point to self…or someone!
– Self respect.

Long running is a self discovery journey in itself and there is so much that we long runners learn and I will try to write few of them here.
-Focusing towards a goal.
– Discipline in terms of eating/sleeping habits.
– Commitment by following a strict training schedule under all weather conditions.
– Confidence in your own body and mind.
– Mindfulness in all activities.
– Motivation for others.
– Meeting with other energized fellow runners, few of them above 70 years also and realizing that we should continue to challenge our limits and that there is no age limit for doing that.

Also, few points about certain misunderstandings which at times prevent people from taking on half/full marathon and realizing their dream!

-You don’t have to be a gold medalist to be a long distance runner.
– You can be of any age group and can start anytime.
– You can’t become a long runner over night; one has to follow a disciplined training schedule for 12-20 weeks.
– You don’t have to run every day; 3-4 times a week is good enough.
– You can run and walk too during long runs…and it doesn’t make you a weakling!
– You don’t need expensive running shoes / watches and other accessories.
– You can run even with cold/min cough and in all weather conditions.

Lastly, some important lessons that I have learned from long running. I think there are many similarities between training for a long run and life. Few important ones are:-

o Discipline is the bed rock of a solid foundation.
o Commitment to a training schedule will yield good results and prevent failure on the D-Day.The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.
o A well trained mind can overcome any obstacle.
o In run and so in life, the road and problems ahead seems daunting and impossible but once we get moving and look back…we realize everything is possible.

In the end, the most imp lesson that I have learned is…Running is so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can’t. But then you find your inner strength and realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought.

By Avdhesh Kumar

Certified ChiRunning Instructor