130 Days

The countdown to 17th January 2010 has begun! Starting today, there are just 130 days left to train for the Mumbai Marathon.
Last year, I was just about able to complete the half-marathon, in a ridiculously long 2 hours and 50 minutes. This time, my aim is to try for 2 1/2 hours, but shaving off 20 minutes is not a joke, considering that the body has deteriorated further in this one year.
Once the marathon registrations began in July, I started working on some tools to help me run better. One great site is the New York Times running calculator at http://health.nytimes.com/run-well, which not only allows you to plan your schedule, depending on the method of running and training you’ve adopted, but also creates a plan that keeps track of the miles that you’ve run and the targets that you’ve set and achieved. I am currently on the Jeff Galloway plan, which involves running 3 times a week with a run-walk-run method of 3-1-3. I am actually running faster with this technique, than when I was running continuously.
To keep track of the running itself, I use the Nokia Sports Tracker, a GPS-based running program on the Nokia cell-phone, which calculates in real-time, the miles that I have run, the time it takes and other similar parameters. This workout data can then be uploaded automatically to a corresponding website. However, worldwide, the Nike + paired with the IPOD is much more popular and allows runners to keep track of their miles and minutes very easily.
And then of course come the various do’s and don’ts, which just keep getting more and more confusing.
•    Some say that stretching is a must; others quote studies that show that this can be detrimental, especially for runners.
•    Some say that drinking coffee in any form, an hour before the run, improves performance; others obviously don’t agree.
•    Some say that water is enough for hydration; others swear by Gatorade and Powerade and other similar drinks.
•    Some wear the latest padded shoes; others say that fancy shoes make no difference and yet others even run barefoot.
•    Some say that you should run everyday; others say that you should take a break of at least one day between runs to let your muscles rest.
•    Some say that the longer you sleep every day, the better you run; others find no difference.
•    Some cannot run without music; others find music extremely distracting.
•    Some swear by mud; others say it makes no difference whether you run on concrete or mud.
•    Some insist on cross-training a couple of days a week (swimming, etc); others say it makes no difference to the running.
•    Some purists say that running means running all the time; others believe that the body behaves better with short walk rests, between bursts of running.
And it goes on and on with the advice, since there are as many suggestions as there are experts in this field.
And yet in the end it comes down to just one elemental issue. The simple act of running! Putting on a pair of shoes, with shorts or a track-suit and a T-shirt, without any fancy equipment, getting out into the open, either in a garden or sports track or on the road and pounding the ground, one foot after another, on and on, emptying your mind of all unnecessary thought, zen-like, focusing on just one goal; running.
As over 15,000 people will do on 17 January 2010.

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