Facing the 28 km Challenge

December 14, 2013

My Diwali Run about 45 days back created the desire in me to aim for a 28 km run. Then, I lost the rhythm of regular practice in between. I have to admit, I nearly lost track of the challenge, with late nights, late mornings and giving in to indiscipline.

Three days back, I read a blog post “16 Surprising Lessons from my First 50-Mile Ultra-Marathon” written by Leo Babauta. I enjoy reading his celebrated blog posts in Zen Habits about simple and gradual habit formation to create the type of life we dream of.

That post revived my desire for running 28 km. I initially set 19th December as the challenge date  and then, on second thoughts, changed it to Sunday, 22nd December, one week from now.

After 5 days of sedantary living, even deciding to go for running was not very easy this morning. There was more puffing than usual, but I ran 7 km.

To achieve a milestone as a runner or to attempt anything else stupendous in life, the important thing is to chip away at the challenge regularly, without break. When I yield to easy ways once, it becomes easier to succumb the second time or the third time. Then gradually, the resolve is lost. Then, a feeling of despondency sets in.

I have observed this strange phenomenon – the despondent, hopeless feelings caused by setback in one area percolate to other areas of life as well. Conversely, the high I get from making progress – even if inch by inch –  seeps into other areas. Life cannot be lived in water-tight compartments. There is an invisible thread of unity linking my life in the physical, business, spiritual and social realms.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Having gone to bed early last night, I got up long before the alarm rang on my mobile.

Every challenge has its own retinue of rites to adhere to. For runners, it is important that dinner is light and early. Enough hours of sleep is essential. Waking up early is crucial. Going for the run in an empty stomach is absolutely the right thing to do. And, stretching before starting the run is very, very important.

Today, my target was 14 km. As I slowed down to a short walk after the loop point at three and a half km, one elderly gentleman stopped to shake hands and compliment me for my steady pace and stamina. That felt good. May be that explains why I completed 15 km this morning.

A few days back, Sita, my batch mate at Train the Trainer programme, asked me how I manage to run 11 km or more. I didn’t have a cogent answer then.

No one runs long distances to impress others. That would only put unnecessary pressure on the mind. The quest is deeply internal. For me, it is a way of building my internal reservoir of strength. I know it keeps me fit. And young. And my very unseemly paunch becomes more seemly with time. Despite the feeling of fatigue immediately after the run, I feel more ready to take up work-related pressures. And, it is a nice feeling when I find the need to punch more holes in my belt to hug the receding waistline.

All these extraordinary luxuries make it easier to put one step after another to conquer distances curbing the tendency to stop. The trick is to ignore the pain, by choice. For experiencing the deep satisfaction and tasting feelings of victory at the end of the run. Even if it is only 28 km and not a 50-Mile Ultramarathon.

Recently I read, there is a Minimum Effective Dose for almost every activity. Running more distances does not mean a fitter body. At times, it can be counter-productive to run longer than it is necessary. Timothy Ferriss in his 4-Hour Body speaks of  The minimum effective dose (MED) which is the smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome. According to this theory, anything beyond the MED is wasteful. To boil water, the MED is 212°F (100°C) at standard air pressure. Boiled is boiled. Higher temperatures will not make it “more boiled.”

Seth Godin in one of his recent posts – The Moderation Glitch – touches on the relevance of this principle in marketing.

Knowing this, why do people still push themselves? The challenge is everything. It cannot be explained by statistics.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The last 6 days, I ran  only twice, doing about 7 km each time. Though I was mindful of the commitment I had made to run 28 km, I let myself become the victim of late night excuses. Yesterday I helped myself to more than my quota of food and fruits. On top of all these, I had a bottle of beer. At the end of the Saturday, my stomach felt full and happy.

Before going to bed, even as I lamented the wisdom of sharing with the world about my 28 km goal, I set 5.00 am as the wake up time.

I got out of the house at 6 am. I had no confidence I would complete running 28 km. I decided I would go with the flow and would feel content with what ever I could manage.

I ran my heart out, not wanting to disappoint myself despite the creeping doubts. The going was very tough after completing 3 full loops, covering 21 km. I kept going till the aches strangely gave the feeling my knee joints and ankles did not exist. But by then I had completed 28 km. My timing was a disaster – it took me almost all of 4 hours.

I weighed myself immediately after the run. The feeling was almost euphoric. The last time I carried that weight must have been some 25 years ago.

I ruminate these days about perceived limitations, stretching, new goals and a generous sense of fulfillment.



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