Monday, 23 January 2012

Blood (literally) and sweat en route to running 21.1 km.

Imagine this :

It's the Friday before your first marathon on Sunday, and you are out on your last training run, to keep the muscles warmed up and ready for the big day. On the last 50 meters of the run, you hit an obstacle on the road, and go flying forward and land directly on your face and knees.

To make matters worse, you are on blood thinning medication, which does not allow the flow of blood to stop. If that was not enough, imagine you have asthma, and a history of epilepsy which can make running hard. And to top it all, you have had open heart surgery two years ago and have never run after your school days. And did I mention, you are 68 years old!

Before you cringe any further at my imagination, let me remind you that truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and such a person in flesh and blood (with a little loss of it :)) does exist and this unique individual is Surendra Dasadia.

Every year more than 70 heart patients from the Cardiac Rehabilitation department at the Asian Heart Institute participate in the Dream Run of the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon to prove to themselves and to society that heart disease is not the end of life, but is a new beginning. To further drive home the point, another 15 or so participate in the half marathon. Each year, several Dream Runners want to 'graduate'and move to the half marathon, for which they consult with me in the month of July. Last year, there was a 'fresh' batch of 6 patients wanting to upgrade to the half and Surendrabhai was one of them.

Let me be honest and mention at this point, that I was in mixed emotions about his participation. On the one hand, his enthusiasm was palpable and that to me is the most important ingredient in endurance training, but on the other, I was skeptical about his ability to 'go' the distance, especially to run it. He had started jogging for the first time for a few hundred meters in June of 2011. To make matters complicated, he had an epileptic attack a few weeks later and had to be hospitalized for it. At this point I tried to dissuade him from participating and could see that he was clearly dejected. My heart went out to him, and we arrived at a compromise, that we would take a week at a time, and make a final call closer to the end of the year.

In mid September, he joined our friend and chief motivator, Mr. Venkatraman (who is an inspiration himself) for outdoor runs at the MIG club. At the end of this post, I have copied the training plan Venkat put him through, for those interested in following his progression. Surendrabhai was remarkably regular in his training, both at cardiac rehab and with Venkat for the outdoor runs. Day by day he progressed, and by early January he looked ready and raring to go.

On that fateful morning of Friday, Jan 13, I got an SMS from Venkat which informed me of Surendrabhai's fall, and both of us were very concerned, about his injury and health. Surendrabhai was also very concerned- not about his injury, but about the fact that we may ask him not to participate !

Participate he did, and he finished in a very respectable time of 3 hours and 14 min, and what's more important is that he stuck to all of Venkat's pre-run commandments.

1. Complete the distance,
2. On foot and
3. Enjoy the participation

There are many kinds of heroes in this world, from whom we can draw inspiration. You have the swashbuckling hero who runs into a burning building and rescues a damsel in distress (do they exist outside of the movies ?), and then there are the quiet ones, who look just like you and me, but what differentiates them is their sheer determination to rise above the ordinary. Surendrabhai is a shining example of the latter and exemplifies the words of Rudyard Kipling, in his epochal poem, IF.

"If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them, "Hold on!"

We will continue to draw inspiration from him as he climbs greater heights.


This was posted the next day Dec 17th, 2011

So coming back to SD and his training plan.
First some don'ts
- Since he was epileptic there was going to be no pushing him into 'stressful' situations. Stress is a known trigger for epilepsy incidents.
- Also since he was asthmatic no anaerobic training either.
Besides the above, here is something by way of his training background.
- He was already running on tread mill for about 30 minutes each time for 3 times a week at the Cardiac Rehab. His HR used to be under 150 at the end of each run.
- He also did some minimal weights for strength training.
With this background, he wanted to do the HM and felt that he should train with a group so that he can be motivated better. With him going to Rehab for 3 days a week, it was decided that he would join me for runs 3 times a week. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays were deemed the most practical based on the calenders of both.
He has been very punctual and regular. Very driven. In the first few weeks, I wanted him to get the mental exposure / sensory overload to running on the open ground. The enclosed ground at MIG was very suitable for this purpose since it gave him a protected environment to start running. Far better than running on unpaved roads.
His initial focus was on feet time. He was slowly graduated to combinations of running with walking. He began with first two days of only walking around. I wanted to be sure that his 'chassis' can take the load in progressive basis. After that he was told to run one length of the ground ( 100 mtrs ) and walk 3. Slowly the mix of running was increased. No attention was paid to his pace at all. As long as he ran comfortably it was OK. He voiced an opinion ( often ) that he could do better than this, since aerobically he was doing 30 minutes on the treadmill. I assured him that I was slowing him down for his own good, since his body should be able to adapt. I also assured him that a stage would soon arrive when I would be 'pushing' him and he would find excuses to avoid training. It bought a smile in him, knowing that he was a go-getter by nature, who was being restrained in the initial phase of his training.
All along his strategy has been to do a run/walk. He is quite happy with that. He also knows that his proportion of running will increase as he trains and his walking will decrease. After about one hour of feet time..which was about 3 weeks into training, he did his first Kalina loop of 9 kms. Again a run/walk but he did it quite comfortably.
On the Sunday that Raj ran his second 100 kms, he came to Marine Drive and did 14 kms ( two loops ) and went home very happy.
In a progressive manner he has been slowly inching up his distance and last Sunday he did 18 kms. Today again he did 18 kms and I must add rather very comfortably. Dec 31st, he is determined to do 21 kms.
In order to meet with his business commitments, he has taken to taking flights to Ahmadabad and Baroda so that he does not miss training.
He has had no injuries, which was my major fear. He ices himself religiously after each run. He ensures that he controls his diet on evenings prior to training so that he does not face digestive issues.
He also does steam inhalation on mornings before the run so that his chest passages are clear of phlegm.
I learnt today that out of the 11,000 or so runners who register for the HM, only about 7,000 show up at the starting line. In each of these 7000 there is a 'human interest' story like SD. I felt that if I did not share one such story then I would be doing injustice to the readers of this forum who are the silent majority and each one of whom may have something similar to narrate.
Cheers...and more as we go along.


Posted on Dec 20,2011

I have told SD that there are 3 objectives for the SCMM 2012. They are:
1. Complete the distance,
2. On foot and
3. Enjoy the participation
He has often come to me and told me the distance that he did on the treadmill and at what speed. Even today he calculated his projected timing and was hoping to do it within 3:30 hours. I do not want to set any time goals on him. I have told him how to improve things it is a multi-year plan not a few months plan. But after each run the notes that get compared are the time, distance and speed metrics. This is what I want to avoid and this is what I meant when I said that recreational running often talks in the language of athletic running.
As can be understood he is an aggro Type A personality. He wants to do it all in one year. My fear is that he should not do too much too soon and then suffer injuries which would invalidate not only him but the entire old folks running movement in the eyes of the non running society.
Most times my main job is to slow him down and hold him back.


Posted on Dec 27, 2011

My first concern when SD wanted to be trained was his level of physical short his chasis..and how much of beating it could take.
We had about 3 months to go..and I knew that about 2-3 weeks would go in getting his body to rigors of running 3 times a week. Once he passed this test, then it would mean scaling up his time on feet till he did a decent mileage, decent enough to see him through his 21K on Jan 15.
It did help that he was a regular at the Cardiac Rehab for 3 days and was doing 30 minutes of tread mill on regular basis. But however the first order of day was to see how he does on open grounds. Having known that each sides of the MIG ground is 100 mtrs long and the perimeter is thus 400 mtrs helped. He was started with a few days of walking only.
He was feeling that I am making him do lesser than his capabilities, but I also knew that the bio mechanics of running on open ground are different from doing it on a treadmill.
Having passed this test he was slowly put on increased combinations of walking / interpersed with running. Different combinations were worked side run / one side walk..then two sides run / one side walk etc..he kept progressing satisfactorily.
One of the milestones for him was to run a full round non stop....he was thrilled to being able to run 400 mtrs in one go.
His next milestone was to run 2.5 rounds in one go...which happened after a few more weeks....he was thrilled to being able to run 1 km in one go.
When he had come to doing a run/walk for more than one hour or so on the grounds..he was taken to do the Kalina loop on open roads..9 kms of run walk. He was maha thrilled.
And so on he progressed...when on Saturday the 17th Dec he ran/walked
18 kms..everyone in the group cheered him with a standing ovation. He was told that doing 21K on Jan 15th was now a given...but SD was made of more firmer resolve. He wanted to do a 21K run next week.
So last Sunday the Dec 25th I got him to do the NCPA / PM Bath, 3 laps of 7 kms each. He adopted a 200 mtrs run / 100 mtrs walk strategy and did it in under 3:30 hours. We started at 6:30 am to simulate the near conditions of the run day. And finished by about 10 am or so...
He was thrilled...and now the taper starts for him. Today I met him and he complained of some DOMS...but natural and understandable. I have lent him my foam roller so that he can recover better.
Cheers to SD...

The full discussion thread is ofcourse went into all tangents
about competitive running v/s recreational running...but a very
interesting read nevertheless.

1 comment: