Running half marathons, a 25k and a sub 30 min 5k

Running half marathons, a 25k and a sub 30 min 5k

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Tags: running, fitness

A post on the peak levels of fitness I reached. I have written in detail the experiences of some of the longest runs that I did in 2016.

Humans cannot outrun most beasts in the wild. However what they lack in speed, they make up for it by having high levels of endurance and intelligence to survive in the wild. In fact there is a form of hunting called persistance hunting in which a hunter tires out his prey by chasing it for long distances. Our bodies are built for endurance running over long distances (see Endurance running hypothesis). We can sweat, which cools down our body and removes heat generated by running. Cheetahs, the fastest runners can run at average of 100 kph for short distances, but it must stop after a minute or else the heat generated by its body will kill it. Humans can chase down and capture cheetahs under the hot sun as well. We now the luxury of not having to hunt in the wild, but we still have that endurance that evolution gave us and I tried to use it as much as I could.

I started running quite regularly in 2015 during my PhD. My previous post details on how I started running and the benefits that I obtained from them. This post will be on describing my longest runs during which I reached peak of my fitness – a few half marathons and a gruelling 25k run. Also a sub 30 minute 5k run.

After I crossed the 10k mark for my long runs, my next target naturally was a half marathon, which was 21.1k in length. My college was quite big – one trip around the campus in a particular route was 5.5 km in length. This made it an ideal place for running a half marathon. If it was just a 400m track, it would be monotonous. Four rounds of 5.5 km around my college would make a half marathon. One point of the 5.5 km route was my hostel. I kept a bottle of electrolyte water to drink every 5.5 km lap. Also, after every run, especially a long run, I would eat immediately because that helps in mitigating muscle breakdown, especially if the diet has lots of proteins. The running path was made of asphalt for most part and concrete in some places. The run during weekdays were high intensity interval training (HIIT) runs aka 'speed runs', usually 5 km in distance. I added a warm up and a warm down routine during the beginning and end of my runs respctively. Warm up routine helped to warm up my muscles before starting a run. It consists of a series of exercises with increasing intensity. Before adding a warm up routine, my body would feel rusty for the first 1-2 kms. After warming up, I no longer felt rusty. Warm down routine (I actually did the warm up in the reverse) helped to ease muscles. I slowly increased the distance of my long runs by 1.5km everytime I ran one. Long runs are to be run every once a week. However, I wasn't very regular in running every week due to other activities - trekking, cycling and also laziness. Hence it took me another 7 months to reach the 21.1k mark from my 10k run.

Finally on 18th June 2016 (saturday), I decided to run a half marathon. It was 5:35 AM in the morning and the weather was plesantly cool. I expected the run to last atmost 3 hours and also since climate will hotter after 7 AM, I decided to start earlier than usual. I ate a bit more the previous day to keep my glycogen reserves high (probably not needed for half marathons). I decided to run slower than usual as this is a long run and it helps to reduce glycogen usage in the body. I kept a water bottle filled with electrolyte solution in my bicycle at the parking lot of my hostel for drinking every 5.5 km. I started off the run slowly at 5:35 AM. There was constant breeze and added to the cool weather, it made running plesant. The first 10 km was uneventful, though my slowed pace of running made it slightly difficult to keep my running biomechanics correct. I experienced only mild levels of soreness during this time. During the next 5 km, I experienced increasing levels of muscle soreness. Also the sun was up and the heat was beginning to slow me down. I started to experience pain in my nipples as well. I had applied a petroleum jelly in large quantities and it kind of made my running T-shirt stick to my chest. This greatly reduced the pain. More importantly, there was no bleeding. The final 6 km was gruelling. I experienced moderate to moderate severe levels of soreness. The weather was more hotter and it slowed me down considerably. However, I manged to get through without stopping and completed my first ever half marathon! It too me 2:51:55 to complete it. I hobbled to my hostel mess for my breakfast. I experienced moderate severe levels of acute soreness during that day. The next day however, I had only light levels of soreness (DOMS) which was surprising. I invited my friends for a treat to celeberate this.

Runnerup app showing the lap timings for my half marathon. Contains two screenshots that are combined side to side.

Figure 1: My first half marathon running log

I've used three different shoes – a modestly priced Nike Downshifter 6, an rather expensive Addidas Questar Boost and a fairly expensive Kalenji running shoe. Nike Downshiter 6 was a nice shoe to begin with for running. If you don't want to purchse an more expensive show, you can use that. Addidas Questar Boost feels like walking on a spongy surface most of the time and is for serious runners who can afford it. Kalenji promises to be durable, though I haven't run with it much.

My kalenji shoe, showing its sides and sole. Also a thorn that was extracted from it after running

Figure 2: Kalenji running shoe, with a thorn extracted.

I've run three more half marathons after this, one of which was an official marathon conducted in Tiruchirappalli (Trichy) in Sept. 2016. The half marathon was to start in the Trichy city at 5:30 AM. Hence, I had to travel to the city and stay in a hotel the previous night. I didn't have much sleep before the marathon (3-4 hours). I reached the venue around 5 AM, which was in the north western side of the city. I saw a lot of people already gathered there. I saw some teenagers, young people like me, middle aged people and a few older people (60+ years old). Most of the people there were young or middle aged. I completed the formalities with the organizers, got my bib number. One trouble I have is that my bowel movements starts about 45 minutes after I wake up. The organisers promised to have toilets in the starting area. There were a couple of mobile toilets, but unfortunately they were locked. Hence I had to do my business in a secluded area behind them. The run started late around 6 AM in the morning. The quick runners went ahead and disappeared, while I tagged along with slow runners. From starting at the north western side of the town, the half marathon route took me to the center of the city (took 5 km). Then it reached reached the south eastern part of the city (10 km). By now the sun was up. Along the route, there were several points where there was water for drinking (unfortunately no electrolyte/salt water. Along the way, traffic was stopped to allow us runners to run (would have required quite a job for the traffic police). During this run, I had forgotten to bring my petroleum jelly. This resulted in pain my nipples and bleeding. However, I ran through the pain. I was given an orange T shirt for running and it masked the bleeding. The run then took me to the southern part of the city and then it was completed at a sports complex in the center of the town. I took 02:36:01 time. I later looked up at the time taken by the winner and it was 01:12:00! After finishing my run, I and other runners were served a nice breakfast – pongal, vadai and coffee. I got a participation medal and certificate by the organizers for pracitipating and completing the half marathon.

Screenshot from openstreetmaps, showing the running route of my half marathon around the city of Tiruchirappalli.

Figure 3: Trichy Marathon 2016 route

Picture showing the medal (with a red tag) that I received for completing the half marathon

Figure 4: Completion medal for half marathon

After my first half marathon, I also wanted to do a fast below 30 minute 5k run (speed greater than 10 kph). I did it on the penultimate week of the year. I had to push myself to do it as there was significant soreness and I was out of breath. The last 1 km was in particular hard because I felt sort of dizzy, which was probably due to the heat generated in my body (this is potentially risky). But I managed to complete within time and it was a satisfactory milestone to break. There was slightly more than usual soreness (for a 5k run) during that day and next. Before this fast 5k, I also did a continous stretch of 5k run for 5 days without any rest days in between (see table below from 12-12-2016 to 16-12-2016).

Date Distance(km) Time Speed (kmph) Acute soreness DOMS Run type
02-12-2016 4.4 00:31:50 8.29     HIIT 15 × (1+1)
07-12-2016 5.3 00:33:32 9.48     HIIT 15 × (1+1)
09-12-2016 5 00:33:04 9.07     HIIT 15 × (1+1)
12-12-2016 6 00:40:53 8.81 light none HIIT 15 × (1+1)
13-12-2016 5 00:34:51 8.61 light none Medium Run
14-12-2016 5 00:33:34 8.94 light none Medium Run
15-12-2016 5 00:35:11 8.53 light none Medium Run
16-12-2016 5 00:32:00 9.38 light very light Medium Run
19-12-2016 5 00:29:39 10.12 light moderate very light Pace Target 10kph for 5k
22-12-2016 6.15 00:42:49 8.62 light   HIIT 17 ×(1+1)
25-12-2016 25 03:32:14 7.07 Moderate severe light Long run

After the fast 5k run, I ended 2016 by running a 25k on 25th Dec 2016. It was a cool and cloudy winter morning. I started off quite late at 06:50 AM. I was quite slow as I hadn't run as regularly as I should have in the previous months. The last long run I had run was a half marathon 6 weeks ago. Also I hadn't slept well the previous night. There was no problems in the first 16.5k (three rounds around the college). The weather remained cloudy throughout. The fourth round became progressively harder as I got more and more soreness. After 22k it was pain beyond measure. I had to push myself to run. If I walked, pain actually increased even more! Hence I ran (rather hobbled). Every step required immense will to continue. My speed in the last 3 km was very slow - I took 10 minutes to run every km. However, after 3:37 hours, around 10:30 AM, I completed the 25k run. I experienced moderate severe levels of soreness throughout the day. This run could have been more easier had I been more regular in running. However, it was immensely satisfying to end the year on a high.

Screenshot from Runnerup app, showing time taken for every 1km with a summary in the top. Two screenshots cobbled together.

Figure 5: My first 25k – my longest run so far.

This 25k run is my longest run till date. Sadly after this, I gradually lost my fitness routine. More on that in the next post.

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