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In the last decade or so, Indians have embraced a new hobby and a very healthy one at that. Marathons have gained immense popularity and for all the right reasons.

Many of them are attached to social causes with an option of easy 5km ‘fun runs’ to encourage people to participate and show their support; the vibe is usually festive and fun! Then there 10k, 21k (half) and 42k (full) options for serious runners.

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Hundreds of organised marathons and races take place in India every year; there’s a dedicated website for it too. If you’re preparing for your first marathon, you must keep some basic rules in mind to avoid injury and make the best of your run.

Indibeat got pro tips from Sanjay Chaudhary, a communications professional and a seasoned marathoner.

IB: How and when did you start running?

SC: In 2011 I met a friend who was going to Germany to participate in a running event. He said running is the simplest sport – it doesn’t require any equipment, you don’t need any company, all you need is a pair of shoes. Just step out and run!

That charged me up to register for the Delhi Dream Run. I started with a 6km run, which was a tall task for me then, and it took me around an hour to finish!

IB: What drove you to complete a full marathon?

SC: Most amateur runners (like me back in 2011) take up running for health benefits. But once you get into a routine, the pure pleasure and passion of running exceeds smaller milestones like fitness and weight loss. So the full marathon was just another goal in my running journey.

IB: Some tips for beginners who want to start running?

SC: Setting goals and achieving them without becoming affected by distractions of the mind, the body and the external environment is key.

When I first began running, each run had short milestones full of shorter walks. However, once the target is decided, no matter how exhausted you feel, you must push yourself to finish. Recoup and restart, quitting is never an option. After some time, this behaviour becomes a habit.

Also include cross-functional exercises and add variations like interval and tempo runs as part of your training regime.

IB: How can one avoid injury?

SC: No one needs to ‘learn’ running however, proper running form requires awareness, training and practice. Most runners get injured because of an improper running form.

Starting with a warm-up and ending with a cool-down is as important as the run itself. A good warm-up enhances flexibility and increases the blood flow, ensuring that muscles are well supplied with oxygen. Likewise, winding down allows the heart rate and blood pressure to drop gradually.

Every runner has to come face-to-face with running injury and make a choice to sink into depression or fight back by working on rehabilitation and recovery. Most runners, who have recovered from running injury, come out much stronger from the experience.

IB: What do you consume before or after a run?

SC: I drink beetroot juice 20 minutes before the run. Beetroot helps avoid muscle cramps, helps with blood flow and lowers blood pressure. With increased blood flow, our body uses less oxygen to produce the same speed and thus improves our performance.

That’s some great advice from Sanjay!

Another runner, Mansi Yalamalli has an inspiring message, “Running makes you experience pain and agony (injuries and chafing), despair, anger and myriad emotions. At the same time, it teaches you that you don’t have to be any particular size, age or gender to run.”

Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar

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