I recently participated in a marathon, where the challenge was to run for 36 hours. YES, 36 HOURS AT A STRETCH. Now, I have participated in many events where the duration of the run lasted for about 20 hours. But, I have definitely have not run even a minute more than that.
But, the real catch was to run for 36 hours in a 400 meter stadium. Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore.
My mother thought my daughter has definitely lost her mind. And for the longest time she thought I was joking about the fact that I am going to run for 36 hours. Knowing me well, she knew I can not, absolutely cannot let go of my sleep. So she asked, ‘Can you rest?’ I said, oh yes for some time. And this is how it all began. It began by telling my mind to not sleep for my usual 7 hours in the night and maybe cut it to a smaller time. 🙂
I was treating it as if running was that long was ‘ok, whatever, secondary’! In reality, it wasn’t.
So the drill was this: the run started on August 6 at 6 am and it ended on August 7, 6 pm. You had 36 hours and you had to go round and round on the 400 meter track for 36 hours. Every one hour is change in direction- clockwise or anti-clockwise. Hydration, nutrition, toilets, beds to rest, a team of docs, every one is right there. Every 6 hours was your medical check.
But coming back to the biggest question mark on my mother’s forehead that said ‘WHY??’ in CAPS. Here is my ‘WHY’ and ‘WHY’ will I do it again with 17 reasons:
- It is an experience that you will not get on any ultra marathon. Now, typically most of the marathons (and I am speaking ultras) have a distance to cover in the given time. It could be any distance above 42 km. 46 km, 86 km, 101 km, 220 km, etc. Here, you choose your own distance within the time given to you and keep it as a target and then tell your mind ‘one foot ahead of the other, sweetheart and repeat’. That is exactly what I did. Having run not a km more than 100 km, I was targeting 180 km, managed 184 km in 36 hours (I am glad)
- Everything is under your control. Since you are moving in circles of 400 meters, you have easy access to hydration and nutrition, every 400 meters. The organisers NEB sports and Nagaraj Adiga and his team had done an excellent job and we were given whatever we asked for. The list included the most bizarre food requests including ice-creams (seriously, who eats ice-cream during a run?) This hydration/ nutrition point was kept inside the innermost circle of the track and we just had to stop by to do the carb loading.
- There is no need to run with money to buy stuff on the road, no backpacks or hydration belts needed.
- there is no better test of your mental endurance than something like this- going round and round in circles, for 36 hours -again, SERIOUSLY!
- Ultra running community is like a family. We are these bunch of runners who run for long hours, share each other’s problems, running related experiences, etc. Essentially, we talk a lot. But the conversations are bound to inspire and make you a better runner.
- You can carry as many clothes you want and change clothes as many times you want. The track is your ramp. And the baggage counter, your dressing room.
- You get the best running pictures as there is someone or the other clicking you from some point in the stadium.
- You can learn a lot about other’s running style, their diet, etc. to take the best and leave the not so suitable. Hence, it is a fantastic learning experience.
- You get to know so much about your own running style, at what point in time do you need food, when do you need to hydrate, what makes you run better, which shoe is helping you, which shoe is making you slow, etc. It is a great time to experiment with your own body to understand it better.
- If you have been considering for a long time to run barefoot but couldn’t muster the guts to do so considering the dirt, dust, broken glasses and nails on Indian roads, this could be your time to do barefoot. I ran about 40 km barefoot and loved it. The track is super conducive for a barefoot run.
- You understand a lot about your sleep pattern during such a run. So typically, at times you would sleep to rest or even if you are not sleepy you want to just lie down and then gradually fall asleep. Or then at times your eyes are shutting and you really really have to sleep. Either which ways, sleep or rest is as important as your run.
- You know how to use your energy in a more conservative way. This will happen only by experience and knowing your body well. Your body will tell you when can you build a rhythm and run well without spending too much energy and when can you conserve a bit of energy to spend it in the forthcoming hours. For example, I can run really well in the sun. But, as soon as it is cold, I simply can’t run.
- You start appreciating the time spent with yourself, without phone much better on such run.
- you will not get the crowd support or cheer for any other ultra spanning over 36 hours time as you will get for the one happening in the stadium. This really helps. When you hear your name in the crowd suddenly your form improves (well, it has to).
- You get to know a quality about you other than discipline. This quality is persistence. You you were disciplined enough to wake up in the morning, on weekdays and weekends for those long runs. But, it is nothing if you are not persistent enough to continue and go on and on for those 36 hours at a stretch.
- In case you are planning a long run in the near future, this can form a good well supported training run. If you haven’t planned, then you should within a month or 40 days of a run like this. Your training mileage will be easily taken care of.
- Your appreciation of time and what can you do with it is way higher. Suddenly, one hour more of work seems like a cake walk, when earlier it used to feel like a lot of time. And you understand the importance of what you have done only after 36 hours and one minute.