Zurich Marathon (23rd April 2016)

The Zurich marathon is a big event for me. Big for several reasons. It is here where I saw a marathon event for the first time in 2012 in my life. It is here where I was transformed from a spectator to a marathoner. It is here where there is huge support, cheering and camaraderie, in particular from the Team Asha guys. And it is here where I ran my 1st marathon. I can call this as my marathon home ground.

Collecting the bib, meeting with other Team Asha runners and the pasta party happens on the previous day of the race. This is fun and and the perfect way to build up the mood for the marathon. The major discussion this time was the weather. The weather guys forecasted that it would be cold and that it may even snow. Snow in April is not unfamiliar; April weather could be most unpredictable in this part of the World.

Sadly, the pasta party was a flop. By the time I went, there was only pasta without sauce. So I went home and had some rice with vegetables instead. The running gear and all that I needed for the next day was organized and I just hoped for some good sleep followed by a great race.

Left pic- With Team Asha guys meeting to collect the bibs, t-shirts and motivation.
Right pic – My buddies- Rajesh and Sachin (in middle) who flew in from Dubai to run with us.
The race day
I got up at 6 am. After going through my daily chores, I ate bread with butter and jam along with coffee. At 7 am, I was out and on my way. When I started from my place the weather was dry and not so cold. I wore my running shorts and a short sleeve running t-shirt and upon that a red colored long sleeve running t-shirt. And yes, I had wrapped my head with the trade mark white turban.

When I reached the starting area, I met the other Team Asha guys. And as we were exchanging best wishes, the weather turned lousy.

Posing with the Asha guys before the start

It started drizzling and soon the drizzle turned into snow rain. But we kept our smiles or at least I pretended to smile. The announcements were taking place and the announcer was trying his (in German) and her (in English) best to cheer up the moral of the runners. Near the starting line along with a bunch of guys around me, we grinned at each other and cracked some jokes about the weather. That was all we could do. It was cold and we wanted to start.

Just after the start. Turbanman on the run.
The race started and I was on my way for another 42.2km. For the next 1 hour, the rain continued. The rain and me, we both had no intention to stop. When we were around the 7 km mark on the famous street of Zurich called the Bahnhofstrasse (Railway station road) we were greeted with a sheet of snow. Everything was suddenly colored in white. It seemed that the weather guys were right with their prediction this time, when they should have been wrong. I just didn’t want my shoes to get wet, as the race had just begun but I couldn’t do much.

I was well prepared for this day. There was no injury or set-back throughout my training period. I remember that during my 2015 Zurich marathon, I was unable to train for 2 weeks (injury followed by fever). You can’t do much when you are injured. You can just wait, observe and maybe pray. Luckily this time nothing like that happened.

My training plan for Zürich marathon 2016
My pace in the first phase of the race was fine. Actually, I even ran a bit faster than I should have. I reached 10.5 km in 55 minutes (5.23 min/ km). I crossed the half marathon distance (21.2 km) in 1hour 49 minutes (5.14 min/km). The run was going well till the half marathon mark probably because the rain had stopped and I had warmed up. During the run a volunteer was shouting “Go get it. The sun is there in 2 km”. That statement was absolutely motivating. I was running towards the sun in the ghastly cold wet weather.

Left pic- Running with soggy shoes; Right pic- Running in dry condition.
There is one great thing about running in wet conditions. One doesn't need to re-hydrate that often. During this race, I decided to have my own drinks and my personal crew. My daughter Megha and my friend Morag volunteered happily. They handed me over my drink and some salty stuff as I approached the 20 km mark. I was glad to see them and to get my drink. I gave a warm (wet) hug to both of them and off I went. Close to 24.5 km, there was some more cheering from the friends of Team Asha (I remember seeing Aranya da). That's why I find this marathon excellent: There are so many supporters and cheering throughout the entire stretch.

Somewhere after 30km
I reached the 32 km mark at 2h 51 min (5.34 min/km). At this stage, I was unable to keep my earlier pace. I was slowing down. Even though, I was trying to push myself but my legs refused to co-operate.
Why do I slowdown in the later stage?
Generally until 30 km, my body feels fine and so does my mind. Something strange then takes over. I start feeling very tired. I can’t motivate my mind anymore. My legs don’t move as fast as I want them to move. The Zurich marathon was my 6th full marathon and the 5th street marathon (Jungfrau had (at that time) been my only mountain race). In all my previous street marathons including this Zurich marathon, I somehow felt tired and worn-out between this 30-39 km stretch. Many of the runners, whom I had previously overtaken, passed me by one by one, including my friend Anirudh.

I didn’t find the strength (most probably in my mind) anymore to follow them. I did try but struggled and found it too hard. I couldn’t keep up with my pace but I didn’t give up. I kept going at my own pace. I need to work out a way to deal with the 30- 39 km stretch.

In the last 10 km of this marathon my pace was 5.75 min/ km. That was way slower compared to the 5.2 min/ km pace at the 20 km mark. Around 39 km, I re-gained my strength, probably because I could smell the finish line. This happens with me during most of my races and I find this fact highly interesting. At the end of the course when everything seems to slow down and you think you can’t do it anymore, the body somehow gets some fresh energy from some secret stored source (when the glycogen has probably all dried up). Maybe some secret molecule from the mind flushes into the blood stream and my legs start moving again.

Some explanations for my slow pace during the 30 to 39 km stretch can be:
1. That I run the first part of the race much faster than I should. As a result I have no energy or power for of second part.
2. That I don’t use energy gels during the race. I stick to my own drink. That’s mostly water. Some of my runner friends have thrown me this idea of using energy gels. I am still not sure and not convinced if I should use them to restore my glycogen.
Hopefully, one day (kind of soon) I will have a way to cope with the unfriendly 30-39 km stretch that would be suitable for my mind and my body.
Finishing of the race

There were loads of people near the finish area. Everyone was waiting to cheer their runner friend/s. My eyes were searching for my daughter. As I was just about to pass her, my eye caught her. I shouted in my tired but still forceful voice “Megha come”. She rushed towards me with her self made red placard, which said “Congrats Baba, you are the best. Love you Megha”. She held my hand and said “Come Baba. Fast Baba” and I had to tell her “I can’t, easy”. And we both ran the remaining 200 meters stretch hand in hand and crossed the finish line together.

Running the last stretch with Megha. What a great feeling!
I need to admit that I had desired of crossing the finish line under 4h but I crossed it at 4h 3 min. However, in all my training runs whenever I got tired, I had visualized that I was finishing the race with my daughter. And this dream came true. During the last 200 meters, I had forgotten the distance and the ghastly weather. I was just full of joy to run with Megha.

The rain was no more and I finished my 6th marathon. Yes!!! I did it again.

I was given my medal and Megha proudly wore it. We passed the finisher’s area and we went and met the Team Asha guys.

As the adrenalin and the heat of the finish was diluting, I felt wet and cold again. I wanted new warm clothes and as always my lovely friends chipped in with their help. Sudesh and Rajesh gave me their jackets and I felt comfortable and warm.

Posing with the Team Asha guys after the race
Through this race I was able to raise funds for the kids' education in India. This is what Asha Zurich does. I am happy to be a part of it. I am glad that my daughter gets proper education and I am happy that through my run I can support the education of other kids. So let us keep running. Keep learning. Keep educating.And let me conclude with a selfie.

Le Bleu. A selfie from our last training session.