Ritesh Gupta only started running after he became 31. The first four years he started running upto 10 kms. This year he decided to run the full marathon which is 42 Kms. The race was in Richmond Virginia, USA. The date was 15th Nov 2008 and his timing was 5 hrs, 8 mts 11 secs. His average pace was 11 mts and 52 secs per mile.
U: What made you take to running in the first place?
RG: I started running when I came to the US in 2003 just to get out with a couple of friends and get in better shape. However within a few weeks I fell in love with running. It gave me great joy to be out doors with nature and helped me relax.
U: Is this the first time that you have run a marathon?
U: Was running only a hobby for you initially? What made you go professional and run in the Sun Trust Marathon?
RG: Despite running for 4 years I had a mental block that I can never do more than that and to do a marathon which was 4 times the distance was out of the question. However in April 2008 during a very lively discussion with my mentor, I was challenged to break this mental barrier. I combined this challenge with a worthy goal of raising $4000 for the St Jude’s Children’s’ Research Hospital (SJCRH).
U: What was your inspiration to raise money for the hospital?
RG: Out of all the charities that I could have chosen I went with SJCRH for 3 specific reasons:
1. I feel passionate about the cause of cancer
2. This cause became even more in the case of children whose whole lives lie ahead of them
3. Talking to my friends in the US and through my own research I found that SJCRH is extremely well run and efficiently manages the donations.
U: While running what were the challenges you faced?
RG: The biggest challenge was in my mind. Till the day of the marathon I had not run more than 29 kms and I had no idea if I would be able to complete the full 42. Having said this there were several challenges I felt physically. The first 25 kms went fine but then I could feel my body tiring and my muscles cramping. By the 35th km I had to start a walk run walk mechanism to keep going. There were at least 2 instances when I hit the proverbial “wall” and was convinced that I cannot go on. The challenge was to overcome this feeling and keep pushing on.
U: Does the weather affect running a marathon?
RG: Yes U, that’s a very good question. The outside weather is a key determinant of an athletes’ performance in the marathon. The ideal running weather is 55 degrees Fahrenheit which is approximately 13 degrees Celsius combined with a humidity of less than 40 % and little or no wind. When compared to the actual weather on the day of my marathon (Nov 15 2008) the conditions were definitely not very friendly. Temperatures ranged from 65 to 75 Fahrenheit, the humidity was over 90 % and the wind over 16 kms per hour/. Since I had never trained under such weather conditions this was yet another challenge that I had to overcome. I did this by continuously hydrating myself with sports drinks every 5 to 7 minutes of my run. I also freed myself of 2 layers of clothing by the middle of the race.
U: I understand you did undergo training for the marathon. When did you start training and what exactly did that entail?
If I have to attribute one reason to my successful completion of the marathon, I would say it is training. I also believe that anyone, even you can run a marathon.
(U: (Oh yeah!!!))
RG: provided you do 3 things number one training number two training and number 3 training. When it comes to training there are at least 2 distinct dimensions. One is physical and two is mental /emotional.
On the physical dimension, training is geared to increase your running distance from an initial 2 to 3 kms in a day to a final 32 kms within a period of 6 months. Note that the max distance you run during training is 32 kms and not 42. The training incorporates 5 days of running a week with 2 long runs on Wednesday and Saturday and 3 short runs. The other aspect of physical training is injury prevention. Running long distances results in injuries due to overuse of muscles and repetitive motion of joints. The most common injuries are shin splints, stress fracture, chaffing of the skin, toe nail injury, etc.
On the mental and emotional dimension, the training is even more rigorous. The biggest need is for a trainee to be disciplined throughout 6 months. This often means running even when u don’t want to on some days. This would mean prioritizing running over other activities that compete for the same time. This means no late Friday nights to wake up early for a long run on Saturday.
There are several other specific topics throughout training:
Like shoes training, choosing the right shoe is an absolute must for long distance running.
Clothes and accessories training; which teaches what kind of clothes and accessories should be worn for what kind pf weather and includes things like shirts that wick away moisture, fuel belts to sports drinks, pouches to carry food etc..
Form training: This teaches the right running posture to make efficient use of the body’s energy.
Nutrition training: This tells you what food to eat before the race, during the race and after the race…
U: What kind of food do you eat?
RG: There is a variety of food for long distance runners. All these are basically carbohydrates for quick energy, the common ones include sports drinks like Gatorade, PowerAde, as well as gels, gelatins, gummy bears, pretzels, limes, doughnuts..
(U: Doughnuts!!! Yum!!!)
U: What did you learn from this experience?
RG: Several deep things for my life- and I am not talking about the technical aspects associated with running a marathon.
Here are the top four on my list:
1. The power of goal setting; setting aggressive goals is the first step to big achievements. It’s amazing that I was afraid to run more that 10 kms. But once I set a goal for 42 kms, it was only 2 months and I crossed the 15 km mark and within 4 months I crossed the 20 km mark all because my aggressive goal of 42 kms made these goals achievable and small
2. Perseverance is the key to success. No matter what obstacles come your way you have to keep going.
3. Learning. You will never be fully prepared nor would the time be absolutely perfect for that big achievement that we are planning. So don’t try to be perfect. Set goals, set deadlines and give it your best.
4. Leverage expertise in areas where you are a novice. I would not have been successful without the extensive support that I got from my running coaches, nutritionist, physical therapists and running injury doctors.
U: How many people actually ran the Richmond marathon?
RG: 5000 people registered for the marathon but only2994 actually completed the race.
U: Thank You Ritesh for this interview. I am sure this interview will inspire many to leap forward:)