With just two months to go for the Delhi Airtel Half Marathon 2012, experts say it is still not too late to lace up your pair of running shoes.
And if you thought being in the 30s was too late to get into your tracks, then be at the starting line on September 30 to see people in their 60s and 70s also gearing up for the run. Unlike usual races, where only the winners get medals, even the person finishing last in a marathon bags a medal.
Amit Sheth, the author of Dare to Run and a businessman, who ran his first 42.2km marathon when he was 38 years had almost no experience of playing any sport.
When he first talked of the idea at home, his wife suggested that he needed to see a psychiatrist. “Some friends suggested I should undergo a stress test to see if I was fit. Since I always had a problematic lower pack and had started to develop knee pains, I also saw an orthopaedic surgeon and got scans done before I started training for the run,” said Sheth.
“But once I started to train, there was no looking back. When I ran my first marathon, after reaching the half-way mark (21 km), I felt as if my brain was on fire and my legs were made of cement. But when I completed the race after 6 hours and 29 minutes, I felt like Superman,” he said.
Sheth and his wife Neepa in 2010 completed the 89-km Comrades Ultra Marathon — the Ultimate Human Race — in South Africa.
Unlike Sheth, who took to running just for passion, Sunita Godara, 52, who was once a warden at Aurobindo Ashram near IIT-Delhi made it a profession, once she realised her speed and fitness levels were good enough to run in marathons. Since, she has run in 76 full and 123 half marathons. “Marathon is the only race where men and women run together. And it definitely gives a high to see yourself running better than many men,” said Godara.
Godara suggests that all beginners start with the 7km dream run if they think they will not be able to run the entire 21km. “The 7km run is very doable if one starts running 3km every alternate day. Even the 21km is not completely unachievable but then one has to work both on running as well as mileage,” she said. She believes that to run any marathon one has to be very regular. She trains people aged over 50 at Lodhi Gardens every morning and her “youngest” student is all of 84.
Research suggests that exercise affects the functioning of 33 genes in the hippocampus, which enhance mood, memory and learning. Doctors say that exercise also buffers the brain against brain damage, reduces effects of stress and delays the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“Running improves the cardiovascular health by improving the blood flow and contraction of heart muscles. It also improves the metabolic parameters like sugars and cholesterol and obesity,” said Dr Pankaj Soni, senior consultant, internal medicine at Max Hospital, Saket.
Are you fit to run a marathon? Take the quiz
What are the advantages of running?
Running is good for the heart as it improves blood flow and muscle contraction, for bones as it makes them stronger and for the brain as improves oxygen flow, thereby improving cognitive abilities.
How I should I prepare for the run?
Get good running shoes as they will give you good balance and avoid knee and ankle damage. Set small running targets and stretch yourself further with time. Get a timer to watch your mileage and time.
How fit do I need to be?
You don’t need speed but determination to run a marathon. You need to be consistent in your running so as to reach the desirable target. Run for at least two months regularly to be fit for a marathon.
What are the tests required to check my fitness levels?
Blood pressure should be checked and controlled (to avoid sudden collapses). Haemoglobin and blood count (to ensure that you are no anaemic), sugar (so that energy levels don’t fall if the sugar level drops) and lipid profile (to ensure that heart is strong), liver function and kidney function tests must be done. Stress test (TMT) and/or ECHO should be done if physician suggests. Bone scans could also be done if you are above 45 years.