I made it past 100 miles. That was my goal as I approached the Delhi 24 hour stadium-run. In fact, I got to 177 kilometers or in other words 433 rounds of 410 meter each. I was fourth. You cannot imagine how long 24 hours are when you have to run it. Time crawls. This was my first stadium run, and I think I have learned a few things that may or may not work for you.
- Be ready for the weather. It was cold at 3 in the morning and became colder until sunrise. Gloves, multiple layers, beanie.
- Bring extra shoes. Different pairs activate different muscles. I used one pair for an hour, another for another hour. Then I settled on a third pair which is old (to say the least), but felt good and took me to the end.
- Be ready for the food-situation. I knew that the food would be spicy, but some of it was too spicy for me. And spicy food makes me have to look for a toilet more often. But you have to eat. I had a nut-mix and energy gels that helped some.
- Identify the closest, cleanest, toilet before the race starts. (As a side-note expect that there will not be any toilet paper and find ways to manage. Water works, but in the winter it is cold.)
- If you want to listen to your own music you have to have noise-canceling earphones. The music was upbeat and helped with the boredom, but the selection was limited and very repetitive at times. I think the DJ must have put one song on repeat for half an hour at one point. There was also this war going on between two DJ’s at opposite ends of the track at some point.
- Talk to other runners. It helps against the boredom, and it is great to have (and be) on-track support.
- Stay on the track for as long as possible. Some guys got some sleep, but they could never make up the distance on their (relatively) rested legs. Still, that depends on your goal.
- If you have to stop for medical check-ups, eating, going to the toilet or whatever reason, enjoy the rest. I got upset (to my shame) when the medical test took too long the first time. I planned my stops for it better by either going in before they announce it or by waiting a bit longer until there wasn’t a queue anymore.
- If you can, have someone bring you your favorite lift-me-upper. My daughter and a friend brought me coffee around midnight and again the next morning. What a morale booster.
- Plan for slowing down. But DO NOT start too fast. In our race, two guys went out fast. The one could (he came second overall) and the other couldn’t. (I do not know when he stopped running, but it was within the first 12 hours)
- Find rhythms. I started with half an hour followed by one round walk. Then after about 10 hours, I did 5 rounds followed by one round walking. Then 2 rounds followed by a half walking. Then eventually I came to 300m running followed by 100m walking. I started this around 13 hours and kept it up until the end. I was surprised that I could. My running still became progressively slower, though.
- Try not to look at the clock! Or at least do not think about it. I was not successful with this. When you look at it, it slows down…
- I still need to find ways to get my brain busy with something else to fend off the boredom.
- Listening to your body is overrated. Mine screamed for several hours that I should stop. No injuries, just muscles that had had enough. I would never recommend it because it is better to feel the pain when there is a real injury, but at some point, I got a pain tablet from the medical team. It dulled the worst pain so that I could continue.
- I don’t believe a physiotherapist trying to stretch out your quads forcefully is much help 15 hours down the line. Especially if those quads have always been stiff like mine.
- Fighting off an over-eager physiotherapist who’s got you pinned down on your stomach having run for 15 hours is more than anyone can do.
- This type of run has some spiritual benefit. You may even get close to meeting your Maker. (Seriously now, talking to Jesus, helped me a lot)
I always wonder what it would feel like to run more than 4 marathons back to back on an oversized treadmill. (That is what one of my co-sufferers figured out a stadium is during some spare thinking time) Was it fun? Sometimes. Will I do it again? Probably. What about 36 or 48-hour runs? You must be crazy.
Now I am off to Mumbai for the marathon on the 21st. I hope my legs will recover.