Photo: courtesy Deeptha Raghunath

The 2018 TCS New York City Marathon got over recently. According to available figures, 52, 812 runners finished it. The event is part of the World Marathon Majors; from among the races constituting the majors, the course at New York is comparatively tough. As running grows in India, running the marathon majors has become a fancy with many. There were runners from India traveling to New York to participate in the 2018 edition of the city’s annual marathon. Like all sports, running has its highs and lows. The highs need no explanation; good timing and ` personal best’ (PB) feature in the popular perception of high. Also finding place therein are race ambiance, cheering and definitely, the sheer pleasure of having run, PB or none. The downs are usually related to hiccups in training that upset race preparation, vagaries in weather on race day and injury; coping with the after effects of injury or picking one up / aggravating an existing one during a race. You then hope to do better next time. The 2018 New York City Marathon saw all this in Indian runners. We spoke to a few of those who went to New York, about their experience:

Anjali Saraogi / file photo (Photo: courtesy Anjali Saraogi)

Anjali Saraogi

The New York City Marathon of 2018 was a very enjoyable experience for me. Weather was perfect for a marathon. The course was undulating and hence not boring.

After I got my entry confirmation in February 2018, I commenced training diligently for this race. However in August I was laid low by a severe attack of dengue and unable to train for an entire month. This was a huge setback resulting in immense loss of fitness, stamina and speed. It also caused a major gap in my training. Following this setback, chasing any great timing at the New York City Marathon was no longer my goal. I decided to just run and enjoy the marathon without a target.  I finished in 3:24:12 hours.

I enjoyed the run as I was under no pressure to complete within a set time. Dengue had affected my joints. I am still coping with some remnant joint pain. Had I not suffered a hamstring injury due to sacroiliac joint weakness, I would have enjoyed the race even more.

This event has incredible crowd and spectator support. The volunteers, security and the NYPD go out of their way to assist runners. It’s a glorious experience. The energy in the race is electrifying and encouraging.

It’s not important for me to run all the marathon majors. I had wanted to run NYC Marathon ever since I heard that it was a challenging course.

I started running in November 2015. I have since enjoyed running the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Tata Mumbai Marathon of 2017 and 2018, the 2017 Comrades, Airtel Delhi Half Marathon of 2016 and 2017, Tata Steel Kolkata of 2016 and 2017, 2018 Garhwal Run (Dehradun to Dhanaulti / qualifier for La Ultra), 100k World Championship 2018 and 2018 Changan Ford Ultra 50k.

At present, my focus is rest and recovery. I would like to improve my strength and joint health, flexibility and mobility.

I am looking forward to 2019 Boston, which will hopefully be a race where I can aspire to improve my timing.

I ran the Changan Ford Ultra Challenge 50, less than 10 days before NYC Marathon.  It was an extremely challenging hilly course, in hot humid weather. It was hard and took all of me to complete. I clocked a time of 4:22:22 hours, ranking 35 out of 115 men and women. I was pleased with the result. I participated in this event since the NYC race was not by then a race for me to achieve any goal at.

In September 2018, I participated in the 100k World Championship in Croatia, clocking a time of 9:40 hours. It was an extremely hard race for me since I had barely recovered from dengue and hadn’t trained well for it. Hence, the result was disappointing but it was a memorable experience. I learnt a lot and it was wonderful pushing my limits and evolving as a runner.

Karthik Anand; geared up for 2018 TCS New York City Marathon (Photo: courtesy Karthik Anand)

Karthik Anand

For the first time in my world majors so far, I was pacing a friend – Deeptha Raghunath – for a sub-four hour finish at the New York City Marathon.

It was a stress free run for me.

I enjoyed it.

Weather was perfect. The course was indeed a tough one compared to the other world majors but I had trained on hilly terrain specifically for this. So the race went as per our expectations. My target was a sub-four hour finish and I managed to finish the run in 3:55:38 hours.

This run was part of my plan to finish the six world majors by April 2019. I have now successfully completed five world majors and will head for my last world major from the list – London Marathon, in April 2019. I have completed five world majors so far – Berlin, Tokyo, Chicago, Boston and New York.

Going ahead, I will be doing IDBI Delhi Marathon in February 2019 and London Marathon in April 2019.

Pervin Batliwala; from the pre-race expo of the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon (Photo: courtesy Pervin Batliwala)

Pervin Batliwala

I had a great time traveling to New York and running the marathon. New York City Marathon was a difficult race with quite a lot of uphill sections as there are many bridges along the way. There was some shortfall in my training as I lost four weeks due to injuries – stiff back and tight abductor muscles.

On the day of the race, we had to leave at 5:30 AM. My corral was starting at 11 AM. When we landed in the holding area it was cold and then it started to get warm. So I got out of my track-pants. But closer to the race start, the temperature started to drop. I got back into my track-pants and I ended up running the marathon in them. It wasn’t easy doing so. After 28 kilometers I resorted to walk-run. In fact, I walked quite a lot. This was the first time ever that I walked during a marathon.

Overall, the experience was great. I finished in 4:29:48 hours. My coach was happy with my performance.

Three factors that did not go well for me was the shortfall in my training, the five-hour wait at the holding area that took a toll on me and my running attire.

NYC Marathon is a very well organized run with superb cheering.

Now, I will be doing a couple of half marathons. I plan to follow it up with a 2 kilometer-swim.

Dnyaneshwar Tidke; 2018 TCS New York City Marathon (Photo: courtesy Dnyaneshwar Tidke)

Dnyaneshwar Tidke

I was in real good shape during the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon held on October 21, 2018. But soon after the event I started to feel discomfort on the outside of my right knee. When I tried to bend my knee I felt pain. I rested for two days and then went for a 20 kilometer-run.  At the end of that training run my knee felt locked and it swelled up. I did some icing but to no avail. I visited the doctor. It was initially diagnosed as an ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injury. Once I was back from New York I did a MRI and the problem was diagnosed as meniscus tear.

I wanted to cancel my trip to New York. I tried to cancel my tickets but realized that I was going to lose a huge amount of money. I then, decided to go and see if I can manage to run the marathon. Also, the pain had eased a bit.

Upon reaching the US, I stayed with a friend Manjunath Bhat, who lived 78 miles away from the start line of the race. On the day of the New York City Marathon, we headed out at 3 AM. The start of the race was at Staten Island and the finish, at Central Park. Weather on the day of the run was quite good with temperatures in the range of 10-14 degrees Celsius.

Dnyaneshwar Tidke; 2018 TCS New York City Marathon (Photo: courtesy Dnyaneshwar Tidke)

I started the run slowly. Within the first kilometer we get a bridge with some incline. I did fine during the incline but during the decline, I felt some discomfort in my knee. At around 14-16 kilometers I started to get terrible knee pain. I continued running but after 22 kilometers I had to slow down. Between 25 and 35 kilometers I jogged. After 35 kilometers I was unable to jog as my knee would get locked. I started walking. But that wasn’t easy either. I started to get cramps in my shoulder, stomach and calves while walking. At every point during the run I felt there were at least 1000 runners ahead of me and 1000 behind me. The last seven kilometres of the marathon felt never-ending. I have not walked at any run since 2011. I finished NYC Marathon in 4:03:51 hours, way outside my personal best of 2:53 hours.

I will definitely go back to run the New York City Marathon. It is a very well organized race, the course is beautiful and markings were accurate with the blue line laid out all through the course. Hydration and refreshment support during the run was excellent. Cheering was also good.

My priority now is to recover and heal. I require surgery to correct the knee issue. Next on the cards are 2019 Mumbai Marathon and the 2019 Boston Marathon. I won’t be able to run Mumbai Marathon.

(Author’s note: the surgery mentioned above was done in mid-November. Dnyaneshwar is now recovering.)

Lata Alimchandani (Photo: courtesy Lata Alimchandani)

Lata Alimchandani

This is my fourth world marathon major. I have completed Berlin, Chicago and London so far.

At New York City Marathon, on the morning of the run it was quite cold. Then it turned warm before reverting to cold. That’s typical New York weather. I had lived in New York for some time so I was aware of how the weather behaves.

The run started well. I was doing good pace. I wanted to run fast in the beginning when my energy levels are good. At 25 kilolmeters I started to feel hungry and looked for food at support stations. I managed to get a banana but I had to stop to eat it, so I lost some time. I also lost some time at a couple of other water stations. The course, also, is a little tough. I finished in 4:11:50 hours, a personal best. Though I could have finished in better timing I am happy with the run. My training was brief; for about five weeks but still quite good.

In September 2018, I had participated in the World Masters Athletics Championship in Spain. I came back on September 17 and started my training for NYC Marathon. Because of this marathon I had to give IDBI Half Marathon and the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon a miss.

I started running in 2013. My first event was Pinkathon (10 kilometers) held in December 2013.

Going forward I will be doing the half marathon at Vasai Virar Mayor’s Marathon and Mumbai Marathon.  I am likely to run Tokyo Marathon in February 2019 and Boston Marathon in April 2019.

Siddesha Hanumanthappa; 2018 TCS New York City Marathon (Photo: courtesy Siddesha Hanumanthappa / Facebook)

Siddesha Hanumanthappa

Just a week before New York City Marathon, I ran a 10 kilometer-race in Philadelphia. I ran well finishing the race in 46 minutes and ended up with a place on the podium in the senior category. But it was very cold with temperatures around 3 degrees Celsius with winds at 20 miles per hour accompanied with rains. I picked up a cold and a bad cough and chest congestion. A week prior to that, I had also suffered a fall in the bathroom hurting my spine and resulting in a stiff back.

Therefore, at NYC Marathon, I had no specific time target. I just wanted to finish the run in sub-4 hours. I ended the run with a timing of 3:55:33 hours. I am happy with my timing. My personal best is 3:24 hours. I have also finished Boston Marathon twice with timings of 3:36 and 3:37 hours.

My training for NYC Marathon was not quite up to the mark. I was not able to focus on speed. Instead, I focused on endurance. My training was aimed at completing the run. It was not centered around pace. Just a day before the marathon, I did a quick five kilometer-run to verify my capability and finished it with a pace of five minutes, five seconds per kilometer. I was, therefore, confident of a sub-four finish.

NYC Marathon is an amazing event. The whole city celebrates and Manhattan is shut down.  The entire running route is taken over by police. It is like being part of a mini universe as New York is akin to a mini universe. The entire route is jam packed with people cheering, singing, dancing and encouraging runners. There are bands playing all along the way and there was loud music as well.  The bridges are the only places where there were no people as they are not allowed there. There are about five bridges in all on the route. You feel so happy and energized running in this city.

NYC Marathon has the best cheering spectators among the world marathon majors. It is also the toughest among the six majors, I think. You never know what is coming your way as you progress along the route here. The bridges have gentle inclines and gentle declines and that can be quite deceiving.

It is an extremely well-organized event and you just flow with the crowd. There are signboards, markers, hundreds of volunteers and police personnel. I feel it is much better organized compared with Boston Marathon. At NYC Marathon, there are different types of runners because the entry is lottery-based. I totally forgot myself because of the cheering and the enthusiasm of the volunteers.

I have done Boston Marathon twice and now NYC Marathon. In 2019, I hope to do Berlin Marathon and Chicago Marathon back to back. I may end this year with one more marathon locally.

I don’t train specifically for an event. My training is uniform throughout the year. On an average I log about 105-110 kilometers per week.

Pervin (left), Chitra (center); pre-race parade, 2018 TCS New York City Marathon (Photo: courtesy Chitra Nadkarni)

Chitra Nadkarni

I marvel at the sheer logistics of how New York City manages such a huge running event. New York City Marathon had over 52,000 runners. Yet it was organised so well.

Pre-race day events and race day events were superb. I excitedly participated in the pre-race country wise parade and was so proud to walk with the Indian flag. I met many other runners from India and Indians living abroad who were running this race.

I had done Chicago Marathon three weeks earlier and had come back to India before leaving again for New York. I had little time to shrug off jet lag and body ache and be in good form for New York.

The race day in New York was beautiful. It was cold in the beginning but the sun was up and there was clear blue sky. My coach and I had decided to go for 4:10 finish time and at the expo I had picked up a pace plan accordingly.

I was very apprehensive about the route because it is undulating terrain and there were many flyovers. I started my race with extra layers and shed them when I had warmed enough. I ran sensibly till the half way mark because I was advised at the expo that the second half is tougher than the first. The last 200 meters was also a climb and Central Park was one undulating route. But I stayed true to the pace plan and finished in 4:09:32 hours. I am very happy with my timing.

I have just one marathon major – Tokyo, left. I would love to finish it in 2019.

Going ahead, my to do list includes full Ironman and Masters.

Kranti Salvi; 2018 TCS New York City Marathon (Photo: courtesy Kranti Salvi)

Kranti Salvi

I had run Berlin Marathon seven weeks before New York City Marathon. I ran in a saree, becoming the fastest woman to do so. My original plan was to come back from the German city and take two weeks to recover before I commence training for NYC Marathon. But that was not to be. After I landed in Mumbai, I was flooded with requests for interviews, both by print and broadcast media, for my feat: running in a saree at Berlin. I also got invitations for felicitation functions, many of which I had to turn down.

During one such interview, I had to wear my nauvari saree (traditional Maharashtrian saree) and do a short run for a video shoot. But I tripped and fell, badly bruising my knee. My injury was quite bad and that put a stop to my training. The doctor, I went to, said the injury would take six weeks to heal. I was on antibiotics to help the healing of the wound. Two weeks before NYC Marathon, I also got flu. With all these, I just resorted to slow jogs as part of my training.

During my travel to New York, I had stomach distress on the flight. I had to miss the pre-race day parade.

On race day, I woke up at 3 AM. Getting to the race venue was an experience. There were thousands of people on the roads from early morning. Everywhere, there were queues – for buses that transport you to start line, queues at toilets.

I started the run slowly as my aim was just to finish the marathon. NYC Marathon is like a river of people – hundreds of runners and thousands of spectators cheering you. Despite my stomach issue, I did not feel tired. I did not get any cramps either. I finished the run in 3:56:29 hours. I guess running the Berlin marathon was my training for NYC Marathon.

I will be doing Chicago Marathon in October of 2019. In the following year, I hope to do Tokyo Marathon and London Marathon.

(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)


Deeptha Raghunath; 2018 TCS New York City Marathon (Photo: courtesy Deeptha Raghunath)

Running is fun. But marathons don’t come easy; especially if there is a desire to do well, included in plan. Training pays. The process changes you as person. That’s what Deeptha Raghunath discovered, preparing for her first full marathon – the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon – and eventually running it. Deeptha chose the New York City Marathon because she had heard how well organized marathons abroad are. Further, advised minimum six months training, New York was the best placed big event available once she took the plunge to do the full marathon. This is her account, presented here as an article by invitation: 

Crossing the finish line at New York was the most intense feeling ever.

I cried.

It was months of training dovetailing to race and finally, finish. I told myself, “ this is it, it’s over.’’

I started running five years ago. A friend introduced me to the sport.  I can’t thank Karthik Anand enough for doing that. I have always wondered how people ran a full marathon; what drove them? From where did they get that kind of energy? Why did they run that distance? Being a runner – not a marathoner – I knew there was something about running and training for a marathon which drove millions across the world to do it and become marathoner. I never had the courage to try it.

My runner friends would ask me: when are you taking the plunge to do a full marathon? I always responded: me? No way! The thought of the distance was enough to scare me. I don’t think I will ever be able to run a full marathon – that was my standard answer.

I shared my fears with Karthik. He said, “ just stay focused and dedicated. You will finish super strong. I promise that.’’ He believed in me much more than I did. It pushed me to think: maybe I can.

I registered for the TCS New York City Marathon in mid-March 2018. Although I train in Bengaluru with PaceMakers, under K.C. Kothandapani, I was always laid back when it came to training. I found excuses to miss the speed workout on the tracks and since I missed the most crucial training day of the week I always found it tough to do the tempo runs. Race after race I used to fail and I kept telling myself: this is not for me.

Karthik Anand pacing Deeptha at the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon (Photo: courtesy Deeptha Raghunath)

Having registered for the New York Marathon, I realized I needed to up my game. Karthik decided to guide me since he was running the race too. He had already completed four of the World Marathon Majors. He began sending me my weekly running schedules after discussing it with the coach. The moment he donned his running gear, Karthik transformed from close friend to taskmaster. He wouldn’t take no for answer. Once the schedule was made, there were no discussions or changes; it had to be done.

I started slow with about 65-70 km mileage per week. I was clearly told that pace should never be looked at especially in the initial months of training. That was a comfort. Week after week the mileage gradually increased. I dreaded Saturdays which were my long run-days. The distance was being stepped up week after week and I had to get used to being on my feet for a minimum of four and half hours. I remember days when I had my menstrual cycles. I could not even think of raising that as excuse for I was told examples of working mothers who were ace marathoners and who toiled relentlessly on the same roads.

Time flew by. I was at the peak of my training when mileage was minimum 80 km per week. Karthik was there all through. It was not easy for a sub 4:30 minutes per km-runner to trot beside a 6:30 mins per km-runner. He sacrificed all his training runs for me. Before I knew we were in October and I had mere weeks of the most crucial runs left. In that time I had to do the race distance at the planned race pace.

Officially the training had ended, the long runs, the intense speed workouts were all over. I was 3-4 weeks out from my marathon. That’s when I reached one of the most important parts of training – the taper. During the taper, weekly mileage is reduced in order to allow the body to rest and recover before a prolonged race.  At this point in training, there is not much you can do to improve endurance or performance, but there is still plenty of time to overdo it and court injury. The taper is a very difficult time for most runners, as rest is not a concept they are used to. But it’s during this period that your muscles, damaged from long training season, get repaired. I had to reduce the weekly mileage gradually; each run got shorter but faster. The hard work was now over.

I went to New York a week prior to the race to get acclimatized. I had never run in cold conditions.

Kathik had set a realistic target for me – to complete the race within 4 hours 10 mins. He decided to make me run without my Garmin and I trusted my pacer. On race day, the elite runners started earlier than my wave. At 10.15 AM the Race Director said, “ Wave 2 – on your mark.’’ Boom; we were off. While I was running the first mile on the bridge, which is by the way the highest incline of the entire race, I felt everything from joy to anxiety. The first mile was intense. I realized that I was actually doing the New York Marathon. Entering Brooklyn after the bridge was like running through one of the biggest parties imaginable. I saw DJs and church choirs and people dancing and singing for the runners.

Photo: courtesy Deeptha Raghunath

Karthik made sure our pace was steady and easy. I told myself to save energy for the final six miles. I was flying. I had so much fun running from one big block-party to the next and also having my pacer boost my confidence. The 23rd km, I knew, was going to be an uphill and it was a tough one but we cruised through it. When is the fabled marathon wall coming? – I kept asking myself. Everytime we crossed the timing mat Karthik told me that folks back in India would be tracking at that very. It motivated me to now let anyone down, most of all – him. As we hit the 32 km-mark, Karthik reminded, “ Deeptha, your race starts now. You are doing fab. Just stick to what you are doing for the next five kilometers. This is the most crucial stage and this is where everyone takes a hit.’’ I began to feel the fatigue in my legs. But I knew 37th km onwards would be tough. I kept my mind prepared for. The course with its inclines was taking a toll and every muscle in my body was aching. You just want to see the damn finish line and cross it. But it’s not even close. I had no idea of the pace I was doing though in moments of silence Karthik asked me if I was comfortable. At the 40 km-mark when I touched the highest level of fatigue, he told me:  you have 23 minutes left to do three kilometers and that would mean a sub-four finish. I had no words to express my joy and shock. At the 41 km-mark, where I needed a cheer the most, a runner friend cheered his lungs out for me.

The finish in Central Park is something I will never forget. Few meters before the finish, I heard the announcer scream: India! I finished with a sense of satisfaction and pride. It is a moment I will cherish forever. I remember Karthik telling me “ you beast you killed it. You clocked 3:55.’’ Thank you Karthik; I owe this one to you. A huge shout-out to my coach, family and friends as well. Your training will never let you down – that is what most of them said. I could not agree more. Does running a marathon change your life? I’m not sure. It definitely changes you as a person; you evolve. Almost a week after the NYC Marathon, the runner’s high is still there. I feel mentally stronger today after running the marathon.

(The author, Deeptha Raghunath, is a Bengaluru-based entrepreneur and runner.)