Kavitha Reddy (Photo: courtesy Kavitha)

The 2019 edition of Chicago Marathon was in the limelight for Kenyan runner Brigid Kosgei smashing the 16-year-old world record in the women’s marathon held by British athlete, Paula Radcliffe. Kosgei covered the distance in two hours, 14 minutes and four seconds, a significant improvement on Radcliffe’s long-standing record of 2:15:25. Chicago Marathon is part of the World Marathon Majors and attracts runners from all over the world, including India. We spoke to some of the runners from India, who took part in the event this year.

Kavitha Reddy

Pune-based Kavitha Reddy set out to run Chicago Marathon with a target of 3:15 – 3:17, an improvement over her personal best of 3:23 achieved at the 2019 London Marathon.

“ At the start line, I decided to go with the comfortable target of 3:17 and the plan was to push strong during the last two kilometers. But my GPS device did not work properly. I did not know at what pace I was running. I kept running at an even pace,’’ she said. She finished the race in 3:14:19.

Kavitha was the fastest among women runners from India at 2019 Chicago Marathon.

She attributes her strong performance to her training, which was bang on target. Her training helped her immensely as she was able to maintain the same pace throughout the run, she said. “ The crowd support also pulls you through to the finish,’’ she said.

Chicago Marathon was Kavitha’s fifth World Marathon Major. She is now slated to run Tokyo Marathon in March 2020.

Sharath Kumar Adanur (Photo: courtesy Sharat Kumar)

Sharath Kumar Adanur

Sharath Kumar Adanur set out to run the 2019 Chicago Marathon with a time target of 2:45. His training leading to the marathon was tuned for that finish.

“ I trained intensely during the months of July, August and September but the overall mileage was not very high,” the Jamshedpur-based runner said. He focused on the quality of training rather than volume. During the training period, he also participated in two races – Dream Runners Half Marathon and the half marathon at Airtel Hyderabad Marathon.

A day before Chicago Marathon, he ran a 5 kilometer-race to get a feel of running in the city’s cold weather.

At Chicago, he was able to maintain his pace for most part of the race but strong winds towards the end of the run did pull him back. He finished the marathon in 2:46:06.

“ I knew about GPS issues in Chicago. For that reason I had planned out my mile splits. I was on course to meet my target until the 35th kilometer. But exceptionally strong winds towards the later part of the race prompted me to slow down,” he said.

Chicago Marathon was Sharath’s third World Marathon Major, having run Boston Marathon and New York City Marathon. He has to finish Tokyo Marathon, London Marathon and Berlin Marathon.

Amod Bhate (Photo: courtesy Amod)

Amod Bhate

Pune-based runner and coach Amod Bhate started running in 2001 primarily for health reasons. His foray into marathon running happened much later in 2012.

Chicago Marathon was his third World Marathon Major.

Amod follows a three-day running, three-day cross fit and strength training plan. But his training ahead of Chicago was hampered by an extended rainy season in Pune. “ I missed some key running sessions. It was not possible to run because of heavy rains. I had to tweak my training plan,” Amod said adding that he focused on cross training. “ I follow the Run Less, Run Faster method of training,” he said.

At Chicago, Amod decided to go with the sub-three-hour pacers as GPS devices do not work on that route. “ I met the pacers the previous day and asked them about the strategy they would be adopting,” he said.

Amod was keen to get a sub-three-hour finish. His best until Chicago Marathon was 3:06:18 at Tata Mumbai Marathon 2019.

“ On the previous day, it was quite windy. But on the morning of the marathon, it was bright and sunny. I just went along with the pacers right from start to finish,” Amod said. He finished the race in 2:59:48.

There were about 50 runners running along with the sub-three-hour pacers. The huge group of runners stayed together until the finish.

Amod did Berlin Marathon in 2016 and Boston Marathon in 2018. He will be running Tokyo Marathon in 2020.

Sameer Joshi (Photo: courtesy Sameer)

Sameer Joshi

For Bengaluru resident Sameer Joshi, the 2019 edition of Chicago Marathon was his second time at this World Marathon Major.

His earlier outing was in 2017.

This time, he put in four months of training aimed at getting a time target of 3:05-3:10. His training at Pacemakers under coach, K.C. Kothandapani was tailored to meet the conditions of Chicago Marathon.

“ Though I am used to temperate weather, the morning of the run was quite cold with temperature around 4 degrees Celsius. I was on target to finish in 3:05 but the cold got to me around the 32nd kilometer,’’ he said.

For most part of the race, his pace was around seven miles but it dropped slightly after the 32k mark. “ Also, as my GPS device did not work, I ran purely based on instinct,’’ he said.

Sameer stayed on course, tracking pacers of the 3:05 finish and ahead of the 3:10 pacers.

He finished the marathon in 3:07:38, a personal improvement of 12 minutes from his previous best of 3:19:08 set during the 2019 Tata Mumbai Marathon.

Notwithstanding the better timing, Sameer said, “ for me, the 2017 finish at Chicago Marathon was stronger and more comfortable compared to this year’s. Weather was much better in 2017,’’ he said. Sameer had finished the race then in 3:19:56.

Tanmaya Karmarkar (Photo: courtesy Tanmaya)

Tanmaya Karmarkar

For Pune-based Tanmaya Karmarkar, Chicago Marathon was the third of her World Marathon Majors. She had done Berlin and Boston earlier.

Her training for the event began in mid-July following a cool-off period of three months after her appearance at Boston Marathon in April 2019. But the unusually heavy rains in Pune this monsoon season hampered her training plans. It was felt in her running; she could not always maintain pace as per plan.

“ I can say that I was able to execute the training plan given by my coach Ashok Nath to the extent of 80 per cent,’’ she said. On rainy days, she opted for running on a treadmill.

At Chicago, she stayed with a local runner, who was associated with a running club that made arrangements at the starting point. “ That helped a lot,’’ she said. Her goal was to meet her target of 3:26 hours, required to qualify for the New York City Marathon.

According to her, the race went off fairly well except that she fell short on hydration. “ I had decided to go with the 3:20 pacer to avoid going faster. I was cruising along comfortably but was not able to get sufficient water as the pacer did not stop at any of the hydration points. As a result, I started cramping in the last few kilometers,’’ she said. Nevertheless, she finished well within her target and achieved a personal record of 3:23:32. The cool weather augured well for Tanmaya. “ I am comfortable in cold weather. I usually run well in such weather,’’ she said.

She is now headed to Tokyo Marathon in March 2020 for her fourth World Marathon Major

Srividya Ramnath (Photo: courtesy Srividya)

Srividya Ramnath

Last year, Srividya Ramnath, an amateur runner from Navi Mumbai, happened to visit New York.  A day before she flew back to India, she decided to drop in at the expo of the 2018 New York City Marathon. The atmosphere at the expo was enough to prompt her to register for one of the World Marathon Majors.

Chicago Marathon was her second full marathon, the first one being the 2019 Tata Mumbai Marathon. She started running recently and had signed up for her first half marathon in January 2017. “ I ran it without any training and ended up injured,’’ she said.

Subsequently, she joined Life Pacers, a marathon training group based in Navi Mumbai. “ Training for Chicago was tough. I was asked to refrain from reckless racing,’’ she said.

The run at Chicago went off well for most part of the distance. “ When I finished the race, there was not a drop of sweat on me. Until 30-35 kilometers, I felt no strain of running. I kept concentrating on the rhythm of my feet,’’ Srividya said.

During the last mile, she stepped up her speed but strong headwinds did not make that easy. “ In the last 50 meters, I pushed really hard to get to a sub-four-hour finish but missed by nine seconds,’’ she said. Srividya finished the marathon in 4:00:09, a new personal best.

Having tasted the experience of a World Marathon Major, she is now keen to attempt all of them.

Rajagopal Ramaswamy (Photo: courtesy Rajagopal)

Rajagopal Ramaswamy

Rajagopal Ramaswamy, a resident of Dubai, commenced running in 2013 primarily as means to stay physically active. A park near his house was the venue for his foray into running. “ There I met a few runners, who were part of a running club,’’ he said.

Coaxed by the club members, he signed up for his first race, a 10 kilometer-event. Thereafter, he kept signing up for many running events and in the process went to do the World Marathon Majors – Berlin Marathon in 2016, Tokyo Marathon in 2018, London Marathon in 2019 and now Chicago Marathon.

He will be attempting New York City Marathon in early November and try and get into Boston Marathon in 2020.

He signed up recently with Bengaluru-based mentor Ashok Nath for marathon training. “ As of now, I am going by the plan given by my coach. Proper training will start after New York City Marathon,’’ he said. At Chicago Marathon, he finished the run in 5:02:36.

His focus, going forward, will be to build endurance for long-distance running. “ In terms of events, I have an unfinished agenda in the Two Oceans Marathon,’’ he said. The Two Oceans Marathon is a 56-kilometer ultramarathon held annually in Cape Town.

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