2022 BOSTON MARATHON / RUNNERS SAY, DELIGHTED TO HAVE RUN IT

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

It was a Kenyan sweep at the 2022 Boston Marathon, which returned to its Patriot’s Day schedule after two years affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Over 30,000 runners participated in the 126th edition of the event in which Kenyans athletes won the men’s and women’s race.

Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya won the women’s race at Boston Marathon. Peres finished the race in two hours 21 minutes and one second. Evans Chebet, also of Kenya won the men’s race in 2:06:51. This year, the weather, a crucial factor at Boston Marathon, was very supportive.

This blog spoke to a few Indian runners who travelled to Boston to run the marathon. Most of them were happy to get back to racing. Boston Marathon is known for being a well-organised event with excellent arrangements and fantastic cheering. Many runners aspire to run the Boston Marathon multiple times as no other city marathon generates such a festive ambiance around running as this city in the US.

Sharath Kumar Adanur (Photo: courtesy Sharath)

Sharath Kumar Adanur

Sharath was running the Boston Marathon for the third time.

In the days preceding the 2022 Boston Marathon, Sharath focussed on target-based training. His target was to finish the marathon in around two hours and 45 minutes. He had secured a personal best of 2:46:06 at the 2019 edition of Chicago Marathon. This time around Sharath trained with his friend Shreenivas Naik.

“ I was in good shape and landed in Boston a week ahead of the race. But I got a toothache and had to go on painkillers and antibiotics,” he said. Race day however took off well and he was on target until the 30th kilometre, when the hills commence. “ I started to go off target with the hills. I tried to salvage the situation but could not meet my desired timing,” Sharath said. He finished in 2:48:54. “ I am happy with my timing considering my toothache and the pills,” he said.

Sharath had run Boston Marathon in 2018, the year when weather was brutal, and in 2019. He had finished with a timing of 3:17 and 2:51 respectively.

Kavitha Reddy; from Big Sur, which she ran after the 2022 Boston Marathon (Photo: courtesy Kavitha)

Kavitha Reddy

Kavitha Reddy was returning to Boston with memories of the 2018 edition when heavy rains, strong winds and low temperatures made for one of the worst weather conditions to run in.

“ It feels good to be back to racing,” she said referring to the break of two years caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which led to cancelling or postponement of running events worldwide. Having trained well in the weeks ahead of the race, Kavitha reached Boston early to recover from jet lag and get used to the weather.

“ The weather on race day-morning was perfect. My run started well. At the start, the course was very crowded but the crowds of runners helped me check my pace. The first half of the race was on target,” she said. Boston’s initial course is downhill and runners are often tempted to go at a fast pace.

“ The real game starts when the hills commence. It is challenging to hold on to your pace in the hills. There are many rolling hills and our hamstrings and quadriceps take a beating,” she said.

Running the 2022 edition of Boston Marathon, Kavitha felt she was discovering the course afresh. During the 2018 edition of the event, surviving the brutal weather conditions had been upmost on her mind.

Kavitha, 47, finished the 2022 Boston Marathon with a personal record of 3:12:05, an improvement over her previous timing of 3:14:19 secured at the 2019 edition of the Chicago Marathon.

She followed up the 2022 Boston Marathon with Big Sur International Marathon, which was held on the following Sunday in California. “ I plan to run it as a fun run,” she had said before the event. She finished Big Sur in 3:51:34.

Srividya Ramnath (Photo: courtesy Srividya)

Srividya Ramnath

A resident of Navi Mumbai, Srividya Ramnath diligently followed the training plan of her coach, Ankita Gaur, for about four months.

She arrived in Boston early to get used to the conditions there. “ The first 25 kilometres of the race went by like a breeze. The tough stretch starts after that. The hills don’t stop. They keep coming relentlessly,” she said. After a long stretch of flat comes Heartbreak Hill, the steepest of the series of rolling hills along the Boston Marathon course.

“ I lost my speed in the hills. Mentally it was a challenge. In the last seven kilometres, I had to pull every ounce of energy,” she said. Srividya finished the race in 3:51:51, slightly off her personal best of 3:47:29, achieved at the 2021 Berlin Marathon.

“ I am definitely going to qualify and come back to Boston Marathon again. The experience was completely overwhelming. The arrangements were awesome and the route was beautiful. As for the cheering, it never stops,” she said. Despite rain on the previous day, on the day of the race, Boston had lovely weather. “ For a small stretch there was strong headwinds. Otherwise, the weather was God-send,” she said.

Srividya said she is in the process of understanding how she can improve her performance for her next attempt at Boston. She may require a relook at her strength training, agility workout and fuelling strategy.

Kiran Kapadia (Photo: courtesy Kiran)

Kiran Kapadia

The 2022 edition of Boston Marathon was Kiran Kapadia’s second time at this iconic marathon. He ran the 2021 edition, which was held in October.

“ This time around I enrolled with US-based Luke Humphrey Running. It is a different kind of approach. There are not many long runs, not more than 30 km but I have to run six days a week, primarily to get used to running on tired legs,” Kiran said. He landed in Boston with reasonably good training put in.

“ My race started at 10:45 AM. It was quite cold in the morning. At Boston, both the uphill and downhill stretches are tough, testing our quadriceps as well as hamstrings,” he said.

Running in the 60-64 years age-group, he finished the marathon in 3:45:51, an improvement over his previous Boston Marathon timing of 3:48:56.

Sunil Chainani (Photo: courtesy Sunil)

Sunil Chainani

For Sunil Chainani it was his first time at Boston Marathon.

“ It is fantastic to be able to think of doing an event, especially the Boston Marathon, after a break of two years,” he said. He thought he trained well, running through the months of February and March, but in retrospective he feels he could have put in more hill workouts.

“ I ended up with cramps in the last five kilometres. I should have done more downhill running,” he said. In the last stretch of the course, Sunil had to resort to walking.

The weather, according to him, was perfect for running. “ There was a little bit of headwinds along some stretches. The forecast was of colder weather but it wasn’t that cold,” he said.

He finished Boston Marathon in 4:25:49. With this marathon, he has completed four of the World Marathon Majors – Berlin, London, New York City and Boston. He is yet to do the Chicago and Tokyo Marathons.

“ The crowd support is absolutely unbelievable. The hydration, crowd support and the overall organising of the race were excellent, barring very small hitches,” he said.

Binita Choksi (Photo: courtesy Binita)

Binita Choksi

Mumbai-based Binita Choksi had qualified for Boston Marathon at the 2020 edition of the New Delhi Marathon. With two years lost to coronavirus pandemic and subsequent travel difficulties, Binita found herself a berth in the 2022 edition of the iconic race.

A recreational runner for the past over 12 years, Binita put in just about two months of training for the Boston Marathon. “ At Boston Marathon, I was in the last wave. For the first 10 kilometres I had to weave through the crowds. At the end of the race my GPS device showed a distance of 44 kilometres,” she said. Once the crowd of runners thinned, she was able to pick up pace and run well for the rest of the distance.

“ The arrangements, the hydration support and the atmosphere were extremely good. I enjoyed my run thoroughly,” she said. Binita finished the marathon in 4:10:30.

Subhojit Roy (Photo: courtesy Subhojit)

Subhojit Roy

In 2019, Pune-based Subhojit Roy ran the Boston Marathon, finishing it in 3:14:33, his personal best at that time. A month later he ran the TCS 10 km in Bengaluru. Soon after that, Subhojit went off serious training owing to an injury. In the following months, the stringent lockdown announced by the Indian government actually came as a boon as he was forced to go off running completely resulting in the injury healing.

“ By the end of 2020, I resumed serious training,” he said. He ran the marathon at the 2021 edition of the New Delhi Marathon. “ I ran this mainly because I wanted to see if I could come back to marathon running,” he said.

Although, Subhojit returned to marathon running, training kept getting interrupted with periodic surges in coronavirus infections in India that caused curbs in the movement of the public. He enrolled for the 2021 Amsterdam Marathon held in October but could not make it as he tested positive for coronavirus. He then participated in the Valencia Marathon in December 2021. Here, Subhojit achieved a personal best (PB) timing of 3:09.

Following the third wave of infections, Subhojit resumed his running and managed to get a little under two months of training before the 2022 Boston Marathon. He was helped in his training by runner and triathlete Nihal Ahamad Baig.

Travelling all the way to Boston is not always easy on runners because it means getting adjusted to new sleep schedules and weather conditions. “ Thankfully, I had a good sleep during the night before the marathon,” he said.

According to him, although, the Boston Marathon route is mostly downhill, the uphill stretches that commence during the second half of the route were relentless. “ Even after Heartbreak Hill, there are many small hills that keep coming,” he said.

Over the last 2-3 km, he took short walk-breaks. Subhojit finished the Boston Marathon in 3:16:37. Analysing his performance later, he realised that fast-paced downhill running, crucial to tackle the Boston route, was inadequate in his training. “Also, I had used a relatively new gel. After the 33rd kilometre, I felt full and could not take another gel. This was probably why I slowed down,” he said.

He was happy with his finish. “ My son and wife were there at the finish line. The race atmosphere in Boston is amazing. In is one reason why runners like to return to this marathon,” he said.

Tanmaya Karmarkar

Tanmaya Karmarkar (Photo: courtesy Tanmaya)

Pune-based Tanmaya Karmarkar was heading to the 2022 edition of Boston Marathon (her second outing to this marathon), with fairly adequate training done.

Happy to get back to a real road race, as opposed to the virtual ones of the pandemic months, Tanmaya decided not to push too much but stay comfortable through the race.

“ It was a good race. The weather was perfect. My performance was pretty much in line with what I expected,” she said. Tanmaya finished the Boston Marathon in 3:18:44, a new personal record. Her previous best was at the 2019 Chicago Marathon where she secured a timing of 3:23:32.

“ I fuelled well before the start of the race. But in the second kilometre itself I dropped my bottle. My water intake as well as gel consumption was lower than what I had planned for,” she said.

Zia Chaney

Zia Chaney (Photo: courtesy Zia)

In December 2019, Zia Chaney ran a personal best (PB) of 3:47:34 at the California International Marathon. It helped her qualify for the Boston Marathon.

However, in the months following her run, the world slid into a pandemic that led to the cancellation and postponement of running events worldwide. Zia, a cancer survivor, had to wait for two years to make it to the entry list of the Boston Marathon.

“ I was really excited about getting accepted for the Boston Marathon and wanted to start my training immediately,” Zia said. She requested her coach Ashok Nath to offer her a light training schedule as she is prone to injuries. “ I was not running for a personal best; I wanted to finish strong,” she said. According to her, Ashok commenced her training with basic workout, strength and agility exercises and mileage-based running.

With barely three weeks left for Boston Marathon, Zia started to feel a sharp pain in her ankle. She tried dry needling but found no relief. “ I contacted Ash (Ashok Nath) and explained the pain to him. He asked me to stop running and instead do cross training such as elliptical, cycling and swimming,” she said. With rest, vitamins and cross training, Zia started to feel confident. “ I began to enjoy my training again,” she said.

When she reached Boston, she found the city completely alive in anticipation of the race. The weather on race day was quite good. “ It was very crowded at the start. Over 30,000 runners were running the marathon. The initial course is downhill but we could not run fast because of the crowd of runners,” she said. The support along the route was excellent with mile markers, aid stations, fuelling counters very well placed, she said.

Around kilometre-25, Zia started to get a pain in her hip. With every passing kilometre her pain kept worsening. It forced her to slow down. She finished the marathon in 3:56:33. “ I was very surprised with my sub-4 hour-finish,” she said.

Kumar Rao (Photo: courtesy Kumar)

Kumar Rao

In 2019, Kumar Rao ran the Boston Marathon and followed it up with Big Sur International Marathon less than a week later. After a two-year break, Kumar decided to run both the marathons in 2022.

“ For me, 2019 was a great year in terms of running. At Boston Marathon I ran a personal best of 3:59:33 and at Big Sur I finished in 4:03:25, securing second position in my age category of 70-74 years,” he said.

In November 2021, he travelled to France to run the Deauville Marathon and finished in 3:57. “ I could travel to France as the country only mandated vaccination,” he said.

His training for the Boston Marathon was on track until January 26, 2022 when during weightlifting, he hurt his back. He went off training for a week but when he returned to running, he started to experience pain all along his leg. “ Running became impossible. I consulted a doctor and found that I had suffered a spinal injury which resulted in sciatica,” he said. He lost five weeks of training because of this problem. With physiotherapy he was able to resume training mid-March.

At the 2022 Boston Marathon, he decided to run for two miles and take a walk-break for 30 seconds. He cruised along fine until the 25th kilometre. Then, he started to experience a leftward tilt in his body. Also, the walk-breaks increased. He finished the run in 4:20:54. He later found out that the leftward tilt was due to the spinal injury.

This was the third time that Kumar was running the Boston Marathon. “ The atmosphere in Boston is so amazing. I enjoy running there,” he said.

The following Sunday, he ran Big Sur International Marathon, finishing in 4:28:36, securing a fourth position in his age group. “ I now plan to take a break from running to address my spinal injury,” he said. As things stand, he is enrolled to run the 2022 edition of New York City Marathon.

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

HOW I RAN MY FIRST 100K

Chandan Kumar Mateti (Photo: courtesy Chandan)

A former Indian Army officer, Chandan Kumar Mateti started running in 2013 and over the years participated in events of varying distances including 50 km, stadium runs and both the versions of the Comrades Marathon, an ultra-marathon held annually in South Africa.

In December 2021 the Pune-based runner ran his first 100-kilometre event: The Hell Race-The Border 100. He was not new to ultra-distances but until then, had not touched the magic distance of 100 km.

Chandan writes about how he accomplished his first 100 km-run.

For the first three years my runs were restricted to short distances as my target was to complete a half marathon (21.1 km) in under two hours. This I achieved in due course.

In 2017, my wife Taru decided to run the Comrades Marathon, the ultra-marathon held every year in South Africa. She had been training and had run a number of full marathons by then.

As I was funding the trip and also planning to travel to South Africa, I thought: why not give it a shot? However, I had to run a marathon first and complete it in under five hours to qualify. Just to test myself, in 2017, I participated in Mumbai’s 12-hour run and was able to cover a little over 60 kilometres, far short of expectation. I had some time for the qualifier full marathon (it was due in Dec 2017). So, I decided to attempt one more ultra-event and registered for the 50 km-category at Pune Ultra. I trained with Taru for this run and managed to finish it in 5:55 hours.

With that, I got hooked to ultra-running. I qualified for Comrades in 2018 and went on run both the uphill and downhill versions of the race.

I continued running 50 km distances. But now there was this newfound desire to run a 100 km ultra-distance event, mainly to find out if I can sustain myself for such long hours. To test physical and mental abilities, both of us enrolled for two 12-hour stadium runs (the first of them in February 2021 in Bangalore and the second one in Hyderabad in August of the same year). Having covered a distance of 85 km and 94 km respectively, I was confident that I could survive a 100 km run.

We opted to enrol for the The Hell Race-The Border 100, to run 100 km. Scheduled for 18 and 19 December, 2021 at Jaisalmer, it was an extremely challenging race. One would be running in the desert between Jaisalmer and Ramgarh, with temperatures varying from a maximum of 30 degrees Celsius to a minimum of 6 degrees. It had to be completed within a cut-off of 16 hours.

Preparing for 100 km

Taru had already run a 100K a few years ago. The experience and the training requirements were there for us to work with.

We started by increasing our monthly mileage to around 200-250 km from April 2021 onwards. This was going to help us run the 12-hour stadium run at Hyderabad in August. We also needed to do one ultra-distance training run of 50-60 km every month from August onwards – the first one was built into the 12-hour run at Hyderabad itself. We needed to add afternoon runs in high temperatures, because the Border Ultra was starting at 12 noon (when temperatures were expected to be over 30 degrees). So, we planned a few runs of 3-4 hours on some Sunday afternoons. Next, we would need to run through the night into the early hours of morning; for that, we incorporated some night runs of 5-6 hours, starting late night and going into the wee hours of the next day.

Photo: courtesy Chandan

Next on the training agenda was being self-supported (as aid stations during the Border Ultra were 10 kilometres apart), especially for water – so we started training with hydration packs (something we had never done before). As single practice runs beyond 60 km was a major administrative challenge, we started doing back-to-back long runs on Saturdays and Sundays with the aim of getting used to running on tired legs.

As I was into a corporate job (post-retirement), timings and running schedules were getting haphazard. It meant we could not train with other running groups and buddies – so it was mostly me and Taru, running self-supported. This, in a way, helped us to mentally tackle the 100 km run.

My biggest concern was that I had developed vertigo and I had started getting attacks of severe dizziness and nausea during long runs. I had to abandon my 50K ultra in Pune halfway, due to a severe attack of the same. Similar attack during one of the night runs led me to cut down my planned training run from 50 km to 35 km. I realized there was nothing much I could do about it. I just decided to ignore it and stay focussed on training, taking things as they come.

The next concern was staying fit and reaching the start line injury-free. Therefore, alongside long runs, the focus was on strength training, yoga and icing two to three times a day. I always cut corners here. We tried out and realized that compression hoses and bottoms were of great help. We started training in them. I have a problem with my knees; so, I started `Sujok Therapy’ (activation of acupressure points) regularly, which I believe really helped me manage my pain.

For mid-run fuel, we found that dates and oranges (besides gels – we were using Leap Gels) worked for us. So, we started carrying salted dates with us, to consume en route, while oranges would be available at aid stations. Pre-race fuel for us was sweet potatoes and peanut butter sandwiches.

The 100 km-race

A major challenge we were going to face in this run was the weather. The race was starting at a time when temperatures spanned 30 degrees Celsius to six degrees. We would have to start lightly clothed and finish with warm clothing. This meant we had to carry layers of clothing and keep adding as the temperature dropped.

We started in our running Tee and carried a long-sleeved dry fit, one warm over-wear, one windcheater, bandana, mobile and our mid-run fuel.  A down jacket, gloves, woollen cap, torch etc was kept in a tote bag which we could access at 50K.

My run strategy was: first 30 km – run 3 km and walk 100 metres. For the next 30 km – run 2 km and walk 100 metres. For the rest of the distance – run 1 km and walk 100 metres and take it as it comes.

I commenced the race well and was cruising along, comfortably maintaining my planned pace, when at the 50 km aid station, what I feared happened. I got an attack of vertigo and I could feel the spinning sensation. I rested for about 10 minutes until the feeling subsided. I had to take a call on what next, as it had turned dark and the runners were scattered across varying distances along the route. I knew I would have to run alone and be on my own. I decided to keep moving slowly. After all, the worst-case scenario would be that I would fall flat and be out of the race. I decided to cross that bridge when it comes and started running again.

Photo: courtesy Chandan

My problem was that if I looked down even a bit longer, I would feel the vertigo hitting. Fortunately, we were running on good roads with minimum traffic and that helped me keep my head straight and neck steady.

The experience of running absolutely alone, in the middle of a moonlit desert, with just the seemingly never-ending black road snaking into oblivion in front of you, was an ethereal experience. At around 75 km or so, someone from behind, who was overtaking me, asked me if I was alright. He thought I was kind of weaving while running. While I told him I was fine, I realized I might be looking at another vertigo attack – so I immediately stopped, steadied myself and decided that from then onward, I would walk more and run less. I had sufficient time in my kitty and was pretty confident that I would make the 16 hrs cut-off, provided I didn’t collapse. 

My motto during my Special Forces days came to my mind: “ who dares, wins.’’ So, I again decided to go for my planned time of completing the 100 km in 15 hours, and started cutting down on the walks and running more.

I finished my first 100 km in 15:59:04 hours. Now that I have completed my first 100 km, I am looking forward to running a 100 miler by the end of this year.

(The author, Col Chandan Kumar Mateti, is a retired army officer based in Pune.)

AT A GLANCE / APRIL 2022

Aleksandr Sorokin (This photo was downloaded from the Twitter page of Centurion Running and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

Lithuania’s Aleksandr Sorokin sets new world record in 100 km

Aleksandr Sorokin of Lithuania set a new world record in 100 kilometres at the Centurion Running Track 100 Mile in Bedford, United Kingdom on Saturday, April 23, 2022.

He ran the distance in a record time of six hours, five minutes and 41 minutes, setting aside the previous 100 km world record of 6:09:14 held by Japan’s Nao Kazami, set in June 2018.

Sorokin already holds world records for 100 miles (11:14:56), 12-hour run (170.309 km) and 24-hour (309.4 km)

Kenyan sweep at 2022 Boston Marathon; Olympic champion Jepchirchir wins women’s race

Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya won the women’s race at the 2022 Boston Marathon, held on April 18, 2022.

It was a Kenyan sweep at the iconic marathon, which returned to its original schedule after two years impacted by the pandemic.

Peres finished the race in two hours 21 minutes and one second. Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia came in second with a timing of 2:21:05 and in third position was Kenya’s Mary Ngugi in 2:21:32.

Kenyans dominated the men’s race with Evans Chebet winning in a time of 2:06:51. Lawrence Cherono finished second in 2:07:21 and Benson Kipruto third in 2:07:27.

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