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.)

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