This article was first published in The Hindu on June 12th, 2017.
I started recreational running when I lived in the Philippines. I explored the sport there for two years before moving back to India. I was still fairly new at it and running here wasn’t very big, so it was a weekly activity and a bunch of runners would get together, decide a route and just run.
But slowly, the scene started evolving. As did I, as a runner. From the running events that excited me in the Philippines, to the ones that made me dash out to register when I had just moved to India, to the ones that get me going now, are all very different. It really depends on the stage of life you are in, how long you have been running, and your personal goals, among other things. However, with a run almost every fortnight, especially in our bigger cities, choosing the one which is right for you can still be a tough decision. If you are new to running or new to participating in organised events, here are some tips to help you pick the best ones to start.
“Figuring out your end goal is most important,” says ACE-certified running coach Shshank Pundir. What do you want to accomplish? Are you running for fun, for charity, to experience the camaraderie, or to test your ability to run a certain distance? Do you want to use the event to train for a longer distance?
Read about the race and then check out the social media pages—you will be able to understand the thought behind the run.
How much time you can commit
I love doing full marathons. However, I scaled down to half marathons due to time constraints. Longer distances demand longer training hours. Going through various training plans will give you a sense of the time you need to dedicate to training. A crazy work schedule might mean that it’s not time to train for a full marathon yet. Perhaps, a half marathon, or even a 10k may be a better idea. Sometimes, it is easier to challenge yourself to simply improve the timing on a distance you are used to doing.
Size of the event
Some people like the electric atmosphere of a big event: the music, the vibe, the crowd. Some thrive on homely, no-frills, local runs, where you gradually get to know the organisers and fellow runners.
The race kit pick-up for bigger events is usually hectic. If you are a new runner, you might want to first participate in a small-scale local event, as getting lost in a large crowd can be intimidating. However, it’s really a matter of preference.
Dr Deepak Chaudhary, Director, Sports Injury Centre, Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi, and a marathon runner himself, recommends that even if your ultimate aim is to participate in a half marathon, get an exposure to what a race looks like by registering for a 5 or 10km for your first few events, and then scaling up to running a half or full marathon, irrespective of the size of the event.
Meenal Kotal, an ultra marathon runner, who has run around the world, including Antarctica, says that it’s important to look at the entry fee. With runs ranging from Rs. 500 to Rs. 50,000 within India itself, you will need to take a call on what you want to invest in. Out-of-town runs have the travel and stay to take care of. Travel expenses will depend not only on the city you are travelling to, but also on the popularity of the race. She recommends that if you’re really set on doing a particular race, plan in advance and save by doing more local, community runs to train for the bigger event you have set your heart on.
Having run various ultra-marathons on tricky yet scenic terrain, Pundir says that you may not want to choose a race with elevation or twists and turns, if your goal is to achieve your personal best. Also, the training for hills is very different from running on flat courses. Or you may just choose a race because of the scenic beauty it offers. In any case, being aware of the elevation gain, terrain, weather, will help you determine whether you are ready or can prepare yourself for the event.
Time of the year
Running and training in warmer weather and participating in events in winter, and vice versa, can make a huge difference to the racing experience. Choosing running events which match your training conditions is always a good idea.