Latha Srinivasan and Haripriya R from Coimbatore complete their first full marathon

Latha Srinivasan had a corporate career, trained in dance, brought up two sons, cared for her family members and became a grandmom. When she happened to read about the Coimbatore Marathon in 2018, she decided she wanted to sign up for it.

She joined the neighbourhood running club, the Sai Baba Colony chapter of the Coimbatore Runners and began running. She says the warm welcome of fellow runners bolstered her confidence.

But that was the easy bit. Describing her first run she says, “It was a cautious start and before long I was gasping for breath only after a few metres. I seriously began to wonder if running was my thing after all.” But Karthikeyan Padmanabhan, co-founder of Coimbatore runners, would have none of it. He told her, “If you can train well for the next two months regularly, you can do the 10 K run.” Over the next two months, mornings were never the same again as with new friends, Latha discovered the runner in her. She went on to finish the 10K Run at the Coimbatore Marathon in 01:40:41, in less than two months of starting to run.

Buoyed by the strong finish, she confidently registered for the half-marathon at Cochin along with a few of her friends. The half-marathon was tougher than she expected. With weather conditions not as favourable as Coimbatore, she managed to finish it in 03:36:46. What surprised her though, was her earning a second place in her age category. “It was a telling moment realising I too am a runner,” says Latha.

Earlier this year she began strength and speed training and from April-August, she signed up for the 100 Days of Running. She clocked the maximum distance among women in Coimbatore who took up the challenge. In the course of the 100 days, she also clocked an impressive time of 2:42:57 for the half-marathon distance at an event in Bengaluru. It seemed the time was right for a full Marathon.

For inspiration and guidance, there was Venkatesan Rangaswami, who ran his first marathon at an age of 71. “His relentless commitment inspired me to give it a try,” says Latha. She set her sights on the Spice Coast Marathon and started training. Rain or shine, she ensured that she followed her training calendar religiously. The heavy rains on the day before the event increased the humidity levels during the race. She was cautious about it and conserved her energy for a strong finish in a time of 06:11:43. The presence of her husband, sons, and her fellow runners, who waited at the finish line, made it more memorable, she says.

Latha participated in the Masters Athletics events,where she says it was a thrill running alongside many other stalwarts. She took part in the 5000m event and finished it in 32 minutes winning the first prize in her age group. She has since won three gold medals in the district-level competitions and two medals in the state-level competitions. She has set her sights on the Tamil Nadu Athletics meet to be held in Manipur in February 2020. She hopes to represent Tamil Nadu.

“All I wanted was to be physically fit enough to do my daily chores and not be dependent on others,” says Latha. But running has got her a lot more than that. “I have friends across age groups now who I run with. There is a new dimension to my life.” Latha wants to travel the country and abroad for running events.” Her son has also introduced her to the world of gadgets by gifting her a Garmin watch. Now she meticulously records her run data on it.

As Eluid Kipchoge neared his record breaking accomplishment of the under-an-hour Marathon, Haripriya R was gearing up to run her own first full Marathon

Latha Srinivasan and Haripriya R from Coimbatore complete their first full marathon

It all started in May 2019 when we were on vacation in Switzerland. We decided to trek and enjoyed every minute of it. We started at 10.30 am from Zermatt to Sunnegga to get a view of Matterhorn. The temperature was 4°C and we walked for seven and a half hours. Even after returning to our hotel, we set out again to explore some more. By the end of the day, we had walked continuously for over nine hours. That was when Pratheep (my ultra-marathoner husband) commented that may be I should consider running a full marathon!

I had dreamed of doing a full marathon but that was still a distant two years away. I had first planned a 32k in 2020 and then a move to the big one by end of 2020 or early 2021. And that is how it all began. I shared the idea with a close friend, bounced it off several others and decided to give it a go.

The first thing to do was identify a venue where I could do it comfortably. Bengaluru seemed the best with its nice course especially for first timers, great weather and, of course, the date that was a full four months away. Pratheep put together my training plan. I announced my intention to the world so that I would stick with the plan and there would be no turning back.

It takes a community to grow a runner and in my case this was very true. My friend Rani (who was also running the marathon) and I stuck to the plan. We did strengthening and core workouts on alternate days. Rani took up Zumba and Aerobics and that helped her in cross training. Her husband kept up bulletins on our progress and congratulatory messages started flowing in which motivated us further. Pratheep updated us on training/running tips and fine tuned our food habits. I also watched a lot of videos about marathoners and ultra-marathoners to understand what kept them going.

The ones that inspired me the most was those of Courtney Dauwalter and Eluid Kipchoge. Though Courtney participated in cross-country and running track in high school and cross-country skiing in college, she began doing ultra marathons from the age of 29. She participated in 100K, 100 mile, 155.391 miles, 279.268 miles running events. She won the 170km Ultra Trail du Tour du Mont-Blanc with an impressive timing of 24:34:26. She was 21st overall, with 144 women and 1,412 men finishing the race this year. She had made a comeback after a recent hip injury during a 100 mile race in June this year. Many of these races span more than a day and it requires lot of grit and determination just to finish, as many have cut off times. So it is not just the distance you need to work but also the time that keeps you constantly on your feet. I watched Eluid Kipchoge’s INEOS 1:59 challenge a day before our race. I have been following his highly motivating videos on preparing for this challenge.

A week before the event, Rani fell down and bruised her knee badly. It was my turn just two days before and we were worried if we would recover on time. But we decided to give it a try. On race day, we started and were on our planned pace until 14th km when Rani’s leg pain began to slow her down. We stopped to stretch and started running again. By 17 km, I realised one way to distract Rani from the pain was conversation. So I first told her the complicated story of a movie I had watched. That kept us going till 21 km. Then stories about ultra marathoners accompanied us till the 25 km mark. Sadly, Rani’s pain got worse and I had to let her rest while I continued. I was terrified when I experienced some shooting pains in my hip. I slowed down a bit and, by the 37 km point, I had just one hour of battery time left before my watch switched off. I finished my first ever Marathon (6:10:04). I am happy to report Rani finished too.

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