Many years ago, Addidas had a great poster describing what they called the '7 Stages of Marathon'. It is a nice way to explain why so many of our first-time runners keep coming back for future marathons...
Editor's note: Blog from our alum runner from 2010, Bharat Thudi. Bharat completed his first marathon with TAA in 2010 and completed Boston marathon in 2011.
The thought goes back about three years ago when I had a manager who had run the Boston marathon more than 7 or 8 times, and another colleague who trained and ran the Boston marathon that year. At that point, I had no idea about the specifics of a marathon: neither the distance, nor the qualification criteria for Boston. I wanted to give it a shot. I could run about 2 to 3 miles, which I thought was quite impressive. It was a humbling experience, being brought back to earth, after learning about the distance and qualifying criteria. A silly argument with Lahari, “my better half” on a New Year’s Eve 2009, resulted in venting my anger by running 10 miles on New Year’s Day! That was the day I made my resolution that I would run on all 5 weekdays for the whole year. Fortunately, there was a gym downstairs, and it helped. In Addition to my New Years resolution, I was able to complete a half marathon and about three 5k's that year. At the end of the year, I realized that I should be running outdoors to train for a Marathon.
AID/Asha Training program:
In 2010, I heard from one of my friends about the AID/Asha program and we thought of giving it a try. During the initial information session, Rita was an inspiration when she spoke about her run - she used to drive from Rhode Island every weekend to train for the marathon. Along with 2 of my friends “Sadik & Ruma”, we signed up for the initial runs, but the other two had to drop out for genuine reasons. Initially, I recall speaking only with Manan during the initial runs, but as we progressed, the whole group got closer. Had the good fortune of running most of my runs with Aaditya, Priyanka and Rahul “APR”. It was fun listening to APR’s choosy ‘ghaalisor’ on the motorists and their humourous conversations for water and direction support. I’m sure I’d be in the same boat had I not been part of this group, and would have inadvertently discovered new towns enroute. Every member of the Team helped at some point of the training. SK rowed along one of the runs and also ran the whole marathon with Ketki, Amol tagged along and helped Anjali the whole season, and he did help me on one of our runs too. Nalin ran and helped Pratima. The post runs brunch sessions were pretty good where we got to try many new restaurants. A couple of the social events were helpful, where we got to know more about the organization we were training for, its activities and people. Coach Jonathan helped in advising us about diet, the importance of stretching, weekly runs and innumerable other tips. Uday's email towards the end of the season was an inspiration for us to be persistent. Biju Kalissery, the overall program coordinator helped with fund raising tips, weekly reminders, and running tips. Water Support was an integral part; I realized their importance later on when I trained alone. All the volunteers: Amritha, Aravind, Arachana, Pradeep, Abhishek, Priya, Manan, and the whole water support team helped very much. They would wait patiently for precious long hours during weekends to help with the water support. The Marine Corps Marathon was a good experience, and strangely I experienced no anxiety as the whole group was present. We had a great time on the day before the marathon, at the expo, and at the hostel. It was memorable run. Even after the training most of us have remained good friends. I have enjoyed meeting every member of the group and a few of us ventured on a road trip too. It was one of my best lifetime experiences and I enjoyed training with the team for a great cause.
The Email: On Feb 18th 2011, the entire AID Asha group received an email from Santosh about the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon ‘BM’, through another charity. For a second, I thought it was unrealistic since it was only 2 months to the 'D' day ‘Apr 18th’. I was still curious though and wrote back to Santosh to check if anyone had replied back. Only ‘Kishore’ had, but he had not committed yet. I spoke with Rahul and finally made up my mind to run and wrote to Santosh the next day. The next part was that they did not know if they had the number to run the BM.... I kept emailing back to know if they heard anything yet. On Feb 28th, they said that they will be sending me an application form and after i mail it out, i will know from the BAA if I can get a number. I received the application and mailed it out on Mar 1st, and after that waited anxiously. On Mar 8th i received an email from BAA that I have a number to run. I was worried about getting the number and finally when I got the number, I realized that i should be training for it..I didn't want to tell people about it as I was not sure, how my training would go and if I would be able to complete it.
Training for Boston: I had joined YMCA in February and was running about 2 to 3 days a week. After getting the confirmation email from BAA, I started running four one hour runs on the weekdays and the long run on Saturdays. Training brought about significant changes in my lifestyle, most notably my diet. To make things worse, Lahari was in India and I had lost interest in cooking. Ruma saved me by inviting me for dinner and packing the next day’s lunch many a time. Some friends at work Amos/Anne and Lakshmi, bought me home cooked lunch a couple of times. I had stopped eating meat since November so eating out was not feasible anymore. Chaffing was a common issue as I ran in cotton shirts for the weekly runs. Cutting chilli's to cook and then going into the shower was one of the most painful experiences..:), I ended up learning a couple of new dance moves too!. We are being adviced by folks to cut down on carbs and rice, but for me, I ate rice almost every day. Being a farmer’s son, it was hard for me to replace rice from my diet. I didn’t want my dad to go into any loss..:). I felt I needed calcium, so started drinking whole milk with 2 spoons of sugar, a few drops of honey, and 2.5 spoons of horlicks, the 1/2 spoon straight into my mouth! I began eating fruits on the way to work. My long runs mostly on Saturday’s consisted of 11, 13, 15, 20 and 11 miles. The cricket world cup final was on the 20 mile day and it was fun checking the phone for the latest scores. Fortunately I was able to watch the last 10 overs and victory celebrations at home. Long runs on the treadmill were not fun, as sometimes there were people waiting. Water and Lemon juice - 2 limes, 2 spoons of sugar, salt to taste - were the best hydrating agents for all my runs. After Lahari returned on Apr 5th, life was far easier. The main thing that had me worrying was that i had not run a single mile outdoors the whole time while training. There was snow a couple of weekends and I didn't want to take the chance of getting injured or running low on fluids for the long runs. I did miss water support from the Asha team. I had these thoughts in my head while heading into the 'D' day.
D day: D’Day arrived and I remember being told by Lahari to stop at any point if I didn't feel good during the run. I love running earlier in the day and wondered why they had the 10:40am starttime. I didn't have to wait long for the answer. After reaching the Park 'T' station at 7.00am, the number of people waiting for the school buses to Hopkinton was quite a spectacle. There were long lines and the volunteers shouting out:"Don't worry about the buses, they have heated seats and DVD players” and trying to calm the runners. It was about an hour and a half journey to the Athlete's village in Hopkinton high school. The whole place had "port-o-johns" - portable potties - with long queues. There were people ‘men/women’ under every tree and it reminded me of my village where an early morning walk along the road could be quite an experience. It also reminded me of my MCM adventure where I had the honor of watering the trees behind the Pentagon! The morning was quite chilly and there was a lot of wind. There were smart people who had bought blankets, warm clothes and most people were wearing trash bags. They had food - bagels, bananas, sport bars, water, Gatorade, and good music in the village. At about 10.20, the announcement for the Coral(9) runners came up.
The Run: While walking towards the start line, runners had the option of loading their numbered bags into the schools buses(One of announcers quote "Don't be afraid, we are not the airlines, your baggage will not be lost and will reach your destination on time..") or donating to charity. The walk was about half a mile. At 10.40 the race started. I remember seeing people at every mile, kids waving and trying to give high 5’s. It was really a good experience. There were old people (75yr+), came across a blind runner who was running with his support runner. I remembered the advice from A&R to go slow, so I started out slow. At about the 12th mile, I felt a knot on the right side of my abdomen. I slowed down, walked and was able to shake it off. From the 13th mile, i went pretty slow, I stopped at every water stop, had an energy bar that I picked from the village. The Wellesley college had a stretch of supporters "The scream Tunnel", the girls were pretty loud and had pretty interesting signs "I am from Texas/Italy, kiss me". Some runners were courteous enough to respond! Things got difficult towards the 19th mile. At the 19th mile, found Ashok who was clicking pictures and I heaved a sign of relief. I managed to pick up my pace. Ashok really helped, he was talking, asking questions and I vaguely remember what I was answering. I do remember him keeping count and updating me about the number of times I was High 5’ing the girls along the way! I think I ran my fastest mile with him. Around the 24th mile, he said he would have to turn back, but still was kind enough and ran along till the finish line. He motivated me at every stop, I am really thankful that he ran alongside me – and all this while with a backpack and a heavy camera! After reaching the finish line, I was really happy to meet Lahari, Aaditya, Rahul, Priyanka, Ruma, Shubam and Anand. Was able to recover a little at Anand's place. I felt Elated that it was finally over.
After Thoughts: A fact that I came to know about recently was that there is an indoor track in the YMCA which I never knew and ran only on the treadmill. I knew all the while that I had not trained well, but I do think, every year it would be around the same time and I would have had the same reasons to complain, about the weather and all. I am not sure if I would have got the same opportunity. I feel happy that I was able to complete something that i thought about 3 years ago and I am thankful to all of you who supported me in this ordeal. If not for Asha, I would not have met most of my friends and would never have had the chance to run the Boston Marathon. Thanks to Lahari, without her support, I would not have completed it either, she didn't complain for we could not travel much, the whole of last year. My friends and family members were in my thoughts while I trained and ran. I am sure most of you folks can qualify for the BM and finish it at some point of your life. It is a good event to cherish. I like Steve's Stanford's commencement quote from a back cover "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish". I feel I did, at least for two months of my life.
Note from the editor: Story from Rajeev Soneja. Rajeev completed his first marathon in 2004 and has been a regular volunteer for the program since then.
Providing support for the runners is one helluva job. The only good part about it is that the supporter does not have to run to the preassigned location. And just as well - since carrying a few gallons of fluids while running is not a good idea. Support usually involves waking up early on Saturday mornings, packing the required paraphernalia, and some assorted running supporter support material, usually a book or an I-pod. Hey just because we don't run doesn't mean we can't look cool with ear phones on. The music has the added advantage of drowning out gasps of shock and amazement from other runners passing by - who are not used to somebody on a chair by the side of a running trail. Or even stranger - on the sidewalk right by a busy intersection.
In due course the supporter acquires immunity from most people who usually put on their noncommittal, disinterested look after the initial surprise. But children and dogs are another matter. Kids are not known for being diplomatic and on more than one occasion supporters have been reminded about the idiocy of their situation. Dogs on the other hand assume the chair to be part of the surrounding landscape and feel free to look up the supporter all over. On one occasion, on an especially cold and wet morning in May, I found myself standing by the side of the trail holding an umbrella in one hand and a book in the other. On a day when very few runners braved the elements, a surprised dog was so taken aback, that it came to a halt in the midst of a sprint and could only stare at this strange specimen.
Being the overall co-ordinator of the support team is quite eventful. Even on days when I was not out and about on the running trail, I was usually woken up by other supporters with all sorts of queries. The best one was - it's raining, what should I do? The first thing which came to my mind was not very polite. Suffice to say that it required a super-human effort to just ask the supporter to grin and bear it. Being the overall co-ordinator also means that Google maps is your best friend. Water supporters usually make it a habit to get lost early on Saturday mornings. One particular volunteer decided that since he did not see any runners within a few minutes of arriving at the preassigned location, he would go where the runners were. Only, he ended up on a private road with a dead-end and no running trail in sight. And proceeded to stay there for the next hour.
Luckily I called him up and persuaded him to leave before the owner of a house nearby called the cops.
Having said all that, it must be mentioned that supporting beats running any day. Especially on a Saturday. Hey we on the support team were not the ones worried about splits - timing, clothing or otherwise. The only time we stretched was when we yawned. Runners are a strange breed and there is great diversity in their strangeness too. Some would hang around at the water stop for a little bit of chit chat. The stimulating conversations usually involved the weather, parking, chafing or amount of carb-intake.
Others would prefer to literally hit the stop running, on many occasions covering themselves with more fluid than drinking it. Some others would get into detailed discussions about the running route and the intermittent mileage. Sometimes it didn't matter if the support person responded or not, the runner was just happy to talk to something not resembling a tree.
The running styles of the various members of the team were a joy to behold. Some ran as if their house was on fire, others as if they were out on a leisurely mid-afternoon stroll. But most looked like 9 year-olds being forced to do homework by a particularly sadistic teacher in the middle of summer vacation. Some ran with their eyes closed, fists pumping, lost in their little world of music, perspiration and lactic build-up. But no matter how they ran, they achieved that very few people do, they successfully trained for, ran and finished a marathon. 26.2 full miles on a Sunday in Chicago, Washington DC, New York or Philadelphia don't tell the story of 6 months worth of hard running, pain, sweat and tears. We, the supporters are glad that we could be part of the runners' dream. Makes it all worthwhile at the end. Great job!
Here is a link to our runner Ketki's blog. She was part of Team 2010 and has been an active volunteer since then.
Reprinted with permission from Lokvani.com
“If you can dream it, you can do it,” said my beloved mentor Dr. Ken Gilleo. Of course he was referring to technology at that time. I took his advice literally and applied it to my everyday living. After all, what kind of life would we have, without hopes and dreams?
I had a dream of running a marathon but the time never seemed to be right. I had the usual excuse; too busy doing _____(you can fill in the blank). Being an unconventional (most of my friends lovingly refer to me as “crazy”) individual, I decide to pursue my dream last year. Needless to say, I needed some help to make it happen. There it was, “TeamAIDAsha (TAA)” from Boston, waiting to come to my rescue. TAA is a joint program runs by the Boston/MIT chapters of “Association for India’s Development (AID)” and “Asha for Education”, two non-profit groups working on projects related to educational and social development issues among the underprivileged children and families in India. It is run by an amazing group of volunteers, dedicated to helping others. They were going to make a marathon runner out of me with a catch. They asked me to bring the same hopes and dreams to some deserving children and families in the poorest parts of India. What a bargain to have my dream come true by helping underprivileged people.
On a Saturday morning in April 2009, I met the TAA group on the campus of MIT. After struggling for fifteen minutes to find the group, I finally spotted them. I saw a group of young, energetic, fun-loving (more about the fun later) people bubbling with enthusiasm. It was quite contagious. Some of them had no clue (like me) as to what to expect while the others were experienced runners. The coach, who was an accomplished marathoner himself and the TAA organizers were ready to answer any question that the group threw at them. “What an amazing group of people,” I thought. If I had any doubts in the past, they were gone. I was going to run Chicago marathon! How awesome is that? We met every Saturday for the next five months to train for the big event. The training was a mix of pleasure and pain. During the hot days of August, it was tough to persist with the runs. But the coach kept us focused with his pep talks and wisdom. By September, we were amazed at the progress we had made. We were ready to run a marathon!
On October 11, 2009, a group of us lined up at the Chicago Marathon starting line, along with the other 40,000 runners (yes, by now we were bonafide runners) on one of the coldest days in Chicago marathon history. The energy among the runners was out of this world. A few hours later I could see the big banner that said “Finish Line.” “I am there. I can’t believe I just ran 26.2 miles,” I thought to myself. The last few yards to the finish line was truly a thrill of a life time. As I ran across the finish line, the emotion was over whelming. The sense of accomplishment and pride is beyond description. As I embraced my teammates who had already passed through the finish line, I saw the same sense of accomplishment and pride in their faces as well. Nothing in your life can prepare you to anticipate that experience. I not only ran a marathon, but I raised more than $7000 in the process to contribute to the hopes and dreams of an unknown child in India who can dream to govern the country one day. How cool is that?
If you thought that would be the end of the story, you would be wrong. Like many of my teammates, one marathon wouldn’t be enough for me. In 2010 I not only wanted to run a marathon, but I also wanted to do something special right after crossing the finish line. I found just the right place to do it. It was Philadelphia Marathon, with the added bonus of climbing the steps of the famous Art Museum like in the movie Rocky The training started again in April leading up to the final day in November 21, 2010. I can honestly say, training wasn’t always easy with work, family, travel etc. but thinking about those poor children and families in India always kept me going. I had not only a commitment to those children but to my sponsors as well. The generosity of my sponsors was no less the second time around. The support from the team and TAA organizers was unbelievable. I was ready for my big day again. I ran the marathon among 22,000 runners on a picture perfect day in Philadelphia. This time, I was having more fun. Crossing the finish line was no less an experience the second time around. Along with all the other old feelings, fun was a new one this time. Actually, I have a theory about that. So, here it goes.
Before I give you my theory and proof, I must tell you that I am a Six Sigma Master Black Belt (yes, my friends also call me a “geek”). I deal with data and statistics for a living, so you can trust me on this. My theory is your fun increases dramatically with the number of years you stay with TAA. The graph says so. OK, I may have massaged the data a little, but it’s true for most part. I will be back to have more fun next year while supporting a cause I deeply believe in. If my story can motivate one more person to join the cause, it will be as if I received a “Pulitzer Prize”. I encourage every reader to consider visiting www.teamaidasha.com to learn more about TAA or contact me at ritam1010 at hotmail.com. You will not only change your own life for better, but you can have a profound effect on someone else’s life.
Team 2009, 2010
It is hard to believe that our TAA program is entering our 9th year. Our alumni runners, volunteers from AID / Asha and coach Jonathan Wyner have been making it happen each year. Also, each year we have been trying to improve the program based on the feedback from previous years. One of the improvements we are doing this year is to migrate our web site to a new platform (thanks, Weebly!) for easier content management and better interactivity with the guests . We are more active on Facebook and Twitter now and we would like to start another channel of informal online communication via this blog. Contents for this blog content will mostly come from our TAA family; runners, volunteers, both from the past and current teams.
If you are an alumni or a current runner/volunteer, please write a few paragraphs about your experience with TAA. We would love to share it with the world. If you are a guest, please let us know what you think. May be you can join us as a runner or a volunteer one of these days. Thanks!!
Team 2003, 2004