Meet Natasha, Mom who finished her First Half Marathon in 2021

On January 9th, 2021, Natasha managed to finish her first ever Half Marathon. Being mother to a nearly 3 year old kid, this is not a task on the ‘to do‘ list for a typical Indian mother. To top it all, with the ongoing pandemic, she could not participate in the in-person events and so had to do solo runs virtually before the D-day.

Finally, on 27th March 2021, she managed to do her first real Half Marathon. Here I present to you my discussions with her about her initial thoughts, planning and finally the will to win against all odds.

What inspired you to do the Half Marathon?

It was always in my bucket list but I never took myself as someone who could run this long. I started running just as another way to challenge myself and soon my running became very consistent. Half Marathon seemed possible!

When did you run your first Half Marathon?

I ran my first virtual run on Jan 9th, 2021 because of covid restrictions. I wanted to run in-person but I did not want to wait. And now I have finished my first in-person Half Marathon race as well on Mar 27th, 2021 and it’s been a great experience, a lot better than the virtual race.

When was the first time you thought of running Half Marathon?

Honestly, I did not expect myself to do this although I wished for it. From what I recall, I wished to do it when I was vacationing in Goa where I saw the race happening from the balcony of my hotel room and I thought I wish I could also do it someday. It was in March 2017.

Not many India women do it after marriage, especially after kids; how did you get the inspiration to attempt the same?

I have always been an active person. I have done some running in the past but that was mainly for fitness purpose. But now, I started with a different mindset – to understand capabilities of not just my body but also mind, and to do something that I thought wasn’t possible for me at least. I drew inspiration from you, Minal to start with. Your commitment and perspective to running inspired me to explore this and see if I would get clarity about myself doing this.

At what stage were you physically before the run?

Did you do any long walks, strengthening, yoga etc. beforehand which helped you train for this Half Marathon?

I started running consistently in October 2020. But I was in a decent shape before that. I was doing strength workouts 3-4 days a week and used to stay active in general. Also, I was maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle which helped with my energy levels and strength, and thus helped in completing my first Half Marathon.

Common concern for most people when they are starting to run late in life is, “my knees are going to hurt”, did you face a similar situation? Also any advice to remain injury free while training for Half Marathon.

When I started, I was worried too. And when you would start, there will be few muscle and joint soreness but that will go away with enough recovery time (1-3 days depending on the length of previous run) between the runs. With time and consistency, your body will keep getting stronger.
By keeping your running form right i.e. right foot placement, appropriate stride length, upright body posture like Square shoulders, one can avoid injuries. Also, always gradually increase running distance so that your body gets enough time and strength to adjust to new activity.
Most importantly, remember your goal and follow your/coach’s plan. Even if you get some setbacks – rest, recover and resume.

Did you have any goal in mind with respect to timing?

When I started, I did not know what to expect to be honest. But during my training, I got fair idea about how much I will be able to do. I wanted to complete it within 2 hours 30 minutes, but my main goal was to enjoy the feeling of being able to do it. I finished the Half Marathon in person in 2:43 hrs.

What is a typical training week for you?

I started with shorter distances of up to 7 to 8 kms, adding 10%-15% distance-wise every week for 2 weeks and stepping back and relaxing the 3rd week and do it all over again till the race day. I generally ran 3 days a week. And to support my running 2-3 strength sessions (30 to 40 mins per session) per week.

Also, can you let us know about if you followed any strength workouts?

Yes, as I mentioned, I used to strength train as it is really important. I did train my legs by doing Squats, Bridges, Calf raises etc. to strengthen my leg muscles as this helps in running. I did upper body workouts as well for back, shoulders and arms. But we do not need a lot of machines or gym equipment’s for this. We can do bodyweight exercises or just use dumbbells. Strength training is important for every individual including women.

I heard you have recently done certification as FITTR trainer, can you tell a little more about it, what exactly is it and what are the benefits of doing the same.

I have completed my nutrition and fitness certification from INFS. They offer different courses on Nutrition and Exercise Science. I have done Foundation and Expert course from them through which I have gained knowledge about right nutrition and exercise science. After doing these courses, you will be certified from INFS and you can choose to become an independent fitness trainer professionally or onboard with FITTR after an interview process.

The knowledge about nutrition and exercises is important and an individual can implement the learning on himself/herself to live a better lifestyle and reach his/her fitness goals and help others with their goals.

I have implemented the gained knowledge on myself to reach my weight goals and gain more strength. These courses teach you the importance of eating right, our bodily nutrition needs and how we can live a sustainable healthier lifestyle.

How did you balance your time considering you are mom to a young daughter and full time working, also considering you are in USA; I suppose you do not have any household help?

When I started this in Oct 2020, I was on a work break so it was one less thing to worry about 😊. But I had to plan my training sessions around my daughter’s nap times as my husband was too busy during the day at work. At weekends, I used to run my long sessions as I could give in more time because of my husband’s availability at home. My mornings and evenings were busy with chores and some family time.

What are your favorite items of kit for training and racing?

I always wear my Fitbit Versa to track my runs. I also like to carry my phone during almost all my runs because I like to click pictures at the end of my run to record it. So, if it is a short run like 10 kms or less, I wear my armband to keep my phone as I don’t carry water then. If it is longer run at the weekend, I wear my waist belt which has a spot for water bottle and a zipper for my phone and keys. Also, I carry Nature Valley (Oats and Dark Chocolate) granola bar which provides me fuel for long runs.

Any shoe brand or shoe model you would like to talk about for your running?

As I am a beginner, I’m yet to try many options to have a favorite. But I have my eyes on few models of Nike and Adidas for my next purchase. Currently, I am running with a pair of ASICS (GEL-CUMULUS 21 with Flyte Foam). It was priced at $90 and I got it at a discounted price of $70.

Did you train with any coach?

I followed your (Minal) training plan and guidance to progress at each run. I used to look forward to the week’s training plan and the sense of accountability towards you used to push me before and during my run. But I have not experienced to run with any coach or any fellow runner yet.

What races or challenges are left on your bucket list?

Nothing specifically, but I would like to keep progressing in terms of mileage and speed. I would like to bring down my Half Marathon timestamp under 2 hours this year and maybe train for a full marathon towards the end of the year 2021.

Any advice you would like to give to girls (specially married women and mothers) about how to start their journey of running?

I started to run during covid times at my home in an empty room. Just being consistent and thinking about one run at a time, one would surely gain confidence. Also, I would suggest you to take guidance from a coach or mentor, be it in-person or virtually, so that you can focus on your goal. Your mentor/coach will take care of the progress plan. Set targets given by coach and your sense of accountability towards them helps greatly in your motivation.

Interviewed by Minal @earthencircler

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