Life's beautiful and so is Spring!

If you live in Florida, and are not running you are missing some spectacular things. I generally leave the work of describing the beauty of nature to artists and poets, but I am making an exception today. The sights and sounds in Gainesville are just so beautiful these days. There is the fabulous fresh green of the new leaves that are coming on the trees. I know it is just early February and a little early for Spring, but brightly colored blossoms have entered the scene.

This is why you should be out running. The temperature is perfect, the sun isn't shining too bright, and there is a cool breeze on most mornings and evenings. There is no fog and all the different colors are a treat to the eyes. So step out of your house and go for a leisurely walk, if not a run, and soak in all the beautiful sights and sounds. Hope to see you on the trail!

Running is more than exercise

I am a PhD student and I have always likened the process of getting a PhD to long distance running. You have to step out day after day, build your skills, accumulate the miles, live through injuries and pitfalls, face the weather and come out on that final race day to prove that all the hard work was worth it.

It is a learning and a very humbling experience, one helps you showcase your strengths and work on your weaknesses. At the end of it, you are a slightly better person than when you started. Personally, I have even found running of help in my PhD - it clear my head and keeps the brain agile. The number of instance when I have pounded the road to vent out the frustration of poor results, is better to be kept hidden from the blogosphere.

I found this article really interesting and I reflected again on the metaphor of running - life. Broader than a PhD, but corroborates my theory.

PS: I am back to running and enjoying it like hell! Nothing like Florida weather for running :)

A sincere request - borrowed from My Team Asha profile

Nalini Kumar
PhD Student, University of Florida

About me
I am a PhD student in the ECE department at UF –just another graduate student who spends hours poring over books, or sitting in front of her computer.
I joined Team Asha in Fall 2010, not that long ago, and I have a strong feeling it will be a long association. I sincerely believe that education is our birth right and key to a better tomorrow. We, Team Asha volunteers, work hard and dedicate our time, so we can provide underprivileged children in India with basic education. 
I am training for the Gate River Run at Jacksonville on March 10, 2012. It is an amazing feeling to think of the difference that I am going to make to the lives of so many children by running 15k. Of course, you and I need to work as a Team for it.

My running experience
I learnt about Team Asha during my very first week in Gainesville. All the stories of people running long distance races sounded really cool but unbelievable. But, in March 2010, some friends ran the Gate River Run and inspired me to join Team Asha.
I started in September ‘10, and despite some minor injuries and major graduate courses, I have been running with Team Asha ever since. I have never run before in the twenty something years of my life (well except for those few 100m races in 5th grade). I did Gate River Run last year, and finishing the race was an exhilarating feeling. 
While, the goal last time was to finish, this time it is to endure and finish faster - get seeded. Having trained for the past year - through scorching summer and numbing winters, I am optimistic about finishing in decent time. 

My request
From 100m to 15K has become a dream. And with my dream are attached dreams of hundreds of kids in India. We, Team Asha, run for a cause, to help educate underprivileged children in India. 
It is easy to just sit and empathize, but if we don't get up and take a step ahead, who will? I sincerely hope I can do many more of these races, and do my part. Remember, a small amount from you and me makes a big difference in their lives. We owe it to humanity, to give the opportunity of education to these kids, so they can build a better future - for themselves and for our country. 

Join me in bringing a smile on the faces of these kids!
Its close to Gate River Run and I am back to running. Also, I am aiming for my first half in February and it requires some regular training. Best part, its winters (and I am in the beautiful state of California) and I ran outside in the neighborhood after a long time :) It was a very nice change from running on the treadmill, inside the gym.

Gator Gallop 2011

It is getting pretty cold here. It is the homecoming weekend and a so a nice long weekend - no worries of meetings and really going to college. The best thing is that I can do my own small things at home and not feel too guilty about not working the entire day. 

Well homecoming is a whole lot of shenanigans! There is a parade in the mid-morning or early afternoon. The escort to the parade is a 2 mile fun run called Gator Gallop. Registration is $10 and even though I know that paying to run isn't really smart - there is so much fun in running with 100s of other runners. The best part remains the streets lined with so many Gator fans! The race was to begin at 11:15am and the air was so chilly, I decided to park a little further away from the start and warmup with a slow run. Ooh, you might find it useful, I tied my car keys with the shoelaces. They are quite light and it doesn't bother me while I run. After around 10 minutes of wait at the starting line, we heard the gunshot and everyone started running. I always find it funny how the crowd takes almost 30 seconds to start running! It was a lot of fun to run on such a cool day. There were people running with their dogs, some running with their kids in the pram and some kids running with their parents. And the sea of orange and blue on the sidewalks was really encouraging. I was aiming for a PR here (without stressing too hard) and actually got it - 2miles in 17 minutes! Needless to say I was and still am very happy.

Well into Fall and Running

Last I posted here mercury was shooting for the sky. The temperature has gone down, in Gainesville and most of the US, there is a cool breeze in the evening and sun has started going down before 9pm.

I have been out running almost regularly for the past 4 weeks. There is a local half marathon at Hawthorne trail in  mid-November. As tempted as I am to do the run, I think my first half marathon needs to be pushed to early next year. If I set the Hawthorne half as my target, I will go all out preparing for it. Between research and a billion other hobbies, I have decided to take things easy. So without pushing myself too hard, right now I am enjoying the runs. I am running 3 on Tuesdays and Thursdays and anywhere between 4-7 on Saturday morning at Hawthorne. So far the going has been good - I am injury free, running long distances and not feeling burnt out at the end of the run.

Here is the proof

Which half to choose??

I am toying with the idea of running my first half marathon sometime. Some of my fellow Asha runners are doing the Disney's Princess Half Marathon on January 8th '12. They have some really cute medals and I think I want one for myself. The other option I have is the Gainesville half in February '12. 

The dilemma - I might be in India during the first one and second might be too close to Gate River Run. There is no way I am giving up on GRR! I will have to decide sometime soon. Meanwhile I am back to running regularly. This past week was a good one - 3 3milers and a fast 2 mile in the middle of the week - I am feeling good about my stamina which seems to be improving. 

Earlier this week was the Melon Run, 3 miler conducted by Florida Track Club on 4th of July every year. I did my PR 28.01 and still had the energy to run strong through the week. The cool and sweet melons were a treat after the run. I really wanted to get a long run over the weekend and also bump up my mileage, but laziness consumed me. This was one free weekend I had after ages. Though I have promised myself I am not doing this again and from next week I am doing my long runs on the weekends!

Hope next week is just as great!! 

Back at Kirkwood

Its been a while since I ran with the group. I have been running all this time, just not had the motivation to join the group at Kirkwood. I finally made it to the trail on Tuesday evening. The neighborhood looks really lovely, especially with light to see the gardens and pretty houses. During winters lights are out by the time we start running, so its a good change for the eyes.

As if the killer Gainesville heat isn't enough to trouble me, (and of course all my fellow runners) my knee pain reappeared. It was hurting a lot yesterday, but is gone today. I hope it goes fine today evening... fingers crossed.

Its bright even at 8!

A bad work week followed by a good evening run. I have been working crazy hours for the past one month. With the last deadline tomorrow, I am finally done with the craziness at least for a while now. As I stepped out for the run, I realized how much I had missed it! Also, since I am tired and drained of energy from the insane sleeping hours and many sleepless nights, I went out for an easy 3. By the end I was a little dehydrated because of the heat and sweat - I have to remember to carry a water bottle next time.

And yes, it was still bright at 8pm, when I stepped out of my house. The purple - pink - orange  skies are a good incentive to run :)

Beat the Heat

I finally gathered enough courage to step out for a run in the Gainesville summer! I went out at 7:45pm, which might be a bit late, but the cool breeze made it suitable for a good run. It had been a while since I last ran, so I decided to do easy 3 miles around my apartment complex.

During this break from running, which was inspired by the increasing temperatures in Gainesville, I spent time working on my core. And I think I felt the positive effect of it today, I ran faster and felt better after the run. Now I am ready for regular runs, increasing my aerobic tolerance and mileage.

"A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways as they’re capable of understanding" 
- Steve Prefontaine

A Big Thanks!

I really had to thank all those who supported me in my efforts - those who supported me throughout my training and people who contributed to Asha's efforts to raise money. Through the support of many kind-hearted people we were able to raise over $20k. We are still getting money from various quarters and hope to do our best to spend this money on educational projects that will make a difference to the lives of kids in India.

Needless to say, Asha will continue to work hard and work towards denting illiteracy in the Indian society. Keep on following us in our efforts and if you so wish, make a contribution to the cause at

My First 15k - Gate River Run 2011

Okay its been two month since my first big run. I had made such big plans of coming back from the race and writing a deserving post about the experience that was Gate River Run 2011. But the euphoria of my first run wore off on the way back home only to leave me longing for the comfort of my bed.

March 12, 2011: One of those rare Saturdays (hell rare days!) when I woke up at 3:30 am. I generally sleep at that time. I wasn't really happy with the 2 hours of sleep I had managed, but as I got into my GRR tshirt the enthusiasm took over my feelings. A little goof up with the race tag couldn't get my spirit down either. 

I was ready to go, and so were over 20 other Team Asha runner. After a two hour drive on I-10E, a major part of it waiting to get into the parking lot, we reached our destination - Jax Municipal Stadium. A little warm up and stretching in the cool morning air, which showed all the signs of getting warmer as the day progressed, we headed to the Gator Bowl Boulevard, starting line for the 15k. Thanks to a seeded number(goof up with me race tag), I ran as 'Kiwakar' with other top 5000 runners. 
Star spangled banner and then the gun shot - my first race had started. I started the race faster than I would have liked - that is what you get when you run with people doing 2-3 minutes/miles better than you. Needless to say, that quick start hurt me - within the 2nd mile I started getting shin splints. But nothing was going to stop me from finishing this race. I realized the importance of psychology that day, I started taking the race one mile at a time. 

On my third mile, I saw my timing as 29 minutes or so, under 10 minute-miles! That too in the first one-third of the race. By this time the shin splints had gone and so had the stomach cramps. The air was getting hotter and my calf muscles were tired of the fast running. I realized I'll have to make some changes in my running - run faster and take more walking breaks (to give myself some breathing time and muscles some rest). Also a little hydration helped beat the heat. I also loved the tangerine slices handed out by a small girl with a smiling face. Actually the best part about the race was the people lining the streets. It was a really beautiful neighborhood with scores of people out on the streets with sign boards, claps, cheers and smiles motivating you to go on. Every mile or two, there were some bands playing live music. 

Somehow I had reached the 8th mile, and I could see the Green monster ahead. Trust me, what your feel while running up the bridge cannot be described. By this time every single muscle in my body was begging me to stop! Half way up the bridge, I decided to take a walking bridge. Just at that moment a runner, must be around 50-60 years in age ran past me, egged me to run.
Thank God I decided to run, coz right ahead of me were the event photographers! Really,why would you want to click pictures when runners have a dead look on their face and are on the verge of giving up?

Finally I reached the top of the bridge and as I started running the down slope, my legs screamed. On one side was the gorgeous view of the sea and Jacksonville downtown. Against this breathtaking view was runner who had burnt himself out and was fainting because of exhaustion and deydration. Two runners, maybe his friends, reached out to him and a medical van was also on its way. I ran with all my heart pulling every muscle together.

I met Mukul running ahead of me in the last few yards and we raced to the finish. It took everything to cross that finish line, mentally and physically! As I crossed the line, I raised my arms in victory, and thanked God. As I saw other Team Asha runners waiting at the finish line, I stopped and my legs bucked. Thank God Mukul pulled me up and didn't let me sit. It really would have been a disaster!
The rest of the day was just as expected - hurt body and mentally drained - I had nothing left in me. Ate a couple of bananas, bagels and bottles of water, walked around for an hour waiting for others to finish , all to keep my muscles from going off to sleep. After loki revived from his brief post-run blackout, all of us gorged on lip-smacking Indian buffet.

As I said earlier, I was longing for the comfort of my bed after lunch! Ice packs, cool shower to soothe my muscles and I was in bed. The sweet pain I experienced for the next few days was something I couldn't complain about. I had finished the race in my best time ever, 1:32:53 at the pace of 9:58 minute/mile, way better than my expectations!

And the loot! =)

Thursday, 3/3

Unless I am running next Thursday, which will be just before the Gate River Run, this was one of my last fast 3 miles. I am going to be out camping over the weekend, somewhere in Georgia, so no long run for me this Saturday. Though my fellow campers tell me that there are two beautiful 2 and 7 mile trails.

Looking forward to a nice weekend out in the woods and a great beginning to Spring!

Breaking the speed limit

Whoever told me that running helps in clearing ones head apparently didn't have enough on their mind. So tonight's run probably didn't serve that purpose, but still was really amazing. 

The reason: My fastest three mile till now! 30:38. I am so happy its so near to the Gate River Run. Now I just want to brake 10 minute mile barrier! But don't worry Rick, I am not going to be "too fast, too soon". Just a little fast, but steady.