Articles on running

Why Running Is Good for Women

Dr. Rajat Chauhan, Physiotherapist
Manavi Siddhanti with Dr Rajat ChauhanLATE NIGHTS at work, household chores or lack of motivation-we have all been there. Combine that with aches and pains, obesity, diabetes or even poor heart health and taking out time to run and be consistent with it, sometimes doesn't even make it to our bucket list. But with multiplying lifestyle diseases in India, it's about time we bring a little change to our lives and start running. In a bid to stay healthy and in shape, Prevention and Rajat Chauhan, ultramarathoner, Sports-Exercise Medicine and Musculo-Skeletal Medicine physician, MBBS, MSc Sports-Exercise medicine, have come together this year to train Prevention readers for Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, 2013. While they start their training, here's the lowdown on what you can do. And if you're already thinking of an excuse, we've busted them.Excuse 1: Your joints hurt and you might think you'll wear them out by running. On the contrary, a study conducted at University of California found that sports such as running and walking strengthen your hips and knees by depositing more cartilage in these areas.Excuse 2: You are diabetic and worried about a sudden drop in blood sugar by exercising. If you're diabetic, increased physical activity and exercises are mandatory for you. It increases the rate of glucose in the blood to be taken up by muscle cells, effectively lowering your blood glucose. It also improves insulin sensitivity. In fact, latest guides recommend 60 minutes of dedicated exercise time daily, along with additional physical activity (daily chores).Excuse 3: You are comfortable with your sedentary lifestyle. Hear this: after heart disease and cancer, a sedentary lifestyle is the biggest cause of death amongst Americans. Lack of physical activityexacerbates 35 known conditions including breast cancer, colon cancer, congestive heart failure, depression, heart attack, hypertension, obesity and osteoporosis. In fact, Prof Frank Booth from the University of Missouri has coined a term for this SeDS or sedentary death syndromeExcuse 4: You're overweight or obese, which makes running difficult. But not exercising or running, means carrying extra weight which causes wear and tear of the joints and puts pressure on your hips, back and kidneys. A Gallup Organization survey of over 1 million Americans found obesity was associated with a greater risk of experiencing daily pain. To break this vicious cycle, train with a professional.Excuse 5: You've never run before. Unlike swimming, karate, martial arts or cycling for that matter, running is not a skill that needs to be learnt. Start out with walking, progress to brisk walking and then running. All you need is a good pair of shoes and the zest to run. Remember, it doesn't matter how fast you go, as long as you keep going.Step Smart To Slim FasterWant to boost your burn? Perfect your form because using proper alignment helps you walk faster. Here are some simple tips to follow.1 Keep your gaze focussed directly ahead, not down at your feet. 2 Stand tall, head straight and chin up; avoid leaning forward. 3 Roll your shoulders back and down, not scrunched up by your ears. 4 Make a relaxed fist, as though cupping a fragile potato chip. 5 Tighten your abs, pulling belly button toward spine. 6 Bend your arms; naturally swing them forward and back without crossing the center of your body. 7 With each step, land on your mid-foot and push off with your toes.The Bare MinimumYou'd be training every day, so… Get comfortable fitness wear. Look for sweatproof, breathable fabrics, they are available easily. Do some research and try out different pairs of running shoes before buying one. Look for a pair that provides forefoot flexibility, cushioning, proper heel support and is lightweight. Keep a sipper with you in times of training to be well hydrated before, during and after a run.4 Try an online app to help you track speed, distance and timing. Try ITune's Half Marathon: 21 K runner training and Nike Training Club.Moves To Help You Walk FasterPower up your walking muscles and tone trouble spots with these super simple exercises. Do 2 or 3 sets.SQUAT Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding 1 dumb-bell in each hand. Bend knees slowly and lower body into a squat, keeping knees behind toes. Come up slow as well. Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds.MODIFIED PLANK Start with belly on mat, elbows under shoulders. Tightening abs, lift torso off floor, supporting weight on forearms and knees. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.KNEE PUSH-UP Start with knees bent, palms under shoulders, head in line with hips. Slowly lower body till almost touching floor; then slowly push back up. Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds.Nutrition and HydrationTo improve endurance and stamina, aim for 7 to 9 servings of veggies and fruits, 3 servings of low-fat dairy (milk/curd/paneer), 2 to 3 servings pulses or chicken, fish, lean meat with a handful of nuts every day. Consume salt in moderation and sugar as per calorie requirements.1. Cut down on carbs that form your regular diet like bread, roti, rice, potatoes. Professor Timothy Noakes, sports physiologist and medical director for Comrades Ultra marathon had popularised carb-loading in his book, Lore Of Running. In his new book, Challenging Beliefs: Memoirs of a Career, openly apologises to the running community for the information he shared about carbohydrates. The gist: an unrestricted intake of especially refined and hence addictive, carbohydrates fuels an overconsumption of calories. Instead of high-carb diets, an increase in protein combined with low carbs help cut hunger pangs down.2. It's important to hydrate before, during and after a session. Have about half a litre before you start running, keep sipping during the run and have 1 litre or more after the run. Avoid aerated or caffeinated drinks during the run since they can hinder your performance. The day you train, it is very important to consume a protein drink like soya milk within half an hour of exercise. While training, take care of your water consumption. Rather than plain water, have an electrolyte drink instead.3. Indulge in protein-rich foods, espcially for strength training and to avoid muscle loss. Non-vegetarians can have chicken, fish, eggs; vegetarians should load up on cottage cheese, lentils and tofu.4. Fish oil, Omega 3, calcium and vitamin supplements may help boost your performance, but check with your GP before popping these.5. The day before the big day, focus on having an early dinner which is high on carbs and is rich in fats. Go on, conquer!

8 Tips for Good Running Form

Ms. Swati Kapoor, Dietitian/Nutritionist
Do you run or jog? Doesn't matter if its outdoors or on the treadmill, we've given you plenty of tips on running. Today, we'll tell about some finer points on how to improve your running form. These tips will not only help you run more efficiently, but also run faster, with less effort, improve muscle performance and reduce your risk of injury. It might even help you get a six pack.Landing: You should try to land mid-foot, not on your heel. Landing on your heel can slow down your running and jar the body. Landing on mid foot provides better cushioning.Lift, than Push: Pick up your feet rather than pushing the ground away, which can tire muscles quickly.Short is Good: Keep your stride short. It exerts less impact on your knee, as well as exerting less energy for each stride.Abs & Core: Engage your lower abs. To do this, feel them about two inches below your belly button, and pull them toward your spine. Lift your ribcage up and forward to support your torso.Relax: Yes, relax your hands. Imagine loosely holding a table tennis ball in your hands.Swing Correctly: Swing your arms forward and back, not across the body, and make sure your elbows are at 90 degrees.Stay Low: Let your shoulders fall. As you run longer and harder, your shoulders tend to rise up with the increasing stress. So exhale deeply, and keep them down. It will help you run longer and faster.Look Ahead: Look straight ahead, not at the ground. Looking down closes your throat and makes breathing more difficult.Implement these tips, and you will certainly see an improvement in your performance.

Relearn Running

Dr. Rajat Chauhan, Physiotherapist
Photographs by Pradeep Gaur/MintShoes are simply a tool—they don’t do a thing unless you start moving in them. If you know how to run well, you’ll do amazing things, but if you don’t, you’ll get injured.The running craze has hit India recently, but in the US and UK, running became a passion for people in the 1970s. Simultaneously, the soles of running shoes started getting thicker and more cushioned. There are running shoes today that have soles as thick as 65mm.It was Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, And The Greatest Race The World Has Never Seen, a 2009 book by award-winning writer Christopher McDougall, which made a case for barefoot running. He was opposed to the idea of thick-soled running shoes. It helped the sales of minimalist shoes, Vibram FiveFingers shoes to be specific, go through the roof. These shoes have the five toes in separate compartments and the sole thickness is as little as 5mm.The idea behind barefoot running is to be more grounded, literally, and connect again with our natural surroundings. The soles of the feet have the most nerve endings in the body. But from the time we are very young, we are taught to put a barrier in between our feet and the earth, that is, wear socks and shoes.Walking on grass: Most of us are no longer comfortable even walking barefoot on grass. This would be a good starting point. Walk barefoot on grass for 5-10 minutes every day.Foot shortening manoeuvre: Put your bare foot flat on the ground. Curl your toes so that your foot shortens. Hold it in a shortened position for 2-3 seconds, then go back to the starting position. Do 25 repetitions, four times a day. Within a month you'll notice your foot arches becoming stronger.Skipping action: With or without a skipping rope, do the skipping action for 5-10 minutes to start with. This helps you sensitize landing on the toes. You simply can't land on your heels when you skip.The companies that manufacture running shoes make all kinds of claims, ranging from “they make you run faster” to “they tone your buttocks”. These claims have landed the companies in trouble because they were proved to be incorrect. In recent years, shoes with minimal cushioning (Vibram) and traditional well-cushioned shoes (Skechers USA, Inc. and Reebok International) have faced class-action lawsuits in the US, with settlements ranging from $3.75-40 million (about Rs. 22-240 crore.)In my opinion, just finding fault with the companies is not fair. If you really want to improve your running, then work on your technique—and that is possible if you let your bare feet touch the surface.Some people will argue that they have been wearing running shoes for decades. But just because you have been doing something for a while does not make it right.Our running gait isn’t natural now since most of us have been sitting on our butts since the age of 3 or 4, and have deactivated the magnificent gluteus maximus (butt muscle), which has now been shown to exist only to make you run.The cushioned soles of running shoes can be compared to car bumpers. You tend to be a little less careful when the car has bumpers. If you remove them, you will be more careful when you drive.It’s the same when you run barefoot using the natural running technique (see images)—you tend to land softly and this puts less pressure on your ankles, knees, hips and back. If you wear heavily cushioned soles, however, you will be less careful about how you land. If you are a reckless driver, no amount of technology will be able to hide your flaws. The same applies to running shoes.We all need to go back to the basics and learn the natural style of running. If you run barefoot only as a drill, it’ll make you a better runner, no matter which running shoes you wear.A word of caution though. Initially, barefoot running can cause shin pain as the calves get overworked. In a short period, though, the calves will become accustomed.Rajat Chauhan is an ultra marathon runner and a doctor specializing in sports and exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine, and founder of Back 2 Fitness. He is also associate editor, British Journal Of Sports Medicine.http://www.livemint.com/Search/Link/Author/Rajat%20Chauhan

5 Things You Must Know Before Running the Marathon

Ms. Tehzeeb, Dietitian/Nutritionist
http://www.fitternity.com/article/5-things-you-must-know-before-running-the-marathonFirst of all, congratulations! Congratulations on being a tiny set of people who happily wake up at 6:00 am on a Sunday morning to train while most of planet earth is asleep and their bodies are working hard to recover from all the trash that was put into the system Saturday night.Perhaps it is the runner’s high (a colloquial term used to describe the feeling of extreme euphoria experienced during running) which drives you to spring out of bed at the crack of dawn. Irrespective of where your motivation comes from, know that your decision to run the marathon is inspiring more people than you think.Thus, for you, some guidelines as you move forward in your training:1. Pre and post workout mealsA fruit 30-minutes pre-workout and a meal immediately post workout is imperative for improved workout performance and optimal muscle repair and recovery2. Strengthen back, legs and weight-bearing joints (knee, hips, spine)Let me elucidate this pointer via a quick story:Clients after a few weeks of a good food routine are keen to take things to the next level i.e. commence workouts. They start running and within a week or so, complain of an aching back, an aching ankle, an aching knee etc. “Running isn’t good for me” is the prompt conclusion they inevitably come to. It’s not the running silly! It’s the fact that your back, legs, knees, hips etc. aren’t strong enough to take the impact of the run. Do you see where I am going with this story?Marathon training isn’t merely confined to teaching yourself how to sprint and how to run long distances. In fact, exercises to strengthen your body parts are just as important too! Set aside one training day for these so that you don’t sustain injuries3. If you haven’t done so already, invest in a good pair of shoesYes, an investment; that’s what it is. Purchase as per your arch and don’t sport a brand new pair right before the run. Ensure you have already ran in said shoes and are comfortable with them. If you already own a decent pair of shoes, check the outsole (material in contact with the ground) and the midsole (shoe cushioning) for cracks and fissures. If you spot any, maybe it’s time for a new pair4. Hydrate and SleepMuscles can cramp due to dehydration which is the last thing you want. So continually sip water through the day and ensure you’re adequately hydrated at all times. Your muscles won’t recover adequately unless you get your sleep. So here’s your early to bed excuse5. Stop obsessing over completion timeThe fact that you’re training is in itself a huge accomplishment even though it may or may not seem like it to you. On the D-day, enjoy the run as opposed to obsessing over how much time it takes to complete it.So that’s it, a smile on your face and a spring in your step (literally)! Good luck!

7 Tips to Prevent Running/ Jogging Injuries

Dr. Kambhampati B S Srinivas, Orthopedist
Running is one of the commonest forms of exercise. It is important to know the safe condition and technique of running to prevent injuries. Injuries may involve your knee joint, lower leg, foot and ankle, pelvis and hip, heat exhaustion and skin. The following 5 tips may be useful to avoid injuries during running.1. Prepare yourself for the run by properly hydrating yourself before the run, running the distance you are used to (you need to train your body well in advance if you plan to run a marathon), knowing the terrain you run (preferably flat), using comfortable attire and shoes (preferably high ankle shoes) to protect your feet. 2.Plan your run and avoid it during very high or very low temperatures/ rains/ night time to prevent falls frostbites and exhaustion. It will be useful to take a bottle of water preferably enriched with electrolytes to re-hydrate yourself during the run especially for long distance runs.3. Your posture and running technique are crucial. If you are in doubt of your technique, discuss with a trainer about the correct technique of running. If you have any alignment problems with your limbs, they can cause problems in the future especially if you are planning long distance runs on a regular basis. Know your limitations and stop when you have reached your limits and don't push yourself too hard.4. Stretching for 5 minutes before the run is important to prevent muscle strains.5. Running with a partner and with a mobile phone is advisable especially if you have medical problems. Always discuss with your doctor whether you are fit for running exercises if you have back/ medical problems. 6.Avoid running in polluted areas/ rush hour traffic roads. Plan your runs in parks/ gardens where one can expect clean air.7. Orthotic shoe inserts may be useful for those with foot deformities like flat feet. If you are likely to hurt your body by running, it's best to accept running is not your thing and try another form of exercise like swimming or cycling.

Running Tips and Hazards in India

Ms. Swati Kapoor, Dietitian/Nutritionist
As bizarre as it might seem, running in India is unique in certain ways as compared to running in the West. So, here are a few tips for people who plan to start running in India:1. Street Running is not easy: In most residential areas of cities or towns, sidewalks/footpaths are blatantly missing. If there are sidewalks, then they might be potholed or covered with parked cars or stalls. They can start and stop abruptly, and you can't run on the road which takes us to the next point.2. No runner-friendliness: People are not runner friendly. If you're running on the road, cars will honk at you, they will try to whiz past you and not give you much space. Basically its not a good experience. But there is a rationale to it- running on the road might have been acceptable in a place where there isn't so much of a fight for space. The roads in India are already congested with cars, trucks, autos, bikes, cycles, people and cows. So, everyone on the road is already fighting for their space. Now, you add runners to the mix. Clearly, they will not be welcomed. Now, we can understand not being runner friendly on the road, but we've experienced this in parks also. Walking is a huge health phenomenon in India. So most parks have walkers in them, but many of these walkers are here for a social activity, where they meet friends, family, etc. Since there might be upto 6 in a group of walkers, and talking in the main exercise, they're all grouped up on the running routes and trails. So to pass by them, you would have to break up the group. But then there are many old uncles and aunties who refuse to budge and try to stare you down for asking them to give way.3. Small Parks: There are few park trails covering significant distances. In Delhi, the longest running park route, is Jahanpanah City Forest- almost 7 km, in the middle of busy south Delhi. Even better about the Jahanpanah City Forest is that since its such a long trail, there aren't too many walkers : ) In Calcutta, the longer running trails might be around Victoria Memorial and the Lake Gardens (again, very congested with unfriendly walkers).4. Heat: Most of you know this, but it is unbearably hot in the most places in India, for most of the year. Here are running tips for hot Indian weather. Though winters are perfect for running outside.5. Pollution: Pollution levels are high in the big Indian cities/towns. So, that makes running on the roads even tougher, since they have the highest concentration of pollution levels. Also, running in the day is tough, since pollution levels are at their peak then. Recent study showed that running by a polluted road increases your pollutant intake upto 8 times, as compared to if you were walking on the road. These factors make a difference, but at the end of the day we want to run, so we figure out a way to get around them. We don't run on the streets. We've found good running tracks in Delhi parks. Run to avoid the heat, or just hydrate really well if its very hot. And running in parks, you feel the pollution less. If you have any tips on running, or would like to share your experiences, please leave comments for us and our readers.

3 Last Minute Check List Tips Before Your Run

Ms. Swati Kapoor, Dietitian/Nutritionist
When most people who don’t run hear the term ‘running better’, they look skeptical, assuming that running is a very natural movement and that it should be quite easy.But you’ll be surprised to know how small running tips and changes can make a big difference not just to your speed, but also prevent injuries.These tips make an even bigger difference when you’re training for an event. These tips will help improve running speed, running distance and reduce running injuries. Here are some basic but essential running tips to get you started.1. Get EnergyRunning requires energy and for you to run well, you need to have energy stored in your body. So, ensure you feed yourself correctly before a run. If you run on an empty stomach, your body will look for energy stores within itself to get that energy. If you haven’t eaten anything and need some quick energy right before the run, eat some boiled sugar candy, jaggery or a glucose based drink. If you have, say, 30 minutes before your run, eat some slow burning carbohydrates like oatmeal, dalia, muesli with low fat milk or any other such breakfast cereal. Don’t overeat as it will make you feel heavy.2. Hydrate WellWhen your body is not well hydrated, it affects your performance. To hydrate yourself well, drink water 30 minutes before your workout. Right before your run if you’re thirsty, have a glass of water, but if you drink too much, then it might sit in your belly while you are running - not too much fun!If you need water while your run, you can run with a small bottle of water and keep sipping as you need. As you build up your running ability, your need to sip water while you run will reduce. If you can’t carry a bottle with you, then place it somewhere on your running track.3. Wear the Right clothingWear running shorts that are light- preferably made of material that wicks sweat away from the skin. Cargo/khakhi shorts are a strict no. On top, avoid cotton t-shirts for two reasons- one they can cause chaffing from all the rubbing against your skin. Nipple chaffing is a common problem among male runners who don’t wear the correct clothing. And the other reason is that cotton absorbs sweats and holds it, so it adds to the weight of the clothing. Also, it sticks to your skin. Psychologically and physically, it can affect your performance.

What Are the Benefits of Marathon Training?

Ms. Swati Kapoor, Dietitian/Nutritionist
The participation of middle aged people in marathons has increased over the last few decades. Researchers found that preparing for a marathon- reduced heart disease risk factor among men, aged 35 to 65.Studies show that these middle aged marathon runners have much lower heart risks than similar aged non runners.One of the biggest benefits of running is that it's good for your health. Running is an excellent way to strengthen the heart and ensure efficient flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body, which helps decrease your risk of a heart attack.Studies also show that, exercise stimulates enzymes that help move LDL from the blood (and blood-vessel walls) to the liver. From there, cholesterol is converted into bile (for digestion) or excreted. So, the more you exercise, the more LDL your body expels and your blood’s LDL gets lowered, which protects you from heart disease.Exercise increases the size of the protein particles that carry cholesterol through the blood. (The combination of these protein particles and cholesterol are called "lipoproteins;" it's the LDLs that have been linked to heart disease). Some of those particles are small and dense; some are big and fluffy. The small, dense particles are more dangerous than the big, fluffy ones because the smaller ones can squeeze into the linings of the heart and blood vessels and set up shop there. But now it appears that exercise increases the size of the protein particles that carry both good and bad lipoproteins.Running also keeps your blood pressure lower by keeping your cholesterol levels normal in the body.Running not only prevents you from heart related problems but also improves your immune system, so your body functions more effective and efficient at fighting off germs. Also, while running, your body temperature rises which prevents the growth of bacteria, allowing your body to fight infection more effectively.So, participating in a marathon is really beneficial for your heart.

Pain! What Pain?

Dr. Rajat Chauhan, Physiotherapist
Apologies for missing out my blog last week. As it has already become clear to you, running is my life and getting you to move just that little bit extra is my passion. The twin bombing at the Boston marathon just numbed me. It was too personal. I didn’t know how to react, I still don’t know. A marathon is unlike any other sporting event. I know, you would rather call cricket a sport. All fans of marathon or ultra marathon are those who actually run them. Spectators are there to cheer their friends and family, more than for the pure love for running, whereas in all other sports, fans are sitting on the sidelines, clapping away to their heart’s content.Life is like a marathon, actually more like an ultra-marathon, with no idea about how long and how tough it can be. If you are passionate about life and want to truly live it, you can’t be a mere spectator. You’ve just got to be in the thick of things. Like a marathon or an ultra-marathon, life has a tendency to throw all kinds of stuff at you, pain being one. In my opinion, there is an option, but it’s not to stop. The option you have is to carry on with a smile or a grimace, which to others look like a smile. No matter what, no one else is going to fight your battle or take your pain.The pain you suffer is your problem. Harsh, very harsh, but true. Once you realize that, only then will changes take place in the right direction. Since it’s your problem, you need to take a more proactive role in treating pain and managing it. At times, pain is there to stay. But it’s entirely up to you if you have the desire to suffer as well. Below is an example of die-hard lady who decided not to suffer, even though she had enough pain thrown at her.Couple of days ago, I had the privilege of joining a 70-year-old lady while she was out on her daily 6-km walk. She does all her household chores herself and then goes for her walk. Both of her knees got deformed 24 years ago, courtesy severe osteoarthritis. Over the years, she has repeatedly been advised surgery. Of course she has pain, but she decided not to let it affect her life in any way. Right or not, it was her decision to not go for the surgery. She also decided that she would not stop moving. I found it phenomenal.As shown in the video above, when she walks, she might rock from one side to another like a boat in rough waters in the ocean, but she is very content going on about her life.Besides repeatedly advising surgery, the good doctors also advised her to stop going for morning walks. More than the severe knee pains, being told to stop walking sounded like a death sentence to her. That was the one thing that she really loved in her life. She had dedicated her life to taking care of others around her. When she walked, she had an opportunity to unwind completely. That was her time. She paid no heed to the expert advice. She gradually started working on it, walking a minute at a time. Today, her two sons and their wives don’t live with her. At the tender age of 70, she alone takes care of the household.She also gave me examples of her friends who were operated for knee pain. Some did well, some didn’t. One thing was common among all: The surgeons were nowhere to be found once they had operated upon them. Like the superstar mentioned above, unless you take full responsibility of getting back to normal life, no one else would be interested in helping you out. Even with the best of intentions, everyone else can only do so much, and only for a limited time. There will be enough people out there who’ll keep helping themselves, the way it is currently happening in the health care industry. Almost no one is interested in your long-term benefits.Let there be a big shift from the current approach in managing pain where the almighty doctor is the focus. You know your body unlike any doctor out there. You need to listen to it a little bit more carefully. It’s actually not very demanding. It’s always looking to a find a way for you. You just need to work with it. Never fight it.No matter what, I am a big fan of Lance Armstrong, but it’s folks like this lady, who get no sponsorship neither money nor any press coverage, that I am a far bigger fan of.Now what’s your excuse to waste this one life that you are sure about? Get off your posterior and start moving.Keep miling and smiling.Watch video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wODNA4hr5i8Read more: http://forbesindia.com/blog/author/rajat-chauhan/#ixzz48L35cBes

Life Lessons on Winning From Losing

Dr. Rajat Chauhan, Physiotherapist
You’ve got one life. Make it count. Live for yourself, on your terms.Everybody is too focused on the destination, on those sheets of paper, pieces of metal, hollow designations and the concrete boxes we live in. Photo courtesy Priyanka OberoiWhoever told you what truly matters is where you get to in life, lied. The only thing we can be sure of is that we will die. That is why I often tell myself: How you live before you die matters. Where you die does not.When looked at from that perspective, the journey is more important than the destination. When I look around, it pains me. Everybody is too focused on the destination, on those sheets of paper, pieces of metal, hollow designations and the concrete boxes we live in.You’ve got one life. Make it count. Live for yourself, on your terms. Those who matter are the ones who questioned status quo. They push the limits set by society and experts in it. And I have a lot of stories to tell of such people.To begin with, allow me to share this note I received from Mark Wooley, one of the most celebrated ultra marathon runners in Spain after the latest edition of La Ultra, the cruellest run on earth—an event I thought up.Dear Rajat,You really have created the world’s finest masterpiece of ultra running, a canvas 72 hours long and 333km wide in the Indian Himalayas. Upon this canvas are the runners—the artists who paint their art as they make their way over the most beautiful of majestic mountains.But I have a problem. I spilt the paint, I was clumsy and the art I left behind on your perfect canvas is flawed. The paint ran over the edges and that just won’t do. Art is meant to be perfect and anything less just isn’t art. It is a mess. I will have to start this painting again.Your good friend, MarkHe missed the 72-hour cut-off time by 54 minutes. He finished 222km at La Ultra in 2012 and then came back to attempt 333km in 2014 and 2015. Last year, he was leading until 318km. Then he suddenly collapsed. He couldn’t move. He just had to cover 15km in four hours.Think of this man as a gladiator who has been beaten not once, but twice. He wasn’t furious. Instead, the gladiator relooks the opponent with respect, and says he’s going to come back and give it a shot when he is better prepared. Our system calls such people losers. I think of them as high performers.A 22-year-old wild-card entry into the event, Parvez Malik, a ragpicker, comes to mind. He had not run ever till six months before this gruelling event.He took to it when he was part of the crew at the Garhwal Runs where he was practically thrown out of the car to walk along with the last participant. What started as a walk morphed into a run until he did 51km because it was a lot of fun.I offered to prepare him for 111km at the La Ultra. One day, he could be on cloud nine for having run 93km and the next day, I’d ground him because he couldn’t manage 90 minutes. This happened because I’d increase the pace to levels he couldn’t manage for too long. This was important in training for a run like La Ultra. Lows follow, much like in life, soon after the highs. He had to learn how to prepare for them.Eventually, he not only finished running 111km, but blew away seasoned runners with a good finish time.True champions and leaders can come from practically any background.To get back to my original point, the journey is more important than the destination alone. Sean Maley from the UK, who eventually came first at La Ultra, followed a simple strategy. He had plans A, B and C, but knew that he couldn’t plan for too far ahead. He was just prepared to dig deep and take it as it came. As Mike Tyson once put it: “Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.”For the same reason, Maley took the course one bit at a time and relooked at it when he was close to what he had in mind or breached the limit in his head or reached there. He eventually broke the 333km barrier by making it a series of challenges.Darek (Dariusz) Zwyciezca from Poland, another veteran runner, met with an accident at age 8 and was in a coma for two months. He had to relearn how to talk, walk, read and write. Experts didn’t think he would ever walk again. He first picked up cycling and then running. Today, he runs the most difficult of ultra marathons in the world—not to win, but simply to finish, because society gave him no chance of even walking again. For him, it’s about pushing his boundaries further.High achievers set their own goals when there is nowhere else to get to. The 52-year-old Hungarian Szónyi Ferenc struggled to get past the 333km mark. But even before the pain evaporated, he suggested we plan a 555km run the next time around. That’s exactly what champions are made of. They keep pushing their limits.Let’s be very clear, an event like La Ultra attracts triple Type A personalities who happen to be very grounded as well. They are simply amazing human beings. To play a long innings as high performers in life, these qualities are very important. Any less, you either never get there or don’t last long enough.Rajat Chauhan is the founder of Back 2 Fitness chain of clinics. He is an ultra runner who thought up La Ultra, a 333km run in the Himalayas at over 17,400ft in three days.This article was originally published here.