26 mins readFrom a wheel chair to a half marathon. Number 115 right next to my trusted walking stickMy spark of madnessI run for a long list of reasons. Insanity is certainly oneof them, but it is not the only one. I run because pushing limits changes you as person. You livewhen you push back. You don\u2019t when you give in. Running a set distance a few seconds,sometimes a few minutes faster does wonders for your self-image. There are nomedals waiting at the finish line, just satisfaction that you managed to dosomething you have been doing for a while marginally better. Over the years themarginally better adds up. I no longer run to win or prove anything. I run so that Ican find a better me. I run for myself. The competition is no longer the personrunning by my side or a step ahead of me. It is the older me pushing harder,higher and faster.I ran competitively before I gave up in 1989 to become who Iam today. The 18-year-old me ran to prove the world and my coaches wrong. ThatI had talent and I could win. The 48-year-old me runs because it\u2019s the only wayhe gets to meet the 18-year-old again. Sometime to rekindle faith in old dreams you have to meet the original dreamersagain. I run for my children and my better half. In the hope thatsome part of this insanity will also brush off on them. It does and ithas. Children of fathers who smoke arelikely to smoke themselves. Children of fathers who run should have a bettershot at running? When I teach students about ideas that change the world, Iask them a simple question. Is your big idea worthy? Where is the magic in itand how can you make me see it? Is it worthy of your time, your commitment,your sacrifices? Running makes it possible for me to be a better father, abetter husband and a better son. That is the better me. A cause worthy of theeffort it demands, worthy of sacrifices. The sunsets and sunrises, the personal bests,the memories, the wipeouts and recovery are an added bonus. But being a better, cooler, fitter dad beatsevery single one of them. Even if I fail to become one, there is magic intrying to be one. I run for maintaining mobility, not for longevity. For thelongest time I didn\u2019t run because I thought it would be damaging in the longrun for my joints. I was wrong. Like a lot of other myths in recent years,science has moved on and has a new opinion on the impact of regular running onknees. I had more issues with my knees, connective tissues and myhealth as a 40-year-old who didn\u2019t run then I do now as a 48-year-old who does.For three decades I believed that running, especially road running damagedknees, hips and ankles and was not recommended beyond a certain age. Recentevidence suggests otherwise.Recreational running, defined as running less than 57 miles a week,leads to significantly lower odds of developing Osteoarthritis in lateryears. Only 3.5% ofrecreational runners develop the disease compared to 13.5% ofcompetitive runners and 10.5% of sedentary and non-active population.You read that right. A 70% lower chance of developingarthritis compared to general population. It\u2019s not a midlife crisis. Its use itor lose it. Become a better dad. Put your shoes on. Find a road. Run.How do you start? I knew the Osteoarthritis reference would catch yourattention. It certainly woke me up. You don\u2019t start with thinking about the half marathon orwanting to run one. I was very sure Ididn\u2019t want to run one. All I wanted to do in the beginning was to walk without astick and maybe run a lap around a football field without killing myself. Before I could do that I had to figure out a way to ditch thewheel chair. I was lucky the ailmentthat knocked me off my feet and landed me in chair was a temporary conditionand ultimately treatable. But it still took three months to get rid of my newride. Then came the walking stick. It was significantly easier todump than the wheel chair. The two were followed by a depressing hotel room on theoutskirts of Tehran. It was the hotelroom that got me running after a break of 27 years. While Tehran was anexperience, the hotel room was not.There is your answer. It all began with an act ofdesperation. If it wasn\u2019t for the hotel room, I don\u2019t think I would bewriting these lines today. My benefactor was a loft with dark tones. Other than the wallof the next block, not much of a view outside. Well-kept and clean, yetdepressing. Reasonably sized but notwell lit. There have been in hotel roomsin my life that made me think of paradise, that would make you forget all abouthome by their breath taking beauty and opulence. This room wasn\u2019t one of them. To be fair by this time I was already the fastest cripple ofairplanes. My agility with my faithful walking stick would surprise air hostessesand fellow passengers in equal measure. Thetransition from shuffling feet on the tarmac to shuffling feet on a footballfield wasn\u2019t too painful. It helped that it was early, the field had beenabandoned on account of cold weather and there wasn\u2019t anyone around to see thesoft fluffy football shaped me roll and limp around the field. 50seconds before 50 tells the first part of the journey \u2013 from thishumble start to running the 400m dash faster than my twelve year old daughter inless than six months. By August 2016 when I wrote 50 seconds before 50 thingswere looking good. A lot can happen intwo and a half years. My two teenage athletic stars, my training partners andinspiration, both opted for early retirements. Work came back with a vengeance.I had been slacking off to spend time with my kids and get back in shape again.Those two off years created a back log that couldn\u2019t be ignored. You couldraise kids, get fit, spend quality time with family or work, but there is noway you could do all four together. I certainly couldn\u2019t. Training days on the field came down from 4 days a week to aday on alternate weeks. I ran my first cross country event in January 2017. Ayear after the beginning. I was outpacedand out lapped by a bunch of 13 years old girls and two 55-year-olds who werein better shape than I was. Training for cross country got me into long solitary runsand I shifted sights and gears to longer distances rather than breaking the 60second barrier for the quarter mile. Ifyou were wondering I broke the 60 second barrier, I didn\u2019t. I moved the goal posts. At 9:38 am, on the morning of 17th February 2019,three years after the first shuffle on the football field on the outskirts ofTehran, I crossed the finish line at the Special Olympics Half Marathon inKarachi after running 18.58 kilometers at an average pace of 7 minutes and 23 secondsper km under my own steam. Technically speaking it wasn\u2019t a half as it is lovinglycalled. We were short by 2.5 kilometers. Once again there were two 55 year oldsahead of me (not the same, a different set) and this time it wasn\u2019t just theteen age girls who outpaced me. Everyone did. No mercy, no quarter. Butit was a gorgeous sunny day, we had great company and I didn\u2019t care. I ran tofinish it without pacing myself to a time. Finish it I did. If you had predicted as I limped around airports and hotellobbies that one day I would be able to walk, let alone run, 18.58 kilometerson the open roads of Karachi, I would have laughed out aloud. 48-year-old desifathers of three don\u2019t have the luxury to dream impossible dreams. But the universe conspired together to ensure that I could. And I did.Step one \u2013 What gets measured, improves. I ran my first formally clocked 5K at 6:45 am on a Sundaymorning on 16th July 2017. My records show I ran it in 32 minutes and 18seconds at a steady pace of just under 6 minutes 28 seconds per kilometer. It was the longest distance I had run as aroad runner in 28 years. Do I have perfect recall? No. I logged it and looked it up. You should too. Track it and log it is step number one. What getsmeasured, improves. You may think that you are the local version of Flashhimself till you take a look at the stop watch. Track it and log it. If you are not tracking and measuring it, you are not likelyto improve. Distance, pace, stride length, cadence, average heart rate and timeto recovery are all cues for fitness levels and athletic performance. A loghelps you see if training is working and helping you improve. A bigger concernat my age is muscle loss and performance decay on account of age relateddecline. A log helps you keep track of where you are with respect to where youwere a few years ago. I had been training for a year and a half but the tracking applicationI had used for my earlier, longer runs had issues. The challenge with most fitness tracking appsis getting stride length right and as a consequence pace and distance covered.If you vary your pace across your runs most low end trackers get confused andmix up the final tally. Find an app or a fitness tracker that gets it right.Especially the ones that get varying pace right. Once you find something thatworks. Stick to it and religiously log your runs. I experimented a bit and then settled on Run keeper after afellow runner recommended it. When the time came to make a call on running the halfmarathon, my running log gave me much needed confidence. I wasn\u2019t sure if I wasready for it. But my training runs for 10 weeks before the half closelymirrored training programs for preparing one to run 21 kilometers. The log onceagain came to the rescue. Without the confidence of the log behind me, I don\u2019t think Iwould have signed up or shown up on the big day. The log also showed me how far,how frequently and how fast I had run. It made the pace planning decision forthe half fairly simple. Coupled with heart rate data through the Fitbit app I hadcomfort that the old ticker was in respectable shape to risk the half. Fit enough for me to take the big step upfrom 10.1k, the longest distance I had run prior to the half, to 21k. Or as we found out on the day of the race,18.58 km. Step two \u2013 Time, commitment and the respect it deserves. The half is serious business. Specially for the elderly andthe not so young. I know 48 is not an age that most 48-year-old consider oldbut I do. Let\u2019s just say I am not 18 years old any more. A half is not something you want to attempt without propertraining and exposure. It is not something you are going to run two months downthe road on a whim. It is also advisable that you speak to your personalphysician and your cardiologist before following this path. I had been lucky enough to have access to qualifiedphysicians. They didn\u2019t actually sign off on the half (are you mad?) butthey didn\u2019t forbid it. There was someimplied encouragement on the cardiac health front but no explicit approval forrunning the half. I didn\u2019t ask; they didn\u2019t tell. The initial consultation is just the first in the longseries of professional advice you would need. My second life saver was the local track and field club. Thecoach my kids trained with. Ahmed Wali at Speed Star Track and Field club wasthe voice of sanity that would hold me back on days that I felt like EthanHunt, John Rambo and Terminator combined and the gentle push I needed on days Ifelt like a wuss. You need these voices of reason around you to prevent doingdamage to your fragile ego and equally delicate dad\u2019s bod. Good coaches like Ahmed are very clear in their thinking. Youhave to take it slow to ensure you don\u2019t injure yourself. Your body needs timeto transition and train itself to run miles after miles. The process doesn\u2019thappen overnight. It takes time and patience. Muscle gets built quickly.Ligaments, tendons and connective tissues take much longer to transition tobear the load you are putting on them. The older you are, the longer it takes. When I started running the half was the last thing on mymind. I wasn\u2019t interested. The group I ran with was running them left, rightand center. I just didn\u2019t see the need to risk my ability to train and run byadding unnecessary load.Primarily because it had been a long and painful journey andI didn\u2019t want to restart the pain cycle again by getting injured. When I started running again in the spring of 2016, it took mea week to run a full lap around the football field. A month to run that lap atwarm up pace with my kids. Two months before I felt strong enough to risk aquarter mile dash at full effort. Ten months before I ran my first 1K. 12months to my first cross country run. Fifteen to my first 5K. Sixteen beforeeverything came to a halt because I tore a ligament. It was the day I had beenfeeling like the Terminator. During these 16 months I had trained an average of 4 days aweek with a day or two of strength training work using barbell complexes. When you start serious training after a breakof three decades a world of pain awaits you. The pain, sometimes muscular,sometimes bone deep never really ends because after reaching one milestone youset your eyes on the next one. You keep on pushing harder. Your neuro-muscular and skeletal system keepson adapting. The injury was unexpected but provided a much needed break. Twomonths forced rest and we started the pain cycle all over again. A month tobuild up endurance to attempt my first 5k again. Fifty 5ks on the road before Iattempted my first 10k. That is a full year worth of road running and strengthtraining combined in case you were wondering. On top of the 16 months with thetrack and field club a year earlier. But it wasn\u2019t enough. It took two additional 50 km mileagemonths and four weekends of practice 10ks before I thought I was ready to runsomething a bit longer than a 10k. 36 months from the first step to the first half. If you arejust starting now the half will have to wait. It may not be 36 months in yourcase because you will not be starting from a wheel chair. But it is not goingto be next quarter. Start with small bites. While you can get plans that will getyou from a couch to a 5k in 3 months or less don\u2019t rush into running hard. Focuson building a broad and solid foundation of fitness over time using a mix ofendurance, strength, stamina and speed work. Then move to incrementally bigger goals. When you are ready you willknow. If you want to do a quick assessment of your ability to runa half, take a look at your running logs. If you can run a 10K comfortably oncea week and have been doing that for at least two months you are there. If youhave averaged 50k plus in mileage a month in the last few months that is also agood sign. If you have a heart rate tracker, review your heart ratedata from your longer runs. Track two trends specifically.One, are you doing the same runs at the same pacewith lower average heart rates? Is your peak heart rate trending lower withlonger runs? Are there any suddenspikes? Two, how long does it take for your heart rate to recover or dropto lower levels after the run? If the heart rates trends are flat or drifting lower,you are good to go. If you are struggling, you are not. If there is time, try and complete a 12-15 km run two tothree week before the half and see how you fare. If you can recover within 12-18hours from your long run, you are ready. If it takes longer than a day to getyour stride back, you need more time. Step 3 \u2013 Cross TrainYou can\u2019t run 7 days a week. On the days you run, you can\u2019tuse the same pace or speed combinations. While sprint and speed work may not befor you, it helps to train one day a week at a pace faster than race pace andonce a week at a pace slower than race pace. You mix paces and gears to workdifferent muscle groups and fuel systems to avoid overtraining and injuriesfrom repetitive use. I also mixed in running surfaces. Packed hard cinder or dirt(the most common track available in my part of the world) is faster than roads.Roads are faster than cobbled pavements. Cobbled pavements are faster thangrass. Rubberized walking tracks are faster than roads. Tartan tracks arefaster than all preceding choices. Beach runs, after grass are the slowest ofthe lot. In the beginning I would word across road, cinder, grass andtartan tracks to avoid putting on too much load on my knees. Three years latermy preferred running surface is the ordinary black top tarmac. The common roadwe drive on. If I am pacing myself anddoing a time trial, I prefer roads. If I am not I am happy with sandy beaches,grassy fields or hills. Treadmills didn\u2019t work for me. On the days I didn\u2019t run I opted for weight training. When travelling for work if I had access to apool, I mixed in swimming and water work. Weights came in because I wanted toensure that my knees stayed in decent shape. While you can\u2019t do anything aboutthe joints, you can upgrade muscles and ligaments around the joints. For kneesthat means the complete chain from the Achilles tendon to your glutes and hips.A trainer recommended barbell complexes over leg press. Deadlifts, half squats,overhead press, barbell curls and weighted calf raises. They change how youapproach strength training by focusing on activating multiple muscle groupswith one lift. You need a bar, a collection of weight platesand you can do your sets just as well as at home. I stepped up from doing half squats with just an emptyOlympic bar to a half squat one rep max of 140 kilos. Total travel time betweenthe two ends \u2013 three years. Like endurance strength also comes in smallmeasures.Time to crack another myth. You do need leg work withweights even as a long distance runner.When I started training all those years ago, distance runners didn\u2019t emphasizestrength training. Conventional wisdom suggests that you only need endurancetraining (read long runs) and speed endurance (high intensity intervaltraining). Data and research studies suggest otherwise. Beyond performancegains, strength work on your core, your legs, lower back and shoulderssignificantly reduces the chance of injuries, improves mobility and functionand increases running efficiency. The how is not well understood. But the impact of strength training onimproving running efficiency is well established. There is also interesting newresearch focused on documenting usage of fast twitch muscle fibers andendurance work especially in marathon runners. It was certainly true in my case. Any work I did on leg dayspaid off in spades on race days. Crosstraining also provides relief when you get knocked out by an injury that rulesout running for a few weeks. If I couldn\u2019t run because of a sprain or a musclepull, I could always weight train my non injured muscle groups or opt forweighted cardio sessions \u2013 combining strength training with endurance work \u2013light loads, high reps, short rest periods. The biggest challenge though was finding time for training.With a job and a family to take care of most dads will be hard pressed to findthat elusive slot for late evening or early morning runs. Or extended workoutsessions at the gym. Even when one finds time, it is difficult to keep itsecure for training sessions given our responsibilities as fathers, husbandsand sons. There will always be something that has higher priority. When you dofind time, make it count. You don\u2019t know if or when you will beto do your next training session. Step 4 \u2013 Find a group to run with. If you can\u2019t find a group, start one. Runners united first run – November 2018Distance running is a lonely business. You end up facingyour personal demons alone on the road, even when you have company. Runningpartners help but only you can face the ogres when they come out of darkness. Mileageand time spent training add up quickly and so do the monsters. Despite thepersonal nature of our battles, pack running is significantly better than soloruns. Company pulls you back from the abyss when you are wobbling at the edgeof the cliff. A training group helps with discipline and motivation. Itbecomes easier to get out of bed on a cold December morning when you knowsomeone is waiting for you to show up. None of my personal bests would not bepossible without my running partners and pacers. Pacers make the world goround. They are the ones who know how to eke out that last ounce of performanceout of you when every other signal is telling you to stop. The differencebetween beating a personal record by a few seconds or living with regret tillyou get another shot at it. From a motivation perspective convincing yourself to catchthe runner just ahead of you and then repeating it again with the next one isthe oldest trick I have used to finish a long painful run. When mind and bodyare saying stop, company is what keeps you going. The real reason why I ran the half marathon at the SpecialOlympics event in Karachi? I was originally planning to run the 10K. My friends,pacers and training partners were all running the half. Guess what I ended uprunning? So find a running group. If a city like Karachi has over adozen hard core road running groups, you should be able to find one in yours.If you can\u2019t find one, found one. Start one, you would be surprised howdesperate road runners are for company and how quickly the group grows. Within Karachi if you want to run a half marathon, trainwith Revolution Fitness on early Saturday morning before sunrise. Hira Diwan,the founder, is Pakistan\u2019s women national record holder for the full marathon. Shecracked it at Berlin in September 2018. Berlin was her seventh full marathon ina row. The group typically clocks 10-15km early road runs every Saturday andmeets on Thursday evening for a fitness boot camp. If you are looking forsomething more than a group run, tag along with TCW. Run by Sherbaz, Jansherand Zermeena, the all family team meets more frequently and does a mix offitness, life style, endurance and conditioning workouts. TCW also manages the monthlybeach run initiative \u2013 run the coast – a chance for you to run on isolatedbeaches in Karachi. If you are looking for company for a Sunday run in exoticKarachi location ping Karachi Striders and Dr. Talha Shahid on Facebook. All three groups also run together every fewweeks as Runners United and include the largest number of serious andrecreational half marathon and marathon runners in the city. If you are lookingto run shorter distances, get in touch with Ahmed Wali or Roma Altaf at Speedstar track and field club at National coaching center. The club and coachesthat trained my kids and got me out of my wheel chair and started on the pathto fitness again. Groups have their own personalities. Watch out for that.Find one that fits your running style, your goals and your moods. Good groupsgive you space to find your own pace, pace you when you need it, push you whenyou can be pushed and respect your preferences. Group runs also experiment withnew and safe tracks, terrains and paths to run on in your neighborhood. It sure beats running indoor on a treadmill byyourself. Training for the half marathon is easier when you have a group of fellow crazies to train with Step 5 \u2013 Understand the negative split. I had heard about negative splits but never reallyunderstood how to execute them. While researching the half marathon the weekbefore I was running it, I came across the term again. This time I experimentedand finally understood what running at a pace slower than your slowest paceactually means. I tried it out on a trial run a few days before the half, onthe day of the half and the week after and finally got it right. If you run distances beyond 10K the negative split issomething you have to understand and learn to work with. If you are running ahalf marathon the negative split means the difference between finishing therace and giving up somewhere in between. Using negative splits to run faster half marathons and 10KsThe concept is simple to understand but difficult toimplement for new distance runners. You begin with breaking the race intosmaller components. For instance, a 10k may be split between two 5ks, a half infour. You run the first 5K slower than the second. The mistake most first timers working withthe negative split make is the same one I did. I couldn\u2019t figure out how Icould run the second 5K faster till I understood that it is not about runningthe second 5k faster, it is about running the first one slower. A half is four back to back 5ks plus a bonus kilometertacked at the end. Rinse and repeat. Run the first 5 slower than your slowest pace. Mycomfortable pace for a 5k, the pace at which I can run forever is between 6:25\u2013 6:55 minutes per kilometer. My race pace is a minute faster. The differencebetween the two means depleting your energy reserves within 30 minutes versusrunning without a break for two hours. I planned on running my half at an average pace of 6:40 \u20136:50 per km. I ran my first 5K in the half at 6:46 per km. I had to consciouslystop myself from running faster as my friends and running partners sped away. WhenI reached my second 5k my pace was steady at 6:50. I finished my first 10K in the half feeling light andcomfortable. By running the first part of the race slower and holding myselfback my 10k time during the half was within 30 seconds of my previous personalbest for the distance. More importantly I wasn\u2019t dying and still had enoughfuel left to complete the next 5k without any significant discomfort. For my first half my only goal was to finish it. It was uncharteredterritory. In my life as a runner, I had never planned running this distance. Therewas no time goal for the race. If I could complete it and walk away from the finishline under my own power, I would be happy. Running the first 5K slower made that possible. The science behind the negative split is simple. When we runat a comfortable slow pace we burn fat for fuel. Someone like me has aninfinite supply of that fuel source. When we run faster or sprint we burnglycogen, the default energy store or fuel in our muscles. For ordinary mortal the body\u2019s store ofglycogen is enough to fuel two hours of physical activity \u2013 a burn of roughlytwo thousand calories. The default limit for the length of our workouts isdefined by the amount of time it takes us to deplete glycogen stores. For longer runs such as the half marathon, wewant to stay in the fat burn range for as long as possible. So our transitionto using glycogen as fuel is deferred. It increases the length of our performancewindow. Step 6 \u2013 Feed yourself with the right fuel. Four food groups. Complexcarbs. Proteins and Fat. Minerals and nutrients. Look them up. Research them.Understand them and consume them. As in low GI multi grain multi seed wholewheat bread, brown rice, banana shakes and natural honey. Lean meat and eggs.Milk, cream and cheese. Mix in fruitsand veggies as desired and per your taste. Potassium, calcium, vitamin A, C andE. Natural sources only, no supplements. Walk away from simple and empty sugarslike chocolate bars, sodas, baked desserts, white flour, white rice and whitesugar. If you are like most 48 year olds your existing dietaryhabits and pattern could do with an overhaul. Find a nutritionist if you can.Read a credible author or physician if you can\u2019t. But start eating real foodand stop drinking calories. I am not a nutritionist and I have run the fullgamut of seasonal diets before I finally settled on real food. If you areserious about running this is the first thing you will have to fix. You can\u2019ttrain for more than a few days without real food. You can\u2019t heal, recover orrefuel without it. You can\u2019t train seriously and maintain a calorie deficitdiet. You have to eat, which for most of us means weight gain. That is adifficult conversation you need to have with yourself. If you thought, you weregoing to lose weight by running a half think again. You are not. You are goingto gain it. Step 7 \u2013 Don\u2019t get injured. In May 2017 after a year and a half of training I was inpeak shape. I had possibly clocked my fastest time for a 5k on a cross countrymulti surface path with cinder, mud, pace breaking hills, boulders and sand. Aweek before my time trial where I was planning on attacking 70 seconds for thequarter mile dash as well as a 5K time trial I tore a tendon in my left calf.It\u2019s a common running injury called the plantaris tear that create discomfort andpain at the base of the calf. Above the Achilles tendon but below the calf. In my case it was caused by heavy load generatedby hill work and a weighted speed session the week before the time trial. The tear took 8 weeks to heal and killed my pace. It hasbeen two years since that injury but I haven\u2019t seen that speed again. The tear wasn\u2019t the only injury. Hill repeats is animportant component of pace and endurance training. We sprint upward on a steepincline surface for 35 \u2013 45 seconds, walk back and repeat. It is a short fun intense work out that youcan quickly knock out when you are running short on time. Twenty minutes andyou are done. It also has an immediate impact on your pace and speed. So it istempting to opt for it a bit more often than recommended. Fourteen months afterthe plantaris tear, I sprained my Achilles tendon. The guilty party this timewas also hill repeats. Athletes get injured all the time. It is part of our lives.It is unfortunate. It can be avoided and it kills seasons. But for 48-year-olddads, injuries are a lot more damaging. They break the discipline of trainingand increase the probability that you won\u2019t come back. Once the fitness chain breaks, it is difficult to rebuild itagain. Rebuilding endurance takes a lot more work and is equally painful. Moreimportantly training changes your metabolism. While exercise after an initialconditioning period acts as an appetite suppressant, when you stop training youcontinue eating at higher rates. A typical training break on account ofinjuries or work schedule would add 3 to 5 kilos to my weight within a span of amonth. This is when I was being careful. That weight gain is difficult to getrid of at our age. Serious injuries canput a permanent stop to your running routine and be even more damaging thanshorter breaks. So before you shift to Terminator mode or write the screenplay and shoot your own personalized mission impossible, remind yourself. Theobjective is not to dominate the course, impress your fellow runners, win amedal or break a world record. The objective is to run forever. You can\u2019t dothat with injuries. A large part of avoiding injuries is listening to your body and recognizing signs of over training. Rest and recovery are part of training regime. You need to include them in your calendar. That is a day or two off training every week. The other part is working in warm ups, cools downs, early morning and late evening stretches to your daily routine. If you can find a good therapist, throw in a deep tissue massage every alternate month. For longer runs, I would routinely wake up two hours before my scheduled departure to ensure that I would get in a proper warm up session before I left home for the venue. Step 8 \u2013 Enjoy your runs. Creek side views discovered while exploring the streets of Karachi as a runnerDespite the fact that you may train with groups, you arelikely to run long stretches alone by yourself. You would be fortunate to finda fellow pacer who starts at the same time as you do and has the same targetpace as yours. Most running groups are stretched like a long string of pearlson roads with significant gaps in between. A typical 10k run could be as longas 90 to 120 minutes for some runners. That is a long time to kill if you don\u2019tknow how to engage your mind without a book, phone or friend. For me personally, the choice is sun rises and sunsets. Thereason why I love running by the creek. In winter months Karachi mornings andevenings offer a palette of colors that can captivate the most discerning ofart critics. I am neither discerning nor an art critic yet I find themincredibly calming. I have another friend who is captivated by campuses. Athird prefer beaches. A fourth would kill for a city center marathon. A number of my friends run with their headphones or theirear buds. But the joy of morning runs includes listening to silence of sleepylanes on weekends. I also carry a list of questions from my writing engagementsin my head. When all else fails, I pose one and let my subconscious ponder itwhile I focus on maintaining my breathing rhythm and my pace. Then there are daysits best to let the mind wander. Karachi sunrises by the creek. The real reason why many of us runOver years I have honed the art of having conversations withmyself down to a fine point. The halfwas a great example of self-entertainment. Given my pace on that day anybodyand everybody had already passed me by. When we hit the 5K mark we were alsodone with the morning sunrise. So my official entertainment channel wasgone. That is when I started a brand newconversation in my head. At the 5K mark \u2013 I love the run slowerstrategy. Look at all these fools running at the faster pace. I am going tobeat them all. Just you wait Mr. Higgins, just you wait. At the 10K mark \u2013 10k already done. Look atmy splits. I am the king of the road. I am not even breathing hard. At the 15k mark \u2013 Shall we stop for a quickdrink and moving shower? No water after this point. At the 15.1k mark – #$%^ where did I putthe keys? Engine start? Scotty where is the warp drive? Make it so? Readywhenever you are. Scotty? That drink was a bad idea. At the 17k mark \u2013 Don\u2019t look up, look down.Otherwise you will see how far we are from the finish line and die. Where iseveryone? Finished already? Bastards. French connection UK to you too. At the finish line \u2013 I have stoppedrunning. Why is it still hurting?On the drive home \u2013 Don\u2019t laugh. This isharder than it looks. It is even harder than that last kilometer. I hopeAba is not having breakfast outside. Step 9 \u2013 Get family on your side. Dads trying to get back in shape come with family. Thefamily bit is why we are called dads. Given the amount of time you are going to be spending onroads or working out in gyms, you need to ensure that family understands the rationalebehind your latest round of insanity. Also where to find you in case you gomissing. If you want to continue living under the same roof, keepthem on your side. Help them understand why you run and why it is important toyou. It takes time but they come around. They love you despite your madness because itdefines you. Don\u2019t make it hard on them.I was very lucky in this department. The big battles hadalready been fought when Amin and Salwa started training. Given the pathschosen by them and the impact athletics had had on their lives, it didn\u2019t takemuch to convince my significantly better half why I woke up at four am onweekends to go for my 6 am run. It helped that I learned to be quieter, that Itook out my kit the night before and I stopped waking up the entire neighborhoodwith my creaking joints. Family also plays a big role in getting you back on yourfeet after a grueling training run. It took me a day to recover from my first10k. By the time I got to the half marathon, Fawzia had seen me crash a fewtimes and had the recovery drill down cold. While I had expected otherwise, between her, Amin and Salwa they had meup and running and out the door in two hours and a half hour flat. Step 10 \u2013 A training kit fit for kings. Shoes. Shorts. Vest. Cushioned socks. Bib. Don\u2019t break thebank but don\u2019t short change yourself either. Ask around, test, experiment, read. I won\u2019t recommend anygiven brand because hardcore runners come with hard core preferences for shoesthey recommend. Wear whatever is comfortable, comes with cushioning and treatsyour feet and joints gently. I tried three shoe manufacturers and eight designsbefore I found the one that worked for me. Like training this also took a fewyears to get right. Keep an open mind. Don\u2019t be in a rush to get married to aparticular design or name. Especially on account of a brilliant advertisementcampaign that moved you to tears. Just because they got the marketing rightdoesn\u2019t mean they got the shoes right too. You are not going to run faster or get to the half soonerjust because you spent an extra two hundred dollars on cutting edge footweartechnology. The objective is to get there in one piece and then stay there foras long as you can. Wear whatever makes you feel like a marathon man, is kindto your feet, doesn\u2019t chaff, blister, cut or burn. Find your own spark of madness. At some point in time you will have to figure out the answerto the big one. Why? My father asks me this question every time I crawl out ofmy car after a big wipeout or stumble into his room to say my salaams after along half or a painful session at the gym. Like on the 17th of last month when I could barely drive, speakor walk after the half marathon. Much more than completing the half, I wasproud of making it home all by myself without a designated driver. I needed helpto make it up the stairs but I was proud. There is also this bit about pain. It becomes a part of yourlife. There is a limit to how much punishment a 48-year-old body can take. Weget better at handling pain but there are limits to how far you can pushyourself. The insanity is not in wanting to improve yourself or in pushinglimits. The insanity is knowing the amount of pain that awaits you when youcross that line, going back and crossing that line again and again and again. Youend up breaching limits every week when training at peak. You end up crossingthem every time you run competitively and beat a personal best. That is eightmonths a year, year after year. Eight months of being willingly locked up apersonal version of hurt locker. Like dreams, every limit has a price. You pay it when youcross it. With some limits you keep on paying the price long after you havestopped running. Are you stark raving mad is a good starting point! You couldbegin there. It\u2019s a good first question to ask. While my flavor of insanity isgoing to be different from yours, and so will be your journey, it is the onlyword that describes it well. Madness. Parting wordsAn isolated private beach awaits runners to explore it. Running was never about winning. It wasn\u2019t about medals andtrophies. It wasn\u2019t about pain. It wasn\u2019t about proving the world right orwrong. The version of me that came back from the half marathon wasdifferent from the one that left in the morning. The one that started thinkingabout the half was different from the one who trained for it. The one in Tehranwho took that first crazy hesitant shuffle on the empty football field was differentfrom the one who is writing these lines. I know they are different. I am not sure if they are or werebetter. I would like to think so since they all they did things earlier methought were not possible. They were allconsumed by the desire to be slightly better than their previous edition. And they were. Am I really a better person because of this journey? I amnot the right person to judge or answer that question. You would have to ask myloved ones if this is true. Their opinion is the only one that matters andcounts. There is one thing that I do know. Just like the 18-year-old me, who I finally met after I started running again, I would have never gotten a chance to meet the other me if I hadn\u2019t run the half. Together they showed me that there is a different world, a better world, just beyond my reach. All I had to do to claim it was to want it. Maybe one day you will too. See \u201cTheAssociation of Recreational and Competitive Running With Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis:A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis\u201d, Journalof Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 2017 Volume:47 Issue:6 Pages:373\u2013390.It is animportant paper that reviews 25 studies with a sample size of 125810individuals to conclude that as a recreational runner your odds of developingarthritis of knee and hip joints are significantly lower compared tocompetitive runners and general population. SeeRunning andOsteoarthritis See Strengthtraining in female distance runners. Impact on running economy, The Journal of Strength and ConditioningResearch, November 1997 as well as Theimpact of strength training on distance running performance, SportsMedicine, June 2003.