Goa is slowly becoming a sought-after destination for runners and running clubs. This marathon season itself saw numerous events such as the Rotary Rain Run, Dr. Ramani Goa Marathon, I- Run, Tuffman Beach Ultra Goa and the Goa River Marathon that trailed along the sandy beaches, river basins and the hilly roads of Goa. The high levels of humidity and the rocky terrain of this region pose a daunting challenge to amateur and experienced runners as it requires high levels of endurance and proper technique to successfully scale the ascent and mark your descent. It involves a lot of climbing up and running down slopes, meaning you need to get your legs working double hard.

Many runners can feel the breathlessness creep in as soon as they hit a 10-12 km mark. Enduring all this we have Goa’s Ankita Palekar, who not only clocked an entire 42 km Full Marathon but she also came in first. With an impeccable timing of 3:33:14, Ankita surprised everyone with the stringy gait and undying perseverance. Mobiefit caught up with her in an exclusive tete-a-tete, where she talks about running in the sunny state of Goa and her future plans of testing newer waters.

Since when have you been running and what inspired you to run?

I started running in 2015, which is pretty recent. I was a regular swimmer before, I used to swim daily in the morning for around 45 minutes to 1 hour. One day I came across an article listing the ‘Top 10 Things To Do’ before one turns 25. Running a marathon was one of the points listed and this triggered me to take up long distance running.

What keeps you going on a regular basis? Any particular motivation or person who inspires you?

As a senior software developer, most of my day requires me to be stuck to a computer screen. This is why I strongly feel that desk jobs make it tougher to break out of the lethargy and laziness. I realized this and envisioned a life where I could tackle stress in a healthy manner. About the motivation, most of the time I give myself pep talks on being the best version of myself. Having a strong support system (my father, fellow runners and friends) also helps a lot to take up a sport like running. Initially many felt that this is a passing phase, but after being committed to running for more than 3 years now, people acknowledge me as a runner and send me links to upcoming long distance running events.

Is it difficult to maintain your daily routine with running? What about your work? How does that get affected?

Frankly speaking, yes! Initially, this was a major problem. But then I kept telling myself that “If you don’t want your day to run you over … go for a run!” Running makes me more energetic and kick starts my day. The happiness which I get from doing my early morning workout is equivalent to the happiness which I get after completing my daily tasks. Rather than picking one, I feel that both – running and work- go hand in hand. In fact, I saw great improvement in my work life. Earlier minor work-related issues would bother me. But since I’ve taken up running marathons, it has given me immense confidence and self-esteem to think in a positive way. Marathons are more than just running, they help you discover yourself.

Who is your running icon or inspiration?

As far as Indian runners go, it has to be Milind Soman and long-distance runner Lalita Babar. My current inspiration is Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge. Kipchoge is the only fastest person in the world to finish a full marathon within 2.00.25  – a feat no “normal” runner can achieve.  He not only runs fast but because he never gives up at any point of time. I saw many of the elite runner giving up, especially when they see another person going faster than them. But Kipchoge is a person from a different world I guess.

What has your marathon record been like?

I have participated in quite a few marathons, but these are my achievements:

  • Goa River Marathon December 2016 – Half Marathon – Winner
  • Goa Marathon January 2017 – Half Marathon – 1st Runner-up
  • Bengaluru Marathon October 2017 – Full marathon – 1st Runner Up
  • Goa River Marathon December 2017 – Full Marathon – Winner

Is there a particular marathon that you want to run? What’s your ultimate marathon goal?

Yes, I want to nail the Tata Mumbai Marathon. There are some people who train an entire year just so they can register for TMM.  My current goal is to set a new personal best in the Full Marathon category.

How was your experience running the Goa River Marathon? How did you stay cool given the humidity and terrain in Goa?

It was awesome! Since I have lived in Goa for a good part of my life it wasn’t very strenuous to carry out in the humid environment. But on the marathon day, the temperature was higher than usual and I could feel it as I was nearing the 18 km mark. The organizers did a really good job of setting up water stations every few kilometers, which helped not only me but my fellow runners keep cool in the heat.

The beauty of any marathon is the “runner’s spirit”. A sense of camaraderie seems to prevail over all the participants regardless of their experience and other class distinctions. They could be doctors, engineers, students or IT professionals ( like myself) but when it comes to lending a helping hand, they all do so without any hesitation as they understand the pain of clocking 42 km. Speaking about the terrain, since it was a 42 km marathon we had to complete two whole loops of the same route. There was one particular patch when I reached a 3 km mark which I found to be really taking a toll on me.

How do you prepare and train for marathon days?

I run every week for around 4-5 days and I keep 2 days for my strength and muscle training. The 4-5 days run involves interval training, short runs, long runs, hill runs and sometimes even hitting the beach. Strength training involves yoga, weight training swimming or cycling. As opposed to popular belief weight training is equally important for runners and helps in the long run by preventing unwanted injuries.

What kind of strength workouts do you do? Tell us about your warmups and recovery process.

Strength workouts as I mentioned earlier include yoga and weight training. Most of the times it involves, strengthening my core and glute muscles because they form a large part of the thighs. I also take up swimming or cycling once or twice a month to break away from the monotony of the tarmac.  20-minute warm up and cool down sessions are a must and usually include yoga stretches and knee exercises.

What does your pre- and post-run diet comprise of?

Everyday before going for a run I like to have lemon water as I find it very hydrating. Sometimes I have an orange or a banana or a handful of dry fruits like raisins and almonds. After a run, I replenish my electrolyte levels with a glass of lemon water with added sugar or honey and salt.

Since I am a vegetarian I include lot of green vegetables and fruits in my diet. A week before any marathon I do carb-loading so that I don’t feel fatigue while running. My protein sources mostly include soya chunks, paneer, and any available pulses and cereals.

What are some of the challenges you faced as a runner…especially at the beginning?

For me, the most challenging part was maintaining a steady stamina while running 21 km. Initially, I was unaware of all the strength and muscle training, because of which I would feel tired after completing just 16-17 km. I also did a lot of mistakes like running every day, which one must avoid at all costs. Now at the most, I run 4-5 days in a week so that it does not wear out my tissues and helps in muscle recovery.

Do you run with any clubs or groups?

Nope. Not yet at least. Most of the time you will see me running alone. Although I have a fixed timing for a morning run, there are times that I cannot make it due to work or personal commitments. That’s one of the main reasons I like to run by myself so that no one has to wait for me.

What’s your favorite running location or spot?

Goa is home to some beautiful locations. I prefer places that are are not too steep. In Goa, I would recommend the stretch from Bambolim to Miramar beach via the Goa University. If I do want to run on an incline then I take the Monte Hill in Margao (South Goa). Early mornings are the best time to run because of less vehicular traffic.Oh yeah, and how can I forget the beaches! Beach runs are the best as the wind doesn’t even let you feel how tired you are.

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