Fresh from a marathon is when a runner can really tell you the difference between training and the D-Day, and the extent to which the former impacts the latter. That’s something Dr Aashish Contractor knows all too well, having just completed the gruelling Satara Hill Half Marathon.

Dr. Contractor is a leading preventive cardiologist, and currently the head of Rehab and Sports Medicine at the Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital. His many critical assignments include being part of the team, which treated former prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. Dr. Contractor has also been the Medical Director for the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon from 2004-2014 and the only person in India authorized as Certification Director of the American College of Sports Medicine in India. He is a regular runner, with several marathons to his name – the most recent being Satara in September. He chats with FirstRun on the experience and more.

When did you start running and what do you love about it?
I started running long distance about 18 years ago, when I was a student in the U.S. To be honest, there is no one thing I love most about it. It’s a combination of feeling good, feeling strong, and a sense of achievement that long distance running gives me, in addition to it being positive for my health in a multitude of ways.

You recently participated in the Satara Half Marathon. How was the experience? What were some of the most challenging bits about the course?
It was a super experience. To me, one of the joys of running is preparing for a specific race and making a plan for running it to the best of my ability. It gets especially interesting when the course is a challenging one like the Satara Hills. I had gone to their website and checked out the terrain, so was fairly aware of what I was getting into, but seeing the ‘beast’ of a climb the day before was quite daunting. I think the most challenging part is a 4-km stretch (between kilometres 4 and 8) that is relentlessly uphill with almost no flat stretches to give your legs a breather.

How do you prepare for an upcoming race or marathon?
I analyse the course, and set a goal time for myself, based on my current level of fitness and preparation. After deciding on a rough goal time, I work backwards for about 8-10 weeks and set up a training schedule to be able to hit that goal.

As a sports medicine expert, what are some of your recommendations for beginners who’ve just started running?
Well, firstly, if the goal is to do long distance running, then I would first get medical clearance from a doctor who ‘understands’ running. That is very important; the doctor should understand running and what it involves, without under- or overestimating the challenge. The second step is to evolve a good and sensible training plan, preferably after talking to someone with experience. The third step is to actually stick to that plan, and avoid getting injured (which is sometimes hard). Step 2 and 3 might sound extremely simple, but are often the hardest to implement.

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