To Boston And Beyond: The Making Of A Champion Runner

Kavitha Reddy is a well-known and respected runner in the Indian running scene, having won many podiums and accolades in the Indian running circuit. Most recently, she turned in a smashing run at this year’s (2018) Boston Marathon, having raced the course in a time of 3:34.

This year’s Boston Marathon became infamous for the worst weather conditions in recent history – runner’s encountered the coldest conditions in two decades and had to face rain, winds and snow, along with low visibility.

It is said that when things get tough, the tough get going! And Kavitha certainly proved how tough she is by tackling the tricky course and adverse weather conditions with her characteristic fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude, clocking a time on 3:34 – 3rd best overall among the 26 strong Indian contingent, and the fastest overall from Pune.

In this freewheeling interview, her coach Atul Godbole asks her questions about her journey as a runner to Boston and beyond…

Atul Godbole (AG): When did you first learn of the Boston marathon? When did you decide that one day you wanted to qualify and run the Boston marathon?

Kavitha Reddy (KR): Back in 2014, when I started running, someone commented on one of my posts that you can BQ (Boston Qualify) soon. At that time, I had no knowledge of any running terminology. I did not know what BQ was, so I googled it but never thought seriously of it at that time.

AG: Why did you decide to work with a coach? How did your training change after that?

In 2015, I ran the Bengalaru marathon (my 3rd full marathon) and clocked my first sub-4 time of 3:53. It was then that I took seriously the possibility of getting a BQ. I also realized that to further improve and achieve that target, I would need to train in a more structured and scientific way and get some personalized coaching.

Though I had run 2 full marathons earlier, I never had any fixed workouts and paces for my runs. I just ran at my comfortable pace. After starting the coaching program, there was much more structure and variety in the workouts as well as pace guidance and other details to each workout which were not there before. That has helped a lot.

AG: How long did it take for you to qualify for Boston from that point?

KR: I joined Atul’s Motiv8 Coaching immediately after the Bengalaru Marathon, in November 2015. I then raced the Mumbai Marathon in January 2016 in a time of 3:48, and then decided to do the Amsterdam Marathon in October 2016. It was at this race that I BQ’ed. The qualification time for my age group was 3:45 and I clocked 3:38. (AG: Usually, due to large number of qualifiers from all over the world, the actual cut-off time to get an entry is 2-4 minutes below the qualification time, so this time gave her more than enough margin to easily get an actual entry).

AG: Were they setbacks in your journey to qualification? How did you tackle them?

KR: Yes, everybody has setbacks. I have had bad workouts every now and then. I also had a couple of bad races in the lead up to Amsterdam Marathon. But I kept talking to coach, informing him on the same day and get some advice from him and he has always boosted my confidence to come back stronger the next time.

One major blow in the lead up to Amsterdam marathon was that I fell down while running and fractured my hand. I had no choice but to continue training with my hand in a cast. The cast only came off a week before the race!

AG: Were you ever injured? How did you tackle injuries?

KR: Yes, every runner gets injured sooner or later, its a matter of how you tackle those injuries. Since I have been training with a structured plan, luckily, I have not had any major injuries. Only once back in December 2014 I had Achilles tendonitis, but it didn’t keep me away from running for too long. I am more careful after that and any indication that my body is giving, I take care of it and don’t do anything silly that may aggravate and always listened to my body .

AG: Did you feel a void when the long held dream of qualification was achieved? How did you keep the fire burning?

KR: No, I never felt a void. I always keep giving myself higher and higher goals. So, that helped me to maintain my focus and keep training hard.

AG: In between the qualification race (Amsterdam) and the Boston race, you did another iconic race – the New York Marathon? How did the training for it and the actual race go?

KR: I decided to run the majors (AG: She is referring to the World Marathon Majors – a circuit of 6 iconic races from around the world – New York Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Boston Marathon, London Marathon, Berlin Marathon and Tokyo Marathon) only after my BQ. Luckily, my husband Deepak’s office recommended my entry via TCS (AG: TCS is the title sponsor for NYC Marathon) and it got accepted.

The training for NYC started sometime in July. It went pretty well and I could clock a time of 3:33, a PB (personal best) by 5 minutes. (AG: NYC Marathon is a challenging course with plenty of hills and climbs and cold windy conditions).

AG: How was training in the lead up to the Boston race? Did you do anything special?

KR: After NYC in Nov 2017, coach gave me some recovery time and slowly built up my mileage till Mumbai Marathon where I did a half. The actual Boston specific training cycle started after this.

For Boston, coach added some more mileage and tweaked the workouts to make me stronger to tackle the Boston route profile. He prescribed rolling routes for my training runs. I did my tempos on rolling roads, included some hills in the second half of my long runs and also did some fast finish long runs.

AG: What was your weekly training regimen like, and how did you ensure adequate recovery? Any specific measures to aid recovery?

KR: My weekly routine is fixed: 5 days of running, one day of CrossFit (I do it on a running day after my short run), 3 days of body weight training (usually after my runs) and one weekly strength training session with Team Motiv8.

I am consistent in my workouts, and over a period of time has made me stronger so that I recover faster after hard workouts. Icing and good stretching after workouts will definitely help , but I must admit, I do get a bit lax when it comes to stretching 😊.

AG: The weather was predicated to be adverse on Boston race day and sure enough it was very cold, rainy and windy! What thoughts were going through your mind as you woke up on race day and prepared yourself for the start line?

KR:It was a nightmare! The weather was terrible and I could hear the cold wind howling, even inside the bus. To make matters worse, it was raining & snowing and this was not something that I was prepared for at all. I truly started getting very depressed & doubted if I could run in such conditions. I started thinking that all the hard work of the past 3 months would come to nothing.

On reaching the race venue I saw many runners in the bus dress up for the race by adding layers of clothing. This was confusing me as I was not sure whether to run in light clothing as usual, or add more warm layers. I finally just followed the herd and added some more layers of clothing.

So here I was, for my most awaited marathon dressed up more like an Eskimo, than a runner! My paraphernalia included hand warmers, 3 layers of clothing tights and a plastic wrap on top. Anyway, thank god that I did that as I almost froze to the bone, despite all this clothing, when I stepped out of the bus.

AG: Sounds terrible! So, how did the race go?

KR: I thought to myself that all runners are facing the same conditions, so if I can make my mind stronger, I can deal with this thing! Nevertheless, I started the race with doubts playing in my mind. Eventually I got into a rhythm and regained some confidence.

I kept thinking of all the encouraging messages that I got from friends & family before the race & I felt a sudden surge of divine energy inside me. I renewed my resolve to fight it out and take on the upcoming heart break hills strongly. (AG: The Boston Marathon course is a tricky one, it has a net elevation drop, most of the first half of the course is an oh-so-gentle downhill, which pounds your quads to a pulp with all the eccentric loading. At just the inopportune time, in the last 10 kms, the course has a series of hills, the most famous of which are the Newton and the Heartbreak hills, the latter one so called because this hill is where the time-targets and goals for the majority of runners slip away into thin air).

AG: Any pitfalls or surprises on race day, apart from the weather?

KR: Another challenging thing was that visibility was poor because of the rain and the large number of runners. But in the end, I just surprised myself by fighting it out bravely till the end and finished with a smile and great pride!

AG: How did you feel at the finish?

KR: The finish line was filled with a variety of emotions: the physical pain of running a 42k, the pain of fighting through the tough weather conditions, the pain of loneliness (unlike Indian races, I did not see any of our friends and family), the relief that finally it’s over and that it was all worth it.

AG. Would you say that the Boston Marathon lived upto its hype?

KR:Yes, its an iconic marathon for all amateur runners. The years of hard work that’s required so that you get a chance to toe the start line is worth it. As I entered the expo , the crowd and the whole atmosphere makes you feel so proud to be there. The number of volunteers who help to allow you to race your dream run is just incredible. They make you feel so special and so warm at every point. I learnt that every year people are on a wait list to volunteer for the race.


AG: What sacrifices did you have to make in this journey?

KR: I don’t think I have made many sacrifices to achieve this. The only and most difficult one was missing mornings with my family. But I am very lucky that I do not have a very demanding family and they supported me endlessly in my journey and eventually I learnt to balance it out.

AG: What sort of diet and nutrition did you keep during your training?

KR: Unless we take good care of nutrition, we don’t see any drastic improvement in running. I try to eat well and at regular intervals, a mix of all (protein, carbs, fats & vitamins). I almost stopped all sugar intake and have alternatives like jaggeery. I also eat fruits and nuts.

AG: What next? What are some of your short term and long term goals?

KR: Berlin 2018 is in the pipeline. I plan to complete all the 6 marathon majors in my set time limit and then think of goals beyond that, maybe run Comrades.

AG: In this journey what was: a. The easiest thing. b: The most difficult thing.

KR: The easiest was dreaming to run the Boston. The toughest was everything from training, working out logistics, making my dear husband pay for all my madness and finally running on race day under the toughest the weather conditions I have encountered. In all it’s all worth it!

AG: In training and racing, what is your:  a. Most favorite thing. b. Least favorite thing.

KR: My favorite thing about training is the Sunday long runs and spending the morning with all my fellow runner friends.  My least favorite thing is hill training. (AG: She is referring to the hill repeats workout that Team Motiv8 does every now and then).

AG: Thanks Kavitha for your time, and enjoy your post-race down time and vacation! Plenty more to achieve in the coming time!


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