Interview With 3:11 Berlin Marathon racer Krishna Sirothia

On Sunday, 29th September 2019, Team Motiv8 athlete Krishna Sirothia had the race of his life when he clocked a fast 3:11 at the Berlin Marathon.

Motiv8 Coaching founder and head coach Atul Godbole talks to Krishna about his journey to this milestone.

Atul Godbole (AG): Your previous personal best time was 3:24, now you have clocked 3:11 at Berlin – that’s a huge jump of 13 minutes, you must be elated! How do you feel?

Krishna Sirothia (KS): The feeling is great, I worked hard for it and result makes me immensely happy. When I was nearing the finish line and I realized that I would be finishing around 03:11, I was so ecstatic that I started to cry after crossing the finish line as this was a big jump from my previous best timing for a marathon.

AG: After a certain point, its not easy to get PBs, certainly not such huge ones. Do you feel this is true, and if so, how did you defy this?

KS: Yes it is true that after a certain point, once you are near to your best, it gets very difficult to reduce even a single minute. After that for any improvement, individual has to take care of other factors (Strength, rest, recovery, diet, overall fitness etc) along with proper training based on the goal. And to defy this, I worked on these other factors as well along with the proper execution of training plan.

AG: Can you give an example of how you approached these other factors?

KS: I did some changes to my diet, increased my protein intake for good recovery post workout (being a pure veggie it gets difficult at times). Added good carbohydrates sources to my diet as carbohydrate provide fuel and energy for working muscles. They also prevent protein from being used as an energy source. Worked hard to improve my core strength and reduced the body weight by 4-5 KG, body fat percentage with 4-5% and increased the muscle mass.

AG: Was Berlin your first World Marathon Major? What was the experience like?

KS: Yes, it was my first World Marathon Major. The experience was amazing with so many runners from different countries landed in the city to run a marathon. The streets and hotels were full of runners from different part of the world.

AG: When and why did you decide to do Berlin?

KS: I decided to race the Berlin in 2018 – I tried my luck via lottery which opens immediately after the event, for next year. I wasn’t lucky enough to get the entry through the lottery and then decided to register myself via a tour operator.

AG: How was this race different than Indian races like TMM?

KS: The race was huge and perfectly managed even with 47,000+ participants running in different waves. The energy level was very high. Overall it was a wonderful experience. TMM one of the best in country, doesn’t have this amount of participation in the full marathon distance.

AG: We changed the training strategy and training plan for this training cycle? Can you mention some of the changes?

KS: The weekly mileage was increased. Warm-up and cool down run distances were increased to build up the weekly mileage. Tuesdays were reserved for Intervals and hill repeats, Wednesday were for easy runs, Thursday were the most difficult workouts with training runs at marathon pace, Saturday again was easy runs and Sunday’s were for alternating between easy runs and aerobic pace runs but with reduced pace intensity.

AG: Obviously the plan worked! But did you like this plan? Or did you prefer the older plan?

KS: The plan worked perfectly. During the beginning I was little bit skeptical as Sunday long runs were not with marathon pace which we were doing with the earlier training plan, so I was having an element of doubt in the beginning if I would be able to maintain the desired pace for a FM with this plan. But within a few weeks, the confidence with the plan grew in leaps and bounds and it has helped me to achieve my personal best. Personally I would prefer this new plan in comparison to the old plan which we were following before Berlin training. A big thank you to you for the training plan.

AG: How did your training go? Were you able to hit the desired paces?

KS: The training went well, not a single workout was missed and I followed the training plan diligently. During the start of the training, Thursday runs were difficult and it took around 3-4 weeks for me to get into the groove then all went well and I was able to hit the desired paces without feeling fatigued at the end of the workout or during the next training run.

AG: Obviously, everybody has 1-2 failed workouts during the training. Did these bother you? How did you approach such workouts?

KS: I had couple of bad workouts during initial phase of the training which is quite normal I believe. I just did a review what went wrong and shifted my focus to next workout. As I was training along with Vishwas, we discussed and followed the strategy to focus only on the next run, get it done and move to the next workout.

AG: Coming into race week, what was your mental and physical makeup like? Did you feel you were mentally and physically ready to tackle the race?

KS: During race week, I was feeling relaxed and confident, backed up with my 14 week of training which went well. I felt ready to tackle the race both mentally and physically and was determined to give my best.

AG: Moving forward to race day….foreign races always start much later in the day compared to Indian races. What time did your race start and did
that present any problems?

KS: I was in section C and my race started at 9:15 am. Late start doesn’t affected me in any way as this is a winter time in Berlin and weather remains pleasant and cold throughout the day. Late start means we were able to get a good night sleep during the previous night of race day which doesn’t happen here in Indian races.

AG: It was raining the entire time on race day. How much if any did it affect you personally?

KS: Weather was not very good this time on the race day. It wasn’t that bad during the initial hour, however around 11 am local time which was around 1 and half hour into the race, light drizzle started which got heavy along with lot of headwinds during the last hour of the race and made it slightly difficult in the end.

AG: How did the race unfold? Were you able to stick to your paces? How hard did it get later on?

KS: The first half was very comfortable which gave me confidence for the 2nd half as I wasn’t feeling heavy on my legs. I didn’t push a lot in the beginning and maintained the target pace for every kilometer and matched the target time as given by coach for every 5km. I planned the nutrition and hydration for the entire race, one day before and consumed total 4 gels, 1 each at every 8km mark. 4 salt tablets, 1 each at every 10km mark and took a small sip of water, (though not thirsty because of the weather) every km to keep myself sufficiently hydrated. Proper plan and hydration/nutrition helped me to keep going strong till the end.

Nutrition/hydration, controlled pace during the first half is the key to build your 2nd half. If not planned properly, it is going to screw your 2nd half. A minute saved during the initial half by running fast from your target pace will certainly going to strip 3-4 minutes in 2nd half.

AG: Did you use any mental tricks during the race?

KS: This time I was very determined to not lose the plot after 30km which generally happens in a marathon, you tend to slow down, your pace drops significantly and suddenly you realize that you are off target by 10-12 minutes. To overcome this, I divided the race into a segment of 5km each and constantly telling and asking myself to not run fast, maintain the target pace and telling self that only 5kms to go, 4kms to go for race to finish and so on and then repeating the cycle for next 5kms. This mental trick worked perfectly for me and I was able to maintain the consistent pace and laps throughout the race, of course which isn’t possible without the hard work which we all have to put in during the entire training cycle. No substitute to that .

AG: What are your thoughts about Boston Qualification? The BQ time for you was 3:10. Did you try to make this time at Berlin?

KS: Boston qualification for amateur runners like us is a big landmark and certainly requires lot of discipline, continuous hard work, lot of efforts and both physical and mental strength from an individual over a continuous period of time. Personally I have immense respect for the athletes who ever has qualified for the Boston as I have seen their journey and hard work from close quarters which has motivated me enough to set a goal for myself (I am talking about the runners from Pune as I know them personally). For Berlin, BQ was in my mind, the plan was to maintain the target pace throughout and to give it a go in the end to finish in little under 3:10 or near to this mark to get the required confidence to qualify for Boston.

AG: When did you know that you will not make 3:10 ? And how did you react to this realization?

KS: Till 37th km mark 3:10 was in sight and in my mind, however for next 3 km, I wasn’t able to push much and only able to maintain the target pace and then I realized that I will not be able to finish in 03:10 which is a minimum qualification mark for my age group. 3:10 won’t give you the guaranteed entry as cut-off closes around 2 minutes earlier than 3:10. This isn’t bothered me much during the last section of the race and I tried to push as much as I can to finish near to the cut-off time and then come back stronger for upcoming races to crack this milestone with adequate buffer time to allow me to go through the qualification criteria.

AG: What do you feel about the BQ being just 2 minutes away now. Is that something that you allow yourself to get too bothered with?

KS: This race has given me immense confidence in my capabilities and BQ being just 2 minutes away, I am feeling more confident now to crack this milestone. This won’t bother me as I am confident now that BQ qualification is going to happen sooner or later.

AG: Whats the single most important thing that you feel helped during a) training b) race day

KS: During the training, the single most important thing which I feel helped is training along with you, Kavitha and Vishwas. Running alone, at times, it gets difficult for me to execute the training runs perfectly especially the hard ones. I am training along with Vishwas from last 3 years and he being a top athlete and performer, always helps me to improve. Kavitha for always being a motivating factor during my running journey in last 2-3 years with her race performances and continuous hard work to achieve the goals race after race.

AG: Whats next on the plate for you? Which race?

KS: Next I will be training for Tata Mumbai Marathon which is scheduled for 19th of January.


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