“We saw runners come together and help each other through every step of the way. This is what the Nike Melbourne Marathon brings out in people,” exclaimed one of the commentators and I couldn’t agree more. The energy at Melbourne’s Cricket Ground was infectious, with thousands of individuals gathered to support runners who took on to the 42.19 km route at the Melbourne Marathon.
View this post on Instagram
With more than 40,000 participants, in a record-breaking moment, this marathon saw professional and amateur athletes from all around the world. Kavitha Reddy and Pooja Shah, two everyday runners from India showed me that consistency, community and a great pair of shoes are the staples to give my running journey a much-needed boost. Witnessing their journey to the Melbourne Marathon has been nothing short of inspiring.
About 15 hours before race day, I joined Reddy and Shah at a park nearby as they were warming up for the marathon. “I prefer doing light stretches and movements a day before the race because my body has already been preparing for this day for months,” shares Shah, who believes that the journey of prepping for race day is just as magical as the day itself.
On achieving goals
Reddy has always credited running for giving her a sense of identity which allowed her to break away from the typical labels society often puts on women like a mother, a homemaker or a wife. A seasoned marathoner, Reddy has won the Six Star Medal after completing the Tokyo Marathon earlier this year, where she achieved her personal best of 3:05. “I was aware of what to expect in terms of the course of the race, and also came prepared for the climate.”
Shah on the other hand, who was running the Melbourne Marathon for the first time completed her marathon training exactly the way she envisioned it, which she believes contributed to her achieving her personal best. “I knew exactly what I was doing and how I was going to perform. It’s good to feel consistently strong throughout every step of the race, especially with my last kilometre being my fastest,” she tells me.
Shah has always been using the first few kilometres of a marathon for warming up and maintaining this pace till the very end. “In this race, I did the same thing and allowed myself to let go of the calculated control at the 40th kilometre and run my heart out towards the end,” she elaborates.
With Reddy finishing at 3:05 and Shah achieving her personal best at 4:12, upping her race time by 18 minutes, the Melbourne Marathon is a challenge the duo completed with success.
Power of community
As a novice runner who hasn’t had the chance to experience the power the community wields, being present amid a supportive and encouraging crowd at the Melbourne Marathon showed me what it’s like to feel motivated and at home with a community in a foreign land. Right from Reddy’s family flying across from the US to show their support, to Shah’s Nike Run Club (NRC) family who met her in Melbourne after years, the marathon was a testament that community is certainly something that fuels a runner; they look out for you despite being strangers and prove that friendships go beyond borders.
“When people pursue a sport as a passion rather than a competition, we’ve always witnessed sportsmanship,” says Reddy.“Throughout these 42 kilometres, the energy I experienced from runners around me and even the bystanders was a certain catalyst in my journey,” reveals Reddy.
Shah credits the NRC community for supporting her. This running community recognises what you’ve worked hard for and how you have achieved your goals,” explains Shah.
Gear makes a difference
Both Reddy and Shah unanimously agree about the importance of choosing the right running gear for a marathon, especially footwear. “I’m someone who takes much longer to break into shoes. I prefer racing in shoes that I’ve worn and trained in all season,” Shah explains while adding: “It’s like the shoes have the memory of training all season.” Shah chose to race in her Pegasus 37s since she trained in them since January. For her, achieving her personal best by 18 minutes could certainly be credited to these since it has been a trusted shoe for most marathon runners with its impact-absorbing foam that works so well in long-distance runs. Considering how well they contribute to stability, Shah saw the difference they made when she picked up her pace in the 40th kilometre.
On the contrary, Reddy always prefers breaking into new shoes when she runs a new marathon. Every time she breaks into new shoes, she tracks how well they help her perform meticulously.“I believe newer shoes always have a certain bounce, which contributes to improving my performance,” she reveals. Reddy chose Nike VaporFlys for the Melbourne Marathon for their speed assistance, stability and cushioning.
They did it!
Being around Reddy and Shah wasn’t just inspiring but also comforting in the sense that these two women showed me that it’s possible to simply up my running game. Having multiple roles to fulfil in our daily lives can prove to be overwhelming, but they showed me that with the support of their running community, the right pair of shoes and making sport a daily habit makes it achievable.
I took away that running isn’t just a boon for your body and your mind; it also fulfils your soul.