My 2009 Marathon Experience - The 53 Days Saga  
By Ramana Katragadda - June 1, 2009

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Thanks to my buddy Raja Kolli for reminding me, "Real Men Run Marathons" to whom I respectfully dedicate my 2009 Marathon Experience.

My sincere thanks to John Lococo and Andrew Lococo of for sponsoring me with a comfortable and personalized shirt.

Soccer Fanatic Soccer Fanatic

The 39 days of passionate training with two weeks of anxiety and a fun filled tapering including a 4-days trip to Las Vegas with my family, encouraged by Dr. Prabhakar Tripuraneni's (Chief) compliment that I beat him on Mt. Woodson hike, Praveen Appani's analysis of my training, admiration from my mentor Samuel C. Stewart and Harita Katragadda, dehydration caution from Kartik Katragadda, continuous encouragement and support from my dear friends and the best possible care from Sudha Katragadda enabled me cross the 2009 Rock 'n' Roll marathon finish line yesterday in 3:54 hours.

A total of 13,389 participants completed yesterday's Rock 'n' Roll marathon out of a group of approximately 18,000 to 20,000 participants (Reference: And, I was the 2,117th (top 16%) person to cross the finish line.

The Training

Determined to at least match my 2007 Personal Record (PR) of 3:52 Hours, 54 days ago, I started with the successful test run of 3.125 miles. The following day, I downloaded a 12 weeks training program from the Internet, bought a case of Protein drink, a bunch of G2 bottles and began executing the prescribed schedule from Week 5.

Every run, regardless of the required intensity level and duration, I warmed up for 20 minutes before and at least 10 minutes after each run to prevent any injury. Several days, I woke up at 4:30 AM, to finish the weekday long run comprised of 7 to 9 miles to accommodate 8:00 AM meetings. The training lacked speed and core strength workout and I was quite comfortable with 9:00 minutes per mile pace. At the end of the training, I realized, my endurance level was much higher compared to 2007 and was confident that I would finish stronger while maintaining a uniform pace of 8:30 minutes per mile throughout.

Since I trained solo and during early hours, I ran close to my house on a hilly terrain. 10 days after I began training, on a Sunday, I ran 20 miles right outside of our gate on a 1.5 miles stretch involving a small hill (a total of 13 loops which took me almost 4 hours). A few G2 and water bottles placed near the gate (the center point) and the close proximity of reaching home gave me enough confidence to complete the mileage. And, I never ran beyond 1.75 miles from my home except during the weekend long runs in which I extended the distance to 5 miles to measure my pace.

Below are the two courses I trained on for 2009 Rock 'n' Roll Marathon:

Melrose Drive (1.5 Miles Stretch)
Ramana Katragadda - Smaller Stretch
Four Miles Stretch for weekday runs
Ramana Katragadda - Bigger Stretch

My food consumption was doubled and I stopped drinking Red Wine. Throughout the training program, I learned to start slow and finished every long run strong at 9:00 minutes per mile pace. And, I recited Chief's advise, "Learn to manage your energy for a great marathon", daily, and I expressed it to several of my friends as one of my destructive characteristics with a hope that I would overcome it.

Each night before I went to bed, I watched marathon training and nutirion videos on You Tube for at least 15 minutes and read several blogs to understand the required physiology and efficient ways to complete a marathon on my iPhone. As I entered the tapering period, I realized I needed at least another two weeks of training.

The Marathon

When the gun went off, I began jogging and remembered to maintain a slower pace for at least the first two miles. After a quarter of a mile from the start, I noticed the crowd in the front miraculously cleared up. I began chasing the fast runners without realizing that the slow moving crowd was behind me. I didn't realize my mistake until I read the elapsed time of 47:22 minutes (over 90 seconds faster than the time I covered the same distance in 2007) at 10 Kilometers mark. I was running so fast, my colleague Shigeyuki Shoda couldn't get his iPhone ready after he spotted me at approximately 5 miles marker. And, had I paid attention to the elapsed time at mile markers 1 through 5, I might have reduced my speed.

Ramana Katragadda - Burning Energy

Realizing the problem, I slowed down immediately, joined the pace group with 3:30 hours finish time. Slowed down a few seconds to find and greet Ron Weber standing in the crowd right before the Half Point (13.1 miles). I was happy to greet my friend Hayden Manning as well. The best shot from desperate attemts of Ron and Hayden to capture my run was a waving hand, as I ran in a hury in the anticipation for a water break. Crossed the Half Point in 1:44:57 hours and felt 8:00 minutes per mile pace to be quite comfortable.

At The half point
(Photo by Ron Weber)
Ramana Katragadda - At The Half

Maintaining the proper form, I day dreamed for a few minutes on the prospect of beating my 2007 PR with a hope to reach the finish line under 3:45 hours (actually, under 3:30 hours, the Boston qualifier). In stead of praying God, my EGO started reasoning, "Perfect weather, being hydrated well along the way, great crowd, four Energy Gels in the pocket, family waiting at the finish line, several individuals watching my performance live on the webcast; what could go wrong? Ignore the prayer and enjoy the moment". And, I obliged.

Chewed one energy gel and washed it down with some water while watching 3:30 hours pace group slip by. Running up a small hill, at 15 mile marker, my right foot hit the ground a bit harder and I felt a spike of pain in my knee. Overwhelmed by panic and still maintaining the pace after a brief pause, I decided to assess the damage. Cursing my EGO, walked towards the sidewalk. With an intense prayer touched the knee with my merciful right hand hoping it would instantly heal the damage, in vain. Performed a few basic stretches and the test drive was a success. No pain, but, the fear of its recurrence slowed me down. Crossing over I-5, feeling a bit lonely after losing my desired pace group, I unconsciously increased the pace on a down hill leading to Mission Bay beach while enjoying the cheering crowd. The pain returned at 16.25 miles on a flat ground. Repeated the same stretches for probably a minute and started running again. After a quick calculation, I revised the goal to cross the finish line to be under 4:00 Hours and decided to proceed cautiously. Interestingly, the pain returned every mile there after as if, someone didn't want me beat my PR (after more than 24 hours the pain hasn't returned yet.)

At Mile Marker 20, as the body struggled to pull itself over a bridge, the disappointed EGO began debating whether or not to surrender to the soul. Between mile markers 20 and 21, it struggled with shame in the presence of two fellow Indians who happened to maintain the same stride. Having learned the trick a strech can do, it demanded me to perform another and increase the stride and I obliged. At mile marker 21, it proudly posed for a photo shoot while maintaining the 9:00 minutes per mile pace.

Ramana Katragadda - At Mile 21

The EGO reciprocated to the special attention and cheering by two Indian families at 22.25 miles and another Indian female group of three at mile marker 23. Over the bridge right after mile marker 23, I noticed 3:30 hours on my wrist watch and I found my EGO missing in action. I recalled a sign after mile marker 21, "Mind over Matter". Left Leg's Achilles Tendon reared its ugly head up reminding me Koganti Garu's (a Boston Marathon Finisher) sarcastic laugh, when I sought his advise on a pain free run at Sangeetha's Wedding reception. Another thorough stretch followed by a water break and decided to finish strong without taking further breaks. Pacing at 8:30 minutes per mile and right before mile marker 24, noticed an Asian Woman with the sign, "Run if you are horny". It humored me and thought the sign would have been more appropriate in the first half. As the fear of not finishing strong became "bothersome", at 24.75 miles, I decided to perform one last stretch. I squatted down for a minute with both hands in between legs stretched to the ground and performed the basic stretches.

Got up and quickly reached mile marker 25. The extraordinary cheering crowd helped me overcome the thought of taking another break at 25.5 miles. I crossed the finish line after a quick left into MCRD with an increased pace and a sharp maneuver from tripping over a suddenly fallen woman running a few feet ahead of me with the best form I can possibly have, as captured by Dattu Inampudi in the picture below. I was baffled by the fact that I didn't feel any pain either in my right knee or in my left Achilles Tendon during the final 1.5 miles stretch even though, I ran it with increased pace.

Approaching the Finish Line
(Photo by Dattu Inampudi)
Ramana Katragadda - Approaching The Finish Line

Comparitive Analysis (2009 to 2007)  (Source: Official Results).
Item Year 2009 Year 2007
Runners Toed Off Nearly 20,000 Not Available
Runners Finished 13,389 15,946
Overall Place of Finishers 2,143 of 13,391 (84.00 Percentile) 2,137 of 15,946 (86.60 Percentile)
Male Gender Place of Finishers 1,643 of 6,869 (76.10 Percentile) 1,632 of 7,733 (78.9 Percentile)
45-50 Age Group Place of Finishers 171 of 681 (74.89 Percentile) 208 of 851 (75.56 Percentile)
Finish Time 3:54:33 Hours 3:52:36 Hours
Pace 8:57 Minutes/Mile 8:53 Minutes/Mile
Age Grade 57.9% 57.4%
10 Kilometers 0:47:22 Hours 0:48:54 Hours
13.1 Miles 1:44:57 Hours 1:44:36 Hours
21 Miles 3:02:40 Hours 2:57:26 Hours

The Moment
None of the finishers in the picture below seems to realize they crossed the finish line
(Photo by Rama Krishna Chaitanya Dhanekula) Ramana Katragadda - Crossed The Line
The rejoicing family
(Photo by Unidentified) Ramana Katragadda - Rejoicing Family
My gratitude
(Photo by Rama Krishna Chaitanya Dhanekula) Ramana Katragadda - My Gratitude
Healing hands of Dattu and Praveen - I recovered in 15 Minutes
(Photo by Rama Krishna Chaitanya Dhanekula) Ramana Katragadda - Healing Hands
My returned EGO stares at the shoe and demands another Marathon
(Photo by Rama Krishna Chaitanya Dhanekula)
Ramana Katragadda - Ego Returned
Where is my promised Pizza?
(Photo by Rama Krishna Chaitanya Dhanekula)
Ramana Katragadda - Where is My Pizza?
Raja Kolli in 2007
Raja Kolli

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