On the 18th of January, while some of us were only just waking up from a sweet Sunday reverie, many Mumbaikars took to the streets to participate in the celebrated Mumbai Marathon. We spoke to one such inspiring marathoner, Sparsh Kataria, who finished the 21km half marathon in a fantastic 2hrs and 21 minutes (her best so far!) Here’s what she told us about prepping for that race…

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You are…
Sparsh Kataria, a 33-year-old single mum, born in Delhi and living in Mumbai.

(Apart from running marathons) what do you do?
I work as an advertising professional and also double up as a hair dresser and Zumba instructor off and on.

When did you first decide to participate in the marathon?
I was always in awe of the people who participated in the marathon. So after living in this city, lazing around for a few years, I finally made it a goal to train for the marathon last year.

But why did you choose the marathon and not anything else that would require as much physical endurance?
I chose to run because I find it really exciting – there’s drama, competition, camaraderie and most of all – it has a certain kind of heroism. I can’t dream of being an Olympic champion – running a marathon is as close as I can come to athletic valour.

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What was your training program like – how long, with whom, how often?
I started training last July with a seasoned coach, Giles Drego, who even at the age of 60 runs faster than any of his students! The running group trains about four times a week with one session on an uphill slope, another on the beach (since the soft surfaces are great for your knees), another session of stretching and core strengthening and finally, there’s a long run on Sundays, which no one dare miss!

Obviously eating healthy is a big part of staying fit. What constitutes an ideal pre and post workout meal?
Before a run, I stick to fruits – an apple or a banana – which gives you instant energy and kick-starts your metabolism. Post workout, it’s usually anything that’s high in protein and will help you build muscle.

What has the hardest part about the training/ being committed to a long-term program been?
It’s a layman response but waking up early (since our runs as well as the marathon always starts by 5.30 am) and giving up on your social life and late nights since you’ve got a run in the morning.

Apart from "not waking up on time”, your biggest fear the night before the marathon was...
Cramps! It’s very easy to get cramps while you’re running since your body loses minerals and salts in the form of sweat. Sometimes they get so bad that you just cannot run.

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The 3 most common thoughts that went through your mind while running the marathon...
I have to maintain my target average pace.
I have to drink an adequate amount of fluid (not less, not more.)
I have to make sure I don’t trip and fall since there are way too many runners you have to overtake.

On days that you had to cross-train, you would...
Do a high-energy Zumba or a spinning class.

How was the experience of running this marathon as compared to the others you’ve done so far?
I ran the Airtel Delhi half-marathon in November 2014, which was my very first half-marathon. It was better since Delhi is home ground for me – plus, the wide roads were a boon. Mumbai, on the other hand, already has narrow roads so with so many people running all at once it was a tad difficult, but so many people came out to cheer the runners, so the energy was incredible!

Any one-line wisdom post the marathon?
If you want to win something, run a 200-metre race but if you want to experience something, run a marathon.