Vegan Marathoner, Rohit Gokarn, finished the 42km race at the world highest Ladakh Marathon on 8 September 2019. In this interview, he shared details about how he prepared for the hi-altitude race and shared some pointers.
How and when did you decide to participate in this run?
I’ve been running full marathons since 2012. I watched a show on TV called Marathon Man featuring Milind Soman and got inspired. I did my first Ladakh Marathon in 2017. It was beautiful. This year also I wanted to participate. Anybody can run a marathon with the right training. That’s what I tell my running clients.
What kind of preps did you do before the marathon?
I did about 30 minutes of stretching–neck, shoulders and the rest of the body. Also, on 5 September, I did a slow-run of about 3km on Manali Highway.
How did you acclimatize yourself for the run?
My run was on 8 September 2019. I arrived in Leh on 2 September–that’s 6 days in advance to acclimatize. For the initial 2-3 days, it’s advised to stay indoors and not get out. This is critical for runner who wants to do well at such a high-altitude endurance event.
Are you on any special diet before the run?
I’ve been on a plant-based diet since October 2016. It’s amazing how fast my body recovers from long runs since I’ve quit eating meat, fish and dairy. Just a few days before the run, I tried avoiding oily, processed food. And I haven’t had refined sugar for a month or so. I also had apricots and bananas.
Did you have any regular food as well?
Yes, we went to the Leh market and enjoyed veganized versions of local dishes Thukpa and Themthuk. Also an occasional black coffee, though I’m off coffee now. Before the marathon, I stayed away from oil and salt in my food altogether.
I was staying in a hostel, and for breakfast, I ate aloo parathas for breakfast on most days. Also included was a water-based oats banana porridge, and ginger lemon tea. (all made without butter, milk and sugar).
For lunch, on most days prior to the race, I had smoothies and salad bowls. I also enjoyed a meal at a vegan café, Bodhi greens, just before the marathon.
And after the marathon, I treated myself with rich and spicy foods like chana masala, kaju curry masala, roti, rice and dal.
What did you eat during the run?
At the aid stations, I ate a banana, 5 local dates, a small apple and thrice I licked a pinch of salt to hydrate. I drank around a litre of water throughout.
What was the toughest part about the Ladakh Marathon experience?
The altitude was high–11,000 ft. Ladakh is the highest marathon in the world. Also, the last 5km of the run were uphill, which was quite challenging.
What were the other factors that made the run more challenging?
The run starts at 6am. As the hours go by, the sun gets a bit harsh. Sunglasses and a cap are recommended.
Dos & Don’ts Prior To High-Altitude Marathons
DO NOT LIST
- No Salt
- No Oil
- Travel a lot
- Sleep/rest a lot in the initial days to help acclimatize
- Light Stretching
- Slow Running
- Try to run after 3-4 days to understand the difference of running at an altitude.
- Stay hydrated and carbed up.
Run the race at a slow and comfortable pace. Do not push yourself too hard else your finish time will be 30 mins- 1hour later than usual.
Rohit Gokarn’s Event Specs
Running Time: 05:54:12
Distance Run: 42.1km
Average Pace 08:23
Average Speed 7.15kmph
IMAGES COURTESY: Rohit Gokarn / Ladakh Marathon 2019