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RAMADAN holds a very special meaning and we want to reap the most out of the month-long blessing. Not only do we abstain from food and drinks from dawn to dusk, but we also devote extra time to focus on those in need and improving our relationship with God.
Ramadan is when we most likely reevaluate our priorities. Ideally, running is one aspect of my everyday life that I should tone down during this period. Unfortunately, the Chicago Marathon is only 10 weeks away and like it or not, I cannot afford to scale back on my training, not when there is a goal involved.
Although my running is not going on in full gear this month, it definitely will not come to a temporary halt. Yes, running during Ramadan isn’t easy. Discipline, moderation and dedication are required but, to me, that is what marathons are all about.
The challenges we face during the training months are what make the event meaningful.
ADJUSTING MY SCHEDULE
When is the ideal time to run? That is usually the first question that pops up. Some prefer to run an hour or so before breaking fast. That way they can recharge and replenish right after the workout.
Personally, I prefer to run after iftar as I don’t like to run on an empty stomach. I need to be careful to avoid eating too much and to not run immediately after eating. I usually stay away from heavy meals when I have a run planned later in the evening — a common approach not just during the fasting month.
QUANTITY VERSUS QUALITY
What I have learned from my experience training for New York City Marathon during last year’s Ramadan was that there should be a compromise between quality and quantity.
Anaerobic workouts, like hill repeats and interval training usually leave me physically drained and are not suitable after fasting for up to 14 hours a day, at least for me.
For one month, I will be adopting lighter workouts. I shall focus solely on piling up my weekly mileage, without any speed element thrown in. My aim is to keep running without pushing my body to the limit.
That way I’ll be able to slowly build a strong base mileage and keep my running momentum going, hopefully without significant loss in my strength and stamina.
LISTEN TO MY BODY
One important thing that I have to be extremely careful about is dehydration. The key is to stop immediately once my body starts to show signs that it is running out of “fuel”, like lightheadedness, dizziness and excessive sweating.
This is why I prefer to run after breaking fast, as I can rehydrate before, during and immediately after my run to replace lost fluids.
Sometimes, despite eating the right food and getting proper rest, the very simple fact that our eating routines have changed can cause some irregularities in our system.
The key is to always listen to what our body is telling us. Always be aware of our own body conditions.
RUNNING IN GROUPS
One of the things that I enjoy during Ramadan is getting together with my running friends after tarawih prayers for our long weekend runs, usually around Putrajaya, followed by post-run sahur.
Having friends to run with is a great motivation for me to lace up my shoes late in the evening, something I don’t usually do on a normal day.
Having said that, I always make sure not to be peer-pressured and only join them when my body is up for it. Different people adapt to Ramadan differently and it is okay not to be able to keep up with the rest, or simply say no to group runs when I don’t feel like it.
As we reevaluate our priorities during the holy month, some things will take a back seat and some will go full throttle. As Muslims, there are certain obligations to be fulfilled during this period and these should remain our priority.
How we maximise the month of Ramadan is up to us. If running is getting in the way, then we need to consider giving it a break. As for me, as long as there is balance, I shall keep running.