Well here is something you don’t encounter every day, is there anyone going through something similar? Islamic marathon training, is there such a thing? Currently, my marathon schedule has me running around 4 times per week; 15-20 miles during the week, and 13+ miles for the long run on the weekend. So, Monday/Tuesday/Thursday would be 6-7 miles each, and a long run on Saturday/Sunday morning. Within the past few weeks, the training has been going smoothly and I’m feeling a little stronger/faster everyday (on average). Its been a hot summer so far. Running in the heat and humidity requires more hydration. Imagine running during these hot days without water or food. Well, I can share my experience.
I converted to Islam back in 2000, when the Ramadan (the lunar month of fasting) was in early winter. I’ll explain. The Islamic year is about 2 weeks shorter than our 365-day year. Every Islamic month is a lunar cycle; about 29 days. So every year, Ramadan shifts back by 2 weeks. Currently, July 20-August 19 is the Ramadan month. As a muslim, I must fast everyday during this month. What does this require? There is no eating or drinking anything for as long as the sun is up. Currently, the NYC summer has 16 hours of sunlight. As of now, the fasting is from 4:15am – 8:20pm (give or take 5-15 minutes due to the dynamics of the sun and earth throughout month). Typically, you wake up before 4am to feast and store food as well as guzzle a few cups of water to get through the next 16 hours. Many go back to sleep or take a nap during the day, but I just stay up, go to work, like any ordinary day. When sunset finally comes, you can break your fast (you have no idea how good that first glass of water feels). Now recall that the summer has 16 hour days, well that leaves 8 hours to eat and sleep. A 6 hour straight sleep is perhaps the most you can get. Having said all this, how am I supposed to run?! If the training is paused for the entire month, will this complicate things? How to proceed?
The Ramadan sunset 5k:
Running at 4:30am right after stuffing my face without being able to hydrate afterwards is not going to work out. Running at 8:30pm right after stuffing my face after a long 18 hour day is not going to work out either. That leaves one option; run right before sunset. Is it possible? Hell yes, for at least for 20 minutes. How did it feel? Although I felt thirstier than usual (obviously), I did feel lighter (no food to digest) and therefore a bit faster. But sadly, you burnout much quicker, every mile feels like 3. Could I run a 5K, 10K? I plan to figure that out this month. Ideally, I’d like to run 3 10Ks per week. But there is no avoiding the long runs on the weekends. For everyday you don’t fast, you have to make up that day. So it looks like I’ll have to make up for 5 Saturdays (its dangerous to attempt a 13+ mile run without food or water during this hot summer). So yesterday, I went out for a Ramadan sunset jog, like a little more than 2 miles. Success! Next week I’ll experiment with attempting a whole 5K.
8 miles @ 8.48 min/mile pace in Central park with the wolf pack. It’s easy to conclude that I run faster with a group or even a race, but certainly not alone. I can’t bear the shame of being left behind by the wolf pack. It would be ideal to maintain that pace throughout the NYC marathon. The difference between 9 min/mile and 10 min/mile is a 4 hour marathon and 4.5 hour marathon; 30 minutes.
Training is tough, fasting is tough, work is tough, life is tough, but I’m going to stick to my 2012 motto: There are no excuses, let’s go!