Rao Tripuraneni, MD, associate medical director and mental health clinician for Kaiser Permanente’s Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group and avid long-distance runner, has a goal of running many, if not all, of the world’s top marathons. However, he soon realized his entry into the London Marathon would become more about his passion for improving the mental health field than it would be about his pace in the 26.2-mile run.
Around the globe, more and more individuals and organizations – including Kaiser Permanente – are stepping up to de-stigmatize mental illness and encourage all who battle the illness to seek help.
Little did Dr. Tripuraneni know when he registered for the London Marathon that Prince William, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge would request the London Marathon officials to dedicate the race to mental health. They dubbed the race the “Mental Health Marathon” and asked that proceeds from the race support a mental health charity, Heads Together, which is a charity founded by the young royals.
Wearing race bib # 60372 and donning the race’s signature “Heads Together” head band, Dr. Tripuraneni was among the 40,000 competitors crossing the starting line on April 23.
“When I completed my application for the London Marathon, it was long ago and I was checking the box on entering the third of six of the world’s major marathons. You can imagine my surprise when, two weeks prior to the race, Prince Harry dedicated the race a ‘Mental Health Marathon,’” Dr. Tripuraneni said.
Dr. Tripuraneni, a child psychiatrist, noted that Prince Harry not only dedicated the race as the Mental Health Marathon and co-founded Heads Together, but that the prince also publicly shared details of his own experience in seeking mental health services. He confessed that the stigma around mental illness had kept him in the past from sharing how he has struggled with grief in the two decades following the death of his mother, Princess Diana.
Dr. Tripuraneni said he wore the blue Heads Together head band with pride.
“As a mental health clinician, I am thrilled that Kaiser Permanente is at the forefront of this effort through media campaigns promoting ‘Find Your Words’ campaign,” Dr.Tripuraneni said.
Dr. Tripuraneni’s race time of 4:28:27, beat his personal record. Through intense training and discipline, he has run seven marathons to date including the New York and Chicago Marathons, which, along with the London Marathon, are among the top six marathons in the world. Berlin, Tokyo and Boston marathons are the other three major races.
Dr. Tripuraneni is a late-bloomer when it comes to marathons or even running: He first competed a short-distance run in 2010, shortly after he joined the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group. His first run was Rockville, Maryland’s Pikes Peak 10K, which was sponsored by Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States in 2010.
“I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Steve Chatlin, who was the co-marshal of Maryland’s Pikes Peak 10K. Dr. Chatlin encouraged Kaiser Permanente Physicians and employees to run,” Tripuraneni said.
After that 10K run in Rockville, Maryland, Dr. Tripuraneni ran his first marathon in 2012, Marine Corps Marathon and has been running ever since. “I will run my next marathon for a mental health charity, as well,” he said.
On Your Mark: Dr. Tripuraneni’s Shares a Few of His Race Day Routine
Dr. Tripuraneni’s race day is typically the culmination of four to five months of training and a repeat of training rituals practiced many times before the race. Training includes practicing how to stay hydrated and proper nutrition.
- Race day starts with a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast and coffee two hours before the race start time; and a banana about 15 minutes before start and 8 to 10 ounces of fluids.
- Dr. Tripuraneni wears a new pair of socks, as well as a new pair of running shoes, which are minimalist shoes with a low (4mm) heel to toe drop are broken in just once prior to the race.
- During a race Dr. Tripuraneni keeps hydrated by drinking about 2 to 3 ounces of water per mile mixed with electrolyte tablets.
- Dr. Tripuraneni also carries energy gels, which he typically takes every 45 min.
- He grabs a few orange slices given by volunteers along the route; and
- Dr. Tripuraneni hydrates and eats based on how he trained for 4 to 5 months in order not to overhydrate, under hydrate or get stomach cramps.
- Dr. Tripuraneni never tries anything new on race day.
For readers who would like to run a marathon, Dr. Tripuraneni says, “Go for it!” Dr. Tripuraneni encourages beginners to join a local running club which will give you motivation, guidance and most importantly the company of other runners.