“The greatest pleasure in life is doing what others say you cannot do”.
When I got to know about a trail run being organized by the runners, for the runners, I knew instantly that I wasn’t going to miss it. I decided to register for the 28 km as it’s a fairly decent distance to soak in the scenery, anything less than that and I knew I would miss out on experiencing what I crave for “the state of thoughtlessness”. I started training in Jan and by mid Feb I was feeling strong, running about 35-45km per week.
After discussing with a couple of friends, I changed my mind and registered for the full marathon. Despite doing a 50 km in Oct, last year, I could not imagine how I would run a 42.2 km on March 2nd. While I was still tussling with my decision, someone (a gentleman of course!) ticked me off by asking if I was doing a solo 14 km or a 7 km corporate relay race.
The night before the race I slept very peacefully unlike on most other occasions. I reached the Mangar village trail at Faridabad, 15 mins before the start time and met the usual suspects. Most of them were running the 56 km run. As I started off the run at 6.30 am, I realized we couldn’t have had it any better – beautiful trail, great weather. Since quite a few of the organizers knew I wasn’t fully trained for a full marathon, I got a lot of encouragement from them during the course of the run. Thanks to a friend who ran along, the first 12 km seemed very easy. The next 2 km to the turnaround point (at Damdama Lake) was a steep, difficult downhill – but the view of the lake was breathtaking!
From there on, the climb uphill was killing, and the trail going back felt tougher. The increasing distance and my buddy dropping behind started playing their parts – and the mind games had started. I began considering throwing in the towel at the 28 km mark (which was back at the starting point, from where my remaining 14 km loop started). But as it turned out, I finished 28 km – exhausted but not beaten. I stuffed my belt pouch with dates and raisins and told myself to enjoy the remaining 14 km (to hell with the time!). I also decided to reward myself with a walking break each time I would finish a kilometer.
Good hydration and nutrition are important. Post my first 14 km, I was eating a boiled potato with a pinch of salt and drinking water at every counter. The organizers had adequately stocked the aid stations at every 3.5 km. But the other big factor is what’s going on in your head, when you’re running long distances. You have to talk your mind into running till the finish line and it’s your mind that makes the body obey. (I guess this is my best articulation of what’s goes on post 20+ km).
Since a few weeks before the run, I was going through a phase of blue (actually deep blue!). A phase better described by Stephen Fry as “moments when life seems limitlessly absurd”. But I wanted to come out of this phase and feel stronger. I was running to save myself, I was running to run away, I was running to let go, I was running to be in control, I was running for the change in me. With the wind in my hair, tears in my eyes, and that aching ankle, I saw the finish line. Organizers and runners cheered for me (like they do for everybody) as I approached the finish line. And boy, what a feeling that was! It’s difficult to describe what you go through when you achieve something you always thought was unattainable. By now, my ego had vanished and I was thankful to that someone who thought I couldn’t run beyond 14km. As a friend/mentor later told me it’s an example of where self-belief can take you.
I finished alright at 4 hrs 54 mins (decent for a first full considering it was a trail). But does that really matter? Not one bit! What matters is the positive energy that I derive from these experiences, every single time – and for that I will never hang up my running shoes.
‘Cause I’m on top of the world, ‘ay
I’m on top of the world, ‘ay
Waiting on this for a while now
Paying my dues to the dirt
I’ve been waiting to smile, ‘ay
Been holding it in for a while, ‘ay “top of the world”, Imagine Dragons