“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”
The Bhatti Ultra organized by The Globe Racers every year, is held in Faridabad, at the Asola-Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary. The trail is at once beautiful, brutal and demanding. It’s race categories are truly ultra – 50K, 80K, 100K, 160K, 220K and 24 hrs run – making it a multi-day event.
I heard about this run from my Runbugs buddies during our weekend long runs. At that time, I was training for my first Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. A friend told me he would be running in the 100 km category and checked if I wanted to do “the shorter” 50 km one. Considering that I was training for a HM in Dec and this 50K trail run was only 6 weeks away – it was an outrageous proposition. But then again, I wanted to redeem myself after the 50K DNF at Mt. Pinatubo several years ago (Read Here
). Frankly, for me, this entire redemption angle is always very seductive. Tired of my mind and heart being at war for over a week, I signed up for the race. I took help from friends who know and train better than me to chalk out a training plan to increase my weekly mileage. It included running 10K on alternate week days and a long run on weekends. I was just targeting to finish the run within the official cut off of 8 hours.Of course, the plan was all good on paper, but tough to pull off. To keep running every alternate day in the sultry weather wasn’t easy. Tougher still was to wake up at 3:30 am to do the long runs on weekends, especially during the Diwali season. It was funny to see people wrapping up their Friday night’s cards party as we started our Saturday morning long run. Also, given my love for teen patti, I felt miserable each time I heard my friends discuss variations and spins, losses and wins. But I had to stay focused as I didn’t have the luxury to stray from my plan for even one day. On the brighter side, I met a lot of runners who were also training for Bhatti and got some invaluable advise on how to train injury free, what to eat during the training phase and on race day as well.A few days before the race, I picked up my race kit. At the venue I did get some “are-you-really-doing-a-50K” stares from other runners (mostly men). I tried to sleep early before the race day but was sleepless in bed, thanks to the Diwali party in our society. Every now and then Yo Yo Honey Singh warned “Party Yuhin Chaalegi”, and rightly so. But after over an hour Bolly pollution, I found sleep.
Next morning, I reached the Bhatti trail about 30 mins before the start time. It was pitch dark except a few lit up tents at the start line. The race director pulled me out for not carrying a head lamp. Given the number of injuries leading to DNFs from the previous two days, I understood that her stand was absolutely fair. Thankfully, one of the crew members let me borrow a pocket torchlight and I was allowed to run.As we started off, I made friends with two army doctors who let me run with them along the narrow trail. It is with the aid of their headlamps that I was able to negotiate the treacherous trail. The borrowed torch I had was no match to the trail’s darkness. As we ran in a single file, I thought we were four of us – the two docs, a third guy and myself. Staying true to my nature, I started talking to them as we ran. I noticed the doctors were very quite and figured they were conserving their energy, and only this other runner behind me responded in mono syllables (“hmm”, “haan”) and grunts once in a while. However, at about the 5K mark, even he went quiet. As we ran further ahead from the aid station at 5K, I suddenly realized that there was no “this other runner” behind me. Had he just dropped off from the race so early? But in that case, why would he drop off so silently? Nobody does that! Was he even there to begin with? Or did my confused, over-excited, nervous state of mind just cook him up? I guess I’ll never know. Unreal!!Still totally dark, when I reached the turn around point at 10K, I realized how tough the trail was. It was slippery, rocky, uneven, and grainy. It was no wonder that quite a few runners had had some nasty falls. Nevertheless, I ran another 10K back to the start line. With 20K done, I still felt strong. I was fairly hydrated and well fed. I was trying to enjoy the run but started feeling exhausted and spent by the time I finished 30K. I could not do much to keep myself going or to distract myself and started walking. My legs felt heavy, making me unsteady and I twisted my ankle more than once. I started scolding myself for getting myself in this mess, for straying away from my HM training and taking this up, for letting people talk me into this. “Why am I putting myself through this? What am I really going to get out of this? What will I really achieve at the finish line?” were just some of the many questions on mind, which I had no answers for.
This Q & no A session brought me back to the finish line, marking 40K for me. With another 10K to go, I think I was mildly delirious and was making much noise about how I cannot go on and how ready I am to throw in the towel. That’s when this angel appeared and said “do you want me to pace the last 10K with you?” I had barely said yes and we sped off. Abhishek, I gathered, is a solid distance runner. In fact, just a few hours before he had started pacing me he had finished his own 24 hrs run, completing a whooping 115K!! The fact of it was staggering and humbling that I couldn’t help but run along with him, despite my broken self.I finally reached the finish line in 6 hours 57mins – over an hour ahead of my original targeted finish time.
I was at once exhausted and exhilarated. I felt famished, yet strong. Injured but victorious.