The Power of Intent

Anuradha is a passionate runner and a mother of two young men. She ran 13 full marathons in 2013! This article has been written by her and edited by me.

Marathon in Antarctica

A dream come true through the sheer power of intent.

A few years ago a runner couple mentioned that they were doing the Antarctica marathon. Oh! What better way to see and be in Antarctica than through the legs of a runner. Someday, I will do it was what I said to myself! Never knew that the day was so close then…

The run is organized by Marathon Tours and Travels headed by Thom Gilligan based out of Boston (the Indian counterpart being Active Holidays). This race is usually sold out for 3 years and if there is a drop out, a runner might be accommodated. My friends registered for the marathon. And their registrations got confirmed due to drop outs. For my part, I was a little hesitant as my son’s wedding was on the cards. This was in March 2014. But my hubby insisted that I register and we will work around the wedding dates. And so I did! It took a few months to get a confirmation but I did. It seemed I was destined to do it.11088614_10153315537915039_904403937200494343_o11025209_10153315523020039_9218162340400167190_o

The date for the marathon is usually kept tentative because of the completely erratic weather patterns. In fact, one of the years the runners could not run on land as the weather was terrible and the poor souls had to finish the marathon on the ship!

I left for Buenos Aires on March 1st and had just about finished with the wedding of my son. My training for the most difficult marathon was nowhere close to the others’ because of the wedding preparations. I started training on Feb 10th, 15 days in all, and somehow, there I was – very confident, with grit and determination on the plane to Buenos Aires.1799154_10153315527850039_7949318006057876458_o

When we arrived, we met around 200 runners from different parts of the world. Thom Gilligan from Marathon tours gave us a presentation on how the marathon would be conducted. Did a city tour of Buenos Aires and also loosened up with a training run for 2 days. We boarded the 3hr flight to Ushuaia, the southern most tip of Argentina to embark on the ship Akademik Ioffe. I set on sail with child like happiness and excitement into the unchartered waters. We were warned about the notorious Drake Passage, one of the roughest in the world. Out of the 95 runners on our ship, 90 of us were throwing our guts out. The ship sometime rose about 30 ft twirling and twisting around us.10658514_10153315517720039_2489991920472314664_o 10394475_10153315521865039_2212295876146750238_n

As we approached our destination on the 8th – King George’s Island,, all we could see was snow-capped mountains, the penguins and the seals. The temperatures were in the negative and the wind was excruciatingly cold. But the whole landscape appeared as a postcard….unparalleled beauty….no words to describe the feeling on being at the end of the world. ….the great Master and his strokes….unbelievable!11022410_10153315530620039_8392227534056342595_o

So pristine is this land that you have to bio wash your shoes every time you set foot on the continent to avoid introducing new organisms. I discovered that on our acclimatization trip aboard the zodiacs (or boats) that carry you to the shore. Greeted by thousands of penguins waddling on the ice, the sea lions lazing out in the sun, I felt a stranger on their land!

In the evening, we were given instructions about the race. I had Butterflies in my tummy as the information poured in. Packed and re-packed that night for the race not knowing how many layers I would need. No gels are allowed in plastic wrappers which means that you can put gel in plastic bottles. You carry your own water in bottles marked with your name on it. No food is allowed on the continent. I could barely sleep, had 4 layers of winter clothing on top and 3 layers below. Had to wear the other waterproof gear on top of that. On the zodiac, we reached the Island at 7:30am. The wind and wind chill was so bad that wearing running shoes itself was a big challenge. Posed for pics at the start line with the Indian flag and I was beaming with pride of being an Indian.

Since it had snowed heavily the previous night, the loop was cut short to 7kms. On the run, the landscape consisted of the scientific bases of Chile, Argentina, China and Russia, a church dotting the white pristine landscape, the blue waters to one side and the ice capped mountains forming a backdrop. Slush, snow, ice, and plenty of pebbles was how the trail was. The inclines were never ending. I could feel the pebbles despite the two thick layers of socks. We had to stop running in case a penguin crossed. The first loop of

7kms was good but I was not really in my form or comfort level. Things didn’t get better in the second loop and I knew I was still struggling. The wind was so harsh that I was unable to gain any momentum. I knew now that this was not my day. Runners cheered one another. The organisers were on their ATVs cheering. But this struggle was yours alone.

Post the third loop, halfway through, I was told that I was 8 min beyond the cut off. I was trying to give everything I could but there was no energy to push probably because of the past few days on the ship. I told myself that I would just keep going at it with the hope of the second wind. But there was none today….I was exhausted. 5th loop, I thought it would be my first DNF. I felt miserable to have travelled to the end of the world to get a possible DNF. As my mind struggled with these feelings, my soul refused to quit….I was a runner….Tears welled up in my eyes and froze half way through. I grew weaker in my knees.

I looked up into the sky for strength. Now it was snowing, the wind was less harsh. Suddenly I made peace with myself and came to terms that it was ok to get a DNF. I felt stronger. I pushed and pushed, made my way through the slippery slush, the icy incline and the rough pebbles. I was ready to face anything but wouldn’t give up till the end… I told myself that I was blessed to be running in Antarctica and not miss on the joy of being there. Despite the exhaustion, the beauty around was still mesmerising.10014951_10153315536420039_7124087887646774824_o (1)

Finally I made it to the finish line in 6:55 min with tears of joy rolling down. 6:30 was the cut off time. But since the weather was holding good and we runners looked reasonably strong, we were given the extra time. I could not believe that I had finished one of the toughest races on earth…..the picturesque Antarctica…A dream finally come true!

Antarctica and running a marathon there… made me realize one more time how tiny we and our lives are on this planet. The harshness of the weather and terrain made me more humble than before. The ice bergs, the ice cap, the blue seas, the wild life, the stunning beauty around and running amidst all this wilderness will be unforgettable forever.

By the next day, I recovered from the marathon. As the saying goes…Pain is only temporary… The wonders of human body…I was on cloud nine with my physical medal and my soul with the wonderful experience that could only be dreamt of!

We did many day trips in the days after the marathon and got to see the wild life in close quarters. The life of penguins fascinated me. Went on zodiacs on icy waters with humpback whales swimming next to us. One strike and we would be in the waters. A playful seal entertained us by going below our zodiac and popping up every few minutes. Ice bergs of all sizes and shapes mesmerized me. The blue, the green, the aqua color of the icebergs have to be seen to be believed. The storms in the sea, the gale, choppy waters was an adventure of a lifetime.11080719_10153315528985039_7751808498746163867_o

The conversation with runners from different parts of the world added more zest to the trip. With 70 percent of the world’s fresh water in Antarctica and the impact of the slowly disappearing ice caps makes you realize how important it is to keep Antarctica away from global warming.

As they say…. The journey is always more important than the destination…..So has it been for me….The marathon was just an excuse to see Antarctica….And I got to see one of the most beautiful and incredible places on this earth and no matter how much I write, no words can do justice to it.11080867_10153315539035039_2098119580369120432_o

30 Comments

  • Ravi Kamat October 16, 2015 at 8:24 am

    It was an experience to just read your blog! Can imagine what you would have felt then!

    Hats off to your amazing grit n determination. People like you prove that nothing is impossible.

    You have our deepest admiration.

    Regards

    Ravi

    Reply
    • Neha October 16, 2015 at 8:58 am

      I am full of tears after reading this… & it gave me courage to follow my travel plans on priority as experience is important.

      Really Nice!!! Could lived a glimpse of Antarctica from you words… Really amazed!! Nice….

      Reply
      • Anu October 16, 2015 at 9:37 am

        Thank u Neha… U too can achieve your dreams… If I can so can u …Wishing u all the very best!!!

        Reply
    • Anu October 16, 2015 at 9:34 am

      Thank u so much Ravi…
      Even to this day.,. The whole experience is surreal
      Yes… Anything is possible with a good intent, supportive family n friends n a special blessing from above

      Reply
  • Parul October 16, 2015 at 8:46 am

    So inspiring! Loved this article

    Reply
  • Durga October 16, 2015 at 8:48 am

    No words to say anu..it is so grt n very proud of u …
    While reading this I came to know ur real achievement of urself as an Indian n a grt runner…the body n mind worked together with high auto energitical levels of determination n devotion of graceful suggestions….may God be with u always..

    Reply
  • Jasmin October 16, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Anu – This is a very beautifully written and motivational article. It is helfpul as I read it to help me prepare in my final days of training for the NYC marathon. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Anu October 16, 2015 at 9:39 am

      Thank u Durga… These experience make u so much humbler n yes there is always Divine intervention!

      Reply
    • Anu October 16, 2015 at 9:40 am

      Thank u Jasmin…wish u all the very best for Nyc. I dream to do it one day!
      I am glad I could inspire u!!!

      Reply
  • Anu October 16, 2015 at 9:41 am

    Thank u Parul!

    Reply
  • Sunita October 16, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Very well written blog Anu. Relived the experience. It is an unforgettable experience.

    Reply
    • Anu October 18, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      Sunita… Without you… There would not have been this trip… Thank u for being such a big part of it

      Reply
  • Vamsidhar Pothula October 16, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    It was an amazing feeling reading and visualising your adventurous experience …can imagine your sense of self actualisation.. U feeling on top of the world. It’s indeed a dream come true.. One day, I wish I can dare to dream and emulate your grit and determination to achieve such a marvellous feat. U make us proud as a fellow Indian.

    U are a real inspiration.. Kudos to you.

    Reply
    • Anu October 18, 2015 at 2:10 pm

      Thank u so much Vamsidhar!!!

      Reply
  • Ayesha October 16, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    The Power of Intent aptly describes the mesmerizing journey. Thanks for putting this together ‘Anu’priya and ‘Anu’radha 🙂

    Reply
    • Anu October 16, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Thank u Ayesha!!!

      Reply
  • Chaitanya October 16, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Amazing and Inspiring, to put it simply…..thank you for making us face our fears through your post!

    Reply
    • Anu October 17, 2015 at 9:41 pm

      Thank u Chaitanya!

      Reply
  • Taposh Biswas October 16, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Incredible feet. God helps those who have the positive attitude and happy within.
    Great achievement. Your story is inspiration for all.

    Reply
    • Anu October 17, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      Thank you so much… I am really very happy that I am able to inspire many… Thank u Anupriya for getting presenting my experience out so well!!

      Reply
  • Sai Alluru October 16, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    “Suddenly I made peace with myself and came to terms that it was ok to get a DNF..” Just the moment when Heaven falls on earth .. nothing more beautiful that making peace with oneself and start living the moment.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and allowing us to live the moment.

    Sai

    Reply
    • Anu October 17, 2015 at 9:45 pm

      Yes…. Nothing like when u make peace with yourself…you r engulfed with positivity which gives u the strength to handle any situation in life… Running many a time is a microcosm of life. Thank u Sai

      Reply
  • Kalyan October 17, 2015 at 12:54 am

    Your feat has left a trail of sweet scent of inspiration for others. You battled yourself every moment all the way till you finished.

    Reply
    • Anu October 17, 2015 at 9:46 pm

      Thank u very much, Kalyan!

      Reply
  • jayanthi Raghu October 17, 2015 at 2:43 am

    Wow,wow and wow.
    I still cannot get over the fact that in spite of an acheivement of this magnitude you are so so humble.this is exactly what DOWN TO EARTH is.

    Reply
    • Anu October 17, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      Jayanti… I think running makes you really humble because you connect to your real self and many a time it is the mind over the body… Suddenly u realise … It is your mind which is moving u especially when we r out there in the wilderness….
      And thank u so much

      Reply
  • Neha October 21, 2015 at 5:43 am

    Beautiful, evoked emotions of courage, happiness for you, happiness for myself coz I run too, inspiration to keep challenging myself, motivation to keep doing things and be out there in the nature,
    Could really feel the cold visualize your run and the finish 🙂
    That there is so much in this world we miss and don’t even know.
    And yes telling us to be humble
    Thanks for being so honest and sharing

    Reply
  • Sonam January 15, 2016 at 5:54 am

    Brilliant! I am going to do this someday! Thank you Anupriya and Anu!
    Sharing this article with my parents, right away! 😀

    Reply
    • Anupriya kapur January 15, 2016 at 6:28 pm

      You must 🙂

      Reply
  • Riya February 3, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Awesome.., it’s like dreams come true for anyone, Congratulation Anu, hope I could also enjoy such adventures any day.

    Reply
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