“You run and run, mile after mile, and you never quite know why. You tell yourself that you’re running toward some goal, chasing some rush, but really you run because the alternative, stopping, scares you to death.” – Phil Knight, Shoe Dog
Running for me has never been about any particular goal, I’d like to believe that it’s something that I stumbled upon and now its become a part of who I am. Much like how people discover yoga and make it a part of theirs. Running has always been there at every phase of my life. Primary sport being football, I actually loved running around the pitch rather than have the ball at my feet. If I felt low, a quick run would set it right. If I ate too much, I’d go for a run to maintain the balance. (or so what I thought it did)
On days I was ecstatic, I’d go for a run too. It was just short 1-2 kilometers in the beginning and all I cared about was how the wind in my hair made me feel. About 2 and a half years ago, coming back from an injury and having gained weight and being at one of the lowest points in my life, I found running again, but this time was different. It was harder, I was relearning how to put steps in front of each other. That phase passed by as well and I was doing 5ks in the regular until about a year and a half ago I registered for my first half marathon. I still remember how the finish made me feel and there was no looking back after. It made me feel more receptive to my body, I started appreciating it better. It felt like I could have a conversation with myself and I’d never get bored. It felt like meditation. Before I knew it, I’d already registered for a full marathon.
It was Sunday, 14th of Oct, and one week to go for my first full marathon. It had been over nearly a month since my last attempt at a distance over 30k and I was following what the running world popularly called “tapering”. I had no clue how it worked and I’m pretty sure I was doing it wrong. We had planned on a 16k run that morning with Satish Gujjaran and that distance left me feeling tired. I was even told that my posture had a slight flaw and even the slightest of flaws could prove very inefficient and can lead to injuries when you go on a long run. Anyway, I was nervous. I didn’t know if I had it in me to run over 3 hours straight.
The week went by, with my mind reminding me of all the things that could go wrong. What if I had to wake up that early and be constipated? What if I’m unable to judge a fart at 30k? What if I don’t eat right the day before? What if I hit “the wall”…
Well I got through the week just fine, just a little bit of Motivation here and venting out to Harsha there, and finally there I was, going to bed at 8 pm to wake up at 2 am inorder to make it to the starting line for the 4:15 flag off.
My mind just had a huge check list the days leading to the marathon and I ticked them along as I prepped myself, all the way till I tucked into bed. But there was one thing I couldn’t tuck into bed, my anxiety. My brain was playing a hundred different scenarios, my heart was beating wildly and for some reason I kept feeling nauseous. I was nervous and excited at the same time. Every hour not sleeping meant an extra hour my brain was awake. Extra hours = not good for the brain. Extra hours = confused brain. Confused brain = not marathon fit. Yep, running wasn’t just a physical sport. You had to be at your best mental state but there I was running to the washroom every hour.
2 am and I think I only slept for a collective 2 hours. I was still wide awake and running on stress hormones only. Nutrition ready, geared up, made it to the starting line.
Also, I was running this distance without any music. Just a watch to track my distance and pace and nothing else. The thought of running it that way was scary in itself ‘cause I’ve never done a distance over 20 in silence. Only at the end of fourth two kilometers did I come to realise that your brain’s the best boom box/ radio/ tele/ buddy you have.
Butterflies in my tummy, we reached the stadium. I could feel the electric atmosphere from inside the stadium and my skin tingled in excitement. This was it.
I left my mum at the entrance to the ground, knowing she’ll be there waiting, cheering for me at the half way mark ( I guess I made a mental note to run the first half really quick so I could see her and let her know I was owning this.) Found my mates from MRC at the starting line and Navaal gave me a loperamide (that did save my ass the whole way, literally.).
Being there, among all these people, felt unreal. That energy in the stadium was so pure, raw and resonated from every runner there. I remember thinking “whoa. A thousand people running the marathon, collective distance 42000 kms. Damn I don’t know why I even had this thought”.
The clock ticked to the count down and I had a quick listen to Eminem’s “Killshot” on Harsha’s phone and we were off!
Started off slow, nice and easy. I did have a target time in mind, a modest one – Sub 4 at any cost, but then again all the advice that I’ve come across only stressed on the importance of not being too ambitious on your first marathon. While that is true, I decided to just have fun.
I was just going to treat it like a group run. I wasn’t running this alone and that such a morale booster. It’s true, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain if I made it across the finish line, no matter the pace, no matter the state. The race started off and half of it went beautifully. 1:36 the first 21k and I felt like I was going stronger until the 33rd km and that’s where it all started, wasn’t like it was hard, everything was just spasming at 33k but what really kept me going was that crowd of 21k runners who kept cheering along since their wave had just been released. I also did make a few friends along the route, two chartered accountants! One running his 7th marathon and the other running his first. Amazing runners, beautiful strides. The second guy who was running his first marathon, was also in a similar state as I was around the 35th kilometer. Its that instant connection and we both knew what we were going through and we both understood we had to push each other to get through that line. Great company till 40k and I’d be forever grateful to that dude for pushing me to that point.
I didn’t for one moment throughout the run think of myself. I was just trying to feel what my friends who were also running there might be feeling at that moment, What every other runner would’ve been feeling. Also running diagnostics on my body, occasionally. And what really surprised me was that no voice in my head told me that it was okay to stop and walk. No voice told me to give up either, because usually when I’m on a long runs it’s just a constant battle between me trying to keep myself going and me trying to just cut it short. My knees felt stronger than they ever did. I didn’t realise that I was getting to my lactate threshold and in the last 500 Mtrs my hamstrings cramped so bad but that’s when everything came back to me, all I’d ever gone through to make it there, what kept me going through the race. The people and the city.
I didn’t run it with music in my ears, I didn’t even miss it infact. Footsteps pounding on the concrete is all that kept me going. When I finished, I just walked over to the medical tent, sat in a chair. My mom walked over to my side, I just looked at her and cried. That’s when I realised that sometimes towards the end of a marathon, you are your own motivation.
This run was a roller coaster ride for me. Never have I experienced so many emotions and thoughts in a period of 3 hours. There’s just so many things I cannot put to words but everyone who was out there that day, they were amazing. To MRC, what’s running without you guys by my side. To the guys with the motivational posters along the route, thank you, that stuff got me smiling along the whole race. To my mom and family, my biggest source of inspiration, wouldn’t have been able to do this without them.