I have completed my first half marathon! And that too, a trail marathon!
However thoroughly excited I might sound, the story began differently. When I registered for the marathon, I had three weeks to train. I surprised myself the first week by running 6K a day. The second week, I did a 10K and a 15K. The third week saw me doing three 10K s with an increasing pace (the best being 63 Min). All of them being my firsts overwhelmed me at my ease of running distances. I proclaimed to my friends that I am targeting to finish the 21K trail under 2h 15m and secretly hoped to do it within 2h.
I had my first session of a workshop by two MIT Grads (MBA in Leadership, impressive isn’t it?) till Saturday noon. Unable to afford to miss it, I started from Chennai only on Saturday evening. This meant 5 hours of train journey, 3 hours of wait in the station and 3 hours of bus journey. More importantly at 6 in the morning, on the eve of the marathon, all the sleep I had is what I managed to gather during the travel and in a chair at the station. Hardly bothered with this and a few other things that went wrong, I started my race.
The first part of the run is called people. At the starting line, I found myself in the middle of a thick mob of people. A canal of Kaveri river runs along this narrow trail. The other side has lush green fields stretching to the horizon. But all I can see of this picturesque landscape is tiny glimpses of green from within the sea of heads and limbs. Wondering what kind of race leaves zero room to run for its participants, I waited for the mob to move. It took a good 20 Min or so for the faster ones to dart forward leaving behind the slower ones and some space. I started hunting for spaces and lunged forward, overtaking the slower ones. Though this unanticipated jumping and sprinting drained me of sugars in my body, I eventually found myself clear to run at my natural paces.
Soon, I found my rhythm and started to run comfortably. The flowing waters and cool farm breeze began to soothe me. But not for long. Wham!, went my left shoe slamming into a rock that stood firmly from the ground. The impact has crushed my big toe and I stagger dangerously out of balance. Just as I regain balance and assure the people around me that I’m okay, Wham! The same foot again! This is only the beginning of trial’s cruelty. A pretty girl running beside me advised to keep my eyes on the road (Don’t you get the wrong idea). With such little pieces of advice and observing others’ stances I slowly got used to the trail and began to pick speed. All through the run, I had to constantly cross people through narrow gaps between them, change paths to let returning runners through, run though the pits, up the mounds and jump stray bushes or loose stones. Stopping at every other aid stalls, I began to drink just enough to wet my throat but not enough for my stomach to sense anything alien (The first time I downed an entire cup of electrolyte, I felt my insides churning and vomit rising as I tried to run). Close to the half-line (after which we turn back and run the same 10.5K to reach the starting point) was a kilometre long stretch which went uphill with a not-so-gentle slope. This is where I was able to outrun a good bunch of people.
The next part of the run is called the struggle. It began probably after the 16K mark. My body is strained to levels it has never experienced before. Every muscle in my lower body is crying out to stop. It was pure torture. But I kept going. In small and easy, but steady and rolling steps. (Looking back, this is the what it is all about, isn’t it?). I would have been okay but for a girl in red. She would repeatedly run ahead of me and stop right before me. Every time I thought I overtook her for good, she would sprint and get ahead of me again only to stop. She and a couple of others like her really got on my nerves. I felt that energy is being sucked out of me every time someone-I-already-overtook, crossed me. And these three angels just kept doing that! Again and again. At 19.1K mark, my persistence ran dry and I dropped into a walk.
I walked/limped/dragged myself for the next 800m or so. Though this was a huge relief on my physical self, regret started to pile up for giving up. Gathering everything I have left I sprinted across the last kilometre. A very satisfying run it had been! (especially because the cheering crowd at the finishing line)
Unfortunately I would be missing the Chennai Half (happening in IIT-M: Home Ground advantage?) having a cousin’s wedding scheduled on the same day. My next run would be Bangalore Ultra on Nov 13(Registered for 25K). Wish me luck!
P.S. My body took a whole two days to get back to normal.