I awoke in another predawn, the apprehension and anticipation of the unknown still lingering amongst my thoughts as I look into the mirror, to remind myself of who I want to be. The view through my groggy eyes is complemented with a whiff of unbridled raw breath and memories from the past and the future, as the reality of it dawns on me. I prepare to run the full monty, snacking on a jam sandwich and juice with about 60 minutes to digest it all. Full Monty.... no not like those ancient greeks. After cleansing myself of excess weight, I cover likely friction areas with petroleum jelly, and remind myself to remind myself that its just gonna be like my previous long runs but this time it will take twice the time, energy and resolve to complete. As I recheck my belongings I wonder about the unknowns, their manifestations and how I would react when they catch me off guard. I've prepared for them but time will etch its memories. As time waits for no one, my ride was flat, and with that realisation came this rush of adrenaline as I deciphered the tune of 'Chariots of Fire' from the white noise. There was only one thing I knew I had to do. So I looked deep down within and as my thoughts resonated with my heart I felt a sense of deja-vu, "AUTO!!!!".
Onroute, I detoured to Manish's
place with some energy drinks and a rhethorical communique as to where he should meet me with them. He dropped me at the stadium with 10 minutes to go, carrying a 200 ml energy drink that would last me the first 10 kms. Already warmed up from the events of the dawn, I entered the stadium with the metaphorical feeling of entering a new class, as I soon felt at home with the 200 odd full marathon atheletes, with looks of awe from some of the first time half marathon runners, awaiting their turn to graduate to the next level. It was a motley group; the professionals, the confident, the apprehensive, the calm, the eager, the veterans and the first timers. My GPS watch initiated the acquisition of signals as I set about to track my locomotion, and sometime after that we were ushered to the starting line. We were to run 21 kms and run the next 21 kms coming back on the same route.
0 Kms - 6:20 AM:
The gunshot triggered my senses in its entirety, as ironically I embarked on a journey that had already begun. We were cheered on by other atheletes and spectators, as mundane feats of physics in which the energy in the universe remains constant, manifested itself in the transfer of their energy to us as we exited the stadium.
42.195 Kms - 11:31 AM:
I cross the finish line, brimming with energy as ever before. A journalist caught sight of my achievement and as I shared my experience with him, I seemed to have been unconsciously transferring the energy back.
2 Kms - 6:32 AM:
A steady 10kmph as we moved through Cubbon park, and the first droplets of sweat found their way through my pores, to fulfil their purpose and vaporise into the crisp morning air. We acquainted ourselves with other runners through mutual exchanges of pace and poise as we began to group based on our understanding of our abilities.
The lone runner, my legs fueled by elation as I get a call from Dhruv who was in the stadium and was wondering what had become of my endeavour. I told him that I would be inside the stadium in about 10 minutes as I smiled at anything and everything.
5 Kms - 6:50 AM:
It sure feels good when things go as planned; 10 kmph, non stop running, the wind in my hair, confidence finding its way to the right destinations, complemented with the feeling of being fit to run the distance and an urge to compete with the sun for the centre of the universe. Actually you fool yourself, and then it happens. White streaks, traces of a potbelly, completed his first full marathon in 4hrs 40 mins last year, talks to you about strategy at the beginning of the run, but you never think he will overtake you this soon. Not possible! Ouch!!
Memories remind me of my form as I crossed this same point a couple of hours back. My body has taken a beating, my legs refuse to run, I'm burn't, I'm worn out, I'm torn, miroscopic tears manifesting themselves as hurdles to be subdued. The sun is still at the center of the universe, but there is nothing that can stop me now, nothing.
10 Kms - 7:20 AM:
The Hebbal flyover opens up to a panoramic view of the surrounding lake. I walk a bit as I breathe in the thousand words of encouragement. Fatigue is setting in but I know I can go on and then I look around for Manish to take the second energy drink. I then send him an SMS, "Crossed Hebbal flyover", to which I get a reply, "Cool. Let me know when you need it", to which I reply, "Now", and then there was silence, as a smile finds its place on my face.
I'm at the Hebbal flyover and again I crawl to a stop to take a look at the lake before moving on. I pour more water on my calves and head to cool my body. I have crossed a psychological barrier; the 30 kms mark and the finish line seems within my grasp. I will not be able to retrace my steps with the same pace as I had done before, but I know that I will walk and run and walk and run... and walk and run as I overtake many of the runners who are also trying to somehow push forward and reach their goal.
I find myself on the outer ring road as policemen smile and stop traffic for us as they see us in the distance. I send a couple of more SMSes to Manish asking him where he is. I can feel my sole scrape the bottom of my shoe as it burns. But the smiling faces and cheers from the people manning the water stations at intervals of 2 kms keep me going. Unknown faces standing on the median urge me to go forward and I reciprocate with a smile.
I've been running this marathon one kilometer at a time. Thats my goal; when I complete one kilometer I set my sights on the next one and to challenge myself I set myself time limits within which I should complete the 1000 meters. I try to juggle a lot of things; time, energy, fatigue, muscle tightness, heavyness of legs, strides, blisters, the urge to walk when running and the even bigger obstacle of convincing myself to start running after a short walk. And as I juggle with my troubles I stop when I cross another runner in trouble, to offer encouragement. The sun is shining brightly on the outer ring road as family members of runners park themselves at some point to cheer their loved ones to go on. And when their relatives pass they move base to a point further on.
The front runners have already crossed me on the otherside of the road, on their way back. They senses appear to be concentrated on their goal as they run across the horizon with a pace that I can only dream of. I then feel a minor pain in the right side of my abdomen. I try to nurse it and run at the same time but to no avail. My GPS watch shows that my speed is 0 kmph as I stretch and touch my toes. Other runners advice me on what I should do. I am losing energy and patience and time as I try to battle the stomach pain. Its not that excruciating type of pain which will make you shrivel up and die, but the kind that makes running difficult and makes you deliberate about your chances of completing in this state. Thoughts of giving up cross my mind as I trod along the next few kilometers. I send another SMS to Manish, who is stuck in traffic as the marathon runners have higher priority.
My new target of completing the marathon within 6 hrs seems doable as I set goals of one kilometer at a time. A runner asks me if I have anything to eat. I don't, but I have the energy drink so I offer him some.
The stomach pain is subdued by fatigue as I seem to have run out of energy. Water doesn't seem to quench my troubles, as another runner notices this and offers me a chocolate sachet. I suck on it, as I thank him and see him disappear as he moves ahead.
20 Kms - 8:35 AM:
I reach the point which indicates a 'U' turn. As I cross that point the marathon volunteers spray our BIBs with ink, so as to mark us. I feel I can't move forward to complete the run, as the traffic has crawled to a halt. People in buses and cars start cheering us on. Traffic was moving so slowly that even I was moving faster than them. Manish SMSes me that he is nearby.
22 Kms - 8:55 AM:
I finally come face to face with some energy drinks. I got them from a pharmacy the previous day. 200ml packs, 15 bucks each, with fruit juice and electrolytes. I lay flat on the ground and as Manish massages my legs, I gulp down 200 ml. I take the remaining packs with me as it would be impossible for him to reach me again with this traffic. He later told me that he felt that I wouldn't be able to complete the run, seeing me in the state I was in. He encouraged me by not telling me that and deserves a big treat for helping me out, not just from the morning. BTW I don't think I was tired... Maybe it was just psychosomatically induced :-)
My legs start to feel heavy but I change my stride and continue.
The heavyness increases to the point where it starts to play mind games again.
I feel I just can't go on. Thoughts of giving up seem to be the best way out of this ordeal. I question myself about my reasons for attempting to do the full monty. As I battled with those thoughts, the 'give up' corner seems to be lobbying its way into my decisions. I needed a new plan, I needed to hold on to something to continue, hold on to memories, hold on to dreams. But holding on to the past alone does not help, you have to hold on to the future too. And in that process you start to sift the superficial things from those that actually matter. Maybe running the 'Full Monty' is indeed about stripping down to the bare necessities, like those ancient greeks who stripped themsleves of all the superficialness of their world and ran, dressed with nothing but themselves. So what if I complete the run in more than 6 hours. As I've told myself before I'm just competing with myself, but did I really believe it then, do I really believe it now. So what if at some point I feel that I just can't move on. I'll just sit down and rest for sometime and then regroup my senses and ask myself again if I can do it.
Everybody is running for something, some run to lose weight to feel better, while others run to gain weight (21 grams
) to feel better, even if the weight is ephemeral. Some run to prove something to the world, others run to prove something to themselves, and question that very belief as our reactions speak otherwise. I just need to go ahead at my own pace, one kilometer at a time, one step at a time. I need to do this as I am just another character in that old man's dream, as he is in mine. We may live in different timezones but we complement each other, "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.