“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”
― John Bingham
Most often, people consider a marathon run as the few hours of running on the so called ‘race day’, but they tend to ignore all the running they did before that particular day. But, not the guy who ran..! He remembers it vividly. He does, every single run.
He is not just running on the carbohydrates, fluids, salts and sleep he obtained the day before. Instead, he is running on adrenaline. An animalistic adrenaline which possible only the human body is capable of conjuring.
It is the result of fear, a fear deep inside your body, inside the muscles, in the ligaments, in the tendons which develops from an even deeper cause, “pain” which propagate and you can feel it creep all the way to your heart. YOU breathe faster now and off you RUN..!!!
The cause is not just “pain”, but its counterpart too. An insane kind of “pleasure”, otherwise why would anyone run..? The pleasure from an intrinsic human quality unknown to me. The pleasure of running from all your life’s everyday problems, The pleasure of running with ecstasy. The simple pleasure of running for simple joy..! The brain brings a smile on your face, and you throw yourself forward and off goes miles behind you.
Why am I romanticizing it too much? Come on, a little bit of romanticizing is allowed after your first marathon. After all, you just run your first marathon once. That is the precise reason why I wanted it to be big. I couldn’t have gone wrong with Bombay. But you can’t have your first marathon scripted, its an extempore. You forget basics, like that you are not supposed to tour a big city on your feet on the eve of your marathon. You are not supposed to visit any big museum. etc. etc. But as I said earlier you don’t run from the rest you got from a day before.
And that is how I woke up middle of the night at 4:00am to go for my marathon. I walked towards Azad maidan munching couple of banananas with my wifey and buddy Logesh who came all the way from Pune to see me run. The crowd of around 4000 participants was swelling. And off I go to the crowd to cordoned area waving kisses to my wife and bye byes to Logesh, and swearing at diyempi and his friend Jeeva for not being there early enough..!! And like a swarm of bees the crowd moved to the starting line through a fenced area. The sky was dark, though the Angel atop the VT station was gleaming with all the sodium lights near the starting line, I jumped the fence to answer my nature’s call in the public toilet nearby and almost fell down. I was back and the crowd was still moving. The clock showed 5:50am. I am so behind the crowd that, I am late by ten minutes to reach the starting line. Or was there a delay? I am not sure. It was good that there was so much crowd in the beginning, I didn’t run fast, or I couldn’t run fast with all these crowding in front of me, (it was good in a way, saving my sugars and fat). But it was fun nevertheless, across the Flora fountain and off to marine drive.. The markers were in “Kilometers”, the good thing is that the markers come often, the bad thing is that you will have to see a lot more of them. (Personally I prefer mile markers, 26.2 miles sound better than 42.195kms.)
While I was running along the sea, it reminded me of a run ( I told you, one remembers all their runs..) I took in the Santa Monica beach, California. I was running bare-feet on the beach and I had dolphins for company in the sea. The moist wind, the splashing sounds are as important as the blood and oxygen in my body. Off goes markers 5km and 6km…
The next highlight was obviously the Bandra-Worli Sea link. It gives me immense pleasure even thinking about running through that man made bridge. If the drive through it is lovely, the run through it is orgasmic. The timing couldn’t have been any better. It was sunrise time. To the east of me I could see the SEA, the SLUMS, the SKY-RISES and the SUN in that particular order and SMOG thrown on it like cake toppings. I was like WooooooW..! That single sight was enough to endure any pain the sun would throw at me later in the run.
The end of sea-link was good as well as bad; Good because kilometer markers were brushing past me, bad because I am back to stink and the city. The best thing about the marathon is still the crowd, the runners as well as those thousands of volunteers and friendly crowd. Oh! I miss them already. Thinking about the runners, it reminds me of a quote from “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. it goes like this “The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other but to be with each other.” The crowds were as much part of the race as the runners, they would cheer in the cold Sunday morning when they could sleep off their Saturday night booze. It was 21kms now. I was still going good as expected. The devil is lurking in after 30kms, and I am aware of it.
And now there was a hill on my way, it didn’t help that there was Ambani’s house on it, suddenly I saw a poster a middle aged uncle waving at me, I nodded in agreement and showed him my Thumbs up. He was all smiles.. He, I and all the runners knew what it meant.. It read “It will pain if you run, but it will hurt if you stop..”
I was starting to feel the pain, and it was around 30kms. And there were beautiful girls standing on the divider, Once I went past them, one of them screamed my name, it kicked and squeezed adrenaline inducing glands. It was the first and only time a stranger screamed my name, she read it obviously from my BIB. But, the effect I am sure she can never imagine, I turned back and gave them a personal gesture of thanks. They screamed in support, and off I went, the next three kms went like lovely breeze.
And then the devil appeared. cramps, all over the legs. To teach kinesiology or anatomy, students should just run a marathon, unprepared-better. You will know about all the muscles you never knew you had, because, you know what, the pain will teach you. The volunteers were helping with all the volini sprays and water soaked sponges, energy drinks, water etc. It was a sad sight to see so much garbage resulting from the marathon in the form of plastic bottles serving water. Well, I am not sure about the alternative, but they did a good job of collecting all the trashed bottles soon after the race.
More Pain, with a capital P. And I saw a 500 year old man running past me, I kept up with him, ushering all the energy and running hard. Though the pace was barely 10min/mile, It felt like hard work. It was hard work. Soon, it was 34km. But, soon I trailed, he went out of sight, and I struggled and I was back on marine drive for the last leg… I was yearning for my wife and friends. Soon they were there. Waving and shouting, I was all ecstatic, the photograph which I saw later told the picture better, I was at my smiling best, but that was hardly how I felt as I was in complete pain, but that subsidized when I was running in front of them. I saw my wife in the sidewalk and saw she was having a good time, I blew kisses on to her and she screamed, I didn’t hear the screams and howls. I was getting a shot of new energy and I wanted to capitalize on it by running few kilometers with that if possible, My wife later told me that she had wanted to jump on me and complained that I didn’t stop to say hi-hello to her, those 3+ hours she had literally missed and worried about me. And I ran, Diyempi ran ahead of me to capture pics for me. Soon, I stopped every now and then for sprays on cramp inflicted areas. Soon it was all over the legs. I remembered with pain that, never ever go to a museum on the eve of a marathon.
The last 5kms were the most dreadful and I found inspiration in every nook and corner, kids, volunteers, and fellow runners. Soon for the last two kilometers, as I ran, limped and walked, I was accompanied by Logesh, he had gone to watch parasailing on the other side of marine drive, while I had went past Ais, Jeeva and diyempi on marine drive. He ran the last part, getting me water and sponge every now and then. And finally the finish line was in front of me. Once I finished, I wasn’t exhilarated as expected, I was plain and simply tired. I met my friends and wife only later as they were not allowed near the end point.
To be honest, I ran only the first 32kms, It was Mumbai which took me through the rest ~10kms. It was like Mumbadevi took me in her arms and took me across that finish line.
I am not sure about the timings, as the official timings fellas haven’t updated for my BIB number and they haven’t responded to my emails. Waiting. The unofficial time in my Nike + app is 4hrs 43 mins, pretty bad for someone aiming sub 4hrs. Next marathon, I say, Next marathon.
More than the run, more than the medal, more than miles logged on my Nike + app, It is the power to inspire that motivates me. I have inspired many to run, and I know it. I want to share one more quote from “Born to run” to inspire many more. Diyempi is already dreaming about a “Dream run”, Logesh of a 10k, My wifey wants to do a half marathon, My Mech buddies want to run along with me for my next marathon. I think that is what I cherish more than the memories of my Mumbai Marathon.
“Just move your legs. Because if you don’t think you were born to run, you’re not only denying history. You’re denying who you are.” – Christopher McDougall in “Born to Run”
-Santhosh K Ramachandran