I am a novice in the world of marathon running but I thought I was finding my way. The Wipro Chennai Marathon has dimmed those happy feelings.
I had blamed my pedestrian showing in Kochi to the excessive heat and exhaustion. And partly due to losing time nudging a tiring co-runner towards the finish line. I had allowed my mind go under the weather literally and figuratively, during that run.
In Chennai, the weather was just about perfect leading up to the race day. I know the terrain here, this is my city, so, a day before the race, I decided I would cover the distance in 4.30 hrs. Besides, I had the talisman in the form of encouraging words from one of my close friends – “keep running Babu…”
I opted to make use of the facility offered from the organizers to show my running status on my facebook page. I also gave them 3 contact numbers of relatives and a friend – to send SMS with my timing, at the end of the race. I was oozing with confidence.
That I barely had three hours and half of sleep the night before the race day, did not flag my spirits. I was invigorated by the excitement as I reported with Venkat and friends at 3.30 am in front of Kasturba Nagar station on Sunday, December 7. During the short ride to the start point in Venkat’s car, I disclosed to him and his friends that my goal would be 4.30 hours.
Though I started the run along with the 5 hour pacers, I left my friends and moved to the group aiming for a target of 4.30 hrs finish. The weather was not as good as I had hoped, it felt sultry. Till around 28 km, I kept pace with the group of about 25 runners who ran quietly and efficiently, the footsteps thumping the roads almost in unison. The refrain – keep running, Babu – reverberated in my mind all the while. Then, I dropped behind as the group moved ahead. My legs were tiring.
It was around then I encountered a mass of humanity – the half-marathon and 10 km runners – running chock-a-block – giving me hardly any room to keep my pace. My mind rebelled at the thought of having to plough through this new obstacle. Hydration points were not to be seen and something then cracked in my mind.
My talisman, the refrain – keep running, Babu – became very faint and distant till it became a nuisance. I even thought it was mocking me, so I stopped telling that to myself or listening to it. I ran when I could, also walked, trudged, paused and even stopped to go buy myself some water.
I thanked my lucky stars that my daughter’s wedding is falling on the day of Mumbai Marathon, so I wouldn’t have to endure another ordeal. My thought then, running all alone was, this is enough, I cannot do this any more………
Yet, having announced my presence in facebook and for fear of losing my self-esteem, I pulled myself together and ran the last few kilometers. At the finish line, my timing was 5: 5:14 hours.
I was too tired to look for my other friends, had my breakfast alone and trudged a long distance to find an auto to come back home.
The next day, when I checked my results in the web site, I found to my horror that my reading at 35 km was not recorded. I am not sure if the running chip failed to read. For some distance, I had run outside the ribboned area, to move a little faster. What I am sure of is, I ran the full distance.
Three full days have elapsed since I ran the marathon. The pain in my body has mostly subsided, though memories of the pain and disappointment remain.
From the ashes of the disappointments, I infer some learning.
Of the three marathons I have run, I ran the best in Bengaluru – when I ran without a watch and without any concern for time. That day, I enjoyed the weather, the people cheering along the route, the landmarks….the entire experience. I was aware as I put one foot after another.
In Chennai, I was fixated on my target and forgot mostly about everything else. I don’t remember seeing the sun rising as I ran along the Marina. I even forgot my friends as I ran. And, when I saw a sea of humanity, I saw them as an obstacle.
Every race will have its unique challenges. If in Kochi it was the very humid weather, in Chennai it was the sheer size of the crowd.
One of the purpose of running a marathon is to learn to endure the pain with honour and face the challenges, including those that spring up from nowhere.
After the run, a friend on WhatsApp asked me about the lessons learned. This is what came to me then and responded with:
“The learning is, not to get frustrated by unexpected challenges in every run, but to take them in my stride. Realized I can use my mind as an ally, not as an enemy.”
Today as I write, I know I have many more marathons ahead of me. Along the way, I will learn to adjust better, understand from my experiences and imbibe lessons from others who are better.
I will remember that it is wonderful to be passionate about running better. It is not desirable, however, to be so consumed that I become attached to the results, forgetting other finer aspects of running and life.
For instance, to cherish the blossoming of friendships that develop with kindred spirits.
And, I will remember to enjoy the run and the world around me. And understand the wisdom in Robert Pirsig’s thought – though a mountaineer’s goal is the summit, it is the sides that define a mountain. The journey is more important than the destination.
The Wipro Chennai Marathon was the hardest of my three runs to date. In its wake, it also brought me some insights. About being a better runner and a good human being first.