Taking on Unexpected Challenges at Chennai Marathon

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.

10 thoughts on “Taking on Unexpected Challenges at Chennai Marathon”

  1. I must confess that i have taken Wipro Marathon lightly as i struggled in Bangalore due to muscle cramps and developed Blood Clot on the Toe at Kochi. I thought i will end up by doing atleast sub5 at Chennai. On the contrary i clocked 5.10.34 hours and i have no regrets. I enjoyed my run at Wipro Marathon as lot of our CRPP Team members were cheering me all the way. The organisers too arranged the event very well except for the aberration of 10k crowd blocking the way and at hydration point.
    Let us plan for some hill run training which will make us strong and hope to run with you at Auroville for 4.30
    After seeing my regular posts in FB my friends and relatives started running.

    • Thanks Venkat, for your comment. I agree with you that a marathon is to be enjoyed and not debated about. I am game for doing the hill runs with you. Let us enjoy the journey to Auroville, together.

  2. some interesting thoughts there Babu. The human mind is wicked. Playing tricks with us all the time. But it is these hard times which will make us harder and level headed.

    But yeah the weather was indeed crazy on the 7th especially after 7:30am.

    Keep running for the mere joy of it.

    • Aravind, glad to know you are part of the runners community who are used to stretching their limits. I understand from your blogs that you are used to stretching in other areas as well. Yes, let us run and enjoy! Thank you for coming by.

  3. Excellent write up Sir. You are an inspiration for people around. Keep enjoying your runs and wish you many more marathons. I will run a Marathon with you soon 🙂

    • Gopi, you have appeared on my horizon at the right time. Being the fast runner you are, you may very well be my Guru. Thank you for your comment and encouragement.

  4. Dear Babu ,
    Your description of the harsh experience and the way you look at it in retrospect are both worthy of respect.
    Believe me , every runner goes through such experiences during his running career once in a while , when his body gives up and hits the wall. That you still managed to reach the finish line is no mean achievement.
    This is part of the game. Keep at it and you will emerge stronger and better each time…

    • Sandeep, it feels nice to know mine was not a stray case – though I thought for a while, it was the end of the game for me. Words of encouragement you have cared to share here, makes me realize that I am not alone and I am part of a larger community. Thank you very much, indeed.

  5. Well said sir!!! Inspiring thoughts woven beautifully to convey an excellent message. Thought provoking!
    I too strongly believe in the same. Let’s run and celebrate the spirit of running. Let’s listen to the rhythm of our heart, enjoy the shimmering sun, twittering birds..lets run and discover the runner in us without setting any goals.
    Wishing you happy running.. Keep inspiring sir!!!

    • Nandini, well said, we will run for the joy of it. Of course, the desires and goals give us the reason to wake up in the morning to be present with the rest at 5 in the morning. May be, we should be like those who fly kites……… Our sights heavenward and our feet planted on the ground. I have been following your running exploits on WhatsApp, congratulations to you.


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