I have done it once before and I know from my previous experience that you run a marathon with your heart and mind and not with your body. I ran the Auroville Half Marathon last year and finished in 2:08. The track was a little difficult but I felt the run got over too quickly. Sometime in November, when the 5th edition of Auroville Marathon was announced, I decided that I was going to attempt a full.
Started training but was not very successful at it. Did not have someone regularly to run along with for long distances and more than my body, my mind was playing games. Tried multiple attempts to do a 30+ run in Jan but never managed it. But one good thing was that I did a few half marathons and I was able to do them at a very decent pace. I also ran the NITTE Mangalore Celebration half and finished it in 2:04. I was hoping to finish the half in a decent time and will then see if I could walk the second half and attempt to complete.
The last few days before the race, nervousness kicked in and I lost all my confidence. The alter ego in me was telling me to finish a half and relax. Spoke to quite a few people to keep myself motivated. Also, told quite a few folks that I would be doing the full, in the hope that the embarrassment in telling them that it was a DNF will force me to finish.
We reached Auroville on Saturday and after check-in went to collect the bibs. Met Barefoot Ted there and was watching his unique autographing style - He would wet his feet and stamp the book and then sign on top of it. Feasted on the fantastic pre-run dinner and retired to bed early. Hardly slept that night.
On the race day morning, reached the start point in just in time to pick up a torch and start the race. It was pretty dark and the uneven ground and small pebbles made it difficult. Initially was running in a group but after 5 KM there weren't too many people around. I was maintaining a pace of 6:30. Around the 8K mark had a fall at a narrow turn. Thankfully was not hurt but had a few bruises. I started running again but the alter ego started telling me that I will not go beyond a half.
At the next aid station, stopped for water and checked that there were no major injuries. Started running again and completed the first loop. The run was 3 loops of about 13.5K each. Also around this time, there weren't too many runners around. Thankfully the aid station volunteers were cheering us and also there would be people on the loop waving and cheering at us. Ran till about 22K. Had the energy to run and was not tired at all but the alter ego was telling to stop. I knew well that once I start walking, I can never run again.
Pushed for another couple of KMs but then gave up. Started walking and finished the second loop. Distance was around 30K and the timing was 3:45 hours. Slowly, I got a confidence that I could finish under the cut off time of 6.5 hours. Had a pack of Gu Gel and continued walking when an angel in the form a Hyderabad runner came by. He motivated me and said that let us run along non-stop until 36K, without worrying about pace or time. I started to run and interestingly had very good energy and ran until the 35K mark. Time was around 4:30. Suddenly a sub 5:30 finish possible but the heat was killing. Decided to walk for a while and covered 40K. After the 40K mark slowly started running. The last 1K ran with an old man at a very good pace and then the finish was finally visible. Ran the last 200 odd metres at a blistering pace and finished it in 5:55.
Endured the hot and difficult, lonely track, a fall, to finish it. But more than my finish, the happiest feeling comes for me from that fact that I have converted two couch potatoes to half marathoners. Both of them are interesting stories for another day :)