Running a marathon is all about endurance and strong will power. For me, it was a lifetime experience.
I took up serious running less than 18 months ago. Completed a 10K , thanks to Coach Beedu and Reeth of the Nike Run Club fame. Did multiple 10Ks and a 25K at the ultra last year. I wanted to do a full marathon, one of my bucket list items. The next couple of weekends, I did a 25k+ and a 30K+. That gave a little bit of confidence but I was still not very sure if I would be able to do the full in the stipulated 6.5 hours in trying conditions. Vasu and Gopal nudged me to go for the full and I thought, "Let me attempt it. If I finish, well and good, else I would know my limits". One thing was clear, I was not going to get tensed and freak myself out over it. I was just going to get through the day and take it 1Km at a time.
We drove to Mysore on Sep 18th, along with a couple of friends. After dropping them at their hotel, we checked into Dasaprakash Paradise. Found out a place called Olio, serving Pasta nearby. The ambience was nice and the food was delicious but pricey. Packed a sandwich at CCD, bought some bananas and retired to bed early in a desperate attempt to get some sleep. But then, I ended up tossing and turning.
Woke up next morning and landed at the run site by 6am. The run site was buzzing with activity. Met a lot of folks from Nike Run club, Hashers and RFLers. Arvind from RFL warned us that even though the sky looked clear and the water calm, it is going to be a difficult terrain and advised runners not to attempt their personal best. I caught up with Gopal and we decided to run together maintaining a decent pace.
At the stroke of 6:30, what I call now, as the run of my life, was flagged off. Gopal and me started in the last group and were doing about 6 mins per KM. The first couple of KMs was nice and easy but the uneven terrain was making life difficult. I had to really concentrate on the path to avoid tripping. Around the 7KM mark, Gopal had a minor fall and he started slowing down. One of my biggest problems in running has been that, if I stop for a while, I find it hard to resume at the same pace. Found another group doing between 6-7mins per KM and joined them.
Around the 10K mark, there was a really bad patch and I struggled crossing that. Met a bunch of half marathoners and ran the next few comfortably. I started tiring a bit around the 16-18K mark and was doing slow. I saw Vasu and K cheering everyone.
The route was a 10.55K out and back. For the full the marathon, we had to do this loop twice. I had completed the first half around 2hrs 20 mins and started the second. Around the 23KM I was completely tired. I was not used to the sports drink and had a feeling it was just making me feel thirstier. By now, started doing a run-walk, with fellow full marathoners, and was drinking a lot of water. Got completely exhausted and started having doubts if I would be able to finish.
There were 3 people whom we all saw during the run - A man running without shoes, a woman doing a half with her kid on a pram and another man running a half with a fracture, wearing a sling. If these people could do it, I better be able to do it, said my mind voice. My motto throughout the run was, If I could not run, I would walk. If I could not walk, I will crawl, but I will finish.
I was mostly walking from 23rd till 28th Km. Then got a sudden bout of energy and pushed myself till 32K in 4 hours. Saw a lot of folks, tired and with cramps but with the never say die spirit. We were joking that we all have run a 10K under an hour, and we would do it today too. But easier said than done, after the 32k. Despite the scorching sun, tired legs, thirsty throat and about 6 miles between me and the finish line, the only comforting feeling was the confidence that I would be a finisher today..
Around the 38KM mark, saw Vasu. Started a walk-run back with her to the finish. Every beep on my Garmin watch was cheered since I was one step closer to the finish. I was about 500m away from the finish when someone said, "You are less than 500m from the finish and you should be sprinting now". I have no idea where I got the energy but I started running, counting every step, pushing myself till I could cross the finish line. And finally was home. A full in 6 hours and 7 minutes. This moment will be etched in my memory for ever!
After the run, the limp on my feet left me in a few days, but the grin on my face remains.