An undying desire that swept my heart in the later part of last year, made my registration for the event possible through a good friend, Nandan Srinath. During the next month or so, it was a lot of discussions with friends and people who participated in the Marathon earlier and reading up literature on various web sites. A site I personally found very interesting was www.runningandliving.com. The advices from experts ranged from intensity of practices to nutrition requirements to rest. And the biggest of all was No Alcohol during training.
Kick starting a high intensity running practice wasn’t impossible for me since I anyway liked running/walking and was actively into cycling. Some decent practices started progressing alongwith the Sunday cycling as part of a commitment to a club I have initiated in my residential locality in Mumbai - Chembur Cycool Club.
December 4, 2011 saw us cycle for about 60 kms and I had my relaxed Sunday afternoon scotch. By that evening, I was running very high temperature and unbearable body pain. Thanks to my good doctor, Dr Amol Pawar the specific viral attack got diagnosed very early. By this time, liver enzymes and platlets levels were topsy turvy, needing hospitalization. At discharge, body was weak and lesser in weight by 5 kilos and came along a strict prescription for complete rest for a month which included usage of lift even for the 1st floor. With the marathon just a month away, I had no choice but to put the dream in the cold storage very reluctantly. My doctor was feeling sad for me too. Days passed with rest and replenishment of body nutrients.
I had a mail in my mail box on Jan 3rd announcing the Marathon Expo and collection of the bib numbers between Jan 7-8. While a new desire suddenly appeared in the heart, had to kill it immediately based on the physical condition. However on 8th there was this inner calling to go out and collect the bib number which, against a lot of opposition, I did. In my mind I was doing it to keep it as a memorabilia. Didn’t even think I would run. But on 9h January, the desire to run reappeared. I tried living with the feeling and various internal discussions through the day.
Woke up on 10th with some determination. Running shoes came out. There was no looking back then. Having decided to run, I thought of doing it for a purpose and dedicated my run to collect donations for Vidya Vanam, an elementary school for children from tribal and under privileged families. With 4 days of practice I found myself at the Holding area for the Half Marathon at 5.30 am on 15th January 2012.
The atmosphere was electric, some 10,000 people were gathered, some in groups, some alone, some running, some stretching, some talking, some thinking, some praying and the list can go on. I met some friends from the industry Alok Nair, Deep Drona and Paritosh Joshi at the venue. My other friend and companion, Sridar Swamy (not from our industry) and I managed to do some stretches and even before I knew the gates were open at 6.15am. By the time I put my feet at the start time recording mat it was 6.25 am – that can explain the hold up at the holding area.
Within the first km, someone who threw a used bottle on the road came under my foot and I almost twisted my ankle. But by the grace of god, it wasn’t something serious. I managed to run at a steady speed for the first 11 kms. Then took a little break and again progressed. It was exhilaration and adrenaline rush. Body was getting pumped up in pure excitement made possible by 1000s of on-lookers who were constantly cheering the runners, some bands playing with the right kind of music at different corners. It was festivity all around. In addition to the on-lookers cheering, residents were coming out in dozens to serve the tired runner with snacks, fruits, juices. Saw Girish Agarwal doing the same with his family (Girish if you are reading this, you better be on the running track next year!)
By now, I was at the Cadbury junction. Witnessing the climb ahead, my speed automatically reduced. Didn’t want to take any risk of running on the stretch without training and decided to brisk walk through it. Picked up the speed again, went through to Marine Drive. Marine Drive was superb. There was music, action, cheers and the works. I slowed down to soak in the atmosphere. Now I was at the turning of Flora Fountain. The km indictor (which was placed at every km) said “last 1 km to go” and a sudden strength came up on the feet, the next board said 700 mts, 500 mts, 200 mts, 100 mts and yes I was at the finishing point with my arms wide open. The entire 21.09 Kms was covered in 2:34:50, a record I actually didn’t expect.
The last Sunday scotch was on the 4th December. Had I taken the advice from experts seriously, perhaps it would have been a different story of reaching the finish line earlier. But would it have had the ingredients this story has?
I thank my lord Ayyappa for his touch in my life. Also thank each of my friends for their contribution to Vidya Vanam.
I’m already looking forward to the next Marathon.
(S Yesudas is Managing Director, India Sub-continent at Vizeum.)