14th January 2012, at 8:15 AM we (my 4 friends and I) landed in Mumbai. Newdelhi-Mumbai Garibrath is a good train (Thank you Laluji), right on time. And we are here JUST to participate in the Mumbai Marathon tomorrow. Yes, JUST. Something unusual? And some of you might be thinking that may be our trip is sponsored (some of you did asked meJ). Yes, we are sponsoring ourselves.
In my case I genuinely feel that the blame (read credit) should go to one Mr Kalmadi for organizing the commonwealth games in Delhi in Oct 2010. During all that hoo-hullah the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon(21.098 km) was announced. Bitten by the commonwealth fever, some of my enthusiastic friends and myself registered for it, to showcase our running talent. We did fairly well, completing it in around 2 hours. Great run.
We never knew that this was just the beginning. We were nurturing a running KEEDA within ourselves. So was this running KEEDA strong enough to survive so long (I mean from Oct 2010 to Aug 2011 when we had to register for Mumbai Marathon). The answer is big NO.
Again somebody has to take the blame and this time it’s one of my friends. One fine August Sunday, when I was having a sweet afternoon sleep, my mobile rang. During the conversation my friend told me that he has registered for Mumbai Full marathon. Suddenly the running KEEDA in me (which was more or less dormant till now) came to life and we are here in Mumbai on our way to the hotel. Flashback ends.
HURDLE EVEN BEFORE STARTING THE RACE
After taking bath, Mumbai sandwiches and Uttapam; not to forget the special Chahh (what we call Chai here) we went to the World Trade Centre (Race Expo) to collect our Bib (running number). When my turn came, I was told that my Bib has already been collected by someone else. How can this be possible? After few anxious moments, I got another bib. Thanks to the volunteers present there to assist us.
We are now out of the expo, planning to go to the Gateway of India. By the way, Mumbai roads are full of taxis. Even Santros and WagonRs are used here as taxis. I myself own a Santro. No, I am not planning to sell it now to purchase a sedan.
We planned to sleep by 9 pm as the full marathon would be starting at 5:40 in the morning. But we reached our hotel only by 10:30 pm (courtesy boys day out). I shaved (to have good marathon snaps) and hydrated myself well. Was in bed by 11 pm after setting alarm for 3:30, but could not sleep before 1, very excited about the race.
Its 3:30 and I woke up instantly, feeling fresh and raring to go. Took my shower, wore the bib, tied the timing chip to my shoes. After having couple of bread slices with butter and a banana we left for Azad Maidan (starting point of the marathon) at 4:45. They say Mumbai never sleeps but I guess most of the Mumbai is still sleepingJ. We reached Azad Maidan by 5 and first thing we all wanted to do is to release the pressure we built up due to excess hydration. Great weather, still dark. Runners are pouring into the Azad Maidan from all sides. Men women boys girls of all ages. Bright colorful attires. Some are stretching, some our planning for the race ahead. Some like me our doing nothing, just feeling these moments and absorbing most of it.
We regrouped in 2(3 & 2), as we were targeting different finish times. All of us proceeded towards the holding area. Gates are still closed. We 3 decided to run the first half together. Just to make it official, my pre-race target is under 5 hours. But I will try for a finish time around 4 hours and 30 minutes. 5:40 in the clock. Gates opened. Around 3000 runners roared into the start line. Race is ON now. Its festive mood here. IPL tune can be heard loudly. There are some bands on both side of the road cheering for us.
For the first 3 km we ran together. My other 2 mates are running at a higher pace. Thinking that I have to cover 42 km I slowed myself a little to take it easy. It is bit humid and the heat generated during the run started coming out as sweat. From the inner city lanes we turned towards the Marine Lines and Chowpatty. Ah, great view. Running along the sea side. My friends are now vanished in the crowd ahead, but I am not alone. There are plenty behind and with me too.
A flyover at 7 km. If you are not a professional runner, don’t run over them or they will kill you in the later part of the marathon. I am feeling energetic but I just walked over it and so did most of my fellow runners except few who forgot to read this before. Elevations are not gone; it’s a treacherous stretch of 2 km having long ups and downs.
Mumbai is now waking up. People have started coming out to cheer for us. "COME ON MUMBAI" is the more famous one. Once I also shouted in my heart "COME ON DELHI", but then Mr Shahrukh Khan came to me and I said yeah ok “COMEON IN-DI-YAAA”.
At around 8 KM I had my first cup of energy drink. Sea is out of sight. Body is all warmed up and feeling great. No tiredness, No Pain. I know they are inevitable, but for now they are nowhere. A girl is overtaking me. The man inside me roared and coaxed me, “Hey, how can you let this happen”. If this would have been a Half Marathon, I would have tried matching her pace. Girls, Men with grey hairs are good motivators for me. I feel challenged and charged up when these species overtake me. But here I rather chose to be little shameless. It’s still a long way to go before I step up on the podium. God, not one or two, there are many. I have closed my eyes and have muted my Man.
10 km down, its Hazi Ali. Dawn is breaking. Sea is back and with it the cool breeze too. Feeling like heaven. Cool air soothing my body. No more sweating. Me, my fellow runners and the picturesque surroundings. There is no evidence of my other 2 partners. They are much ahead of me I guess. Not only Men with grey hairs, here overtaking me is a Woman with grey hairs. God, I can’t take this anymore. I stepped up my pace a little, to go past her.
Podolski (German soccer great), written on the back of the red t-shirt of an Englishman in his 60's. I just went little closer and greeted him "Great Run". He answered "You too". I replied "I am following you", he just smiled back probably thinking that "Kid, you won’t be able to follow me". But then I didn’t knew what he is thinking. He is running strongly, so I sticked with Podolski, unofficially my new running mate. We have one similarity too; I am wearing a Messi (Argentine soccer legend) t-shirt.
Its 15 km, and sun is just going to wake up. We are running on the Rajiv Gandhi Sealink connecting Bandra to Worli. What a place to run, awesome, beautiful. Please add adjectives of your choice here. But truly, now I don’t remember from where I am, what I do. What’s my past, what’s stored in future? I am just running in the PRESENT and enjoying every bit of it. And suddenly, a huge crowd is coming towards us from the opposite direction. Ok, they are the Half Marathon runners, which started at 7 am from Bandra. All are cheering, waving and enjoying the run.
Its 17 km, and sun is just peeking out and surprised to see so many of us waking up earlier than him. And here they are, with yellow caps (which they bought yesterday night @ forty rupees each from a road side vendor) on their head, my lost partners. I said "Hi Guys". They turned their neck at 90 degrees and replied "We thought you are ahead of us". What a humble response fellasJ. We started running together again. My running mate, Podolski is still around. Switching positions. At the end of the sea link there is a race photographer clicking snaps for us. We started to run bit in front of each other with our arms open, to be in the frame.
Its 20 km. we completed it in 2 hours. I am breathing easy and steady. Still no tiredness, no pain. My friend asked me whats the strategy for the next half. I said lets just run easy at our pace and run till our body allows us and after that we can do run-walk-crawl. Occasionally I am looking at the wrist watch (my Mom's watch, as it is small and light weight; giving my clarification so that you don’t ask me why I am wearing a ladies watch) just to reassure myself that I am running at a pace good enough to finish in 4 hours 30 minute. Till now everything is going as planned.
A girl in yellow, oh yeah she is the one who overtook me very much at the start. I exclaimed to her "Good running" and she replied "Thank you". I continued "I saw you at 1, you are running great" and just to cheer her up I added "Come on, we are waiting for you at the finish line". She might have smiled back, I did not notice. We (my friends and of course Podolski) overtook her. Little I knew about the future. Now I started having a cup of Gatorade (flavored electrol) at every stop. Mumbai is now all out of their houses. People could be seen in good numbers on both sides of the road, clapping and cheering our fading spirits.
At 26 km mark, my friend (not FRIENDS, one already dumped us somewhere back) announced that he will now start run-walk. I continued running with my pace, which is steady but is definitely getting slower. 27,28 km mark passed by and whats this. The 4:30 bus (group of people determined to finish the race in 4 Hrs 30 Mins, lead by a leader who has already completed such marathons in less than 4 hours many times) overtook me. I tried to follow it for next 2 kilometers but after that I could not and I again started running at my own pace. My body has started feeling the Inevitables. My running mate Podolski also overtook me at 30 and got vanished soon forever.
More than physical it was mental game now. Before this my longest run was a Half Marathon (21 kms) and here I have just crossed 30 and still continuing. My pace is gradually slowing. I mopped my face with a sponge dipped in cold water to remove all the salts from my face which were giving me a itching feeling. Sun is now all out, making a difference.
At 32, I finally stopped running to continue with the run-walk-crawl strategy. My legs are stiff. I am not tired nor am I breathing heavy. Its just that my legs have started revolting against me. Its the time when my mind has to take control of my body and has to think out of it. Many cute little kids on the road distributing bananas, oranges, toffees and water to the battered runners like me. People are standing with biscuits in the plate in front of their houses.
The elite runners (professional national and international athletes) are on road now. They are passing us like a group of Ferraris pass the punctured rickshaws (saying that they are overtaking us will not be good, they might sue me). They are not at all running. They are hopping like kangaroos. Ram singh yadav, is leading the Indian pack, in a bid to qualify for London Olympics (He eventually qualified after recording his personal best here).
Kilometer 35, the dreaded stretch of 2 km with long ups and downs, which came at 7 in the first half, is here to haunt us again. I am literally crawling now. Sun is also playing its part to prove his existence. It cannot get worse than this. I ate a banana (quite delicious) and a sweet little girl is offering toffees. I took one and said “Thankyou”
Now, whats this. The girl in yellow is here again and overtaking me. I exclaimed rather sheepishly, "Wow, Great. Now you have to wait for me at the finish line" and she acknowledged back loudly “Sure". My legs are all cemented now, revolting any running which my mind is ordering them. I started trying all the tricks I read to handle my revolting army. Kids on the roadside are shouting "Go Messi Go". I smiled and waved to them. I have to run, both for myself and for Messi too.
My eyes are now more frequently checking my watch. The 4 hours 30 minutes target is just over. But under 5 hours is still on, and I know I will make it. My legs are in bad shape but my mind will make them run-walk-crawl to the finish line within 5 hours, no matter how. A friend (not participating) is here to cheer and click some photos for us. I waved at him and smiled for the camera.
Hurray, Its km 40 here. What a feeling, just a couple to go. Radio Mirchi 98.3 is the official radio partner of Mumbai Marathon. The loud rocking music is pumping adrenaline into my blood. I am running. A fellow runner, having better pair of legs than me passed by and said “Great, keep running”. My eyes are searching for the 41 km mark, like a mobile phone searching for signals in the Himalayas. A fellow runner asked me the same question "Have you noticed the 41 km mark". Hey where is it?
Here it is, not the 41 Km mark, but the mark written "One km to go". Wow, the last one. Each step is getting more difficult than the previous step, but there is no stopping now. I am running as fast as I can, which is just little faster than what is my average walking speed J
500 meters to go, 300 meters to go. Last 100 meters. Finish line in sight. I raised my arms; smiled for the cameraman and here I am on the last finishing mat and got assured after hearing the beep sound which signaled that the finishing mat has recognized the chip tied to my shoes.
I am escalated. I have finished my first Full Marathon in 4 Hours 50 Mins. Mission accomplished. I dont know how an athlete feels on winning a Gold in Olympics, but surely I am feeling nothing less. I am searching a medical camp to get some aid for my legs. Here it is, but there are more needy people than me. The volunteer there gave me an Ice pack to rub on my legs and some water to drink. Some runners are coming on stretcher too. God, help them. I am healthy and fine, Thankyou. Another volunteer came and sprayed something on my knees and lower calf muscles. Dont know whether it helped or not. I am cramping, limping and smiling too.
Couple of minutes later my friends also came. After resting for few minutes we proceeded towards the medal counter. The sweet girl sitting there welcomed us with a smile. She put a cross on my bib (to mark that I have collected the medal) and put the medal round my neck. Another one handed me the refreshment packet having an apple, an orange, a ParleG and a water bottle. I am feeling special and honored. With the medal round the neck, we all came out like the proud soldiers who have won a great battle. A battle against our own body to set a new limit of 42.195 km.
After eating the oranges and ParleG, we got some group photos clicked. We are heading back to our hotel, limping/cramping/crawling, with some sweet pain in our legs, feeling happy and proud. Its time to rejoice and feel the glory. Will I be back next year? Obviously, while I am writing my experience here, I have relived the whole run and feeling the same happiness, which I felt on that glorious Sunday morning. Infact from now only I have started counting the days for the next year Mumbai Marathon. And this time I dont want to blame(read credit) my friend for making me register for it.
TARGET FOR THE NEXT YEAR
I will surely better my time so that I feel shameful less number of times whenever anyone from THAT SPECIES will overtake me. But truly, you guys give me strength to stretch and explore my limits further. I salute you all. Long live the KEEDA.
Its very important for me to mention here that we are returning back to NewDelhi by Mumbai Rajdhani. Nice toilets J