13 Feb 2011

Race Day - 2006

I stood there in the holding area, one among the sea of many runners. I could sense the high spirits. Everyone was cheering each other. The atmosphere was charged with adrenaline. And then there was a distant sound of a gun shot at 6.15am. Of course, I could not hear this, since I was way behind in the sea of noisy runners.

People around me started jogging trying their best to avoid tripping over other runners, as if they were determined to get an early head start. I was slightly more cautious as I briskly walked to the starting point and started jogging by the side of the road. The music from my IPod was totally drowned out by the loud sounds from the blaring speakers.

Soon I was on my own, slowly leaving all the humdrum behind and maintaining my pace to the steady rhythm of my breath. I was out there soaking in the cheers and enjoying the beautiful view of the sea at Marine Drive and various heritage sights of my beautiful city by foot.

The crowd cheer, from people lined up the roads on both sides, was fantastic. Hats off to the sporting spirit of Mumbaikars! I saw residents of various buildings and hotels on the roof top and balcony waving out and encouraging the runners. All this made me feel absolutely great.

As the gentle breeze wafted along the sea front at Chowpatty, and blowing through my hair, I turned towards Peddar road and now I knew that the killer flyover was waiting for me to attack with gusto!! I sipped some electrolyte drink from my hydration belt and had strategized to walk up the flyover briskly and then run down fast which I managed well. It was such a wonderful feeling defeating these small hurdles along the way (similarities to daily life, if we put our heart and soul we can always overcome obstacles).

In good time, I reached the half way mark at Mela restaurant in Worli. Fishermen folk from a nearby village had turned up at the half way mark to encourage the runners. And then, I suddenly heard loud horse-like hoofs. The very same group of Kenyans whizzed past me along with other leading full marathoners. It was such a delightful sight to watch that for a few minutes I just stood and stared!

With renewed inspiration from watching these elite runners, I turned around at the halfway mark and made my way back. By this time, the sun was high up and shining bright. All along, I was constantly telling myself that "I can do it!" Interestingly, by this stage, my mind was taking its grip over my body and deciding that I was going to complete this run.

Marine Drive marked the 15 km mark. Many residents had put up temporary stalls and giving glucose cookies and bananas to pump back some much-needed energy. My body also decided for me to bite into a couple of cookies. By this stage, I had reached the 18kms mark. Even if I wanted to stop, crowd cheer would not let me as they kept cheering loudly and wildly. 

And then, from afar, I could see the finish line. This was an indescribable emotion, a combination of joy, pride, humility and satisfaction. There was no looking back now. I had come this far, given it my everything and hugged the finish line gracefully.Finishing  with your very best  effort is the only thing that matters and running had taught me just that and this is what I will apply to my life itself!

It was two hours and forty minutes since I had started running. Yes, several people finished before me. And yet, I felt like a "winner"!

My first Half Marathon

Many wise people have said “The more you do something, the better you get at doing it!” January of 2006, and it was time to put my discipline and commitment to test. The impudent scary goal – to attempt the half marathon in Mumbai. And the simple goal, to somehow stagger across the finish line.

In preparation, I duly filled up my registration form. I started reading about long distance running through books and from various websites. I also strictly followed the Jeff Galloway half marathon training program and paid attention to my diet and hydration.

I was excited to receive confirmation by post of the acceptance and dates for race entry pack collection. I reached the World Trade Centre at Cuffe Parade to collect my running bib and goodies bag on Jan 13th. It was my first experience at the Marathon Expo.

The organization at the marathon expo was superb, with its various stalls of fitness equipment and products. I still vividly remember the goody bag, which contained biscuits, noodles, iced tea mix, timing chip, safety pins, course map and the vital bib number. The Mumbai organization did full justice to being a part of "the great race on earth".

This was also my first encounter with the Kenyan runners (or should I call them Kenyan Gazelles!) Oh boy! Did they look fit and toned? They had the perfect runner’s physique. They walked around, totally relaxed signing autographs and posing for the camera.

One part of me was palpitating thinking about the morning of Jan 15th, just three days away. While, at another, I realized that I would actually be running in the very footsteps of these elite worlds best runners and for a few hours we would be sharing the same road. I returned home feeling good with this thought and eagerly looked forward to the race day.

On the night before the race, I set the alarm for 3.45am and snuggled into bed with a sense of excitement and anxiety, feeling like a little school girl about to sit her first exams in school. Race Day (Sunday Jan 15th 2006), dawned soon and I woke up to the alarm bell, after about five hours of sleep.

As I geared up into my running attire, my husband prepared my carbo-loaded breakfast. And then I started hydrating myself with electrolyte loaded water, while he drove me to the starting area near Victoria terminus, playing my favorite music loudly in the car stereo.

It needs to be mentioned that his support, encouragement, interest and enthusiasm has been essential for many of my lifetime firsts. As he dropped me off at the holding area, I remember his words of encouragement in my ear "When you go out there, burn the tracks and enjoy the journey, you will see the finish line.” Ever since, this has been my big mantra for all future half and full marathon races to follow.....

More on the actual race experience in my next post.

8 Feb 2011

"Dream Run" - Mumbai January 2005.

 Walt Disney famously said If you can DREAM it, you can DO it!

Just two months since I started, running had become my every morning routine. It was my "ME" time. It was the time where I became one with nature, smelt the flowers and fresh leaves at the park,  enjoyed the cool breeze which blew through my hair as I absorbed the golden rays of the early morning sun. It was the time where my inner self felt happiest.

A close friend at work, Shanti, who was also preparing for her first half marathon encouraged me and brought me an application form for the 6km "Dream Run" at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon in Jan 2005. This was officially my first race. I remember exactly what she told me then. "You are not competing against anyone but your own self, Priya".

The run was scheduled for 9am. There was magic in the air.  I did not know that Mumbai city on a marathon day  pulsated with double the vibrancy and energy as it does on a normal day. I soaked in the mood of the fun run. People young and old participated and cheered with such enthusiasm. Participants in various  fancy costumes paraded along to the beats of drums and loud music filled the air.I completed the run in 40 minutes and was excited to finish.  It was such a memorable experience and will forever remain fresh in my memory.

All the excitement encouraged me to dedicate this run to my senior citizen friends at Joggers Park!

My life partner and best friend was awaiting my phone call anxiously at a friends place. And when I called, he could sense the excitement in my voice. We had a sumptuous buffet lunch with friends to celebrate the success of my first race (and this became a ritual after every race I ran in Mumbai thereafter!)

"I have a dream, a fantasy
To help me through reality
And my destination makes it worth a while
Pushing through the darkness still another mile.......

ABBA was still buzzing in my ears as my head hit the pillow peacefully that night.

7 Feb 2011

A blast from the past!

There is always a first time!! And this is how it was for me ...

It was a beautiful sunday morning, the dawn was inviting. I stepped out the door in my new Nike Bowerman footwear bought a few days ago, made a brisk walk to Joggers park inside the colony where I lived in Mumbai. The air smelt fresh as if there had been a few cloudbursts the night before.

Ironically contradictory to its name, Joggers park only had some walkers and strollers. I met a few senior citizens(who meet daily as part of a laughter club) who greeted  me with a "Hello doc, good morning. So, are you out for a walk?" I did not dare tell them that I was out to jog!

I walked for a few minutes and then slowly eased into a jog. Exactly five minutes into it and I was huffing, puffing and totally humbled. Did I feel like a defeated soldier? I attempted again and this time heard my breath and the pat sounds of my shoes on the ground. There was a certain sense of peace and calm I felt within me, in this monotony.

It was like meditation every morning and gradually after a few circles of walking interspersed with jogging over the next 20 days, I transformed into a runner. The senior citizens in the park every morning gave me company, encouraging and prodding me along the tracks saying "Run beta (hindi for child), its good for you"

I was hooked and looked forward to this new found form of meditation, my early morning runs and chats with my new friends. Just like new parents are excited about their baby's first crawl, I cannot describe in words the excitement, bliss, peace and energy I felt with this new found passion for running.

I had embarked on a new and exciting journey!

6 Feb 2011

How it all started.....rewind to 2005, a new dawn and a new beginning!

This experience is
a newly discovered
form of meditation
one more way
for you
to discover you.

whatever you do
with your running,
you only cheat yourself
by pushing, pressing, competing.
There are no standards
and no possible victories except
the joy you are living
while dancing your run.
in any life
joy is only known
in this moment — now!

so feel the flow
of your dance
and know
you are not running
for some future reward --
the real reward is now!

in the running
in the run
--- now ---
why not start

Fred Rohé, The Zen of Running, 1974

(Thank you sis Indu and my dearest friend Shanti for igniting the fire of running inside me and that flame is still burning bright!)