9 Feb 2012

A full marathon since transitioning to barefeet/minimalistic footwear in "Monkey Feet"- Vibram Five Fingers

Successfully completed what is labelled as the toughest marathon in Asia, the Hong Kong Standard Chartered full marathon on february 5, 2012. The new and tougher route was introduced since 2010.The main race started off from Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui at 7:15 am. As runners we passed through some of Hong Kong's iconic infrastructure, including the West Kowloon Expressway, Stonecutters Bridge, Tsing Ma Bridge, Ting Kau Bridge and Western Harbour Tunnel, before finishing at Victoria Park. The 3 suspension bridges  with steep inclines(stonecutters, Tsing Ma and Ting Kau one after the other until almost the halfway mark!)  and followed by 2 major tunnels ( Cheung Tsing and the Western Harbour) with steep ascent at around 25 kms and 33 kms mark.After exiting the tunnel,  I cramped badly( just wanted to quit!!). The only positive was we crossed freely both the tunnels without paying toll :).This was soon followed by 2 flyovers towards the finish ( connaught road and admiralty). Boy oh boy! this sure was a killer! The organisation was very good with drink station (water and isotonic) at every 5 kms and then bananas and chocolates after 25 kms which was almost exhausted by some fast FM runners(however my friend managed to get hold of one chocolate bar and kept it with her and surprised me when we finished our journey and this was one of the sweetest cadbury dairy milk I have till date tasted!). Medical aid stations had abundant sprays and ointments for cramps and also ambulance ready to handle any untoward emergencies. What was lacking was crowd cheer and support to lift our spirits and pull us through along the way, especially at those claustrophobic tunnels when one is desperately looking for the ray of light!. We limped and walked through the whole course of the almost 4 kms long Western Harbour tunnel.Many of my "guide runner" friends who were running with visually impaired runners provided the most needed inspiration all through the darkest point in the course and we followed them one step at a time. It was clearly a victory of mind over body here! and a wonderful feeling to enjoy and successfully complete another beautiful and tough journey and see the finish line hand in hand with my soul/sole sis Deepa Natarajan and even happier when a volunteer put the medal around our neck ( like we had won a battle ;-)). As for the time I know it will only get better in future from 5hrs and 37 minutes!!. Both of us ran for the first time a FM course with minimalistic footwear ( VFFs), since one year of transitioning to run minimalistic/barefeet.I ran this for the cause of "seeing is believing" an organisation which tackles avoidable blindness.  Will I recommend this marathon to my running friends? Yes, only if you are a serious runner and very well trained. Not the best for a first timer. For those who are looking forward to more challenging ones? Yes, this is it!

Did I see light at the end of a tunnel or around me?

Volunteering as a guide runner for the visually impaired runners at the Hong Kong Blind Sports Association

In february 2010, I attempted my first full marathon at standard chartered Hong Kong. I did not know why I wanted to do it? Maybe a comeback from a long hiatus of not running ? Or did I just want to challenge my innerself?  Or would this be a life defining moment? As they say there are many instances during the 42.195 kms long journey when the tug of war between mind and body occurs. My run buddy Deepa and me had trained well, but what we were unprepared for was the intensity of the hills along the way. The course in 2010 had changed to what was recorded as the toughest route with major bridges ( stonecutters, Tsing Ma, Ting Kau) tunnels (Nam Wan , Cheung Tsing and the killer Western Harbour )  and flyovers (Connaught Road West , Marsh Road ). When we entered the notorious Western harbour tunnel, both of us hit “the wall” at around 32-33kms!. This tunnel is very long and lack of natural light and a feeling of claustrophobia set in – I asked myself, why am I doing this? My legs became heavy. Each movement of my limbs was painful, I had developed severe side stitches on my abdomen.Many runners had stopped, some were cramping badly, some had thrown up and lay on the sides, there was no water station along the tunnel and I had just sipped the last drop from my bottle- blissful, sweet and divine nectar tasted heavenly at that point! the bus to pick up the slow runners was just lingering along behind us.I immediately got into a run walk routine and looked right ahead and was hoping to see the light soon at the end!

Suddenly I noticed a few runners tagged on to a co-runner and charging along the course…they were saying “ Kai Ho! Kai Ho!”(  in Cantonese which meant- "keep going"). I noticed that they were visually impaired and were being guided by another runner with a tag and they were running really fast. Here I was searching for light at the end of that tunnel when the positive vibrations were all around me, encouraging and helped me finish that difficult stretch very strongly.It was such a humbling experience, words fail to express the emotions which I experienced at that point and how thankful I was to each them. The race finished. I got back into my routine. A year had passed. One fine day 3 months ago, through my friend, I was introduced to this awesome group of people. I volunteer with the group now as a guide runner on Tuesdays and Thursday evening at a local sports ground. Such a wonderful bunch of inspiring, dedicated and fun people to be around with .I enjoy participating in races with them.I learn a lot about putting others before self .I am happy and blessed to be a member of this beautiful family and thank god everyday for bringing them into my life.Its always nice to run for a cause and for someone else. It makes the "running" so much more worth it!

As I said before and I again repeat it “Some people come into your life by chance and for a reason, and then you thank god that they did”. The first full marathon was indeed a life changing experience for me personally.