It all started with an urge to do something that would stay with me for the rest of my life. I can trace it back to 2004 when a friend was training for a marathon – he was driven and obsessed to run the Chicago Marathon. At the time, I wondered what the big deal was about running at a particular place. Wherever you run, the effort remains largely the same. I still think that, after all these years. Running is running – whether you do it in Timbaktu or in Hyderabad. Of course, the terrain has challenges. Hilly or climactic difficulties can exist in every place. What is the challenge that you want to face up to? Anyway, back to my story – I was never very fond of running. I am not a natural athlete – far from it. I have sticks that pass as legs and speed is something that takes a long time coming for me.
The first run
Six years after the event, I ran my first medium distance – 10 km in the Nike Human Race at Bengaluru. I took upwards of an hour running the 10 kms and while training for it, I realized that after a distance of about 4-5 kms, it became a purely mind thing. The run stopped being about fitness or how much water I had had or any particular pain or anything at all. It was all about putting one foot in front of the other and keep at it. For me, from the start, running any distance was simply about completing it. The time did not matter and that helped me and my body. I finished that 10 kms run and a couple of years later, I ran the TCS 10 kms, also at Bengaluru, where I finished in marginally better time. It was time for a step up in terms of distance to be covered.
The pragmatist (or pessimist?) in me figured that I was targeting only a single run – not multiple marathons although the romance of traveling the world running marathons was appealing. Research on the Internet threw up a training schedule and multiple posts that spoke about footwear being the single most important aspect of running. It would protect the knees and the ankles. Of course, everyone recommends running on a soft surface that “gives”. I had no such soft surface in the vicinity for my training. I trained on an unforgiving road that only “takes”. I trained for a good 3 months for the Hyderabad Heritage Marathon, in 2012. Long runs on Sundays at Cubbon Park followed 3 days of ever increasing mileage leading up to the big day. I ensured that I had my fill of carbohydrates through the days and kept myself well hydrated. The shoes were very expensive and I figured that I had all the basics covered well enough. Running fast, like I said, was not on my agenda – I jogged more than ran my way through the training period.
I was quite happy that I chose to run the Hyderabad Heritage Marathon – I would be running in front of all the famous monuments of Hyderabad – the Chowmallah palace, Charminar, Salarjung Museum, the State Assembly all the way up to Osman Sagar and back towards Golconda fort before ending up at the Qutb Shahi Tombs. It was going to be fun and an achievement. We started off at 4:00 a.m. or thereabouts, if my memory serves me right. I was happy to set my own pace and keep at it all the way until Osman Sagar when my left knee gave way. I just could not put the weight of running on it any more. Fortunately, walking was OK. So, walk I did. I walked for pretty much half the distance of the marathon. It was all I could do and I did finish the entire distance in well over 5 hours.
So, what does it take?
Will Power. The will to keep going when there is nothing else to push you along. Simply being able to put all else out and pursue the end goal is the most difficult part and provides the biggest thrill of all once completed. It is very clear – everyone who runs one marathon wants to do the next one. The thrill of finishing one is intoxicating and can easily form a habit. Although I was excited to do one more, I have not run another long distance, save for a 5 kms run here and there. I know of one or two more other people who have had to give up running because of injuries. I know of many more people who run despite having had running related injuries. It is, really, all in the mind.
Of course, having a correct posture is important and good shoes help. The terrain would be great too. After all these years, I think nothing matters as much as the mindset and the will power to run.
Who can run?
Some run to win, some to compete with themselves, others do it just because they can. To each his or her own! Some run long distances without every bothering to compete or run in an organized marathon/ ultra marathon. Age is no bar – some of the greatest ultra marathoners are over 50 years of age. Having volunteered at La Ultra – a 222 kms run through the Himalayas in Ladakh and seen these otherwise ordinary 50+ year olds completing the extraordinary feat, I can confidently say that anyone can run. Do you have the bend of mind to do it?
Maybe you are a veteran marathoner or one aiming to complete one. Either way, let me know what you think goes into completing a run. I’d love to hear from you. Cheers!