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I’m not exactly sure when I had this urge to run a marathon. Most likely that it must have been around a year back when there was a lot of talk about the Wipro Chennai Marathon and how I got to know of a 10km run intended for beginners who were interested.

I was really never into sports. I used to play volley ball at school. I play shuttle (sometimes) out of a personal interest, given that everyone in the family plays the sport and it used to be a good way to spend time. When it comes to running, the only instances when I really had to run were 1. When I single-handedly destroyed Grandma’s cupboard by swinging on the door, and I had to run before the glass bottles fell on me, and then I had to run away from the scene of crime till tempers ( Ma’s and Grandma’s) relaxed. 2. When I was playing with a few friends and out of nowhere a dog came and started chasing me. (I never knew I could run so fast :-D). Other than that, luckily I did not have the need to run for anything.

So back to the Wipro Marathon, I decided to train and participate, but it did not materialize. I left it without another thought as I wasn’t very serious about it. Then it so happened that I met a friend/colleague who was a pro-marathon runner. He made it sound fun and interesting. A split-second decision later, I decided to take part in a marathon, which would give me sufficient time to train. The same friend told me about the Dream Runners Marathon scheduled for June 22. Since we were in February at that time, I thought it would be the best option. Things just fell in place πŸ™‚

The main reason for taking up the marathon was, I felt I needed a challenge. That was it. I felt I needed to do something different from what I was doing. I wanted to compete with myself. Though I should say, my friends and family were not convinced when I cited this reason. People thought I was crazy. I wouldn’t blame them either πŸ˜‰

So after signing up, I had to come up with a training schedule. I tried to follow the schedule that was given on the training website and with some inputs from my runner friend, I set out with an agenda. Run. Build Stamina. Run. Since I used to work out at the gym, I decided to go for practice runs during the weekends. The most difficult part was not the running, I had started working out and I’d been swimming for a considerable period. The problem was waking up at 5.30 on weekends. For a normal person, this isn’t a big deal. But for me, even waking up at 6.30 every day is a task. (Typical night owl) Somehow I managed to push myself (with multiple alarms) and started training, slowly and gradually.

As expected, initially I found it difficult, but not difficult enough to give up. Surprisingly from the second week I could see a lot of improvement while training and I was amazed at how I was able to comfortably push myself and achieve the target set for the day. I knew I had to take it slow, and kept gradually increasing the target. I wanted to run the whole distance at least once before the marathon day. After 3 months of weekend training ( and sever bouts of cold, fever and throat infection) I finally ran the 10kms during the last practice run. I was almost there.

On the D-day, I woke up at 3am, had my very-early-morning dose of coffee (never too early for a cup of coffee), warmed up a little and set out. I was not nervous because I knew I’d trained well and I knew that if I couldn’t run the whole stretch I’d be able to complete it by walking, since I’d tried that option. But still there was some anxiety. I knew I’d miss my mom being there in person and remembered to wear her diamond ring, for a moral support πŸ˜€ . I tried not to do a Root-Cause-Analysis at that time, I just let it be and tried diverting my mind, thinking of what I’d do during the run.

Fast forward to 5.30, the whistle sounded and we were off, about 1800 of us. To my surprise, I started smiling, the anxiety that was bothering me for some time seemed to have vanished and the song that played in my phone seemed to lift my spirit. I thought of the various motivation blogs and realized I should start enjoying the journey. I don’t remember what I was thinking of. My brain seemed to have travelled to some distant land. My Runkeeper app kept giving me updates every 5 minutes and every 1 km. I was listening to the playlist that I’d spent almost half an hour choosing, the previous day and that was it. Slowly it was 3km, then 5km and then 8km.

There were a lot of volunteers who kept cheering us and as we were nearing the finish line, they cheered even more. Only then, somehow miraculously my brain seemed to have come back from its vacation and I knew I was almost there. Almost. I needed to carefully push myself through the last kilometer and the positive vibes helped me. The most interesting part was, as we are nearing the finish line, we could see more people in the crowd who were clapping and cheering all the runners along with volunteers. Just before I touched the finish line, I could visualize the three months of hard work that I’d put in. Three months of waking up early and running, three months of sacrificing weekend sleep, three months of driving myself to accomplish the challenge and three months of torturing my alarm. And I knew it was all worth it. It was worth every minute of those three months for the wonderful experience.

I took up this challenge for fun and I never even thought I would enjoy it to this extent and have fun. That sense of having achieved something and having enjoyed in the process is such truly rewarding and fulfilling.

That moment, at the finish line, when people seemed to be clapping for all the finishers, when my heart was shouting ‘You did it Ash!’, when my dad stood there smiling and said ‘Proud of You!’, that moment when the challenge was successfully completed, is something that is deeply etched in my heart. I would never forget that moment for a lifetime!

P.S. This was one of the challenges I wrote about, here πŸ™‚

Image Courtesy : FreeDigitalPhotos