There is always a vision, everyone has a vision and standing non-descript, amongst thousands of runners of varying shapes, age and sizes, I had a vision. Of the super fit me, in bright lycras and endless legs, bounding away to the muffled beats of music, pony tail tossing in the wind, evoking all sorts of responses from the appreciative crowds….. and the half marathon started . We placed ourselves near the 2.15 pacer flags, smiled at each other with the confidence of an Olympian about to claim his third medal and all seemed perfect……
I woke up with a jolt in the first mile itself. Somehow those long strides seemed to drag and it continued. We told ourselves that this was the warm up run and it is common to feel heavy. The route was crowded and we avoided the temptation to rush ahead. The 2.15 pacer flag kept bobbing in front and it was a sense of security. The locals were great, lots of oranges offered, music bands cheering us and of course the jelly beans on offer. Regular water stops kept us hydrated. Some army cadets carrying large loads on their backs bundled past, their pert backs offering enough eye candy in the vast expanse of grunting wannabe runners. But my legs felt weak and i yearned for some energy shot.
Lesson learnt- FUEL: Carb loading 24 hours before and ample breakfast on the day prevents jelly legs.
The pacer flag disappeared and soon, we latched onto an orange turbaned Sikh gentleman and a Supergirl. My thighs started their jelly wobble and my legs felt weak. I knew I was being punished for not eating enough at the start. Supergirl flew away rather quickly and the Sikh guy also sped past. Lots of people overtook us and my morale started sagging as it seemed that the whole crowd seemed to be pulling past us. We, subconsciously increased pace, but I still didn’t feel the rhythm. We were now slowly moving out into the countryside and the route seemed to go uphill and downhill more frequently than expected. We passed a rather fit man who was running with 2 women , encouraging them, giving them reasons to step up and forward. It turned out that he was a seasoned runner and was just running with his mates to help them out. A great individual, he taught us what we already knew, marathon running is all about helping each other. Subhash probably understood his plight as he was suffering the same with me, offering gels at regular intervals and volunteering to hold my unnecessary paraphernalia.
Lesson learnt: SUPPORT: a reliable running mate works wonders, gets you out of your cosy comfort during the late raining cold nights, will challenge your inner voice and will motivate you to achieve your dream.
The African proverb rings – if you want to go fast, run alone. If you want to go far, run together.
This was where it all changed. My trance and slowly fading vision was shattered when there was suddenly a flurry of activity around us. I turned to see a real lean mean running machine charging ahead, in a barely there green hot pants and resplendant with a blonde pony tail bobbing in sync to the steps of a sudden surge in half marathon runners. My running partner also surged ahead only to be reminded that we were meant to keep pace together. For a few miles, she kept us company but then soon, I realised that slowly the tables seemed to have turned. WE seemed to be overtaking more than falling back. This was true on the uphill and the sweet rewards of regular training were ours.
Lessons learnt- PACE: Always run at your own regular pace. Rushing too far ahead leads to fatigue and overall disappointment at the end. Remember, there is a place for everyone at the finish line.
Last 3 miles were relatively easier than the mid-section. The thought of finishing kept us going. Sore, tired, a little sounds inside my head screamed louder and louder now, ordering me to stop, cursing Subhash for getting me into this, cursing Ram for supporting me throughout and cursing my all other friends who were always willing to listen to my never ending saga of the Paris marathon preparations. The only way was to distract my mind. Usually, while running, we love the sound of silence, of being one with nature. But now it was time for some sing alongs and soon Bollywood bhangra tracks shrieked through the British countryside followed by Jessie J and Beyoncé. Subhash even did a mini jig and pumped his fists up in the air to the beat of music. I pretended that I didn’t know him J and towards the end, we were racing away, overtaking weary bodies slowly. I guess it is your frame of mind since we ignored those who overtook us.
Lessons learnt- PERSEVERANCE: There is always a gnome inside our head that will hold us back. Just ignore it and charge ahead. Every step is one step closer to the finish. I overheard this sentence several times during the race, runners encouraging the huffers and puffers along and it is so true. Just keep going and you will do it.
The finish line was there in sight, after unending curves and corners and we strode past, together, proud, broken, exalted, and dazed.
A quick respectful greeting and we slumped onto the nearest bus stop bench and just sat in silence, taking it all in, respecting each and every mortal who was hobbling in. A stuffed Peppa pig arrived, dragged his sweaty costume off and started kicking it furiously. Lovers kissed, families wept and kids hugged their superhero parents. We watched, together, proud, broken, exalted, and dazed.
The ride back was all music to my ears….
Paris, here we come
…..and we can build this dream together, standing tall forever
Nothing gonna stop us now
….and if this world runs out of runners, we’d still hobble together
Nothing gonna stop us now