Chicago marathon 2022-The tale of 26.2 miles and 26.2 months

My 7th marathon! A shiny metal! The Mallu in me said that I could have had a real gold medal with the amount spent in these countless marathons! True and yet so far from the truth.

Been there, bean that …

So why do we, the human race, spend countless hours of time and energy in pursuit of pain and suffering. These thoughts echoed in my mind as I waited in line with 45,786 runners at the start coral. Flashbacks to hours of planning, dreaming and visualising the finish strategies, runs, long runs and not so long runs, slow runs and the so-called fast runs, all seemed real.

The marathon is an eye opener. Every time I marvel at the runners. They come in all shapes and sizes. From the seasoned , minimalistic, slick marathoner to the novice armed with all sorts of weapons ie water bottles, hat, gels, phones, camcorders too, etc. Lean, mean, fat, tall, old, grey, young, you see them all. and that’s when you realise that a marathon is not a race of the body. It is of the mind. And the person who actually reaches the start line is the victor because they dared to dream, they dared to run.

The Chicago Marathon was 26.2 months late, thanks to Covid and several health delays, but it was there, and our excitement was palpable. But more than that was the thrill of being joined by Varsha Joshi and Priya Nadeem Anis , forever my source of strength and comfort and the prospect of meeting yet another angel RT Gazula . We experienced home away from home at Suraj Aggarwal maasi’s who welcomed us with wide arms and smiles.

The pre-race day went past in a blur of laughter, excitement and girly gaggles. We gossiped past midnight over college infatuations and laughed about whoever entered our wine drenched thoughts. I just didn’t want the night to end. Med school days were revisited again and again and we fell asleep, still mumbling into the dark.

Varsha woke up at an unearthly hour of 4.30am , a combination of race and tummy nerves in full swing. I opened one eye and groaned into my pillow. Priya watched us amused and fascinated at the same time. Subhash arrived like clockwork at the strike of 6 and before we realised, time just fast forwarded, and we were jostling shoulder to shoulder along with the thronging hordes to the start line.

And so the race started. and from the word go, it was a dream. Perfect weather, perfect route and even more than that, perfect crowd support. People shouted out in the now much-loved American drawl ‘ Go, Smidaaa, you gaaat it, gurrlll……. Posters, placards, gels, sweets, all shouted out for us in unison. The aid stations were faultless, dispensing cooling gels and brufens when needed.

Subhash and I were cruising like a dream, our 4th marathon together, and very much in reach of the sub5 timing, when at mile 18, I felt the twinges of cramps in my calves. It escalated to full blown golf ball sized bundles of excruciating pain and at that moment, I knew that either I push ahead and take the risk of not completing or slow down and walk-run the rest of the distance. I chose the latter and crawled ahead with my mind, one step at a time.

When I faltered at mile 19, a lady jumped in, hugged me, whispered ‘you look amazing, you are nearly there’ and softly pushed me ahead.

Mile 19-24, everything appeared to be in slow motion . The mile markers appeared distant, people seemed to fade in and out of my eyes and I felt lightheaded and nauseous. But I knew that I had to inch ahead. The 5-hour pacer went ahead, and I let him go. I watched with regret at the 5.15 pacer and brushed aside the fog in my head. I could do it, I have done it and I will do it.

The final 2 miles, I decided to just run. I thought of Ram and his race, how he would have run, would do anything to run again. And that was the turning point! Cramps or no cramps, I bounded ahead, picked up my pace and whatever ego and passion I had for running and I charged to the finish line. Tears welling, hands outstretched, I heard someone hug me and whisper softly, Girl, you’ve done it. Someone garlanded me with the medal. Another arm reached out with the foil blanket. The rest was blurred by the tears gushing from my eyes and on my cheeks!
….5.19 hours , an eternity immortalised forever.

The pain is temporary, the glory is of a lifetime!
I am a marathoner 💖 and so were the 45,786 others who dared to dream, who dared to start…. so, just start 🙂

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