Navaal Rai

Struggle. That is what all creatures do from the moment they are born. Somewhere along the way, humans forgot their eternal quest for struggle. We settled into a comfortable life, all the while knowing that something was definitely amiss. What better to remind one of this quest, than running a full marathon. Well, as good as that sounds to read, the only reason I ran a full marathon is because all the half marathon slots for the largest marathon in Asia were already full.

The Mumbai Marathon, a coveted marathon every long distance runner in India aims to run atleast once in his lifetime. Here I was, registering for it on a whim, with no training plan in mind and with no clue as to how I would survive the entire distance. But the registration was done, the tickets booked and the news of this feat I was attempting trumpeted around to all my dear ones. Now I had to run 42.195 kms somehow. How I would do that, was a matter for another day. I continued with the same training plan I had followed the entire year. A couple of short runs a week and cross training and rest on the other days. Exams and a few minor injuries meant that I didn’t have to blame my lack of training on sheer laziness. Then came the vacations and soon I was at the expo collecting my bib, just a day before the marathon without any proper training that I could boast about.

Considering the negligible amount of training I had done, I thought it would be considerate of me to atleast fuel my body well, before I put it through all the torture the next day. So I had salted noodles and sweet potatoes, my way of “carb loading”. Unlike a lot of other runners I had a good night’s sleep. My pre-race breakfast consisted of more sweet potatoes and a glass of Enerzal. I met up with my MRC compatriots, Sid and Gajendra on the train to the starting point and we started discussing our strategy to run together with sufficient walk breaks incorporated so as to not tax our severely undertrained bodies. The excitement in the air was palpable and for some unknown reason I felt extremely confident instead of feeling nervous. The mind does work in mysterious ways. The entire area around the starting point reeked of pain relief spray and it was astonishing to see the number of people who had turned up for the run! As the race started, we could hear loud cheers from everyone around, runners and spectators alike. I felt really good and my body was responding well to the huge amount of rest it had accrued. We took our timed walk breaks and ate everything we could lay our hands on. The refreshments were probably the highlight of the race, with everything you could hope for, on offer. Residents of the city came out of their homes on a lazy Sunday morning in droves, to cheer the runners on and to provide whatever refreshments they could. It felt great, tantamount to being treated as kings. We ate our hearts out at every refreshment point and managed to empty a load of pain relief sprays. The first half of the race turned out to be a delight. Running on the Sea Link was a different experience in itself and the company I had with me managed to keep me in high spirits throughout.

For anyone planning to run a full marathon in the near future, a word of advice: The first thirty odd kilometres are a cake run. The real struggle starts after this, when all you can think about is why you registered for this voluntary torture. The pain set fire to my entire body and I discovered muscles that I didn’t know existed before. My legs were numb after a certain point and they moved on their own, without any forethought, like a couple of androids. No amount of refreshments and cheering helps after a certain point, all you can rely on now; is yourself. The fact that you were brave enough to sign-up for this atrocity means that you’re brave enough to complete the race. With that thought in mind, I spurred myself on. Sid had already taken off ahead of me and Gajendra, and we decided to finish the race together, motivating each other with the fact that there was just a bit more to go. The last hundred meters in a marathon are meant to be sprinted, regardless of how tired or dead you are. And that’s exactly what we did, we finished like champions with our fists punching the air as we crossed the line. We had been running for almost five hours now and the feeling of euphoria that surged through my body as I came to a halt cannot be described in words. It was as if I was an engine running for years on end and finally, someone had the right mind to switch me off just before I completely overheated. As we received our medals, I realised that I had done something worthwhile with my time. Never before had I spent five hours doing something this fun and inspiring at the same time.

People will tell you that you learn a lot about yourself when you run a marathon. That’s partly true. More than learning about yourself, you discover this fierce, driven and strong-willed creature that was hiding inside you all along. And for as long as you live, everytime you face a problem, the one memory of you completing that race will always lift your spirits and motivate you. You are now part of an elite group of athletes who have run the marathon distance, the true descendants of Pheidippides. I’m usually pretty bad at giving advice to others, but trust me on this one; run a marathon atleast once in your lifetime. Doesn’t matter whether you’ve trained for it or not, just go for it. Transcend your fears and shatter your limits. Discover that crazy creature hiding inside of you because sometimes, you need to risk more than is required to really gain something insightful. So if there’s one thing I really learnt from the marathon other than discovering myself, it would be to exude passion in everything you do regardless of your experience or level of preparation. If this article gets atleast half of its readers to run a full marathon somewhere in the near future, I will consider it a job well done.

As always, keep running 🙂

Categories: Experiences


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