As a part of the overall plan to run my April race, after 4 consecutive years of running the SCMM Full Marathon, I ran the Half this year.
While the rest of the gang did long distances on Sundays, I sulked, as I waited for them. I longed to feel the burn. The pain. The exhaustion. Running 18km on Sunday just did not seem worth my while. I needed the pain of the 30km long run! The constant chatter of mileage and nutrition, amongst a lot of random conversations…I missed it all! Well, such was life. (Full on FOMO!)
On race day, it broke my heart as we drove towards Worli, instead of the opposite side. We entered the holding area and all was new. The vibe. The people. I didn’t know anyone here. I didn’t belong here. With no time to mull over this, after a long walk, we reached the start line.
The countdown started. Yes, I knew this clock well, but not this race. The route was new, the feeling was new. But once we started and the crowd thinned out after a couple of kilometres, it was all fine. I cruised over the sea link and glimpsed a lot of familiar faces. The pace of a half marathon is so furious that there is just no time for niceties. It is a hard race. The half marathon.
Oh, how I missed making conversation and new friends.
I was able to hold the pace relatively comfortably, and before I even realised, we had reached Marine Drive. The sun was barely up, and there was a cool breeze. Soon the markers for the last 1km appeared. I smiled. It was time for a PB. I raced along, encouraging a lot of others towards a strong finish. This part I knew well. This was my thing. Sprint to the finish like your life depended on it. Done!
I must admit that it was a great feeling to reach VT station, feeling fresh, before the sun was overhead. And while I was still alive (not resurrected!) amidst high fives and cheers, some of us (once Full Marathon runners) agreed that this was a race to run. So much easier and nicer than a full. But then who wants easy and nice. We are suckers for punishment. As a FM friend said to me,” We are paying for our sins from a past life while we train and race!”
Once we recovered, the whole lot of us headed back towards Chowpatty/ Babulnath to help the stalwart marathoners to complete their race. I was pacing my friend Vishal to complete his SCMM in under, what we hoped, would be the magical 4 hours. The three of us, Pulin, me (both Full marathon runners) and Ashima (an aspirant, in training for her April race) waited for our runners at the Wilson College bus stop.
As we stood there under the beating sun we saw the stars approaching. All who would complete the race in around 3:30-3:40. Abbas. Shailaja. Commander Handa. Both the Vidhis. We cheered them on as they tried to smile and wave. And my heart went out to them. I know how hard it is, I wanted to say to them.
But hang in there.
Just a little bit more.
This will be over soon.
For the first time I saw what volunteers saw. And that made me look at the runners with new respect. There is a marked difference – which I cannot fathom, why it is harder to see others suffer.
This year, as an onlooker…
I saw the pain.
The mental fatigue.
The battle within.
This is what the last 6km of a race does to you.
Strips you of all your pretenses.
You become the person you are.
The person who you are destined to be.
That’s what marathon running is about.
And that is when I saw Vishal. Looking like a star! Sunglasses. That lean mean runner look. He was bang on target.
Sub-4, here we come. “Thank god you’re here,” he said. And we continued at a steady pace. And ever so often he said to himself, “This is what I’ve trained for, this is the person I am.” Mission accomplished! A comfortable sub-4.
Today, I understand.
Why people line the streets of our city and in all the big cities of the world.
Why people come out to cheer in such large numbers.
Why they volunteer.
It is to cheer on these crazies who are addicted to self-inflicted torture.
Because when we witness someone else take their destiny in their hands, it makes us believe in possibilities again!