As I stood at the start of Rotterdam marathon, the only thought was, “Ohmigod, I’m freezing”. I was wearing an extra layer to keep myself warm pre-race, but as the 10am start time approached I excitedly dumped all that in the nearest garbage bin. Little did I know, that Rahul and I, and all those in the third start wave would begin 20 minutes later. With the crowd of runners waited in the shade I was shivering too. In tradition, a famous Dutch singer sang ‘You Never Walk Alone’ standing atop a crane. All this entertainment apart the run needed to start ASAP, else my fingers would start falling off, one by one. But things happen when they have to…at 10.20am the canon boomed and we were off.
The start was very crowded as the area designated for the runners was very narrow. We got into rhythm fairly quickly and by the third km we were faster than our target pace. We tried to rein the pace in- but it just wasn’t happening. The route was scenic. Legs were fresh, great weather and awesome crowd support. So we decided to roll with it.
This being my first full marathon outside Mumbai, as I ran in unfamiliar surroundings, my thoughts were free wheeling. I had an out of body experience, as I wondered. What am I doing here? Thousands of km away from home. It was me. By myself. In rhythmic tandem with my cadence, this voice over started in my head. Like a movie going on… “You are here to run the race of your life. You have obliterated all doubts and fears and you have faith in your training. You are here to do your personal best and that is what you will do. So brace yourself and run strong.”
I ran with positivity, smiling and hi fiving everyone around. As we chatted with some local runners, they were surprised to hear that we came so far away to run this race. But it’s the best race in the Netherlands. Yes, it’s going to be a good one. Lovely day, I said. But a tad too warm, a day for the beach, they said, and we laughed. We cruised along until the halfway mark, where I managed my HM PB- 1.53.05. Yayyyyy!!! Everything was as per plan.
The vista kept changing. From the quaint countryside, with lakes, bridges and lush green grass, to flyovers and skyscrapers, it was quite a tour of Rotterdam. The best way to see a city, I’d say. Approaching the 30km mark, I braced myself for the fatigue to set in. As a flyover came, I slowed down, but after that kilometre long uphill, much to my surprise, I managed to get back to the original marathon pace. This is awesome, I’m not dying yet! Feeling invincible, I said to myself, nothing can go wrong now! In a race, the job of the muscles is to perform. The job of the mind is to cope.
Sailing through at marathon pace, I remained strong in my head. I sang a bit, danced some and soaked it all in. At 35km there was a sigh of relief…no Peddar road here!
At 37 km, “5km to Boston- run hard, don’t settle.” This message from a dear friend flashed in my head and I forged on. I did not look at the overall time. Instead, my focus remained on maintaining the pace. The pace was slightly hard, but not intimidating. I had a plan and I stuck to it. The crowds became more frenzied towards the end, as did my music. And I let it rip. Right Now, said Sammy Hagar!
The final few km were a breeze as I streamed past the runners who were slacking. I knew I was bang on target, and would finish well in time, and when I calculated my finish time with a kilometre to go, I was shocked! How could it be? This spurred me on to do the last kilometre at a scorching 5 min/km!
I ran this race with gratitude and belief.
Grateful that I have made it so far in life.
Grateful for all the love I have been showered with.
Grateful for the support of my family and friends.
Belief in the training.
Belief in myself.
Belief in the day, in the moment, in the Now.
One cannot improve as an endurance athlete except by changing one’s relationship with the perception of effort. Perceived effort is essentially the body’s resistance to the mind’s will. The fitter an athlete becomes the less resistance the body puts up. The key, I learned is to work hard, so hard, that the hard seems doable. Almost easy. That the effort does not feel overwhelming. How to get “comfortable” at an uncomfortable pace has been the focus of my training for the last 6 months. This included a lot of easy running to fatigue the legs and then doing a long run at marathon pace. This toughened the mind and conditioned the legs.
It is when life bends us to its will and we don’t break that we learn what we are made of.
It has not been an easy-breezy year compared to my previous years, when my improvement had seemed almost effortless. The ADHM and SCMM races didn’t quite go the way I had imagined to run them. I did alright timing wise, but I felt I had to work really hard. Maintaining the constant pace was very hard and took a lot of focus. So post Bombay when I ran Thane, I got the same time as Delhi but I felt I was flying. That is when I knew that the training was coming together and I got a lot of confidence for this race.
Mo Farah said this before his first marathon, “This will be the hardest race of my life.” He wasn’t being negative; he was bracing himself.
I flew across the finish with my arms open wide embracing the world and all its joy. 3.48.33! 42.2 km. NN Rotterdam Full Marathon.
I was in seventh heaven. Tears of joy streamed down my cheeks. This finish time is my ticket to my next full marathon. This run was the culmination of a 2 year dream. In January 2014, when I watched “The Marathon Movie” a day before SCMM, this seed was sown- to, one day; in the near future qualify for the mother of all marathons. Boston 2017, here comes The Running Soul.