The alarm went off at 4:55 AM with a screech-like tone. My hand extended itself to turn it off before I would feel like to take the battery out of the damn phone. I thought I just had a nightmare. Actually it was! Rain was pouring down, I could clearly hear the droplets striking our driveway even in a dizzy state. I wanted to go back to sleep because it felt like I had only dozed off (I actually slept past midnight). My mind immediately put forward rain as an excuse to not to tie up my shoelaces and head out the door. And why it did that? Because I am training for a marathon and I am a sensible guy (at least that’s what I think). Running in the cold for some two hours would make me sick definitely. Fortunately, it also convinced me to confirm it’s argument with the weather and meteorology department a.k.a Google Weather. Forecast was much better than the weather outside. It turned out the rain was temporary and should gradually turn into a clearer sky. That was just enough to pump up my spirits and kick the ass of my mind. I changed into my running gear (to be precise, running gear underneath the winter clothing because it was 7 degrees outside).
I ate two slices of bread with jam and peanut butter, packed some water, coconut water, milk, a free sample of protein powder I had got, an apple and two nut bars. With an umbrella over me, I walked to the train station to catch the 6:12 AM train just in time. The race was scheduled to start at 8 AM but if I had taken the next train, I would be late to the venue because the frequency was an hour! Can you imagine? 60 minutes for a train! Probably because it was Sunday. Nevertheless, I read 50 Marathons, 50 Days by Dean Karnazes on the way before getting off at 6:50 in the nightly-morning. A short walk was all that was left before I could reach the event venue. I warmed up with a short jog, some stretch-ups, a couple of sip of coconut-water and some water before I lined-up at the start. I was still not sure whether I should race or simply run. I mean that I was still in a dilemma whether to consider this event as a race where I work really hard during the entire course or to consider it a part of my weekly training plan i.e. to take it as a relaxed pace long-run. I left it on time to decide.
A guy on the mic announced that we are to run around a 7 KM loop. People who were doing 7k would run a single loop while my comrades would do three. The time has come. The last words I heard from him were “On your marks. Get. Set. GO” And so we left.
I started up slow: well within my comfortable pace, for the first two minutes. And then it all began, people started passing my by and I started trying to stick to them. The view was serene and surprisingly beautiful. It wasn’t my first time running around and along a river but the greenery was mesmerizing. The clouds were silently hovering over us with birds occasionally intersecting my line of sight with them. I could not wish for a better morning. While I was still dawn-dreaming, I heard a sound. It was my watch telling me that the 1k mark is left behind and I had taken a bit over 4 minutes and 30 seconds to complete it. That didn’t make any sense. It was a crazy pace to me, at least at the beginning. My usual pace is somewhere between 4:45 and 5 minutes for a kilometer. But I let it slide and covered the watch with the sleeves of my T-shirt and started running based on feeling. It’s one of the most-efficient strategies I have adopted at the start of any race. And the best part is that it’s extremely easy and comes natural to everyone. I made sure that I am feeling comfortable, no matter what the pace is. That’s it! And the kilometer marks kept passing by while I ran my own beautiful race. Only when I crossed the 7k mark i.e. the beginning, I realized that I was still going fast. I was still at the same pace as that of the first kilometer. It left me worried a little, but not uncomfortable.
The start of the second loop left all the runners separated unlike the start of the race where you are cluttered among colorful-looking runners and joggers. I kept my pace more or less the same and I hung onto a small group of runners in front of me. This is an interesting phase of any race. You have someone running ahead, you wrap an invisible rope around you and hook it onto them and keep running while maintaining the same distance. It feels like being in the moment. For that time, you forget about the finish line. You forget about who’s running behind you. Your focus is only on to carry yourself with the group running ahead. It was hard to believe but we had finished the second loop as well. And with it came another realization, it was of my legs. They were getting tired and fatigued. It was getting harder with every step to pull them constantly.
Third loop initiated the forgotten battle between my mind and the body. The mind reasoned that it’s a stupid idea to keep pushing when your far-fetched goal is a marathon. My body listened. My mind screamed that you’re not gonna sustain yourself because the distance that lays ahead is still huge. My body kept moving. My mind begged to stop at the next aid-station and to take a little slower from there. My body pushed harder. It was not a battle of what’s wrong and what’s right. It was more of a battle for what is right. There were times when I slowed down a bit only to catch my breath again and to push forward harder. A couple of guys passed me despite my pace telling me that I am yet to work on a number of things. But I didn’t give up. I ran the best I could. As I was about to cross the finish line, I heard the volunteer saying “Strong finish”. I don’t know if that was made-up or it really was, but I felt strong. I felt great. I felt wonderful after running those 21 KM. My official finish time was an hour and 34 minutes, 9 seconds. I could not be any happier that I pushed beyond the limits of my mind overcoming all the odds it was setting since I had got up that morning.
I had a banana and the famous pancakes the Sri Chinmoy Team serves for breakfast. I did some cool-down stretches, changed my clothes because I didn’t want to get sick. I mixed up the whey protein powder in the bottle of milk and gulped it down (It is well known that that protein helps in muscle and tissue damage/repair). I headed back to the train-station. On the way back, I walked barefoot on the grass to feel the touch of mother nature on my sore feet. It made me better instantly.