Getting off the tram at 6:30 in the evening, I was making my way towards the event hub of Wings For Life World RUN (WFLWR) in Melbourne. With my earphones on, I had a decent 1.5k walk ahead of me before I would arrive at the grand party. I was thinking about my last year’s run in Taiwan in which I lasted for 18.24k.
You might be wondering about what’s with this LASTING thing! Let me tell you about it. There are a number of things that makes this race unique. One, it happens at the same time at multiple locations all around the world. Day or night, moon or light, runners all over the world are smashing it. From US of A (early morning) to Australia (late at night), people lift their asses up, assemble at the start-line and run their hearts out. Secondly, it is a race without a finish line. There’s no pre-defined distance that you have to run e.g. marathon/half-marathon/10k et cetera et cetera. AND HOW COULD THAT HAPPEN you might wonder? Well, it’s fairly easy. 30 minutes after you’re into the race, a car (aka THE catcher car) chases you down until you’re caught and the car is fast enough (at later times) to run down even the most enduring runners. It’s very similar to the lion-deer story, the difference being that the deer would DEFINITELY be killed (unless you run off the course leaving the organisers all puzzled up). And finally, the money raised through this race goes for the spinal-cord research injury and that’s why this race is often promoted as “running for those who can’t” and I can totally relate to it. I have had my share of injuries when I felt helpless that I can’t run. Thinking of those times and of the people who are suffering, there’s nothing better than this that I can do to support them in their treatment/recovery.
As compared to my last year’s WFLWR, this edition was quite different. I was running in a different country (Australia) at a different time (9 PM, last year it was 7) in a different weather (cold, rainy and dark). However, there were other factors this time which can easily overshadow these minor mental setbacks. First and probably the most crucial was mine being running with my club-mates. In Taiwan, I made my way to the start line as a stranger to the crowd, paced myself up when I could and lifted myself up when I was experiencing downtime. But this year in Melbourne, I had “friends” with me at the start line, during all the pacing-up, slowing-down situations. Secondly, I was better trained at this point of time. At the start-line this year, I had 8+ week of training with me with my longest training run being 23k while these stats last year were 4 weeks and 15k respectively.
Based on these numbers and the racing atmosphere, I was hoping to get past the 25k mark in this year’s edition of the race. The race started pretty smoothly for me (and my mates). We did hold on to a constant pace of 5-ish i.e. 5 min/km for the first 7k (where the first refreshment station was located). It was an easy-paced part of the race with constant chit-chats about the terrain, about the training, about the highway on which we were running. After this mark, we were more or less divided into little sub-groups depending on the pace we could hold. I kept running with a friend till the 18k mark. While passing that, I felt confident and wonderful. Confident because my training was paying off and I could see it. Wonderful because I was witnessing a significant progress over my last year’s limit. Nevertheless without thinking much over it and before it could get over my head, I kept running, my goal to get to the 25k mark now seemed even more optimistic. It was only after the race was over, I realised that I also completed the half-marathon distance i.e. ~21k in 01:39 hours (my earlier best time was 01:57).
Some more time after the half-marathon mark, I eventually reached the 25k mark where I was more than happy about my running and the challenge I had undertaken. A thought crossed my mind: now you can simply walk as some of the other runners were doing, you’ve achieved your goal. Of course, that was the easier choice. Running at that point of time required more effort than usual, probably because I had never run that long a distance. But I was determined not to walk. My brain was thinking of other excuses: “you have a presentation tomorrow, haven’t you done enough already?” or something like “your shoelaces are really tight, you won’t be able to fix them quickly, so just take a walk, fix them, and walk some more comfortably” and finally “you’ve achieved your goal, take it easy now” I listened to these thoughts and carefully discarded them and focused on what I was doing while they were running through my head. My pace was slower now but I didn’t mind it. I was still running. And then it arrived. Without a horn, without a flash, it passed me by saying a “thank you”. My race was over. I was actually glad that it was over. Why? Because it was freezing cold out there and I am not lying when my brain said I had a presentation the day after.
My Garmin (running watch) finally unfolded all the secrets as I hit the stop button on it. I had run 29.5k in 02:24 hours. The deer inside me had gone a significant distance. A big jump over the last year’s and a bigger target to nail for that of the next’s.
This run on strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/975961223/embed/f404f2d7167c7de938e06c357235696fff81d1bb
And this is my proud certificate: