‘The magic of a marathon isn't in the 26.2 miles on race day; it's in the nearly 500 miles of training that happens in the months before. It's in the countless feelings, frustrations, and fears I have worked through while running down those desolate, tree-lined roads. You see, I wasn't supposed to be a runner. But I am. And my life is better because I chose to be one.’ - Stacy Lucier.
24th August being a Saturday was a holiday for me. In the afternoon, I went to the Hitex exhibition centre at Hyderabad for the marathon Expo to collect my race packet. This time it was a much bigger expo than last year. There were many more stalls. But, I went directly to the stall where full marathon bibs were being distributed. I showed them the confirmation email, handed over photocopy of my id proof and collected the bib no “1487”. Last year, we had a timing chip that was supposed to be tied to the shoe. So, I enquired about the timing chip. The amicable volunteer pointed me something pasted on reverse of the bib and explained that the shining strip there was the timing chip. Then he guided me to another stall to verify my timing chip and collect my T-shirt.
Back home that evening, I was wondering how to go to the start point. I messaged couple of friends and one of them suggested we can pool in a cab together. Then my cousin Arya called me and offered to drop me at necklace road which was the start point. I had an early dinner, arranged my running gear and went to sleep by 9:00 PM. The full marathon was to start at 5:00 AM. My plan was to start to necklace road by 4:00AM. I had to get up by 3:30 AM. But quite like the night before the half-marathon last year, I could hardly sleep this time. This was not unexpected. Various things were running in my mind. I just lied down and kept my eyes closed all throughout. When the alarm rang at 3:30AM, I got up. Arya was ready with his car by 4:00AM to pick me up and we started. On the way, we picked up Satyajit and his Italian friend Gio. We reached the venue by 4:35 AM.
The full marathon crowd was much thinner than the half crowd that I had witnessed last year. Also, at that early hour, it was not a hotspot of activity. I realized that, unlike half marathon which attracts a lot of crowd, the full marathon crowd is not that popular. Only serious runners take it up. I guess the crowd would have been around 500-600. Arya took a couple of snaps and left. I mingled among the sea of runners and found a 5:30 pacer. My plan was to stick to them. I knew that 5:30 would be difficult. But I wanted to start with them. Satyajit started along with the 5:00 hour pacer. We parted ways.
The sky was still completely dark. The air was charged. Exactly at 5:00AM, the run started. As the crowd moved ahead, I kept pace with the 5:30 bus. We moved along steadily. The initial run was around the Hussain Sagar. After about 2 kilometers, my shoe lace came off. I secured them carefully and ran again to catch the bus. There was light banter and folks were talking about various things. After sometime, as the first water station arrived, the group slowed down to sip some water. Since I was not thirsty yet, I kept running and left the group behind.
In the faint light of the dawn, just ahead of me I could see another person running in an Orange T-shirt. I ran closer and saw that it was a “Chennai Runners” T-shirt announcing the TWCM on 1-Dec-2013. While running just behind him, I noticed that he was wishing “good morning” to all the police personnel who were managing the traffic. Some of them responded back. Many of them ignored him. Nonetheless, I liked his friendly attitude. I moved closer to him and started a conversation.
We ran almost together for the next 20 kilometers. I found that he was a very active member of Chennai Runners. He has completed 6 full marathons at various places. He advised me on many things like how to tackle the hills, how to pace etc. It was a very good conversation. Most of all, he asked me just to enjoy the nature than have any time target.
As we looped across the Hussain Sagar lake, the sun rose from the east. The sun had its resplendent reflection on the lake water. It was a sight to behold.
By the time, we looped back to the start line, the half marathon had been flagged off and we could see the massive half crowd just in front of us. The course took us up the first flyover and having crossed that soon we were running on the Rajbhawan road. There were lot of police personnel deployed there. Soon I saw a very tall, fair and well built gentleman and a lot of police officers were milling around him. My friend from Chennai told me that he was a commissioner of Police. When we went near him, he shouted and wished him. Mr Commissioner told him that his wife was running the half this time and he was here to cheer her. A short distance ahead we crossed someone in a batman dress. Again my friend shouted “Batman! Save the world!!”. Batman waved and he waved and we moved ahead. I was really glad that I was running with him. Some of his enthusiasm also brushed against me and I also started waving and shouting at the crowd.
Soon, the second flyover came and we took that on the stride. Even before it ended, the third started. By the time we were in Banjara hills road no 2 it was another hill to cross. I was looking for something to eat. I could not get a banana. Grabbed a couple of glucose biscuits and some Gatorade and kept running.
By the time, I reached Jubilee hills, I could see some folks collecting the litter that was lying on the roads. They were the waste warriors who were doing a superb job of collecting the bottles, paper glasses and banana peels. Hats-off!!!
Also, on the way were numerous photographers who were taking snaps. Then there were volunteers who were cheering and showing the way, guiding and encouraging us. I felt really glad and humble that so many people were helping and supporting us to run the marathon.
By the time I reached Madhapur, I was running among the half crowd. We took a left turn at Hitec city and went towards Gachibowli. On the road from Hitec city to Gachibowli there were many daily labourers who were waiting beside the road on their way to work and were watching us. I was pretty tired by then. I asked my Chennai friend, who seemed to run pretty strong to move ahead as I wanted to slow down a bit.
I kept running slowly and reached highway. Taking a right I went up the last flyover. On the way up, it was hard. I looked around. There were some mikes which were blaring out some local songs. Everyone around me was walking. I also eased down to a walk. The walk gave my tired legs some rest. By then it was almost 26-27 kilometers from the start.
Again on the way down the flyover, I started running. It was a busy road. Kept running till I reached IIIT junction and finally I could grab a couple of bananas there to get some fuel in the system. Had to wait there for a couple of minutes so that volunteers could stop the traffic and let us go. From there the half crowd separated as I took a left turn and started running on the ISB road.
The ISB road is my regular weekday route to office. In contrast to the heavy traffic that I witness on weekdays on that road, on the Sunday, it was pretty empty and desolate. There were a couple of volunteers beside the road. I grabbed a bottle of water from them and mixed some Gatorade powder and ran. By the time I reached the Wipro junction, I could see several volunteers standing there and cheering the runners. I could count only 5-8 runners ahead of me. At the water station, I had some water and popped some sugar boiled lozenge in my mouth and kept running. By that time, almost 31 kilometers was done. We had been running for 4hours 15 minutes by then. I was running with the 5-6 other runners from Mumbai. They were talking that they would finish the run remaining 11 kilometers in the next 1.5 hours and targeted a 5:45 finish. I thought it may be difficult, but if I stick to them may be I also have a chance for a sub-6 hour finish. But it was getting increasingly difficult. I had to start walking again. So, I decided to do run walk for the rest of the distance.
By 33 kilometers, a motorbike with 3 folks stopped just ahead of me. One of the guys jumped from it and started running. I just realized what happened. What is the use of running a marathon and cheating it? One does not run a marathon against anyone. One competes against himself.
I kept pushing myself. By 34 kilometers, my fingers started getting swollen. My hands accumulated a lot of blood. I never had similar experience earlier. While running and walking, I had to raise my hands up to let the blood flow down. When I entered the university, there were few people still cheering. I pushed on. Now it was more of walking than running.
Finally, I managed to come out of the university on to the highway. On the highway, there were those conical red road dividers that separated the incoming traffic from the runners. I was a bit afraid running there as some loose chips on the road could come hurtling from under a vehicle tyre and hit any runner. I was quite fatigued and exhausted by that time. But I knew that it was only mental. I knew that having run so far, it was only the last mile. I knew I have to finish it.
By the time I saw the Balayogi stadium, I was bit relieved. But I knew that inside the stadium there was a circuitous route to the end. It was almost 6 hours of running by then. I pushed along inside the stadium and kept running slowly. Finally, someone told me that medals distribution will be stopped within the next 2 minutes and that I need to dash. By that time, I was fairly inside the stadium and started my last victory run on the red turf for a strong finish. As soon as I finished, someone put a medal around my neck.
I checked the time. It was 6 hours and 10 minutes from the start. I didn’t feel anything then. I was neither happy; nor tired. I was calm. My mind was blank. The feeling of completing the marathon had not sinked in yet.
It was 11:10 AM and by that time, most of the crowd had left. I dad some snacks, drank some water asked someone to click some snaps on my phone. Then I called home and reported all is well.
Took a public transport to come back home.
Back home, the exertion of the run was creeping up on me. I felt exhausted but the feeling of achievement was also brimming up. I realized that with the marathon, one item from my bucket list was ticked off. I was elated that I kept another promise to myself. Running the marathon was not the big deal, but the months of dedication, determination and discipline in the practice was the big deal. That was the real triumph. That was the real accomplishment.
I would like to dedicate this post to all those who were involved in organizing the Airtel Hyderabad Marathon 2013. I thank Hyderabad Runners for organizing this awesome event and giving all runners a chance to run and test our mettle against ourselves. There is so much effort involved in organizing such an event. You guys do it for the love of running and for the sake of runners. You forgo your own running to provide a wonderful experience to the other runners. Each detail was taken care of. The more I say about the medal, the less it will be. I do not many medals, but this was arguably one of the ‘awesomest’ medal that I have ever seen. Apart from the organizers, the policemen and the volunteers did a wonderful job as well. Thanks to you all.