On a bright Sunday morning, I broke into the world of marathon and longer distances. As per Wikipedia Ultra Marathon is defined as any sporting event involving running longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres. I ran the distance of 43.3Kms thereby qualifying myself to be called an Ultra Marathoner :D. But technicalities apart, I’m happy that I could complete the Marathon distance. And what a journey it has been from 21.1Kms in February to 43.3Kms in April.
The idea of running a full marathon got sown in Auroville when two running buddies (in high spirits) wanted me to change my run category to Full Marathon at the last moment. Even though I stood my ground then, somewhere deep down the desire to run a marathon had planted itself. Back in Hyderabad an innocuous discussion with another running mate about his plans to do 50K or more distance got me thinking. This was the time when I was doing Half Marathons frequently but anything more than 23K was an unknown territory. I have always been interested in sports or activities that push the limits of human endurance, be it physical or mental and even though the challenge of running the distance of 42.2K looked enormous, it wasn’t insurmountable.
March turned out to be an interesting month. While one running buddy got married and subsequently grounded, my wife helped me by going on a business trip for 4 weeks providing me enough space to carry out my insane agenda. Actually I also figured that most of my milestone seeking runs have been on days when wifey is scheduled to depart out of town. But more on that later. Craziness started with the Ultra Walkathon on the first Sunday of March wherein I decided to test my endurance for walking 45Kms. Took the whole thing a little too lightly and ended up with DNF tag. However the positive part was that I did cover 40Kms and was on my feet for better part of 9 hours. Full Marathon didn’t look so challenging anymore. I had broken the mental barrier.
|21K Mid-point at Ultra Walkathon. (Picture credit: Vinay Akula)|
To seek redemption from the DNF tag, decided to attempt running 30K the subsequent Sunday. Even though it took me almost 4 hours with some really painful sections, the mind finally overcame all adversities to come out winning. (Blog here). Subsequent week was Hyderabad Runners’ Annual Dinner and that’s when I met Arun Bharadwaj, an Elite Ultra Marathoner or in another words A Running GOD! (Blog here). Lot of things changed that day and finishing the Comrades didn’t look that scary anymore. In between Sunita, a super mom and veteran of many marathons, sent an invite to join her for a 36K run. That email reaffirmed what a lot of people have been telling me for a long time: “I AM CRAZY”. I was unsure till the last moment due to a sore muscle but finally decided to bite the bullet. Took it nice and easy and could completed 35.43 Kms in 4:35 Hours. And post run had enough strength to go to office and carry on with a regular work day. I had just moved up on the Insane Quotient (IQ) leader board.
|At Finish Line of 36K (Picture Credit: Sunita T)|
The natural progression from here was to do a Full Marathon in 3 weeks and the D-Day turned out to be 15 April 2012. 4 people I knew were doing a Full Marathon that day across the globe and for 3 of them it was going to be their first. Since I wasn’t registered for any event, decided to make one up myself. And that's how the Twin Cities Flyover Marathon was born. (Route here). Spoke to quite a few people about this and the general reaction was I’m crazy (again). However few people with similar IQ (Insane Quotient, I mean) levels were quite receptive and agreed to join me either for the run or to don support roles. And I’m thankful to each and every one of them. What started out as a crazy thought now had quite a few takers at the start line: 8 runners and 5 people on SAG. And including yours truly 3 of them were running a marathon distance or longer for the first time.
|At the Start Line of Flyover Marathon, Running and SAG Team (Picture Credit: Kushwanth)|
Starting out at 3 AM, we ran across twin cities covering many major landmarks. The Secunderabad Cantonment which formed the second half of the race had nice tree cover almost throughout making it easy for the runners. Even though I had bouts of pain in between, never once did I feel anything about giving up and crossed the finish line with enough juice left to do a few more Kms.
|Enroute (Picture Credit: Kushwanth)|
|Near the Finish Line (Picture Credit: Kushwanth)|
|At Finish Line with Hyderabad Runners (Picture Credit: Kushwanth)|
As Emil Zatopek said “If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon”, I have experienced positive changes in various other facets of life since I started running about 8 months back. So, what's the way forward? Intend to keep running lifelong and inspire others to run as well. And oh yes, run a 50K and 56K this running season so that I can call myself a “proper” Ultra Marathoner. And successfully complete Comrades soon!