On 20th January, 2013 I achieved my target I have been trying for past five years. At 5:45 AM I embarked on a journey for which I had planned for the past six months. Training in thunder, lightning and in rain. No Saturday night parties, since I had to get up at 3:30 AM in the mornings to run the long run. The start was very pleasant and had a good laugh when the 5:30 Bus of Rahul Varghese started running in front of the 5:00 Bus of Amit and Neepa Sheth. However, Rahul quickly slowed down. At the 10 km mark was timed at 64 minutes. Felt the cool breeze hitting my cheeks and actually escalated my pace on the sea link route.
Took sips of water every 3 kms and drank electrolyte from tetra packs, whenever it became available by volunteers manning the water stations. At the half way mark was timed at 2 hours 19 minutes. Felt comfortable and realization dawned on me that a sub 5 hours marathon could become a possibility. Enjoyed the bohemia of the crowds cheering the runners. Was amazed at the spirit of Mumbai citizens both young and old shouting encouragements to total strangers running on the route. Children and ladies holding plates of biscuits, bananas, dry fruits and chocolates for the runners. The child inside me wept at the benevolence. At the 30 kms mark was timed at 3 hours 17 minutes and then tragedy struck. The few blisters on the sole of my feet which I used to protect with band aids during training became raw and caused intense pain. I started limping but did not stop. By the time I reached the 34 kms mark, I was in genuine difficulty not because I felt tired but because my soles of my feet were burning. I felt compelled to slow down but was determined not to walk. At the 40 kms mark, the 5:00 Bus came alongside. Had the privilege to run along Amit Sheth and Neepa, two very experienced pacers and Comrades veterans. With less than 1 km to go, I was convinced that my feet could be bleeding, but I refused to stop running. I felt like a wounded warrior hanging on not giving up. Like Pheidippides, who ran the distance from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Greeks had defeated the Persians. With 500 metres to go I could not keep up with Amit Sheth and Neepa and my 52 year old legs crossed the finish line in 5 hours 21 seconds. Had I run 22 second faster, it would have been a sub 5 hours marathon. I wanted to thank both Amit and Neepa after the finish, but could not locate them.
During the course of training for the marathon, I read a number of articles posted on running on numerous sites. It is not possible to thank everyone here. But some I would like to mention are Raj Vadgama, Daniel Vaz and, Sandeep Srivastava.
I missed Piyush Shah who at 52 years is the same age as me, and did not take part due to other preoccupations. Got message from Krishna Rai that he was leading in 5th position till 32 kms mark, after which he cramped badly and did 3:27. Learnt from Vaishali Kasture that she did 1:45 for the half marathon. A very strong and formidable 10k and half marathon runner. The day Vaishali starts running the full marathon, many will bite the dust. The story of my marathon does not end here. While returning home by train, I got a phone call from the President of an Association in my town that they were organizing a 4 kms race on 17th February on auspices of the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekanand and could I be the Guest of Honour at the race. I felt elated and proud. Thank you SCMM 2013. Earlier, when I thought of Comrades, it was a distant probability. Now, it has become a distinct possibility. Next year my target is 4 hours 50 minutes for the Mumbai Marathon.
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