Then, followed the TCS Bangalore 10K in 2011 – at 1:22:04 – again without any practice! And though I ran quite a bit after that throughout 2011, I attracted pain and injuries like a flame attracts moths. With 3 herniated discs, weak muscles and over-training like many new-bees – at times averaging 10Km a day between morning and evening runs – I landed myself with ITB Syndrome. Here, I have to add a little note on doctors – most of the ones I went to kept giving me vague, extended treatments – that didn’t fix my problem but rather ensured that I kept going back to them again and again. Noble profession indeed! Finally, I landed on the table of a sports therapist who explained that all I needed was a ‘chill-pill’ for a while. So after chasing my ‘official HM’ dream for over a year, I ended missing the KTM. I refused to let the pain get the better of me and completed the 25 km Ultra – walking most of it and still shaving 15 mins off since 2010 race (oh yes when the standards are low, it’s very easy to beat them!)
Then, suddenly my father was admitted to the hospital on the 15th November (2011). I had wanted to take my Ultra medal to show him. Not only did I forget to take the medal, the very next day exactly 11 days before the ADHM, he passed away. Now, I had to run the ADHM so I could get a new medal for him! ‘The Laws of Attraction’ came to force as a friend of mine picked up my kit while I was at my father’s 11th day prayers and a cousin woke up at 5.00 am to drive me to the stadium. He was shocked to see the number of people who had turned up at the stadium before sun-rise on a Sunday morning (‘I didn’t know there are so many crazy people in the world’ he said). Running the ADHM was an incredibly emotional experience for me. I ran with a heavy heart and I found myself crying many times through the race, because that day I was running for my father. That was also my first official HM.
Once you have done the distance, it’s like tasting blood. Nothing seems too difficult. So a few weeks later I found myself at the starting line of SCMM – aiming for a 2:42 – 7 minutes less than my ADHM timing. The day before the run – I had an awful migraine and I didn’t sleep almost the whole night. I had had this horrid dream that I had woken up past the start time on the day of the race and at times nightmares can become reality – the risk was too much to take!
So with little sleep and a lot of drugs the previous day, wearing my VFFs, I walked to the starting point (if you can call half a kilometer a point) where I met my friend Ivano who was running with me – it was going to be his first HM. Running on the sealink at dawn was a beautiful experience. The weather was great throughout and the support of the Mumbai crowd is to die for. That early in the morning – the street was filled with people – from the sealink till the very end – kids handing out water, biscuits, sweets and just cheering the runners. I can see – runners love to run in Mumbai and Mumbaikars love to cheer the runners. Ivano and I had an amazing time – he has christened me the “most-noisy-runner” because I chat and sing along with my iPod. I would probably conserve more energy and hit better timings if I focused only on my running but then I just won’t have fun running like that!
Ivano is a trained footballer and is 26 – while I just graduated to the ‘veteran’ category 10 days before the race. Several times, throughout the race, I told him to leave me and go ahead so he could clock a good timing but he insisted on staying with me and pacing me. Later, he said that people do different things for different reasons, and that day he was running for friendship and if he had left me and gone ahead, it would have defeated the purpose of his run: ‘I will run for a PB another time!’
It was a crowded run – even a slow runner like me can complain about the people who blocked us; Azaad maidan was hot and sunny (as always I felt sick after the race, with no shade to sit under) and I really hate those sports drinks they serve. There are always things we can whine about but nothing can take away the euphoric feeling of crossing the finish line. That stays with you for days. I have to say I loved running in Mumbai and it is a run that will stay with me forever.
So, now I wonder what next? I set out to do something and I did it. And now what? The beautiful thing with running is – it never ends! I did one HM in 2011 so I have decided to go with 12HMs in 2012 (has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?). I clocked 2:38 in SCMM, and now I know I can aim for a 2:20 and get there. I have made many friends on the tracks and I will continue to do so - it is one of the biggest perks of this job. The other day, I was stopped by a stranger on the street and she asked me if I could help her run the TCS 10K in 2012 – that is exactly how I had started! More than the milestones I will ever achieve as a runner, I am glad I can always inspire people to run, to feel the joy that I feel when my feet hit the street.