Monday, September 19, 2011

Conquering a devil called 32.2k

At the Kaveri Trail Marathon on 18.09.2011, all I wanted to do was finish. The timing was inconsequential. Regardless of the time it took, I was determined to finish. With a sub-5:00:00 finish, all the ghosts have been laid to rest. But more on this later; first a quick run up to KTM.
I have come to realize that tapering/not running interferes with my general disposition and messes things up. To avoid that, I ran on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. My usual quota. I would have to miss the run on Saturday morning since I would be at Bangalore headed for Mysore. Reaching Bangalore at 3:30am, I got to know I would be able to travel by Mysore Express at 6:00am. Two and a half hours and nothing to do got me thinking. How about a run? At that hour, the cloak room was closed. So was the waiting room. I found a general waiting room open. I could leave my bag unattended there and go. There were three possibilities. One, the bag would remain untouched. Solution: Do nothing. Two, the bag would get stolen. Solution: No valuables (running gear, mobile and wallet) to be kept in the bag. Carry wallet and mobile on the run. Three, the unattended bag would attract the attention of the police. Solution: Tell the police, hindi film style, that I was born under an astrological sign which turns me into a werewolf if I don't run everyday. Or give logical reasons (which I had none) for leaving my bag behind. In any case, there were more than 24 hours to go for KTM; and if things went horribly wrong, I would have an excuse very few runners, if any, would have - I couldn't participate in KTM because I was in police custody. "Worth the risk," I said to myself, "Let's go." An hour and a half later, I was back at Banglore Railway Station everything in place including my Saturday morning run. A quick shower in the waiting room and I was off to Mysore. The only thing left was hydrating myself. I was all set.
At the start line of KTM, the temperature was in the low 20s, humidity was low, the trail didn't seem difficult and everything seemed ideal for running - for everyone else except I. I was bearing the huge load of a DNF three weeks ago at Hyderabad. And while I insisted that the DNF was behind me, it didn't matter, that I had moved on et al, it all came back to haunt me at the start line, making me realize that my earlier statements were mere bravado.
As the run started, I overheard conversations among runners and each one of them began with, "You know, I was struck with massive cramps at 32.2k at the Hyderabad Marathon..." I don't know if this was actually being said or if I was imagining things, but my mind played it over and over again a million times till about the 10k mark. At 10k, I realized the course was not as easy as I had first thought. As I concentrated on running, the voices began to ebb. At about the 28k mark, I checked the time that had elapsed and a quick calculation told me I was set for a 4:30-ish finish. Quite happy, I continued ahead till another mile marker came into full view and slapped me hard across the face. The marker said 32.2k.
All those memories of Hyderabad Marathon came flooding back and the devil was back on my shoulders, the monkey back on my back and the demons back in my head. Even though I am not the least bit superstitious, I was convinced this was a clear sign that a DNF at KTM as well was inevitable. I was sure the next step I took would give me excruciating cramps and I would fall. It felt like I had no energy left at all and I struggled to walk, knowing the next step was going to be my last one at KTM this year. From 32.2k till 38.2k, I walked. As I kept getting further and further away from 32.2, I began to feel more and more confident about finishing.
At about 39k, I checked the time. I had 17 minutes for a sub 5:00 finish. Maybe, just maybe, if I made a dash for it...? And I did!
With a sub 5:00:00 finish, the devil called 32.2k has been conquered. The monkey is off my back. And the demons in my head have fallen off somewhere along the trail.
Now, I shall get back to biting my nails in anticipation. Tomorrow is a big day. But that in the next post.

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