12 December, 2017

How I ran the Bangalore Ultramarathon 2017

I'm writing this exactly a month after I ran the Bangalore Ultramarathon 2017.

Grossly under-prepared is certainly an understatement! The thrill of over-running - my foot! Remember I had a plan on how to complete the 50kms? It was a flawed plan, and I had prepared it way worse than I thought. So I won't tell you what it was! But I somehow managed to finish the 50kms, in 7:30 hrs. For someone who can now do a Half-marathon on tar roads in humid weather in about 2:15 hours on average, taking 3 hours for the first 25kms was disturbing, to say the least, especially in a bamboo forest trail on a pleasant early morning. And you can imagine the next 25! Maybe I bordered on a mix of over-confidence and lethargy. I had expected to be slow, but not this much. The finish was definitely Mother Nature's grace!

So, here is the series of silly events leading to an oh-so-stellar finish! (Sometimes I enjoy ridiculing myself just too much!)
  1. Traveling from Chennai to Bangalore on a 2nd class sitting coach in a day train, just on the evening before the run, and so reaching my guest house way later than I should have. Brilliant first step!
  2. Lack of sleep - This was the most pronounced part of my over-confidence. 4 hours sleep before a 50Kms run. What was I thinking??
  3. Not carrying a sweater - it's 4 AM on a November morning and I had to travel 40kms by van to get to the forest, and wait in the 'Start' area for about an hour. Come on, man!
And that's how eventful the start of the run was! But once it started, it was an altogether different game. On second thoughts, 3 hrs for the first 25 kms was not bad. I had not expected to set a target finish time for this run; just a decent finish. And beyond the 25 kms, it's a new world for me, for I had not run longer distances before that. So I decided to take the first 25 really slow, to keep my legs fit enough for the next 25. That way, maybe 3 hrs was not that bad.

The second half: The most surprising part to me in the second half was that how many runners ahead of me kept running without a break for some food. I stopped right at the food counter at the end of the first 25kms, gorged down 2 idlis and 1 vada, even before changing my socks. Took about 30 mins in all to recoup. But these people ahead of me were surprising, to be able to go on for 50kms with a glass of water or Enerzal, a slice or two of orange or banana! Oops! Must have been real runners! I'm in wrong company!

Lack of sleep was starting to show up, as soon as I hit the 35th km. A stinging headache gripped me, and I thought that was it. The worst thing that can happen to a runner halfway through a marathon is the slightest thought of giving up. The thought is a vice that instantly grips the mind and the heart. 'So, what's the point' is how it proliferates. Beyond a point, it's not the legs that run. It's the mind and the heart together. You tend to forget that legs exist. You don't know what to do to finish. The way I had figured it out when it came to a struggle - 'forget running. If I can't run a step more, I better walk. If I can't walk, I better crawl to the finish'. But now I was at the 40th km and I was done for! I had come to a point when I felt I can't even crawl. I wanted to give up. I so wanted to!

And then came the music! No vice can stand the power of music that melts a heart, that inspires, that re-energizes a draining soul, that does what not! It's not the body that then takes you forward. It's a Higher Calling. You don't need legs to run. You don't even need the mind and heart to do it together, for you don't know where they are either. It's a spirit that flies now, unbound from the tangles of every worldly thing there is, unbound from the flesh that couldn't contain it any longer. It's inexplicable, the power of music to drive a soul to reach for anything, big or small! I just kept going and somehow got to the finish line. 4 hrs from the 26th to the 50th km. It was finally over.

Post the finish, a woman came up to me and said with a thumbs-up: 'good one'. She must have been in her mid-thirties. 'I was running a little bit behind you for a long time, but saw you fly away suddenly from the 45th km!'. It was then that I realized the music had done its job!

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