Running is not about being better than someone else. It is about being better than you used to be.
Running a marathon is always gruelling, unexpectedly humorous and a life altering event. And, with it, it carries its ultimate joy and the goal: the finish line. Long distance running is not about flamboyance and aggression but a long tedious process of perseverance and diligence tempered with humility.
I am an Army officer, working as a doctor, stationed in Secunderabad cantonment and I ran the Airtel Hyderabad half marathon (bib number: H2539) for the second time at 57 years of age, this year. Though I am a sports person since my childhood days, while also being an avid player of various sports till date, I have always enjoyed running the most. Until recently, I didn’t have any idea or an opportunity to run a good marathon. I ran my first marathon last year at The Airtel Hyderabad Marathon event. It was an unforgettable experience, as I hadn’t run such a big race before.
I have an urge to run a full marathon one day. Before that I want to try out a few half marathons and improve my stamina. This year, I ran the 21K Hyderabad Marathon hosted by Airtel. I started my training, well in advance. I printed a marathon training plan and went ahead with that. I hurt myself. I had soreness in my feet, developed pain in my back and knees, but I didn’t give up. Like it is said, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. I went through the programme for beginners, I had found on the internet, and did lots of pre running and post running stretches which helped my condition to improve. I did a lot of core strengthening exercises and took care of my diet also maintaining the body’s hydration. The mistake I did in my first marathon helped me to prepare for my second marathon, during the training session. It hurts. It takes time. It requires dedication. It requires will power. It requires sacrifice. But, when you reach your goal, it is worth it.
As August approached, which was the month of the marathon, I was a little nervous.
What if it rains?
What if my back hurts?
What if my knee gets injured?
What if I feel dehydrated, while running?
I took the last week, relaxing and focusing on the event. I essentially prayed God to provide strength for me to participate and reach the finish line, painlessly. My target was to finish 21.1 kms in 2:30 hours, as I was running the half marathon. If you run, you’re a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you have been running for twenty years. You just run.
Finally it was the day of running. I had prepared myself well by keeping all the things I needed to carry for the event, ready beforehand. I hit the bed at 9 pm sharp and had a peaceful sleep. Waking up at 4 am, in the morning I had peanut butter sandwich, a banana and a glass of protein shake. Most importantly, I left for the event with a smile on my face. It was a fantastic morning at People’s Plaza. The place was jam packed with enthusiastic runners, weather God was very kind enough to provide the most ideal temperature and the volunteers cheered enough to create an electrifying atmosphere. The organizer really went through a marathon to organize such a big event, so successfully. Nearly 20,000 runners participated. At a marathon, even as your get in line at the start, you’re already a winner.
I started the run with lot of energy and happiness. And, since I was running for a charity (Kidpower, India) this time, the joy was doubled. The entire route appeared to be cheerful. Pacer buses, travelling at different speeds, were arranged with hour marks on them, to help the runners know how long it was going to take to run the marathon, alongside them. The musical bands put up by the organisers at the most difficult places of running encouraged us to keep going. The best part was the army band at two places. I started at a slow pace and stayed composed, while not worrying about the lead runners. Taking advantage of the down slopes to get a better average, I continued with the 2 hour bus for about 8-9 kms. Then I stayed with the 2:15 hour bus and finally with the 2:20 hour bus. The road and the time just flew by as I was enjoying the beautiful weather and awesome people of Hyderabad encouraging the racers. The Jubliee hill climb and the Gachibowli climb were the most tough as they were steep and stiff, but I continued without stopping. I followed a breathing technique, which I had acquired during the training period. I kept hydrating myself, with the small sippers I was carrying around my belt, at regular intervals and didn’t stop at any water stations. The whole journey of the race was tough, but it seemed as pleasing and easy in my final stride towards the finish line. The running rhythm was perfect and I finished the race strong. My target to complete the marathon was achieved in less than 2:30 hours, which was even more stimulating to the mind and soul. There was a burst of thrill and gladness in me as I reached the finish line. There was a short glimpse of how I had planned and how greatly I was pleased with my execution of the race. I decided I’ll run till the time I can run, at every event that I come across – just to feel this bliss.
The miracle isn’t that I finished. It is that I had the courage to start. I not only finished strong but also managed to raise funds for a charity. What an achievement, it felt, along with the pride to make a dream come true. It was so far the most beautiful run, for me, ever – dedicated to my happy feet.
Being a doctor I’d suggest more doctors to take up running, to understand the right perspective of running and its effect on the body.