Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Death By Running

River Kaveri greeted me as I opened the curtains of the room of the resort I was staying in. A few ducks had already jumped into the water at a dim sign of the dawn. It was the perfect setting to have a lazy and relaxed day, but that was not what I had come to Shrirangpatna for. The Kaveri Trail Marathon (KTM) was scheduled to start after about an hour and a half. I left for the assembly point with my gang of enthusiastic runners.

People were flocking in, mainly from Bangalore, at the venue. We got ready for the run the moment the full-marathoners were flagged off. I had set target of reaching to the half-marathon mark (21.05 km) in less than two hours. Considering that KTM is one of the toughest races in the country, and my previous best time was 2 hours and 18 minutes, I felt that achieving the target was going to be challenging. A quote on a t-shirt of a runner provided some inspiration – I run because I can. It was almost like a stampede when race started as there were more than 300 runners running together. A cameraman barely managed to avoid the flood of the people. The runners were distributed in their respective speed groups after around 2 km. I got into my own rhythm now. For a company, I followed a few runners running ahead of me. The trail was part of Ranganthittu Bird Sanctury, and I got a glimpse of it when I spotted a solitary bird sitting on a leafless branch of a tree. Crows seemed to be in majority here and their cacophonous orchestra provided no entertainment. Occasionally one heard twitter of other birds. This is the twitter I follow – not the one on the Internet. The trail was fantastic – though difficult as the road was paved with small stones -with river Kaveri on the left side, and fields on the right. The water of the river, moving rhythmically, made pleasant sound, as if humming into your ears: Chalna hi jindagi hai, chalti hi jaa rahi hai. Water sustains life, and there was ample proof of it. The fields were clad in full green. A few ladies were washing clothes on the banks of the river. A herd of buffaloes was trying hard to get a little fair by taking bath in the water. A farmer tied both of his cows on each side of the road and I escaped somehow from getting kicked. I suppose they were furious because they did not get to see so many people frequently.

The weather was hot and humid. Though everyone likes to receive some appreciation and perform to the audience, the sun was the least wanted spectator in those conditions. The sun got bored initially with our relatively slow speed so hid behind some clouds and gave us some relief. Half way mark, we needed to take a U-turn. I was happy when I crossed 10 km sign. But the road till the turn was very steep, and it was tiring to climb up. I started walking there. I felt the distance was more than half km, the feeling which was shared by fellow runners. I gulped water after turning back. It took me an hour to reach 11 km mark. There was no one in the sight now. The faster runners had gone quite ahead, and the slower ones had remained far behind. I was a little bored and tired, but there was a long way to go so I kept running remembering Sukhwinder’s beautiful rendition: Main Chala, main chala, saath mere chale jindagi ka safar.

By the time I crossed 15 km mark, I was quite exhausted. The sun was out fully now, blazing, as if wanting to see photo-finish. Go away; this is not 100 meters sprint. All of a sudden, I started feeling cold in that scorching heat. That was dangerous because the cold signals weakness in my case. To make the matters worse, my head started spinning. It was difficult to manage two different motions – the forward movement and the movement of the head. Then came the fears. Fear of giving up. Fear of not finishing the race in 2 hours. The worst - fear of not finishing at all. After every step I wanted to stop. It became the game of will versus want. I kept dragging myself for last few kilometers. I had 11 minutes left to achieve my target and 2 km to cover. My body was a bag of iron now, and quite heavy at it. The clouds of doubts were all over. But that Sukhwinder song still played in mind - Hai dhuan hi dhuan, raasto ke nishan, har kadam par mere, haunsle hai jawan, meri manjil mujhe aa rahi hai najar. I saw the finish-line now. I started sprinting with long strides, panting heavily. The heart was jumping in the chest to get out as if I kept it hostage for years. The faces in the crowd started cheering. The final stride and I landed on the other side of the line. When I reached there, I not only cross the line, but also overcame all the fears. How many fears we live with. Fear of stepping on a stone and getting hurt. Fear of getting bitten by a dog on the way. Fear of society. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of consequences of our actions. Fear of ending on the wrong side. Fear of God! This is not to imply that I do not believe in God On the contrary I much believe in Him, but not because I am afraid of Him, but because of Him I have nothing to be afraid of. The fears are tamed. Fear no fears, friends. Go all out and pursue your passions like there is no tomorrow.

My stop-watch stopped at 1:58:41. With it I also stopped. I fell down on the ground and sat there. I felt completely giddy and exhausted and dehydrated now. A couple of people came to me asking if I was well. I requested them to get me some water. Unable to sit, I stretched myself on the ground. I do not remember when my heart skipped some beats, but after a few seconds when I woke up, I felt as if I kissed the sweet and sour death and came back. I felt no body weight. I was only aware of the conscious – and that too kept getting unconscious. After about an hour which seemed like an eternity and drinking liters of water, the life fully came back to me. That experience of near-death made me humble. How strange it is that death teaches us how to live. Think about it – a man completes half-marathon but cannot walk even 5 meters after that to bring a glass of water. I thanked all the people who helped me. Without them this blog would have died an infant’s death in the thought process itself. The KTM was a lesson in sending fears to graves, in experiencing death and escaping it. Call it death by running? Nah, I call it living by running.


  1. Awesome timings in that deadly conditions! I gave up running and started walking with 4K left for fear of a complete collapse, and my knees collapsed by 2KM and barely managed to cross the line. And that was a 2:45 one. Nice writeup btw.

  2. Welcome back BD :)

    yar 1:58:41 is awesome, but i guess you won't like to get the near-death experience again.

    Take care buddy and remember to stop when you think your body needs, for the next longer run :)

  3. Proud of you BD :) Keep living, keep running and keep writing :) And yeah a big congratulations for achieving this uphill target!! Waiting for our treat when we are back :)