It is rather unusual to get up at 3:15 in the morning and still feeling gay and cheerful, legs more than ready to run at the first sign of GO. That was exactly what I felt today morning. In fact, since last many days, I was getting mad day by day as the Ultra Marathon event was approaching. It might be also because the same day I was leaving for my native place for a 2 weeks vacation. Whatever may be the reason, but I was feeling goose-bumpy and had a faint idea that the day was going to be a special one. Eventually it would turn out to be the one.
It took quite an effort to reach to the Our Native Village (ONV), the starting point of the marathon. Considering it was dark, and not many people were there on the way to get the help from, Gopal and Satheesha did great job to bring us at the starting point much before 6:00 AM, the start time for 37.5 km run. After a brief warm-up session, we were all set to go. It was still a little dark when we started. The 12.5 km trail consisted of 6.25 km going in one direction and then coming back on the same trail. We were supposed to finish 3 rounds of that trail. Around a km of the trail was filled with small stones, but after that it was a proper mud trail barring a 500 meters tar road. As the promising day lifted the darkness, I could see the vast grassland opening before my eyes on both the side of the road. It was quite a sight - small hills, grass dancing with the wind, birds taking flights and the heads of the runners appearing and disappearing in the grass on a winding trail! The grass smelled fresh in the morning. Another 2 km and we left behind grass to enter into the land of big trees, a kind of urban jungle.
After a while, I was at the 6.25 km mark, from where I took u-turn to go back on the same route. The tar road climb was steep there and quite tiresome. I was cheering those fellow runners who were going in other direction. There were some old runners, a few ladies and even children. Though running is a solo sport mostly, a runner still requires appreciation. A thumb-up, a clap or just a few words of encouragement cheer a runner beyond imagination. When legs refuses to move, and lungs get tired, a simple gesture like this can motivate a runner.
I saw 3 runners in my category finishing first loop before me. That meant I was fourth in the lot. That was quite encouraging! Prakhar did mention before the start that I stood a good chance to finish in top draw. I resolved to stick to top-5 for the full race. The good thing was that the weather was very supportive. There was no sign of the sun, but it was not humid also. These were ideal conditions for running. I kept on running, observing the surroundings. A foreigner, a cyclist, was waving at the runners and cheering them. He looked quite amazed to see the so many runners attempting ultra marathon. Another foreigner lady, sitting under a tree, was drawing something in a paper. I assumed she was trying to paint the grassland with the tree line and hills in background. When I came back to finish the second loop, she was standing on the other side of the road, showing the drawing to the runners. There were two red flowers in it, and nicely written Well Done. That was touching!
At the end of the second loop I realized that I was leading the pack now! That was scary and surprising at once! I was tired, hungry and thirsty now but buoyed by the new-found energy from the leader’s position, I somehow kept dragging myself without stopping much. The thought that Glory awaits you was my companion thereafter. I did stop at the aid stations to get some water or munch something. In the middle of the third loop, I knew that the second-positioned runner was about a km behind me. I met Gulprit on the way and he suggested me to speed up for last 6 km. But the climb was grueling and I was exhausted. On top of that, the knowledge that you are leading also kind of acts as a deterrent sometimes. The constant threat of the other person overtaking you lurks in mind, even if you know that he is lagging far behind. The fear is constantly with you, like your own shadow - it never leaves you. I don’t remember how many times I glanced back to see where exactly my competitors were. It was as if I was running with twisted head.
I saw Mohan C, Mohan G and Ambika cheering for me before the last km mark. I was sprinting now. When I crossed the finish line, taking long steps and hands extended in joy, I looked at the sky and thanked God. It was a long, 4 hours effort. In my childhood I used to dream that one day I would become a sportsman and win the big competitions in front of big crowds in huge stadiums. I even tried to get admission into a sports school but was refused. The reason: I was a slow runner. And today that dream came true. I know now for sure that dreams do come true, although they may not manifest the way we see them. But we are so much tied to the images we have of them in our minds that we do not identify with them taking different forms. We see less with the eyes than the mind. That is why a blind person’s life is not completely black. Tonight when I sleep, there will be more dreams. I will be waiting to see how they come to pass.
* Check more photographs at : http://picasaweb.google.com/brijesh.gajera/UltraMarathon2009#