We reached to GKVK at 5:15 after picking up Gopal from his home. There were more people than I imagined. Sabine was preparing for 100 KM Ultra run and this run was part of her uphill training. Sunil Chainani, the director of FabIndia, already ran 100 KM in previous Bangalore Ultra Marathon and is veteran long-distance runner now. Sindhu and Jagdish are regulars at GKVK and we often get to see them on the running trail. Then there was Rajesh, and another Rajesh and the third one could not join that day! Prakhar, Gopal and I completed the contingent. We set off from GKVK at 5:30 and reached the Nandi Hills base at 6:05.
Light had already started loosening the evil grip of darkness by the time we started running. It is actually a 7 KM tarred road from the base to the top and you go from 1000 meters at base to around 1450 meters at top. There are 41 curves; many of them sharp hair-pin bends. The initial half of the route is consistently and gradually increasing gradient. I started slow, but still found myself leading the peck. After about half a kilometer, my lungs already started working overtime. But the weather was beautiful; air fresh and rejuvenating. The monsoon had clearly set its sight on the hills, it seemed so, as all the hills were covered by the thick clouds as if they actually made the mountains! It was pretty sight to watch brown and green hills clad in the grey and silver clouds. Wind, though blowing in my face at times making running difficult, encouraged the trees to whistle and dance in early morning spectacle. The shrubs smelled of fresh rain and there was no stopping of cheerful little birds chirping and running wild.
I continued running without stopping for water after half-way. Prakhar convinced his driver to support us on our way, so we made his car a mobile support. We put all our water bottles and eatables in his car and the driver stopped and waited at some points on the way so we could get what we needed from the car. That relieved us from the trouble of carrying water in our hands. As I crossed 5 KM mark, I saw a fickle sign of the sun between the clouds. Surprisingly it was not crimson red or orange or golden. It donned the silver attire to go with the theme. I was happy that it was too shy to come out that day. That kept at least the trouble of heat out of our equation.
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The clouds got darker and thicker as I moved up. The gradient was steeper now and wind blew heavily. The winding hair-pin bends became pain now and I was almost jogging. As I turned after 6 KM mark on a sharp turn, I heard a few dogs barking. I passed by those dogs a few moments back. The noise got louder with each passing second. When I turned back, I found army of 4 dogs chasing me. I had to stop against my wish because they were adamant and relentless in their pursuit to slow me down from my slower than slowest speed. When I started running again, they started their chase again. I had no option but to walk for a while. But what I experienced was amazing. Water droplets started trickling in. The valley looked beautiful in rain from distance. The wind almost carried me along with it. The elements of nature conspired together to create that scenery. And the dogs were part of the whole scheme! They were not chasing me to bite, they came running to plead me to stop and savor the bounty of the nature. Happily I obliged. The dogs ran away once they realized that I got the message. The peak was just a few meters away but I was in no hurry. The light faded completely and it was totally dark. I could not make out if the silhouette at my arm’s length is of a tree or a cloud. The winding road was barely visible. Inevitably a few lines emerged from my heart:
The road is narrow and winding,
The conditions are tough and grinding;
The clouds of doubts blinds your vision,
And fear is in air beyond the reason;
But darkness gives way to the light,
Fear makes room for will to fight;
Only if you put your heart before your head,
There is always…always way ahead.
One more right turn and I reached to the entrance of the hill fort. 7 KM of running and I was celebrating my first uphill run. Sunil followed soon. Others were lagging behind. We did not want to stop so we ran downhill for a kilometer and joined them to go back to the peak again. We filled our mouths with bananas and cakes and refueled ourselves with water and Gatorade. The downhill run was easy, but hard on knees if one is not careful. Half way, Sunil and I decided to go uphill again instead of going down all the way. The sun finally gave vent to its wish to come out of the clouds. Everything dazzled in the bright sunlight. This time, after touching peak, I ran downhill till the base. When I touched the feet of Nandi at base, I noticed no pain in my body, and mind was still as fresh as before starting the run.
I was glad I finished my first hill training. That was the best run of my life. What made it easy and enjoyable? I was feeling very good that day from the beginning. I think it’s imperative to feel good to do well, to go beyond your limits, to surmount the seemingly insurmountable, though sometimes it’s difficult to feel good when you are going through rough patch, when the lady fate refuses to sleep with you. If you keep reminding yourself to feel good, no matter the circumstances, the life will not shy away from extending its helping hand towards you. Nandi Hills are out of way now, but there are mountains to climb and I wait for more beautiful mornings.