In my younger days, in a race, I would compete with even my best(est) friend. One year when I was running and dad was invited to be a chief guest, I was doing the 100 m. I was a bit ahead of the crowd and I turned around and looked back as I crossed the finish line. He was appalled. He told me off in no uncertain terms, and said that when you are running, you better be running for yourself, or not at all. I thought he meant it as advice to improve my timing. Now I get it.
So I am on the road on Sunday, 21st, running my half marathon. I am in pain, deep, my calves cramping in a real uncomfortable way. I am not feeling cocky or arrogant. I am not even feeling confident. My silly watch is steaming over thanks to sweat and of course I am appallingly bad in figuring out directions and buildings and landmarks. So the kilometer markers are the only straw I can clutch at.
I had a few aims with this effort-
(a) Lose that fat around the tummy
(b) Raise money for pet cause
(c) Finish in top 30 women
(d) Improve on last year's timing
(e) Be strong at the end
Now as I was running I saw (c)-(e) go out of the window already at 14 km. It was then that it hit me. It was some kind of ecstasy or high. It was some clarity of thought that was missing previously. I wanted to hug someone. I wanted to put my arm round that yellow tshirt walking and say, 'come on, lets run' I wanted to tell the lanky kid who was sprinting to slow down, and pace himself. I wanted desperately to know the names of the little children holding out biscuits for the runners. I wanted to know how old the man with white hair was, was almost glad when I saw his undone lace so I could legitimately dig a sentence out of my gut and tell him about the lace. I wanted to smile, and wave, and thank everyone.
Maybe it was thanks to Jayant, New jersey then, Mumbai now. He walked when I needed to walk. Sacrificed his race totally. He grabbed two bottles of water everytime. Told me to sip water. Told me I was doing very well. Hang in there, five more kms he said (No its six, said I). Thank you Jayant, I did hang in there. Maybe it was thanks to Venu, Bangalore. Dri-fit is a good idea he said. Had a fine discussion on schools, the education system, and gung-ho parents. Forgot about and got over my cramps. The certificate line would never have ended without you in it. Thank you Venu, I will let my daughter pick a school she likes.
Its not about competing and winning races, its about enjoying the race and making new friends, and being able to talk to those tiny tiny children collecting bottles from the runners, even after running for two and half hours. Well that is my aim for next year. Thank you Mumbai Marathon 2007!