Sunday, February 07, 2016

“A Goodhearted run”: The footsteps4good experience

 A friend had suggested to me before SCMM that I should try running for a cause as the feeling of doing so is much more gratifying. I mulled over it and replied in affirmative stating that when the opportunity arises I will do so.

Indeed the opportunity did present itself when running veteran and a person whom I greatly admire-Sayuri Dalvi asked me if I was willing to run for a cause at the Footsteps4 good event dated on Feb 7th.  Being just the week after The Wipro Chennai marathon, I hesitated initially but was assured saying that it was just a 10 km run to which I happily agreed.  

The NGO I was to run for was called Marys clan which helped in the rehabilitation of destitute alcoholics and assisted them to regain sobriety. They took care of our registrations and the fees were donated to the NGO along with the prize money in case the runner either had a podium or a top 10 finish. While collecting the bibs on Friday, I got to hear about the intriguing and moving story of how ‘Marys clan’ was initially founded back in the 80s. Apparently these alcoholic souls were discarded from their own families even after they were cured. Such instances evoke mixed feelings within you- while you are thankful for what you are blessed with, you are also appalled hearing about the plight of fellow humans who are subjected to such harshness. Sort of reminded me of the day and night image of the earth we were taught in our geography lessons-where one side was subjected to light while the other was a complete black out.

With such thoughts embedded in my head, I reached home determined to push myself at the race as a token of doing my bit for them.  Now I still hadn’t recovered from my 21 km in Chennai, added to which I was suffering a mild chest congestion, which I thought would disappear by just drinking gallons of hot water. 

Sunday dawned nice and chill-an ideal weather to give your best. The event was being held at MMRDA grounds at BKC and was scheduled to start at 6:30 am.  The atmosphere was buzzing with various stalls by NGOs, a good mix of enthusiastic runners- some of my friends from MRR and a lot of expats. What made this race different from the rest was the fact that everybody was running for a cause more than for themselves. In a way that makes you push beyond your limits than what you would do when you are just running for yourself and that’s precisely what I did. 

From the word go, I set off like a dragon with steel in my eyes and heart, ignoring the little imp called fatigue initially.  It was still dark and we were surrounded by nothing but those lifeless commercial buildings all around. A couple of volunteers stood by clapping and handing out water.  At the 5 km mark, I started coughing and felt a little nauseous-a similar feeling I had encountered in the Chennai marathon which at that time I had attributed to the humid and oppressive weather. I stopped in my tracks, took a sip of Gatorade and continued my pace. My legs looked strong, yet my lungs did not give me the allowance to push further than my normal pace. 

I stopped again at the 8 km point much to the surprise of my running partner cum husband. ‘Just 2 km’ he said signalling with his fingers as my ears were firmly plugged to my ipod speakers blaring a peppy EDM number. I shook my head in despair as I mouthed stating ‘I am unable to push further’. I watched in dismay as 3 expats overtook me at that point. On other days I wouldn’t have turned a hair, but today was different. I wanted to finish among the top 10, for those discarded beings, whom I was running for, so that my prize money would go towards their betterment.  I put my best foot forward and dashed again. On normal days I would end up overtaking people at the 9th km juncture but today was just not my day. My lungs refused to comply even though my legs were eager to push. I crossed the finish line in 57 minutes. 

Not a bad timing but for the first time, I lacked the feeling of the famous runner’s high. I was disappointed that I could not finish among the top 10 and do my bit for ‘Marys Clan’ in a way I had hoped to, despite the fact I had pre-warned them not to have any expectations from me as I had not recovered fully. In a way I felt that I had let the NGO down, despite the owner reassuring me that I had done my best.

I sat down on the chair and gathered my thoughts.  I was probably being too hard on myself by taking my body for granted and not giving it adequate rest. Maybe I was pushing it beyond its capacity. I recollected that a person whom I had interviewed recently told me that one should learn to choose their races and not expect to run every race, by drawing parallels to the famous hare and the tortoise story.  I realized that following the tortoise’s philosophy of stopping to smell the roses should be incorporated in some runs. 

 As I looked up at the cheerful faces around me, I realized that I had run with my heart today, for a noble cause and that’s what mattered. My sensibilities soon returned as I went and collected the breakfast of sandwiches and muffins. I stood there with my hubby, watching the music and dance show put up by the special kids wearing their warm hearted smiles.  

During the drive back home, I realized that running for a cause taught me some vital lessons. I may not have necessarily bagged my personal best or that podium finish but I certainly did win a million hearts. Today I felt that I had come out as a better person with a sense of fulfilment, if not a better runner.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Humid yet spirited- The Wipro Chennai Marathon experience

Doing a 21 km event within a span of just 2 weeks seemed a little overwhelming considering the fact, we were not ultra-marathoners. However we decided to make it an exception for The Wipro Chennai Marathon this time. Earlier scheduled on December 13th 2015, we signed up for it with great gusto, having had a good experience in the 2014 edition. This gave us a good 4 weeks to recover before the much hyped Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon which was slated to be on January 17th 2016.

However as the saying goes’ Man proposes, God disposes’ things didn’t exactly go as per schedule as nature decided to lash out its fury causing a deluge.  The torrential flooding left the city handicapped which of course propelled the organisers to postpone the event with all due sensitivities, given the grave situation.  
Having been a part of the city in the past, we felt miserable on seeing the appalling conditions that it was subjected to. Feeling crippled and helpless, all we could do is manage a meagre contribution and offer our heartfelt prayers.         The city soon limped back to normalcy and the new date allotted was Jan 31st 2016, exactly 2 weeks after SCMM.
The Mumbai marathon went by in a jiffy and we had barely recovered from the run. However we were determined to run another 21 km in Chennai as a mark of our solidarity, considering what the city had been through.  This was one of those rare occasions where my heart ruled over my head as TWCM 2014 was my first half marathon 8 months after my delivery and instrumental in restoring my confidence as a runner.  So in a way, I was indebted to this event.  
We were given a warm welcome by the Chennai Runners during the bib collection as we introduced ourselves as a part of the Mumbai Road runners. After a friendly chat, we headed home to catch our forty winks, considering the fact that we had to be up at 3:00 am as our race started at 4:30 am.
The holding area was bustling with people wearing blue (this edition’s colour T shirt which was a part of the goody bag along with a Gatorade bottle), green and multiple colours, doing their warm ups sincerely. One would have expected the weather Gods to play it cool, considering it was still winter, technically speaking, unless one moved over to the southern hemisphere. However Chennai conditions took the tag of giving a ‘warm’ welcome a bit too seriously as the humidity slowly began to seep in. The race flagged off and the weather showed no signs of relenting, leaving us to huff and puff as we ran along the roads of South Chennai.
The water stations were adequately placed as the enthusiastic volunteers came towards us handing cups of water and Gatorade which we gulped down as a soother to our parched throats and muttered a breathless ‘thanks’.  The route saw us through the Madhya Kailash temple, Tidel Park, the Adyar flyover, Santhome church before we reached the famous Marina Beach. Now this was the beautiful part of the race as we ran along the world’s second largest beach. Last year, we had managed to catch the beautiful glimpse of sunrise. But this year the mighty Bay of Bengal eluded us by submerging in the twilight zone.  The cool and gentle breeze at this stretch provided some relief to the oppressive conditions that we were subjected to earlier. We turned at the 12 km mark and prepared ourselves to get to the finish line without feeling like a lame and burnt out duck.
 Now this is where the 2:10 pacers came in handy. We somehow found ourselves in the company of these jovial and sturdy chaps holding the balloons like an arm candy. It was sort of a friendly one up-manship game here, where we tried to run ahead of these pacers thinking that even if we lost steam, we would still be around this time zone.

We ran past Santhome church again where we offered a silent prayer, crossed the Adyar Bridge and by this time our energy levels were depleted. As we stopped in our tracks, a fellow runner tapped us and encouraged us to go on which set off those strides again. Up the flyover we went, scrambled down and after a short distance we saw that ‘just 1 km to go’ sign. Gathering all our energy from the reserve, we set off like race horses sprinting that last km till we crossed the finish line just behind our balloon men.
“Good running”, they said as we nodded with a faint smile and a thumbs up. If the humidity levels deterred our spirts, the medals and the sumptuous South Indian breakfast comprising of Kesari, Vada, Pongal, Idlis managed to bring back the smiles on to our faces. We left the grounds on a high note after thanking the 2:10 pacers, relief written all over our faces of having braved the infamous Chennai humidity.
A big thanks to Chennai Runners for their undying spirit of bringing back the city from the deluge and conducting the event successfully, volunteers, photographers and the traffic police who often have a thankless job. It may not be a place to attain your personal best, given the humid conditions.  Yet the undying, enthusiastic and contagious spirit is what propels us to go back to the next edition.