I have been calling Delhi Half Marathon 2013 my fourth participation but ideally it was my third in all understanding. Let me tell you why. The first time I was introduced to the concept of marathon, it wasn’t by any trainer or by any fitness enthusiast but by my very close family friend and sister-like Geeta Di (didi) in the year 2009, the same year I was trying to tone down and enjoying having lost a few kilos for the first time ever. I used to be huge! (I get scared when I look at those pics of mine..jeez…)

According to Geeta Di, the last time she participated in The Great Delhi 7-km Run, it was too short a distance for her to feel she actually “ran” so this time she wanted more of running and decided to participate in Half Marathon and wanted me to join along with her friends. I agreed. (Duh! What was I thinking & what would make me say yes to something I didn’t know about…) As soon as we started to run on the race day, (Run? Well, a mix of forced running with brisk, slow, painstaking walk, phew!) Di in no time realized we are in a mess. (Heeh! You know that feeling when you have taken up something with all the noise and soon realize you are screwed with a capital S… 😉 ) She, along with her sisters, decided to quit the race but me and Mamta Di (Geeta Di’s colleague and a friend) decided to finish it.

Mamta Di was running for her mother. She wanted to dedicate 21kms of her willpower and mental strength to her ailing mother and I, like always, just wanted to survive the unseen challenge. And as we neared the ultimate stop for our exhausted selves – the half-marathon finish line – we managed to smile, since of all the efforts we made during the struggling 21kms, this one was least painful. I don’t know about Mamta Di, but this was the moment that changed the way I perceived running and came to terms with what the mother of all runs was all about (Yes. Mother. Full marathon is the baap 😎 ), that too, straight from Ground Zero! 🙂

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Thereon, it had become an annual event in my calendar (except for the year 2011 as I had gained a lot of weight). In 2010, I ran for the Indian dogs and also raised charity for ‘Friendicoes’, the dog NGO based in New Friends Colony, New Delhi. During this run, I also bumped into my long-lost school friend Vivek, a rockstar when it comes to running and now we run, cycle together.

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It was also the year when many of the runners, including me, didn’t receive the medal on the race day and that created furor amongst all of us. There was a heated argument with the management following which they apologized and requested to send our medals with the certificate at our residential addresses. But that made no difference to our disappointed faces. Despite receiving the participation fees well in advance, the organizers failed to deliver. Moreover, they hurt the enthusiasm of the runners who ran with all their heart and strength.

2012 race day was same as my dad’s birthday (September 30) & I decided to run in his name. It was a tough one. The weather, the arrangements – all were not in a runner’s favour. The reactions that poured in later really did compel Procam (organizer) and Airtel to shift the race day date to November this year but then it was further postponed to December due to Delhi elections.

And this time, the weather was of a runner’s delight. Even the event was pretty well organized. They had also arranged for the masseurs – just perfect! But what was not perfect was the time at which I completed my run. I have been trying for 3 years now to finish under 3 hours but only in vain. It’s true that I am to be blamed for it or if I have to be a little lenient, may be the circumstances as somehow I miss training every year. 😛 In fact, this year I was pretty sure I would achieve my target as I had ample amount of time to train. But to my dismay, neither did I train nor did I want to run on the race day. I made sure I sought blessings from Babaji at Bangla Sahib Gurudwara a day before as I knew this could be my only faint chance to pull it off.

The race-day morning was even worse; I just didn’t want to run. (Damn!) I sulked. I remembered all the times I had wanted to make this happen but my mind was running its own marathon and God knows in which direction. The icing on the cake proved to be when my inner self boasted of a 2:30-mark finish before the race but as soon as I got down to business, the bubble broke with a big ouch!

Anyhow, I ran with a blank mind up to 2kms and soon crossed 3-km mark. Everybody was overtaking me (this is where you mental strength comes in). And that’s how it is in a marathon. You always feel you are lagging behind even when you are doing well. (and isn’t that the case in our lives too? We always feel we have less time for almost everything we do but no, it isn’t like that. 🙂 Slowly and steadily my body felt the warmth, my mind okayed the idea of me being amid a bunch of people who simply ran and looked determined and suddenly, everything started to fall in place. I now wanted to finish the race under 3 hours, the desire arose within, yet again and it was the same me who fished for excuses to quit the race a while back. I surprised myself that day. I really did. I thought I will fail this time but I was destined to conquer that side of mine which conveniently wanted to give up. The pacemakers were of great help (pacemakers are flag bearers who run with a pre-decided finishing time) and they really did set the pace for a lot of us, I believe. And now I wanted to nail it and had no time to play victim.

I ran like it was my last, chose not to halt and continued with absolutely nothing in my mind other than the sight of the finish line. Last three kilometers are the toughest, more so when we have to deal with the happy-go-lucky ‘Great Delhi Run’ runners on the same track as marathoners’. However, you are never in a position to crib. There is just no time. (you don’t say that if you are prepared, of course ;)) Finish line is the only thing you want to set your eyes on and may be crib once you have crossed it. One glimpse is enough to set you rolling towards it and everything else takes a back-seat. Nothing in this world matters to you more than that clock ticking away and the censor mat at the finish line you pray to land on before your target time.

This feeling is unique. Simply plutonic. And yes it was this feeling I was running for and also for the under 3-hour mark but missed it by 12 minutes. These are the same 12 minutes we take for granted while reaching a meeting, a movie theatre or the airport. Wow. I never knew I would realize it the marathon way and how. Improvements, yes, I did show some but still miles to go before I better my timings and breathe poise.

Devashish sir, my 2013 run is for you. I love you and always will be indebted to you for your blessings.

Was it my legs that were running? Was it my body that ran? Or, was it the run I was running? I think I will never be able to answer these questions no matter how many more marathons I run in the times to come. Run marathon at least once in your life and try answering these questions. I am not sure if you will get the answers but what you will achieve is beyond words, emotions and it will change your life forever. It changed mine.
“You run marathon twice – first in real and then in your mind” – Preeti Hoon

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