Sunday, October 16, 2011

Inspiration from an Ultra Runner

Ran 16kms with the Hyderabad Runners group today morning and would like to dedicate my run to one person in particular – Sunil Menon.

We ran on a long stretch of road on the outskirts of the city. While most of us started running at a leisurely hour of 5.30 am, a smaller set of people – training for the Bangalore Ultra - had started running on the same road at 4am in loops of 16 kms. This way, we would come across several ultra trainers on the route during our own run.

Scared of my right knee giving me problems, I started out at a really slow pace in addition to taking walk breaks every seven minutes. Gradually picked up a little more speed and was happy when I reached the 8 km mark in about an hour and then turned back to return to the starting point.

At around this time my knee problems returned. I started feeling a lot of pain and fatigue in my right knee. This is now becoming a regular feature (the first time this happened was on Sep 11 this year)and very soon I was hobbling, unable to run straight. I had to drastically reduce the pace and started taking more frequent walk breaks. In fact I was running so slow that I had started cooling down. I clearly remember talking to myself thinking that I had a lot of stamina still left in me and that I could keep running for a fairly long distance – if only my legs gave me the support to keep running. My emotions were a mix of disgust and self pity.

At around 7.15, with another 5 km or so to the finish, it so happened that I turned to look back. Generally, I never look back when running so I really don’t know why I did this. I saw an amazing sight – this runner coming really fast towards me – a blur in blue kicking a trail of dust as he galloped towards me. In no time he was upon me, patted my back, urged me to keep going and was suddenly gone.

Was this blur in blue Superman? Probably. I know him by the name of Sunil Menon. He was training for the Ultra and had been running since 4 am today. Which meant that when he crossed me, he had been running for at least 3 hours. I came to know later that he ran for a total of 5 hours today.

The brief interaction that the two of us had for about two seconds – the backslapping and the words of encouragement – changed the race for me. Something magical happened in those two seconds. It was as if Sunil transferred all his energy he had at his disposal into me.

To hell with the pain, I said to myself, as I picked up my pace in an attempt to follow Sunil. Here I was, doing a leisurely 16k and getting overtaken by someone who has already been on the road for 3 hours. I can do better than this. Very soon I was running at a fairly respectable pace and had started to feel the exertion. I could feel my body putting in the efforts as my lungs expanded and contracted at a furious pace providing the air to my engine as it powered me on.

I never caught up with Sunil but did not let him disappear from my sight. What was otherwise promising to be a 2:30 torture ended as a good respectable 2 hour run. As I reached the finish line, I saw him turn around and start out for another loop of 16 kms. It was as if he had taken on himself the task of getting me to the end and he rushed out again to inspire someone else…

Thank you Supermenon. Thank you Hyderabad Runners.

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