Sunday November 27, 2011, 5.25 am.
Am standing on the road outside my house, dressed in my running gear, my ipod plugged on and my water bottle gripped firmly in my hand.
They are running a 10k around the lake and the Half Marathon in Delhi today so most of the Hyderabad Runners are away and there is no run organized today; I will be on my own without any SAG support, no one running with me, no one to pace me, no one to encourage me.
But that does not bother me; after all, for most of my running life I have been running alone and have survived. The daunting thing about today is that I will be attempting my longest run ever – 30 kms. So, in a way, today’s lone run is a blessing in disguise. There will be no mental pressure to keep up with the group; no pressure on me to know that I am keeping the early finishers waiting for me; I can run at my own pace and in the worst case scenario, if I have to quit at some point, I can simply hail an auto and go back home (I have already done such a thing once and mentioned about it in a previous blog).
I have already mapped the route on gmap-pedometer a day before and know the 15km point where I will turn back. To be on the safer side, I have decided to go further by a few hundred meters to a prominent T junction and then turn back.
I take the first steps and promise that I am not going to give up come what may. I will finish the 30k one step at a time no matter how long it takes. After all, I have done a 25k recently and this should not be too difficult.
I am running after about 10 days so the first few kilometers are really difficult, I am just not able to find my rhythm. There is uneven pressure on each of my legs and I am hobbling along, slowly and painfully. It is still dark and hence I cannot see the cloud cover but am sweating profusely in the first few minutes of the run. In any case, it takes me about half an hour to sort out these things and get into a rhythm after which I am able find my natural flow.
The first ten kilometers or so are all a gradual incline. Gradual enough to take it in your stride; inclined enough to keep you slightly out of breath. I can’t help but remember that this is the same route where, many months ago, my new shoes had given me such pain in my hip that I had not just quit running on that day but had also quickly changed my shoes to a new pair.
After the first 10 km of incline, I get to an isolated stretch of road where the gradient falls quite fast and brings me to more or less the same level as my starting point. There is also a cool breeze blowing that make the run very, very enjoyable. The road is isolated and I take a quick pee break and then run downhill till the end of the road that puts me on to a busy, polluted highway. I keep running, wary of the traffic and the increased noise levels, the good thing being that my turning point is not very far away.
I reach the half way mark in good shape. Have been running with discipline which for me means having the discipline to stop running and start walking every 7-8 minutes and then having the discipline to start running again after exactly one minute of walking. I turn back at the halfway mark, stop at a breakfast joint to buy a bottle of cold water, refill my sipper and start my journey back, mapping out the route mentally. I have an immediate incline to take care of followed by a straight and then the long gradual downhill. With every step I am getting closer to home and am feeling good that I will be able to fool my brain into submission and continue running the full distance.
On the way back, I meet a fellow HR runner who is on his way back home after his workout. He sees me, stops the car and we have a quick 5 second interaction. He shakes my hand, cheers me and says that he is impressed when I tell him that I am doing a 30k. I am quickly on my way again, very happy with this chance encounter.
The way back is uneventful and am thankful that my knees and shins are behaving. I do different things to break the monotony – take some walk breaks longer than a minute and at one place, considerably increase my speed for about 500m or so. Finally I am on my last stretch – the home run. My speed has dropped considerably by now and I am tempted to take more frequent breaks. I am now playing games with my brain; first promising myself to stop when I reach a particular up ahead in the distance but then keep running as long as I can after crossing that point.
Finally, 4 hours and 15 minutes after I took my first step, I am back from where I started. I have done it. I have run 30 kms and this is an important step towards the 42k day that is fast approaching. Tired, but happy, I post on my facebook page as I get into my recovery mode. I reward myself with a smoothie, a large breakfast and also apply lots of ice on my shins, ankle, calf muscles and the knees.
I sleep all day and then I sleep all night and on Monday morning, while I have recovered from the exhaustion, I am still walking like a penguin. Surprisingly, my legs mend themselves very quickly and am feeling pretty OK by Tuesday. Wednesday morning I venture out for a 30 min walk and put in some running as well to see how I feel.
I feel great and am already looking forward to this Sunday when the entire HR gang will be back and we shall run together. Will run a much shorter distance this time but will plan for a 35k very soon over the coming weeks.
For the first time, the 42k full marathon looks to be within my reach.