( continued from part 3)
'Oh! Oh! the route was familiar, I had run this before' I thought. The 12th km was the easiest one. My bro held the backpack for a while.
Suddenly, I dont know from where, a wave of exhaustion swept me. The backpack suddenly became heavier, and heavier and heavier... my shoulder slumped, pace dropped to near-walk speed. Everybody was overtaking me - runners who found new energy and eager youngsters.
I took a walk break - a rather long one. Rajesh, Akila and KK had moved about half a km ahead of me. 'Will do this slow, but sure'- I said to myself. It become a walk and jog routine - till I reached the Adyar bridge and then it became a walk ( 16k). My team were snapping away photographs - but too drained to catch up. I was exhausted, but not out. If only I could handover my backpack, I thought.
As they say - when you are in trouble, dont give up hope. My hope was answered. An angel appeared - we call him SLMP or Shankar. One of the better runners in our group, Shankar was more keen to create a photo-document of this largest ever CR gathering till date. So he was happy-snapping at everybody and hence running lot slower. At the 16k mark, he reached me; and reached out to me and made an offer that I could not refuse. Time: 2:17.
'Handover the backpack' and ' run this like a 5k, and finish strongly' he said. So happy I was, I relieved the backpack off me, and then said a small thanks and ran. I caught up with my brother and Akila. KK had some cramps at 17k, and Rajesh was also slightly tired. But Akila was going strong.
Water points were depleted of water - only wasted 500 ml bottles lying around. The stalls had wound up; there was lot of jay walkers. Everybody seemed to think that the race was over.
Around the 19k mark, Rajesh did a small reverse run to trace KK, who had fallen behind; Akila was off like an arrow out of the bow - fast. She found a faster companion who accompanied her till the finish.
Rajesh and I had given up on time, and intent to finish; did a run-walk-run , counting the number of poles as we ran along the Beach road; the distance seemed to grow, and the last mile the longest. Students, cops, by-standers were cheering. The sun was behind the clouds, but humidity was not that kind enough. Exhaustion poured in, but the finish was now in sight.
About 25m from the finish line, my calf muscles pulled, and I started limping. Rajesh pushed me along, and there, there - I crossed the finish line along side Rajesh. My first HALF Marathon. In 2:54...!!!
We all were exhausted. The better runners had a good finish, and had a happy-snappy photograph session. I joined them for couple of photographs.
Everybody had medals, so I pushed my way into the crowd, argued, fought with the organizers and finally got one. The political drama was going on in the stage - everybody praising the other, how great the high and mighty are...
What the heck - I had my first half marathon under the belt, and a medal too!!!
PS - this marathon series is dedicated to two special people - My brother Rajesh and Shankar Lal Patel , without who the finish line would have been there for sometime more to be conquered!!!