Sunday, November 20, 2011

The midnight run...the invaluable teacher (aka) lessons learnt...

I called my wife on Friday evening, and told her that I had decided to take the midnight run - anchored by Raj Vadgama, the elite Ultra Distance runner.   It was an impromptu decision, considering that I had nil mileage during the last month and about 18 km last week.

Second thoughts crept in during Saturday.   I had a half a day at office, but anyway I let the feeling seep in my mind that I was going to run beyond my Lokhandwala trainings of 10-14k runs.   Vacillation- Should I or Should I not?    The Saturday movie and the Sunday Night sleep beckoned.  I had worked 15 straight days, putting in 4 sleepless nights.   This option look tempting.  

I called Raj and asked what speed they would run - they said 7-7.5 km per hour. I was still skeptical.

Post lunch, I slept for an hour.   Sun went down.  My new Asics were out of the shoe rack, ready to hug my feet after a month of idling.   I went out shopping for a pain-cream, tapes and energy drink.   I tried to sleep the Saturday night movie off, but could not.  My family had an early dinner and were off to sleep.  

I applied vaseline, taped my middle toes.  I pushed a sense of dilemma again crept in.  Silence at home, Tom Cruise was delivering his dialogues in the 'Days of Thunder'.  When I was about to leave, the feeling continued. I asked my wife, should I ?  She laughed and pushed me out of the door.

On the way to the rendevous point, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, dressed in the Bangalore Ultra Marathon which has the phrase-'It is tough, or you'... When I wore that, I sneered with cockiness... 'I have seen that distance'.    

At the point, one by one, people assembled.   Each runner had a feat to talk about.  NDTV Greenathon - which is a 550 km - 11 day run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai,  Bati Lakes - 100km... I felt inspired and humbled.  We clicked pictures.   The fact that I was running with India's best runners still did not occur in mind.  That was to be my nemesis during this run.

With Piyush Shah
We did the routines, and started.  Feet hit the asphalt... about 1 km in the race, I was behind.   Raj was shuttling back and forth;   The assist-car, Raj's own, shuttled between the lead runners and the laggards.   Into the 5 km, there was already half a km gap.

I decided to sprint and catch up, and then realized that I should run within my limitations.   Around the 10k mark, nearing the Jogeshwari- Vikhroli Link - the gap between elites and me was almost a km.   The poor driver asked whether I needed a lift !!!  I told him that I am taking it slow and easy, and waved them off.   A costly mistake. 

With the runners, the assist car disappeared.   I soldiered on till the 16k - when my left ITB started talking.   I responded by walking.   With dehydration kicking in,  I switched to walking breaks for about 20-30 meters.  Had a cup of tea.   The chai-wala gave me some coins and they started clinkering in my pocket.

Couple of dogs were interested.  One dog growled, but was shooed by a inquisitive cop.  Some youngsters said - saaheb, kuch race hai kya?   I said  'it is a practice run'.   They responded by wishing me well.  Every now and then,  seeing me running alone, the regular tramp who inevitably occupies the bench of every bus-stop, laughed, sneered and waved.

I crossed the Vile parle crossing, Santa Cruz, Kalina and was reaching Vakola, when the ITB screamed.   I realized, that I should be near Bandra.   But few other factors weighed in - the next stretch would be without assistance - only the side rails of the express way or a parked taxi - with its driver snoozing would be company till the finish - it is a lovely stretch to drive your Etios, but not for running alone.   Calling the assist car would leave the elite runner group alone for atleast 20 minutes, as they should be about 2-3 km ahead.   I was beginning to feel cold because of my walking routines.  

The night view near Santacruz
And the temptation... hindsight, may be I should have resisted.  An autowala trailing, said - 'saaheb, jaana hai kya?...' I said ' YES'!!!   I texted Raj that I was quitting ( it is so shameful, while typing this bit, I admit) and then off took the autowala!  I reached home in 35 minutes.

Raj, in between called and said they had just reached Bandra.   I was indeed 2-2.5 km behind.   I said the cramps were bad, and so I had called it off.   I wished him well and he thanked for joining the run.

How great and humble, he and others were!  I will surely run alongside them whenever I can - well, atleast in the starting line !  :)

While, at home, I showered, stretched and slept, Raj and co were on their way to another glorious run in South Mumbai.

I woke up, today morning with the sun beating down from the french window.   As I had breakfast, I recounted the last night events - and made a mental list of lessons learnt.
  1. Put in enough miles per week, else Auroville is going to be tough
  2. In group runs, plan better.   You should find runners of your kind, speed and limitation.   Else, you will bring the better ones down.
  3. Hydrate, Hydrate.   More you hydrate, better you deal with cramps.
  4. Avoid the vices of life - spicy food and sundowners - they can add up and act up.   A vow to watch was made.  
All said,  the last run was the best in a long time, almost a year.   Just run! Each run is a teacher.

-The One

Pics Courtesy The One...

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