Yes, No, Maybe? Till last night the only thing I heard was “Are you sure you want to do it?”
This morning way before 9 am, my mobile beeped with the message “Dear Shyamala Sathiaseelan, Congratulations on successfully completing Half Marathon in 03:23:41. Team, Cool Runners.”
I did it! Yes, I did it…
I was at the book fair earlier this month when my 7 year old son noticed a banner for Half Marathon somewhere and mentioned it to me. I didn’t even notice it, but it stayed on my mind. I came home and checked out on the internet and sure enough there was the Cool Runners Republic Day Half–Marathon 2015, but the registrations had closed already. I wrote to them asking if I could still register and they said there were very few places left and I had to register and pay the same day. A little bit of thinking and I decided to do the Half Marathon, even though I know 10K would have been easier.
It is about 8 or 9 years since I did my last Half Marathon and I had done it in about 4:00:00 the last time. That was a period when I used to walk regularly, do every single run in summer and I was super fit. I used to live in Ireland then. Things have changed drastically since then. I am a mother of two, who doesn’t have time for these walks and runs and the max I do is a stroll of 5K most mornings and I am older by nearly ten years! That is a long, long time.
I am on holidays now, which means, eat well, sleep well and don’t exercise! So the rest of my family were a bit apprehensive about me doing the run. I told them I was only going to walk it. I was never a runner so running was out of question. Even then walking 21 km is not an easy feat!
Last night there were questions and comments like “Are you sure you will do it?” ..”How many kms did you say it was? Do you really think you can do it?” … “You haven’t been training!” ….”When was the last time you did something like this?”, “Are you fit enough?”, “Do you realise you are actually 41?” etc… I refused to answer any of them. I wanted to do it and prove it.
This morning waking up at 3:45am was not a bother. I was way too excited. In my mind I had set a target of 3:30:00. I would have been happy if I was anywhere close to it.
I got dropped off at the starting point, which was YMCA grounds in Chennai. I joined the crowd in doing the warm ups and without much hungama, the race started. This was probably one of the races with a smaller crowd for me. There were a few females and most of the crowd looked fit. I started having my doubts if there would be any walkers at all.
The race started and I jogged along with the rest. By the time it was 1km, I had decided I would jog and walk. I had set my own rules for today.
1. I wasn’t trying to win the first place or doing it for anyone else. I was doing it to prove to myself that I still had it in me and I could do it. So I wasn’t going to kill myself over it. Take it easy was the policy.
2. No looking back. Whatever happens I wasn’t going to look back to see if there were people behind me. Even if I am the last, that was OK.
3. No touching the mobile phone till I reached the 10K mark at least.
Also I had to remind myself a few things…
1. So far all the runs that I had done were not road races, the terrain would be different, I had to walk on the roads, which is much tougher than walking on grassy paths.
2. Even though the race started at 5am, the weather here is going to be way too different. It would be much warmer than what I was used to.
3. I was used to doing races in bright day light.Here the first one third of the race would be in darkness.
4. I hadn’t trained, I was much older and so I should relax a bit and not push myself too much
5. Just relax and enjoy!
By the 1K mark I noticed the ambulance was going slowly beside me, I thought it was a sign that I was the last, the ambulance always goes behind the last person, right? But may be the ambulance driver liked to cheer me up, may be…just may be… but I wasn’t going to check if I was the last anyway. There were a man and a woman jogging in front of me, I decided to keep up with them. I would slow down a bit, then jog and catch up with them and then slow down again… this went on till the 2km mark. In the meanwhile, we had entered the DOTE campus and were walking through the CEG campus.
It was still dark enough and this was so different to the runs I had done so far, At the water station in the CEG campus, I lost the couple jogging in front of me. I overtook them and continued. I did not see them till the end.
Now I had new targets. By now I could see a few joggers/ brisk walkers, so I knew I had company. Once out of CEG campus, I relaxed a bit and decided to have fun. I started nodding, smiling at and wishing all the unsuspecting police men and volunteers on the road. It was so funny to see their reactions. Some nodded, some were startled and some smiled.
The sun wasn’t out yet. By the time I reached Adayar, I had a left a few people behind and I saw another couple jogging ahead of me. I kept up with them till nearly the 18 km mark.
I would walk a bit and then set myself a target, to jog till I cross the policeman ahead, or till I reach the volunteers, till I reach the water station, or the garbage bin or something like that, once I reached my target, I would walk again till I found something else new. This kept me busy the whole while.
I had my headphones on, the music was on but I could hardly hear anything in the traffic. What were people doing at this unearthly hour? Buses, cars, bikes, people on the road walking, too many people out early in the morning… and that too on a Sunday! I wasn’t listening to music, my mind was wandering as usual.
The sky was just begining to light up when I took the turn to Beasant Nagar from Adayar. I had just completed 8 km and I could see people coming back. I was way too slow, but I was enjoying the walk.
As I crossed the 10km mark, I was thrilled, it is just a little more than half, that is all I thought! By then I was at Elliots Beach, I slowed down a bit to enjoy the sights. The sun was just rising… such a beautiful sight. Waiting for a couple of minutes and watching the sun rise is not going to do much damage to my finish time anyway! So I stood and took a few pictures.
Now that the sun was out, it was much brighter, and there was more crowd on the street. I decided to have more fun. They had also started distributing “kadalai mittai” at the water station which was there nearly every two kms. Though I had decided not to drink too much water, I was drinking half a glass of water/ lemon juice/ energy drinks at every water station. Now I was filling myself up with the “kadalai mittai” as well.
We got out of Beasant Nagar and then ran towards the Marina, but before we reached there, we took a turn and headed through the nice roads into the boat club area. By then the roads were filled with morning walkers. I was having great fun wishing people and watching their faces burst into a smile.
When I was running to cross the 17K mark, there were a few men standing in front of the building and I could hear them talk.. one of them said “I can’t even imagine walking 17km”, I ran, crossed the mark, turned around and shouted “Uncle, you can do it, you can walk the 17 km. come do it with us!”. The whole group fell silent for a minute and then they all started laughing!
18K was Park Sheraton. By then the volunteers had given up and were leaving, till then there were volunteers at every junction guiding us, probably they thought we would know the way home anyway! Or was I the last? I pushed myself hard for another bit till I reached the 19K mark and that was just round the corner from YMCA.
By then I had lost most of my energy. The first 19K was a doddle, now the last two kilometers were going to be a bit of a pain. I’ll have to drag myself along the finish line, but I would do it.
By the time I was crossing the arts college, I saw people that had finished the Half Marathon and the 10K were walking back with their medals, with a smile on their face and a sense of acheivement. We didn’t know each other, where the other person was from, what their name was or anything else, but because we had all done a run together, we had become brothers and sisters, we all had smiles for each other and they were all encouraging us to keep going on.
The slowest bit was the last 2K, When I reached the finish line, my phone beeped with the message I had mentioned earlier. I was thrilled. I had done better than my previous run, I had done better than what I had expected myself inspite of me not taking this seriously. May be next time I could do better than this too.
I stood in queue to take a picture in front of the board that said “I am a 21.1K finisher”, but the queue was too long and people were jumping the queue and my eyes had started burning by then. Decided to skip the photo and also breakfast and walk back to the main road to take an auto back home. I just got a photo cliked near one of the banners, and walked back. Pity I forgot to do my cool down exercises as I am in bits now.
To all those doubters and questioners … Yes! I can do 21 km at 41years of age! Not a bother on me!