My Foray into "The Relay" !

25 Apr

On April 8/9, 2006, me along with a group of 11 others completed a milestone of completing 199 miles of running, starting from Calistoga to Santa Cruz Boardwalk. First of all, I should thank my guru Sri who inspired me to take up running. Though I didnt dare to pick up a marathon, I thought that I should be able to do a relay run where you run several legs of run over 1.5 days which adds up to 15-16 miles. That being said, at the end of the relay, it was more than the run. I met some wonderful people and had a lot of fun during the 2 days of fun filled adventure. Though I cant possibly comprehend the experience in a blog, I will try my best to describe the sequence that I went through.

It all started when my ex-colleague Mukunda told me about the relay. He said that he had a group of friends from India Literacy Project (ILP) who run the relay every year. Though my main objective was to be part of a team, the secondary objective (to me) was also to raise fund for ILP, which is an integral part of the team member’s role. I was initially unsure of whether I can take up something of this magnitude. Soon after I attended the initial session, I started practicing my runs, with some tips from Sri. Based on his input, I started following a book called “The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer (Paperback) by David A. Whitsett, Forrest A. Dolgener, Tanjala Jo Kole”. I am not sure if it is the best book to follow. But, it gave a clear program that I followed without slacking and it seemed to work for me.

I started my run during the last week of December. A 2 mile run was my first attempt to run. I was terribly tired at the end of the run. However, I later figured that, it all stems from the mind in the way one views running. This is how I saw it. In long distance running, it doesnt matter how fast you finish, it only matters if you complete the run or not. If you think that you can walk 5 miles, assume that you can finish 5 miles of running if you choose the right pace. The faster you run, the lesser the miles you will cover before you break down. Once finishing becomes your goal, one can easily improve pace over time. Once I got this enlightenment, I started increasing my distance over time with a corresponding reduction in pace. In a couple of weeks from the start, I was able to run upto 6 miles without much problems. In a month’s time, I was able to run almost 20 miles a week and in 2 months time, I was able to do 35 miles a week with my long runs of 10-12 miles during the weekend with the ILP group. My shortest runs became 6 miles…My personal best was a practice relay run of 19 miles over a morning, evening and the next day morning. I totally ran around 300 miles during the 3 months of training I had. I was all set…

When it came to the D-day of running the relay, my morale was at its peak. I was very confident that I can do the runs without any problems. I was more worried about the timing than completing my runs. We had 12 people split in 2 vans consisting of 6 people in each van. Each runner ran his leg in a given van till the 6 people completed their legs. The second van took over in a van exchange point and they started running from then on. This continued till a total of 36 legs were completed (3 legs for each runner). When runners in van1 were engaged, the van2 members rested. The run was continuous, which meant that some folks got to run at night. Since I had collected the most money at the time of leg assignment, I got the most coveted golden-gate bridge stretch as one of my leg. The golden gate stretch was the time when most runners converged based on their start time and the run is on a full moon day. That made the golden gate leg “special”. Though I didnt realise the “special” factor, I enjoyed running at midnight in golden gate when no one else had access to the bridge. It was as if I had the bridge all for myself which was quite interesting. To top that, I had my loving wife Shoba, my dear friend Sri and my cheerful buddies Meena and Manohar waiting for me at the other end of the bridge inspite of the odd time. It was simply amazing !! It was undoubtedly one of the happiest moments of my life…

When I started my first leg, I was all charged and when I started running, I was doing 7.5 minutes per mile and was cruising. Just when I hit my 2 mile mark, I started breathing hard and realised that I should not try to be a hero and pace myself to reach the end point. At the end, I had done a 8.5 minute/mile pace. I reinforced myself by saying that I shouldnt strive to be faster, especially when I have 2 more legs to finish. The main issue with relay is that, it is not a one time thing as in a marathon. Giving the best you can in one leg could make your other legs difficult. Also, you have to warm up everytime as if you are starting it fresh which is quite different from running a single stretch of the same distance. Coupled with it is the factor of sleeplessness. My second stretch was the golden gate stretch. It was categorized as a hard stretch since I had to climb about 300 feets over the first 4 miles. I paced myself and it was one of my best runs though my pace was only 9.5 min/mile. My last and final stretch was a 3 mile run with 1250 feet of climb with only a 3 hour sleep the previous night after my golden gate run. We had our dinner at 2:00AM in Mel’s drive-in in San francisco. Anyway, my 3rd leg was categorized as a very hard stretch. Uphill is usually a very different ball game. Though the miles might seem less, it takes a lot of energy and stamina. I could only maintain a 12 minute per mile pace. But, given the uphill, I was quite happy with the pace. Yes, I finished the run ! without getting injured !! I accomplished what I set out to do…. And the team accomplished what it set out to do as well.

During this relay, I had a lot of fun to cheer up each runners as we stopped to give them water along the way. It was amazing to see some of the old people running outpacing a lot of young individuals. I got to meet the incredible runner (Dean Karnazes) who was doing almost 150 miles out of the 199 mile run all by himself (FYI, he has a world record for running 350 miles without rest). Every team had the best spirits in mind to cheer everyone as if they knew them personally. In our team, nearly everyone outperformed their expected performance. The real goal for our team was completion and in maintaining a positive spirit throughout the run. And, we did complete the relay !


Posted by on April 25, 2006 in From AM-KICKING blog


13 responses to “My Foray into "The Relay" !

  1. BrainWaves

    April 25, 2006 at 6:31 am

    Awesome Run Suresh! Kudos to you!

    It was amazing to get first hand update from your 1st mile run to 199 mile relay.

    You undertook it with lot of prepration, put sincere efforts and dedication. And finally outperformed your actual goal.

    To put it simply, you did it in your usual style. Hats off to you!

  2. Saumya

    April 25, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    Cool Work Mindframes!

    And you have narrated it well. Shoba told us about how she saw a lot of the other runners during the last leg huffing and puffing because of the gradient. But you managed coolly!

    Congrats : You should be proud of achieving something few attempt!

  3. Survivor

    April 25, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    Hooray !! he ran, he cheered, he conquered ! Thats my man !!

  4. Manohar

    April 26, 2006 at 5:02 am

    It was very surreal standing at the begining of the golden gate bridge. The surreal effect was enhanced by the eerie grating alarm the gates to the pedestrian access made everytime it was opened and closing. Add to that a very inspiring feeling seeing the recreation area filled with a wagon load of vans and runners sleeping on the sidewalk.

    While we were waiting for you to appear, shoba was a bundle of nerves. On one hand sriks was continually telling her that we arrived in time to see you pass and on the other hand I would throw some doubts into the chilly night air- maybe we were late.

    After about 20 minutes, every runner in the distance- male/female/short/tall/fat/thin was announced to be suresh by shoba.

    So when it turned out that nth gate opening was actually for you. A blood curdling chill cut through the nite, the gaurds at the gate dived into the sidewalk, with hands behind their head (much like people hit the floor in an explosion) and an object hurtled past us and almost knocked you down. Ofcourse it was shoba, a little bit of that excitment is apparent in one of the pics in ur blog.

  5. Mindframes

    April 26, 2006 at 6:02 pm

    Mano: That was a very nice narration. I wish that you could’ve written my blog…

    Thanks a lot folks ! Inspiring others makes a *BIG* difference..really…and it doesnt cost at all…and you all are indubitably the best…

  6. Travel Lover

    April 26, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    Wow mindframes, that is a great cause and a great job. You inspire us. Great narrative too!

    Now I know why you have become unrecognizably thin (or is that trim? :-))

  7. Meera Manohar

    April 26, 2006 at 8:45 pm

    It was really wonderful to wait for you @ one end of the GG bridge and see you still going strong Mindframes

    You are a true inspiration!! Congratulations….

    Aaanaalum, ennadhaan nee tired-a irundhirundhaalum, you shouldn’t have misspelt my name
    (Mee*N*a?? 🙂

  8. Mindframes

    April 27, 2006 at 12:58 am

    Sorry Meena…sorry meera..:)…

  9. bumblebee

    April 27, 2006 at 1:12 am

    Incredible feat on your feet! Congrats. This is indeed an achievement to be proud of.

  10. sdpal

    April 27, 2006 at 9:36 pm

    Congrats.. dude. Nice narration too.
    Looks like you got some breather from your new job to finish this blog.

  11. IamwhatIam

    April 28, 2006 at 10:52 pm

    Wow Mindframe, Thats great. Your narrative was so good that I could feel the excitement you would have felt during the relay. Especially the uphill climb. Excellent job. Pat yourself on your back for me please.

    Mindframe, Brainwave both of you are doing a great job!

  12. Guess who

    April 29, 2006 at 3:43 am

    Hey Mindframes,

    Sounds like the narration is much more exciting than the run itself! What really impresses me is your persistence and the perfection that you relentlessly try to achieve. Kudos to you and my beloved Survivor who is a true enabler!

    The Striver!

  13. Mindframes

    April 30, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    Thanks a lot folks… As I’ve said before, sustained motivation can happen only in the presence of people who inspire you, which in turn will lead to the path of success…

    guess who: Hema, I know that its u..:)..

    travel lover: I like to call it trim..;)..though my mom wud digress…


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