Everyone of us have goals that we strive to achieve. While striving to achieve goals is one thing, very few get to see it end up in fruition. I was very fortunate to see that happening to me during this Big Sur marathon. While the natural instinct would be to equate hard work to good reward, reality isnt always rewarding and things arent always predictable. There is certainly a factor called “luck” in it. To top it, one has to have people around them who believe in them and assume that they will be able to succeed, by default. For me, Shoba was that person. She is one person who never doubts if I will succeed and believes, by default, that I will succeed. My sincere thanks to all my friends (Sri, Saumya, Mano, Meera, Karthi, Shankar and many others) who believe in me… Special thanks to karthi who surprised me with flowers, though only half the plant belongs to me..:)
Well, as with every marathon, this marathon effort started with denial. I didnt want to run a marathon. I was quite clear that I wanted to do a series of half-marathons before attempting a full marathon. As inspiring and as pushing as he can be, Mano started his campaign about Big Sur in November. He convinced me that my hill training will anyway help me in doing a half-marathon. And, I fell into his trap…:(… I started running with him and decided to run Big Sur. Before I knew it, it was end of January and I hadnt run any long distance run and the fear of not performing well crept into me. I was convinced that my goal was not to just complete the marathon, but beat my previous time by a sizable margin. As I explained in my earlier blog, I prepared myself really well.
I was quite confident till last week when the fear of “what-ifs” started getting to me. What if I am not fully hydrated on the day of the marathon? What if suddenly get cramped badly half way into the run? All sorts of fears… The sum of all fears is to be fully prepared. Because then, you run out of options to complain…:)..I started carbo loading (overloading) and it resulted in indigestion. I was getting more worried… As always, time was ticking and there was nothing I can do to stop it.. Sriks and I started on Saturday noon and arrived in Monterey. Thanks to Sri, with him around, one will never have time to worry about anything… He is such a morale booster and a cheerful person to have when you need support, both mentally and “physically” (I will let Sri describe that…I will limit myself by saying that we shared the same bed that night…Let me also say that Mano was missed…:))… We attended an “inspiring” speech session by Susan Love. She was just amazing. She has run over 47000 miles and has topped in a lot of races. She gave a really inspirational speech. We also had the chance of meeting running elites like Jeff Galloway and Dean Karnazes. We got their autographs. It was a great feeling to have our Bibs signed by Dean. This guy has the world record of running 350 miles non-stop and for running 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days… He is just amazing and yet looked very humble…
We had our final carb loading in India Clay Oven at Monterey. Not a great place to eat. But, all we needed was rice, dal and vegetables. We slept at 8:45 in the night (when I say slept, I mean lights went off at 8:45 in our room..again, I wudnt get into the details…:)). By the way, we stayed in downtown travelodge which is an ideal place to be close to the action (monterey conf. center and bus pickup). I didnt have a good sleep. But, I was rested well enough that I woke up at 2:37AM to find myself happy that I had another 20 more minutes to sleep.. We woke up at 3:00 and got ready by 3:40. Though the shuttle pick up place was just a few minutes away from our stay, the queue extended for about 0.2 miles… However, it took us only 15 minutes in the line to get into the bus. The shuttle started at 4:15 and it takes about 1 hour to get to Big Sur. This is one of those marathons where you kind of start at the farther end and come back running to the start place. Given the timing and the number of people to be transported, there must have been atleast 120-140 shuttles which will do just 1 trip to the start point. The organization was quite amazing. Anyway, we landed in Big Sur at around 5:15AM. Having had bad experiences with porta potties, my first instinct when I got out of the shuttle was to search for porta potties. There was atleast 30-40 porta potties. Wow!! it was a pleasant surprise and at this point, I had nothing to complain about for any poor performance in running. Throughout, this marathon was organized very professionally and had the best bunch of volunteers. They had sun-block lotion, vaseline, trash covers for wind breakers and food!, all at the start point!!
I had a clear strategy for this run. Run the 26.2 miles as fast as possible and yet have the least injuries..:)…Seriously, I just wanted to run at a pace where I dont gasp for breath and sustain it as much as possible and push it to the end. I knew I could do around 9:10 per mile pace for 20 miles. But, the course for big sur is hilly and I knew that it was going to have an impact. When the gun fired, I started my watch… I was doing 9 minutes pace and was sustaining it comfortably for the first 10 miles till hurricane point where I slowed down intentionally to make sure that I dont get too tired running uphill. The climate was excellent (~50-60 F) and the crowd was fun. I was feeling great because I like running in cooler climates and given that I trained on steeper hills, I wasnt worried about the inclinations. When I started nearing hurricane point, it seemed less difficult than what I expected it to be. At the half-way point, I saw that I was clocking at 2:03 which is roughly about 9:30 per mile. I programmed my mind to wait for 20 miles since I have run that 2 times during training. I thought that I can worry about the last 6 miles when it comes to it… Mile 16 and Mile 19 had some hills which slowed me down. I tried to catch up by running a little faster in downhill sessions. I soon realised at the 21 mile mark that I started getting signs of cramps when I ran downhill. Knowing my limits, I tried to run uniformly without surging down the hills and I was feeling better. 22nd mile hill was a little tough but I managed to not stop till I reached the aid station in the down hill. The aid stations were fantastic. The initial ones had just water and gatorade. At the 12 and 18 mile mark, there was Gu gel, banana, orange, water, gatorade and vaseline. At all aid stations after 13, they had banana, orange slice, water and gatorade which was quite good. I heard from Sri that they even had medical aids after mile 16. To top that, they had a lot of volunteers at each station and they were great. There were piano players, guitar and harp players along the way to entertain runners. To top all of this, we were running along the pacific coast, which is one of the most scenic place in earth.
At mile 23, I think I reached the runner’s high. I suddenly felt a strange sense of happiness which almost made me cry. I have wondered about why people cry over achievements. I always thought that they were somewhat made up. But, to see hours and hours of hard work and training translate to a positive result sure gives a chill. At that point, I could have stopped running and walk to the end line and still would have been happier. It is a feeling that can only be felt and I felt it… Mile 25 was the infamous D-minor hill at D-major time. It looked pretty steep, though it might have just been my mind at the 25 mile point… Anyway, I crossed the hill and was started running towards the end line. I spotted Mano near mile 26. Took my hats off and waved at him…He took his camera and adjusted and then put it aside as if I didnt exist..:)… I didnt give up… I started waving more. He saw me then… I saw Shoba jumping up and down, Saumya, Keena and Meera all cheering up for me. I gave all my remaining energy into sprinting through the last 0.2 mile… And then, it was done…Yes, I completed my run in 4:12:10 which is a personal best for me. To sum it all up, it was a great moment… One of the rarest moments in my life that I will cherish for ever… Now, the question is, What next?