Marathon Diary: The blisters, the cold, the agony, the ecstasy
Rediff.com staffer Laxmi Negi is training to run her first full marathon on January 19.
She shares with us her running diary.
I would like start by saying that I am just an ordinary recreational runner, or, simply put, a less-than-mediocre recreational runner.
But that's not the point. What is important is whether I have improved with each day of training. I realise that I am not here to compete with someone else but myself. I accepted this challenge of running the full marathon because, for me, is it the quintessential endurance race for runners. And I succumbed to its allure.
Last year, with my runner friends, was a learning experience. I soaked in all the information about long runs, diet and meticulous planning.
This year I have tried to practice what I learnt. But when my legs are tired or blistered, and sore muscles trouble or the early morning runs cause exhaustion, I need double the motivation to get out in the open.
Finally, it's the day of the week that I am looking forward to. In running circles it is the most sought after day. Yes, I am talking about the weekly long run.
The alarm goes off at 6 am and there is no snooze. I spring from the bed and head to kitchen. It is through my interactions with experienced runners, I have learnt that it is important you eat something light in the morning before the long run.
The number of dried figs I soaked overnight have increased from two because I carry some along the run. My running pouch is stuffed with figs and I mix Enerzal with water.
I still get blisters on my feet, as the new shoes are still troubling. I need to apply a generous amount of petroleum jelly to avoid blisters. However, somehow, they show their presence.
I am all ready to get out of the house. I have braved the chilly morning (by Mumbai standards) and now there is no turning back.
I reach the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali and look at the huge clock at the entrance before I enter. It's 6.30am and the sky is not clear yet. But it doesn't deter the morning walkers. Armed with sweaters and mufflers they always show their presence in huge numbers.
A few leg stretching exercises and off I am. It was my last long run and I generally start at a slow pace.
Today, though, I thought I was a bit faster and it has already started playing on my mind that it will get tougher on the second loop.
Soon it gets a little clear, the birds chirping break my chain of thoughts and I start soaking in the nature. I forget about the target to meet and remind myself that I am running because I like to run.
That is the reason I stopped wearing a watch. Yes, I am not competing with anyone, not even myself and time. The feeling of abandonment it gave me, the rush, the energy, was all worth it.
The route is very familiar now and I am aware of every pothole on the way. I know the streams, the villages and the uphill rough patches.
Suddenly a runner overtakes me, I look at his attire and grin to myself, knowing I will overtake him.
Distance runners can be spotted by their attire. After I cross him within the radius of two kilometres, I smile and say to myself, 'Just what did I tell you!'
I am no yogi! The competition does creep in. Just to add, I am no fool to compete with faster runners. I rest my case just because I am not that fast. I am not as disciplined as they are and I admit that my determination doesn't match their levels.
I reach the 6km mark and amidst the mist and lush green forest cover, the sky takes the hue of orange.
The uphill starts from there on and, needless to say, it is the toughest stretch. The 400 meters incline is covered without stopping. I realise that all the strengthening in the gym is paying dividends.
The way back is covered in a flash. I turn back and look at the horizon; it's still golden yellow and I know I will miss the sun rising high. But no love lost.
On my way back I meet a 50-plus runner. I joined her and tried to keep pace. Phew! She was fast. At one point I couldn't catch up with her. Nevertheless, I must thank her for putting me through the challenge.
Though it's winter and I am out of water after finishing 13 km I reload the body with some figs and go back for another loop.
Again, the same trick. Slow at first. I spot a small girl selling boiled grams, cucumber and oranges on the way. The oranges caught my eye but the figure she quoted was astonishing! I look away and run again. But the oranges are enticing. Luckily, the U turn was a few metres ahead and on my way back I made an early morning bargain and deal was sealed.
My happy feet are back on the track and knees are in better condition than I thought. Towards the end of four gruelling hours my pace is gone for a toss. I am trudging back.
It leaves me with plenty to think about. It is clear that I can run four to four-and-half hours without any trouble, distance covered is almost 35 km. So if I fail, all I could do is walk through the remaining distance.
I wind up the day's training wondering whether I will cover the gruelling course on D-day!
Will Laxmi Negi make it? Follow her marathon diary here
Photographs: Sherwin Crasto/Reuters