The arrival into a dusty State Transport depot heralded our arrival. From Powai in Mumbai, we Go-Go Gators, a team of TCS employees, were in search of Powai Naka in the city of Satara.
A quick shower and bib collection, we went for the route inspection. The route started from the base of the hills of Satara and as we traveled higher and higher, and saw the distance markings on the road, our hearts sank deeper and deeper. Though we had known the gradient in advance, watching even the vehicles go down to the 2nd Gear while climbing the hill was an indication enough. We temporarily forgot our apprehensions in the beautiful plateau of Kaas, but then with 3 first time participants, who came solely on our recommendation, the drive back to the hotel got us into a contemplation and then a passionate strategy discussion. An early dinner, tips shared, kits readied and early to bed, the perfect formula for a long distance run.
Early to rise, morning ablutions done and we were ready to go. A short brisk walk to the starting point, and stretches were in order.A rousing welcome by the organizers, complete with vibrant music with a horse for a lead vehicle and we were raring to go.
With the last evening’s route in mind, strategies were in place, the run started off slowly but surely, the slopes gentle and with little declines too to assist the run. The run was just beginning, it was just 2 KM.
Then came the 3 KM mark and the hill started to show character, now we started realizing why it was called a Hill Marathon. The incline angle increased, gradually at first to a greater one till the 6 KM mark, a few respites were thrown in in the form of flat runs, but the joys were short lived, as short as 200 m at times.
Mouth drying up, salts getting exhausted, the super enthusiastic volunteers thrust water and energy drinks in our direction. The replenishment of the nutrients gave us a boost and the 10 KM mark was reached. But this was not the end, one look down, and we realized how high we had come. That moment was zen in all aspects, it proved we could do anything if we wished it. The light mist over the city, the multi-layered clouds with the sun peeking though, making the surroundings all seem emerald in color was all the encouragement we needed to go on.
The camaraderie was such that we all worried for each other throughout the way. The advancing members were cheered by the trailing members with claps, cheers and high-fives.
The cheers and encouragements also were generously extended to two physically challenged youth, who by the sheer will power and next to miraculous performance were carrying on the run undaunted.
The run down, may seem easy but was the hardest to navigate. We had to take care of not only the impact on the knees and ankles but the exhaustion quotient. The final stretch from the 18 KM mark seemed to stretch on and on and on without an end. The cheers of the people carried us on, kids reading our names from the bibs and cheering us, dhol music pushing us on. The final 500 m was the sprint, the run into the approach strip over the timing sensors was like flying, no-one could believe that one had completed 21 KM over a hill and was back.
Waiting for the trailing members to arrive was a pleasure and the bonhomie of the group was evident. We are not regular runners but always plan to become. But in such times, we bond together, and to get all of us safe and sound was an achievement nonetheless.
The walk back to the dusty bus stand the next day was interspersed with looks back towards the hill, we were up there, we reminded ourselves time and again, laughed at it, thought over it before flopping asleep in the bus.