It was Thursday evening and the eve of the Ganpati festival. My eyes were burning as though they were on fire and my body felt like it was in flames. Apparently, the hill running on Wednesday afternoon at 3 pm did not agree with me and it appeared as though I was coming down with a viral. I lay on my couch, thinking about an event that I had signed up for. It was the San Francisco giant race on Sunday-August 27th. I wasn’t planning to race this one, considering the fact I had already raced in 3 events ever since I landed in the USA. It was just a fun run where one gets to enjoy San Francisco city and finish inside the AT&T stadium which was the home for the San Francisco Giants baseball team
I woke up on Friday morning and celebrated the festival by calling my friends from different nationalities over. The entire day was eventful though I couldn’t get the necessary rest as my body demanded. I popped an antibiotic pill after consulting my doctor as I began to feel the pain in my throat. I woke up on Saturday morning to find that the fever had miraculously vanished albeit I was still feeling a little tired. Collecting my bib from San Francisco and being privy to a conversation to runners who emphasized on the joy of running, I came home to entertain another set of guests for Ganpati. I finally managed to catch my sleep for 3 hours before doing my Visarjan in the evening.
I decided to take the event light and easy, after all not every run is to be raced. I woke up on Sunday morning only to be greeted by my menstrual cycle. Just as my fever had subsided, my body was fatigued by those menstrual cramps. Yet my spirit was undeterred.
I reached the AT&T park where runners were already huddled up, chattering and clicking pictures. The crowd appeared less competitive than the one at the San Francisco half marathon and it was evident that people were just here to enjoy themselves, going by their body language. It was 6:30 am and unexpectedly warm, quite unlike the San Francisco weather that greeted me 3 weeks before when I was here for the double road race event.
I stood there at the start line listening to a series of announcements by the emcee but one particular one caught my attention. “Whenever you feel down and tired, think about those undergoing some sort of treatment at the hospital and run for them.” I will remember that, I told myself. The half marathon and the 10 k race started at 7 am. It was initially a little crowded and I had to wade through the sea of runners. I looked around at the tall buildings and the streets of the big city. At the 3rd kilometer, I felt the pangs of tiredness. The antibiotics were wearing me down, so I slowed down my pace and mentally prepared myself to just cross the finish line even if it took me 2 and a half hours.
The route took us through the pier as we got a glimpse of the serene Pacific Ocean. We ran along the fisherman’s wharf and Crissy field which overlooked the Golden Gate Bridge. I reminisced the double road race which was conducted here 3 weeks ago when the weather was pretty chill. I was burning the roads back then and today it looked like it was payback time for them. It didn’t help matters as the sun was fierce that morning and I had to keep stopping due to the menstrual cramps.
We took a U turn and got a view of the iconic golden gate bridge. I noticed how the foreigners stopped in the middle of their run to click selfies with the bridge without a care in the world about their timing. We came out of Crissy field and the heat had become unbearable by then. I felt like a fool overdressed in my attire of inner and leggings while only a singlet and a pair of shorts would have sufficed, given the conditions. It made me me look like an Eskimo running inside a desert. We soon encountered a hill, probably the 4th one in the route and on the right side of the cliff, we could see the calm blue sea below. We came down and ran along the ocean. At one point, I noticed that it was covered by smooth brown sand and the sight for some reason reminded me of the song “Mushkil bada yeh pyar hai” from the Bollywood movie Gupt. Beginning to hum that song, I ran ahead.
There were water stations at every 2 km thankfully and cheer leaders who were wearing colourful outfits and cheering from the side lines. I smiled and waved to them which made me forget my battle with the sun. It began to get hotter and hotter. It felt like running inside a microwave oven and I had to keep pouring water on my head. I soon spotted the 2:15 pacer at the 17th km and decided to stick with her to distract myself from the heat.
Through the streets of San Francisco, we cruised getting closer to the place where we started off. Giving a hi five to the cheer leaders, we soon reached the Mile marker which said 12 miles. Just 1 mile to go which was 1.6 km approximately! I was eager to finish strong inside the stadium. I gathered all my reserve and ran ahead with the pacer just a little behind me and it was a phenomenal feeling finishing inside the AT&T park -the home of the San Francisco Giants! People on the stands were cheering for us, making us feel like champions. Crossing the finish line in a surprisingly decent timing of 2:15, I collected the medal which was instantly handed over by the volunteers.
I felt a familiar rush of jubilation and adrenalin rush-that unmistakable runner’s high! Suddenly feeling a little weak from all that excitement, I sat down for a while which prompted a couple of concerned volunteers to come up and ask me if I required any medical assistance. I shook my head stating it was just plain fatigue due to my menstrual cramps.
I walked around the field, did my stretches and posed with the Indian flag. There were counters with volunteers who were giving out protein bars, fat free chocolate milk, bananas and chips. Apparently, they were even giving out free beer which I had to skip considering my condition, and I got into an uber to reach home.
The giant race was not a run that I raced. Yet it made me feel elated as I realized the real essence of running for fun. It would have been much more enjoyable if only the weather had been better. I watched the runners around me-people came there to have fun, bask in the runners’ spirit and just enjoy themselves. Something that one can learn from. It may not have been my best timing but hey! Who was complaining! I finished inside the stadium of the giants and ended up going home with a strike rate! Pun intended!