“It’s an evening marathon which means we don’t have to get up at wee hours in the morning feeling half droopy or sleep deprived” I said in all earnestness to convince my hubby Amit Sridharan to run the Kundalika River marathon. “Besides, it will be a novel experience and isn’t running all about the experience?” I persisted. It worked and we happily signed up for the event little realising what we will have in store during the race.
This event was held at Kolad which is about 110 km from Mumbai, famous for river rafting and water sports. We decided to go and come back the same day since we were volunteering for the MRR run the next morning. We woke up at leisure on Saturday morning and after having an early lunch, we set off to pick up couple of our runner friends-Muffy Mufaddal Hararwala and Amit Kumar– on the way, who were also taking part in the race. The entire drive down was a fun filled one as we imagined the race to be like a war zone where Pakistan had occupied the advantageous position and we had to conquer it back. “It’s a khatarnak (dangerous) route”, Muffy said as he had run the previous year’s edition. We had already made up our minds to take it easy, being the last race of the season. After a 3 and a half hour journey, we finally reached Nature Trails Resort, just in time to collect our bibs, acknowledge some familiar faces and gear up for the race.
The half marathon flagged off sharp at 4:30 pm as scheduled. We were greeted with a steep slope in the very first kilometre itself and by the time we reached the 2 km mark, my energy levels were drained which left me wondering if signing up for this run was a good idea after all. Fortunately there were aid stations every kilometre mark comprising of water, oranges, biscuits and volunteers spraying water on us which was a huge blessing, considering the wrath of the summer heat that afternoon.
The tsunami of the steep ascents continued throughout the run, making me feel that the grueling Satara Hill marathon was a piece of cake in comparison to this one. Some of the slopes were so intimidating that one had no choice but to walk on them. At one point I wondered if I would end up with a DNF (did not finish) but Muffy’s words in the car about the Indian army winning our territory back from the enemy flashed in my mind at that moment. “I am not a quitter”, I fiercely thought, determined to get to the finish line at any cost. My energy levels returned as I continued running and reached the 9 km mark. As I glanced at some of the runners returning to complete the second loop, I saw Sayuri Dalvi who encouraged me saying “Come on Swetha” which acted as a confidence booster. I turned around the 10.5 km mark, and crossed many runners who were still in their first loop. “Good going” they said as I nodded with a faint smile. The evening breeze had set in, easing the conditions as I found myself running amidst the villagers and the cattle who were grazing peacefully on the sides. Seeing the latter brought in pangs of envy as I longed for their relaxed lifestyle. I caught a glimpse of the sunset and basked in the beauty of the surroundings for a moment. At the 18th km mark, I was thankful to find the downhill descent and literally flew down till the 20th km mark where the gigantic slope had emerged again. I imagined this face of an ugly ogre grinning at me in a pompous manner, challenging me to get past him. Suddenly my legs became weak as I stopped and bent down, trying to catch my breath.
“Swetha are you ok?” I heard a voice as I looked up to see Bhavana Diyora-another fellow runner looking concerned. I nodded as I began to walk. “Just the last km”, I said to myself, wishing for a divine intervention. Just I looked up, I saw Amit Kumar running towards me, prodding me to keep going. He held my hand as he guided me uphill, along with some words of encouragement. As I conquered this steep terrain, something snapped inside me as I sprinted the last 500 metres like a person possessed and crossed the finish line, greeted by the medal garlanded by a smiling volunteer. Amit Kumar was clearly impressed as he said I reminded him of a Milkha Singh. Thanking him profusely I collapsed on the lawn where I was joined by my hubby.
I could barely get up as I looked around at the carnival like atmosphere. The prize distribution commenced and I cheered for the winners. However I was in for a surprise, when the organisers announced my name as the second runners up in the open women’s category. “Did I just come third?” I was in a daze as I collected my trophy and muttered a surprise thanks to the congratulatory messages. From a point where I almost thought I wouldn’t complete the race to a podium finish was a pleasant feeling.
“What makes life interesting are the challenges we face” says Paulo Coelho. Mental toughness is built by braving such challenges and the image of Indian army battling such adversity to safeguard our borders, instantly flashed through my mind. I certainly had come out as a stronger person post this race.
A big thanks to Amit Kumar without whom I won’t be holding this beautiful trophy in my hands, to run buddies, the volunteers, photographers and fellow runners who aided us through this cumbersome journey.