The ultimate musings of a Frisbee

I weigh only 175 grams and that was apparently the reason why folks found it easy to throw me around. Sometimes they would fail to catch me and I would end up in a heap of sand, a pile of grass or a barren ground. Nevertheless it was only a short moment of euphoria when I would get to fly in the air.

I resigned and accepted this as a part of my life. A bane for being made out of plastic I suppose. A bunch of 14 individuals were constantly after me, waiting to grasp me in their tight grip so that they could score a point and jump with joy. And what did I get in return? Just a grand pose with me as the centre of attention after which I would be placed in the darkness of a grubby bag along with the pointed cones until someone decided they wanted another game. They called it Ultimate!

This morning I was at Juhu beach. I caught the glimpse of the waves and the rising sun which was just at the horizon. A group of runners were still learning the nuances of throwing and the game.  I soon found myself as a guinea pig among these newbies who were struggling to get a firm grip on me.

I was partly amused and partly bored. I wanted to soar high up in the air, be amidst the clouds and kiss the sun. On the contrary, here I was, being dropped constantly on the dirt laden sand scaring away the tiny crabs hidden beneath. After what seemed like ages, the game commenced. I soon heard the familiar stalling counts, people trying to grab me and tap me. Boy! I seemed to be the star attraction here but didn’t feel like it one bit.

I looked longingly at the birds who were stationed on the sand for a brief period before they took off on their flight. They darted partly curious partly sympathetic glances towards me-a circular looking white object oscillating between the sand and air.

Finally after what seemed like hours, I was put to rest and the photo session began. After being in the ‘spotlight’ for some time, I was tucked away with the stone-cold cones in a bag. I could hear the merry chatter and chirpy laughs outside.

A few words caught my attention as I listened intently. “I had a blast playing today. There was a lot of team spirit and enthusiasm.”  said a voice.  I  agree. It was super fun today. Made me forget everything”, said another voice. True”, remarked another voice. “Been having a bad time at home with a lot illnesses in the family. Today was a real breather from the stress induced atmosphere back home.”

The conversation turned animated after a while and it was apparent that these newbies had bonded well in just their first session.

Having overheard this talk, I was amazed to hear about such turnovers (pun intended) and felt that there was more to humans than what meets the eye. I also realised that there was probably more to my plastic self than I gave credit for.  Apparently I was some sort of an icebreaker, a tool to tap the inner child in adults and relive the fond memories of those carefree days. Maybe a stress buster for a short period to disengage grownups from the web of woes.

I often wondered what it was like to be human and longed to be one amongst the clan- possess the ability to talk, cry and laugh out loud like those voices. Just being regarded as a circular plastic object led to feelings of exasperation many a time until today when I realised I was more than that.

I may be thrown, passed around, hurled high in the air but that was probably what held people together-at least the ones playing the game. I may be tucked away in a bag, but at least I wasn’t trapped by the several demons, complexities and troubles that humans were always running away from.

I realised that being made of plastic had its own power-that of being a stress buster tool which instilled a sense of joy, team spirit and togetherness. And that’s what ultimately mattered. No wonder- that’s probably the reason why I am called the Ultimate Frisbee!!

 

The Grand opening- on inaugural promo run of the IDBI Federal life Insurance Mumbai Half Marathon

Thronging crowds and happy feet,

The mood was certainly upbeat.

All roads led to Bandra fort,

As a certain event held forth.

A Sunday much awaited by many,

Besides being Easter, the festive spirit was uncanny.

 

Zumba music filled the air,

As runners swayed without any care.

Being a year since it was born,

It was the inaugural promo run of the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Mumbai Half Marathon.

 

This was one such run,

Which was bordered on fun.

No stress, no fees

Only smiles and free tees.

 

Strides dominated the roads,

As the runner folks were in hoards.

Patter Patter they went in rhythm,

With a friendly shout or a song they would hymn.

 

Not being a race,

There was no pressure of pace.

One could pose in ease

An opportunity photographers could seize.

 

With adequate volunteers and water,

Humidity was ignored by bouts of laughter.

Reaching the venue as a happy thread,

They looked forward to breakfast which was a bountiful spread.

 

Wada Pav, poha and sheera,

A sweet considered by runners so dear.

Followed by cups of coffee and tea,

It was a morning filled with joy and glee.

 

What more could one ask for?

To make the spirits further soar?

This is just the start,

So runners needn’t lose heart.

 

Being just the beginning,

Folks can continue grinning.

As there will be many such promos which are a must

As a line up to the D day on 20th August!

 

The Bhim meets Hanuman moment

I was out on one of my usual training runs. It was a day of Hill repeats and I had retreated to the woods to get a good mileage on those ascents. As I went up and down the slopes, I noticed a middle aged man watching me intently. He looked quite fit for his age.

Now over the last 1 year, I prided on having mastered the hills compared to what I was earlier- a person who would stagger up those slopes gasping for breath. Regular training helped me overcome the phobia of hill running and here I was prancing up and down the ascents like an Impala in the wilderness of the savannas.

The hills repeats were going well and I got caught in the moment of sprinting downhill eager to show off my prowess to my ‘audience’.

The man continued watching as I glided down the slope. “Be careful. You will hurt yourself if you come down so fast.” I paused to take a sip of water and just shrugged.

“What does he know”, I thought.

I continued my repeats and as I came down again he remarked saying ” your form is not correct”

Now being a person who could not take instructions/ criticism from anyone other than my trainers, I began to feel slighted.

” So what did I do wrong”, I asked him.

” Here let me show you.” He said. He sprinted up and down the hill in a flawless and effortless manner.

” Lean back as you come down.” He stated firmly.

I just nodded numbly as I gaped at his perfect form.

Unable to contain myself I blurted out asking ” Sorry I don’t seem to have seen you around before. Are you a runner as well by any chance”.

” Yes I am”, he replied. “But I am not like you. ”

I began to feel puzzled and said. ” I don’t understand sir.”

He just smiled, lifted his track pants a little and pointed to his feet.

To my horror I saw that he was amputed.

” Don’t look so shocked”. He said. ” I used to be fast and furious once upon a time. But one day I tumbled down the hills and that accident cost me my limb. However thanks to advanced technology and will power I am still able to run and I am known as what you call an amputee runner.

I run long distances and take part in many marathons. So yes I am a runner but not like you. That’s why I kept telling you to be careful while coming down as I didn’t want you to go through what I did. ”

I stood there standing in awe as my respect for the man grew double fold. Ashamed and humbled at the same time, I regretted having misunderstood him as an interfering nosy parker. It turned out that he was only trying to caution me for my own well being.

” I must go. See you around. Make sure you don’t break that leg.” His eyes twinkled and I watched him walk away into the woods.

I learned that no matter how big you think you are, there is always someone bigger and better than you. So it’s important to be humble always.

It was a ‘Bhim meets Hanuman’ moment for me as I went home- a humbled soul.

( Bhim- a pandava prince finds a gigantic monkey’s tail in his way and gets infuriated when the monkey asks him to move his tail. Being a powerful warrior, Bhim was surprised to find that he was unable to lift a mere monkeys tail. It was then when he realised that this was no ordinary monkey but the mighty Hanuman himself. Bhim is humbled and seeks his forgiveness. Hanuman later tells Bhim to never underestimate his opponent.)

This is a humbling lesson not only for the Pandava prince but for all of us as well to have our feet firmly on the ground no matter how much success we attain in terms of popularity, accolades or awards.

As the saying goes ‘pride always comes before a fall.’

United V Run

United v stand Divided we fall,
Is a famous line that I recall.
Assembling in blue and white
We gathered with all our might
Ready to run as one,
Defying the scorching summer sun.
Darkness loomed the park,
With a faint sound of a dog’s bark.
At the stroke of six,
It was an eclectic mix.
Some from far some from near
Yet our vision was clear.
Age, caste, creed, gender or group
We firmly held together as a Troup
No difference no bias
Just a feeling of being pious.
Andheri, Bandra,  Navi Mumbai, Powai or town,
Our antics were no less than a clown,
We ran together with smiles,
Melting those egos with every mile.
As we ended the run,
We recalled the moments of  fun.
That’s how it should be
The feeling of oneness and Glee.
Runners are a carefree lot,
That’s how it was initially taught,
Pace, time, fast or slow
The ones who stride always glow.
Runners must strive to grow
And restrain from stooping low
Holding our heads always high
We must welcome all with glory and a hi five.

Truly Special: The awetism run experience

April being a month dedicated to autism, there were naturally a few videos with thought provoking messages floating around. I happened to watch one forwarded by my friend Mallika which stated about how each of us were different and unique in our own way. For instance a certain image is perceived differently by different people but it doesn’t necessarily mean that those who were different from us were ‘strange’, ‘peculiar’ or ‘weird’.

I had read somewhere that it takes all sorts to make a world. We all have our share of eccentricities and shortcomings but that’s probably what makes us so special. The same logic applies to individuals with special needs whether they are intellectually challenged, wheel chair bound or diagnosed with autism. All they need is that extra dose of care, acceptance and patience which isn’t too hard to bestow if we just awaken that humane side to us.

Being primarily a student of psychology, I had an opportunity to work with autistic kids as a part of my project during my post graduate days. They were an affectionate lot who resided in their unique world of creativity which many unfortunately misconstrued as ‘madness’.  Therefore when I got an opportunity to run the 4th edition of the awetism run, I embraced this opportunity to put my foot forward for a cause.

Sayuri-a runner friend and the organiser of this event conducted this event every year in the month of April. Her son Vihaan who is diagnosed with autism is an extremely talented young lad who possessed a flair for painting and weaving short stories as well.

It was a 10 k run which was conducted on the Eastern Express Highway-a scenic flat terrain frequented mostly by runners from Mulund, Powai, Ghatkopar and Thane.

We reached the venue at 5:40 am as the run was scheduled to begin at 6:00 am. The warm hugs, smiles and chatter set the tone for the short distance as we geared up to run 4 loops of the 2.5 km stretch. The race was flagged off sharp at 6:00 am.

Since I was following the Maffetone training program (a heart rate based run where one had to maintain pace within the heart rate and aerobic zone), I decided to go slow and enjoy the run for a change. The volunteers were stationed with hydration at regular intervals and earnest photographers stood in the by lanes clicking away merrily.

Not listening to music like I normally do during my runs, gave me an opportunity to enjoy the constant shouts of ‘good going’ by fellow runners and the noise of the planes above. Such runs also gave me ample time to let those thoughts flow as my thinking cap went on an active mode.

As I observed the several runners prancing up and down the road, I reflected back to the video which I had seen the previous day. There were some who were running fast, a few at a moderate pace and others in a relaxed manner. I realised how the same track was run by individuals of varying kinds and yet when it came to the camaraderie post the finish line, we were all equals posing gaily in front of the cameras, arm in arm with one another.

Nobody was differentiated based on speed or timing.  Each person possessed their own strengths and shortcomings which may make them sometimes ahead and sometimes fall behind others. Ultimately it was their spirit and earnestness that triumphed over these petty factors.

The awetism run further enhanced the fact that running is a free and equal sport, which meant embracing everyone despite the several differences, yes including those with special needs as well. It made me feel that aspects like speed, normalcy and madness were relative as what may be considered fast or normal for one may differ for another.

As I stood there basking in the jubilation around, I suddenly remembered the Cheshire cat’s line where he tells Alice “I’m mad. You’re mad. We’re all mad here. I realised how true it was. Underneath all that high spirited laughter lay those inner demons or turmoil that each of us were battling with and that which probably drove us to the brink of insanity at times.

The awetism run was truly ‘special’ in many ways besides being a well organised one, providing beautiful medals and a breakfast of delicious muffins, batata wadas and mango juice.

This event enabled me to look at running through a different lens this time. For once my focus was not on pace or timing, but on the larger things of life that we often miss out in the hullaballoo of the rat race.

Running is the new cool

My husband and I were sitting at a popular hangout in town, enjoying our lunch when we heard a voice behind us saying ‘hey guys long time.’ We looked up to see a familiar face of an acquaintance whom we hadn’t seen in years despite living in the same city. There was a phase where we would meet such people at house parties and pubs, dancing the night away until wee hours in the morning. It was a time when not partying on a Friday or a Saturday night was considered ‘uncool’ and a time when fitness just meant squeezing in a short workout at the gym during odd hours, sometimes battling the previous night’s hangover.
As we exchanged pleasantries, he remarked saying that we guys seemed to have ‘disappeared’ from the scene. On hearing about our daughter, he nodded with a sympathetic smile saying how having a kid probably puts an end to one’s night life. My husband and I exchanged secret smiles and explained to him the real reason to the elimination of our night outs-Running!
Ever since we took up running, our Saturday nights were spent tucked away in deep sleep. We would be up in the wee hours of Sunday morning hitting the roads, feeling as fresh as the morning dew. Quite a contrast to the times when we would head back home in ‘high spirits’.
His jaw dropped in astonishment as he heard about our running escapades along with our passion for fitness which seemed to have grown double fold over the years. “You guys are totally cool”, he said with a new found respect in his eyes. After a few minutes of small talk, he took leave, still shaking his head in amazement.
My husband and I pondered over this new definition of ‘cool’ as we came to the following conclusion.
The new cool is now associated with fitness-a phenomenon which has grown especially in the last few years. It is now ‘cool’ not to get drunk or be seen at the most happening places. It is now ‘cool’ to be passionate about running, marathons, triathlons and have a ‘healthy’ lifestyle. It is ‘cool’ to be seen in singlet and shorts, drenched with perspiration and show up at those fancy breakfast joints with that unmistakable glow of the runner’s high which can put a shame to all those cosmetics in the market.
Races have become the new happening places to meet people and have a blast. Medals have become the new beer glasses and the pre and post- race Zumba sessions have become the new dance floor.
Not that partying isn’t fun as it’s good to let your hair down once in a while. But as the days go by and with the numerous events/races happening every other Sunday, one can certainly come to the conclusion that Running is the new cool!
 

The run that I did not race: Pune Women’s half marathon experience

The runners’ appetite in me often seeks to run on new routes and different terrains. When Sangeeta Lalwani of Freerunners sent me an invite to the first edition of the Pune Women’s half marathon scheduled on March 12th 2017, I immediately embraced this opportunity to run in the city of Pune.

Despite living in Mumbai for a good 11 years, my travels somehow seemed to have eluded this neighbouring city. This particular running event was a good chance to see Pune and meet some of my runner friends simultaneously.

I always believed that not all runs/events are meant to be raced. While you select a few that you want to race, others are meant purely for the enjoyment factor. Considering I had run hard both at Auroville (Feb 12th) and at Kundalika (Feb 26th), I decided to relax and take this one easy. Besides I had already commenced  Maffetone training-a heart rate based running program where the long runs are done within your aerobic zone.

Amit and I along with Samara drove down from Mumbai and reached Pune in 3 and a half hours. We were in good time to collect the bibs, meet the organiser and chat with some runner buddies. We learnt that this event was one of its kind which had received full support from the Police and Military forces. Though it was meant for women runners, there were male pacers who would be pacing several timed buses. My eyes lit up when Sangeeta mentioned about the army band that would be playing during our run. Being an ardent supporter of our selfless armed forces, I eagerly looked forward to running past them the next morning.

It was quite chilly as I assembled at the start line the next day. The race was supposed to commence at 5:45 am. Greeting and chatting up with a few fellow runners, I learnt that it was quite a hilly terrain and that the 19th km especially had a deadly slope. Nikhil Shah from Runbuddies-the organisers of the Kundalika River marathon was present there as a 3 hour pacer. I jokingly told him that after running a grueling hilly terrain at Kundalika in the sweltering heat, these slopes would be a baby in comparison.

For the first time, I left my speakers behind, deciding to enjoy the route for a change and go easy. So I slowly railed behind the 2:15 bus. At the 2.5 km mark, I caught sight of the army band laying some peppy music as the men in uniform stood there cheering for us. My left hand automatically went up in a form of a salute as I ran past them, encountering goose bumps and a sudden rush of energy.

Being still pitch dark, it was gratifying to see volunteers on cycles holding out lights lest we fall down on our faces. I could hear the birds chirping and the darkness soon gave way to light as the sun’s first rays crept in. I could see the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology to my left as I went up and down the slopes. Basking in the beauty of the surroundings, I soon feel into a trance little realizing that I had overtaken the 2:15 bus and was soon nearing the 10.5 km mark.

Volunteers and photographs stood on the side-lines cheering and clicking our strides away. I gave hi fives to some of my runner friends, quite enjoying every moment of the run and at the same time kept checking my Garmin to ensure that I was within the heart rate aerobic zone.  There were some gardens to my right which made a pretty sight with its bright green grass and pink flowers.

I soon crossed the late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam memorial which made me feel rather wistful. Being a big fan of his writings, I recalled how I almost came close to interviewing him but failed to do so due to his sudden demise. A noble, intelligent and a humble soul not to mention one of the best Presidents India ever had. My eyes turned moist as I looked ahead and decided to concentrate on the run for a few minutes.

I encountered the threshold point according to my Garmin at the 17th km mark which made me stop and walk for a bit till my heart rate normalised. I began my run again and encountered volunteers and fellow runners on the way who shouted ‘good going mam’. At the 18.5 km, I once again ran past the army band whom I waved to and derived a sudden adrenalin rush from.

As I kept going ahead, I caught sight of the ‘gigantic slope’ at the 19th km. A sea of orange (the colour of the event’s t shirt presented to every runner) had cascaded the slope. While many chose to walk this deadly incline, my hill training in the past refused to let me do so and up I went, taking short strides and swinging my arm upwards. As I descended down, I suddenly found that I picked up pace and sprinted that last 700 metres and crossed the finish line in a decent 2:10.

“Not bad at all” I thought to myself. Considering the fact, I had done heavy strength training the previous week (something that I would avoid before a race) and that I didn’t listen to music throughout the 21 km (something that would up my pace), it was a very satisfying run altogether.

Being a new kid on the block, this first edition of the Women’s half marathon was quite a success considering the huge turn out and being a well organised one. With water stations at regular intervals, getting to run in an army zone with full support from the Pune Police and Military forces, free registration and timing chips, resplendent Orange T shirts, a sumptuous breakfast, free stretching session by Celebrity Yoga guru Payal Gidwani Tiwari, this event was a runner’s dream.

As I drove back to Mumbai later, I pondered over my strong finish. I realised that the moment I decided to not push myself or stress on timing, I end up running well. I suppose it’s a psychological aspect for me as I don’t work well under pressure. I am probably like that wild horse which likes to run free in the meadows without its reins or without being pushed. Maybe I am just a free runner after all (pun intended)!!

An uphill task- The Kundalika River Marathon experience

I had run the Kundalika River marathon last year without any practise on the hills or any kind of core and strength training. I merely went as a naive child not realising how daunting the hills could be especially in the evening when the sun was at its peak. I still managed to finish 3rd by the grace of the almighty.

This year I decided to train really hard and attempt this gruelling terrain again. Long runs were done on steep inclines, core and leg strengthening were followed with utmost sincerity to get those glutes, calves and quads in shape. By the time Feb 25th 2017 came, I was ready.

It was a 3 hour drive from Mumbai to Kolad where the race was scheduled. Tucking in an early light lunch of salad and green veggies at 11:00 noon, we basked in the picturesque and scenic setting. The village side comprised of bountiful fields, cacti and water bodies which glistened in the fierce heat. Despite being February, winter seemed to have surrendered to the dominant summer which was ready to rule the roost for the next 3-4 months.

Reaching the venue 2 hours prior to the race, we decided to relax in the canteen after collecting our bibs. This year the half marathon was slated to commence at 4 pm-30 mins earlier than the previous year’s edition, which meant more time in the sun. It was a blistering 37 degrees outside. Deciding not to give it too much thought, I munched on the water melons an hour before the race, to cool my system and get the necessary glucose at the same time.

We met a few runner friends from Mumbai and engaged in an intense discussion on conquering the mighty slopes as we walked towards the start line. After the warm up session, the race flagged off sharp at 4 pm. My hubby Amit and I were going strong for the first 5 km enjoying the panoramic beauty of the rugged trail, the lake on the left and the cattle grazing in the fields on either side.

Being a muddy terrain, the fumes got to me after a point, making my throat feel heavy as I started coughing profusely. Fortunately there were aid stations almost every kilometre serving water, enerzal and some fruits. I took a sip of water and continued. Eventually the unbearable heat got to us and it felt like running inside a hot elongated microwave oven.

This was going to be one tough run. I just wished I had signed up for a 10 k race”, I mentioned to Amit. “So let’s turn here and finish just 10 k”, he replied. I shook my head and said that doing a DNF (did not finish) would be a bruise to my ego especially when my limbs and arms were injury free and functioning fine. I just had to battle the heat which I had underestimated during my training runs.  Running at 9 or 9:30 am was way different from running at 4 pm where the heat was raw and brutal in the latter case.

I distracted my mind and looked at the fields and the villagers. After crossing 9 km, I suddenly realised that I had left Amit behind. After turning at the 10.5 km mark, I met him on the way and I continued to run hoping that he would catch up with me.  11k, 12k, 13k- there was no sign of him as I bypassed a few runners on the road.

At one point, I was wondering why I was putting myself through this torture. I then remembered someone telling me something a while back-in life there is an easy and a tough route. An easy route nevertheless guarantees a smooth ride but fails to incorporate the vital lessons that moulds your personality into a strong one. Taking the road less travelled  always tests your abilities and shapes your psyche into a tough persona, ready to face the challenges that comes your way.

The heat wave continued till about 16-17 km unlike last year where the sun eased off post the first half of the race. I spotted a few villagers walking by and throwing sympathetic glances towards my direction. The cattle also began to find its way home.

A funny incident occurred at the 18th km mark. As I was running with full focus, I suddenly spotted 4 cows with those long deadly horns on the right side. They were standing still and staring at me in an eerie manner. I looked around to find that there was not a single villager or a cow herd around. I hesitated and almost stopped in my tracks, unsure of whether they would come charging at me.

Then suddenly I took off like a maniac and ran downhill and looked behind after a while. They were not in sight and probably were still stationed there looking ahead in their lazy fashion. I began to feel foolish thinking that I had probably overreacted. It was just 2.5 km to go there on and I continued my run.

The last 1 km comprised of a deadly slope which even the best runners chose to walk over rather than battling it. At that juncture, a runner friend Girish Bindra who had finished his run had returned and gestured saying I was second. My energy was drained by then and I was glad to have him pace me that last 1 km. After we ran up the slope, he encouraged me to finish strong and I gathered all my reserves and sprinted to the finish line in 2:36, finishing 2nd in the open category. I was elated to have cut down 2-3 minutes from the previous year despite the fact the conditions were tougher this year.

I walked around and waited for Amit who came in ten minutes later. After collecting my trophy, I munched on some Pav Bhaji and headed home after thanking the organisers and congratulating friends who had won podiums in their respective categories.

It was a long, tiring yet satisfying day. I had finished stronger and faster than last year. I was glad that all the hard work had paid off. As we drove back home, I reminisced the entire run. I had trained well on the hills this year and the trick to not let Kundalika dominate you was to train in the afternoon sun in the hills to acclimatize your body to the blistering heat.

Instantly a quote came to my mind” Don’t think of them as hills, think of them as moulds of opportunity.”

It was certainly an opportunity to get tougher and stronger!!

Thank you Runbuddies, volunteers and photographers as this is one race that remains etched in my mind forever.

Jungle Hooked-The Auroville Marathon experience

The Auroville marathon had been on our bucket list for a while after hearing rave reviews about the beauty of its route. After an elusive 2 years, we finally made it to the 10th edition which was on February 12th 2017. It was a 3-4 hour drive from Chennai city which made it convenient for us to park ourselves with our respective families in our home town for a couple of days before we headed to our race destination.

My husband Amit and I along with a group of Chennai runners who called themselves Pillar Pacers headed by Dr Kumar Janardhan began our journey on Saturday morning. It was a picturesque drive from Chennai on the east coast road (ECR as it is popularly known as) which took us through Mahabalipuram, VGP Golden beach and MGM Dizee world, bringing back memories of our childhood excursions here. We made a few stops on the way at a South Indian joint to grab a cup of coffee, the breath taking salt pans and the winding roads for our mandatory photo shoots and selfies.

It also gave us an opportunity to interact with some of the runners from Chennai-an enthusiastic bunch who purely ran for the fun factor rather than stressing on mileage, pace, position, time, etc. It came across as a breath of fresh air to listen to their experiences of running races like the Cherrapunji marathon with that sparkle of unadulterated joy in their eyes.

We reached Auroville by afternoon, collected our bibs, bought T shirts which costed around Rs 300 each, grabbed a bite of lunch at the Auroville centre, bought a couple of cakes from Auroville Bakery (a must visit)  and headed back to Pondicherry (12 km from the start line) to halt for the night. The half marathon commenced at 6:15 am and we reached the venue 30 minutes prior to the event the next morning.

The race began on time and we decided to enjoy the route rather than stress on the minutes ticking away. It was a rather muddy trail consisting of some hard pebbles and by no means an easy one. The mud had a sort of reddish tinge to it.  Dr Kumar jokingly told us that post the race, our shoes will be unrecognizable. So many runners usually take a pre and post-race pictures of their shoes as a memoir to show how hard they have run.

After a few kilometers, we were soon treated to the first rays of the sun falling on some shrubs. Only a partial part of the leaves glowed in the light making it quite a pretty picture. For a moment, we wistfully wished that we had brought our cameras.  As we ran ahead, we soon found ourselves entwined by trees and creepers on both ends. Red ant hills were found plenty on the sides of the trail, reminding us of pictures depicted in the Amar Chitra Katha stories where sages usually spent their time in deep meditation. No wonder many said that the Auroville marathon was to be enjoyed rather than raced as it instilled that calming factor in you. This run was nothing less than a meditation as we soon fell into a trance of this enchanting forest.

The winding pathways soon gave way to several twists and turns making us go in a zig- zag manner. “It reminds me of a snakes coil” I chuckled to Amit as we paused at one of the water stations which was there almost every kilometer with volunteers handing out oranges, bananas and energy drinks. The music from my speakers seemed to be in sync with the scenic surroundings as I began to imagine myself as a Sambar deer running in the woods.

The beauty of the trail continued to mesmerize us and things were going well until the 15th km mark. We saw the 10 km runners,who had just began their race, streaming in so fast, reminding me of those herd of buffaloes scurrying away in fright on hearing the tiger approaching them. I slowed down cautiously not wanting to elbow or trip over them as that portion of the trail was narrow.

Unfortunately for some reason I tripped over a stone and fell down flat bruising my knees. A few concerned runners stopped and asked if I was fine. I nodded, stood up and began to walk a few steps. Thankfully neither my ankle nor my foot was sprained. Amit came over with a worried expression and patted my shoulder. “Your knees look bad Swe”, he said.

Suddenly something in me snapped as I was furious at myself for having fallen down even though it wasn’t my fault. “I am not going to give up. Hell with my knees, I will reach the finish line in style.” I told myself. Now anger usually makes me perform better for some reason. I was instantly reminded of the movie Bhaag Milkha Bhaag where Milkha Singh was heavily bruised by his jealous counterparts but still ran the race next day and broke the national record.

I always tend to draw inspiration from sports-persons especially those who fight against the odds be it former running champions, a nail biting cricket match where a player blasts away the runs with a fierce expression on his face or the Indian army who fight it out in trying circumstances, bleeding with pierced bullets.

The adrenaline rush set in as I kept going, visualizing the finish line. I soon reached the 20th km mark. Feeling no pain, I decided to accelerate that last 1 km. I could faintly hear the drum beats and music. I saw the finish line at a distance and sprinted ahead giving a hi-five to the by standers on the side-lines as they cheered for us. Overtaking the foreigner in front and many others, I ran till I crossed the finish line in 2:06.

I was elated to finish strong and this had been my best on any trail run done so far. This year they had presented runners with medals and I was happy to get mine-a wooden carving which said Auroville Marathon 10th edition. The design on it sort of reminded me of the Batman image.

Rushing to the medical centre, I got my wound cleaned up and applied an ointment. Clicking a mandatory picture, we soon chatted with other runners. A lot of people gazed at my knee in horror and asked “Are you OK?”, to which I nodded with a smile. As we walked out, Amit noticed many people staring at my knees and mentioned the same to me. I shrugged and joked saying “Why they would look at my knees when there were more scenic things to look at, considering the beauty of the surroundings?

 

We headed back to the hotel, changed and drove down to Chennai to take that Tetanus injection immediately. It was an enjoyable experience overall except maybe for that fall.

Philosopher Confucius said Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” I was glad that I had risen in a strong manner and this Auroville run will be one of my greatest glory ever as I have emerged stronger mentally!

Friday the thirteenth

After finishing 10 km on Worli sea face, I kept going strong and soon found myself near Haji Ali, just before the ascent at Peddar road. I almost tripped over something only to find that my shoe laces were out of place again. I sighed as I bent down to tie them. As I geared up to run on those slopes, I found my feet frozen to the ground refusing to move an inch further. It felt like some unseen godforsaken force had chained me to its grip refusing to let me progress ahead in the race. Hoping that a prayer to the almighty would help, I glanced towards Haji Ali only to find a shapeless looming black shadow in its place. I gasped in fright as I looked around. Everyone seemed to be running at their own pace oblivious to what was happening to me. ApparentIy none noticed anything absurd. I looked at the dark shadow which was edging closer. All on a sudden my throat was clasped by an invisible hand. I let out a blood curdling scream as I felt a hand patting me hard.

Mamma get up’ said a voice. I woke up in a fright. It was my daughter Samara nudging me with great fervour.

It was morning already. Sweating profusely, I went to splash my face with cold water. As I glanced into the mirror, a dishevelled face with dark circles under the eyes looked back at me. It was the perfect look if someone had to cast me as an evil spirit in a horror flick. Probably conjuring part 3 ..

As I walked into the hall, my hubby glanced at me in a sympathetic manner. “You look tired”, he exclaimed. I sighed and grabbed the newspaper, hoping to calm my jittery nerves.

As I glanced at the front page, it said January 13th, Friday.

It was Friday the thirteenth. I gave a faint smile and shook my head.

That explained the weird nightmare!