Huddart Park was known for its scenic trails and magnificent redwoods. It wasn’t very far from Stanford, where I currently resided. Coastal trail runners, known to organize a lot of trail runs, had an event scheduled on January 21st. It was on the same day as the Tata Mumbai Marathon, the big daddy of all the races back in India. My friends back home were obviously running this one and I was missing out on all the fun that occurred during the time of this race.
I needed a dose of nature and signed up for the half marathon initially, a decision which I had to revert at the last moment. An unfortunate accident in the gym due to someone’s carelessness of misplacing dumbbells, caused an ankle injury. The swelling was to a great extent which resulted in me hobbling like an old woman, a far cry from the strong and sturdy runner cruising up those daunting slopes in San Francisco a few days ago. Nevertheless, a visit to the doctor and physio helped in bringing down the swelling. I was shown a few stretches to strengthen the weak area. There was no way I could do a 21 km on those daunting trails and requested the race organizers to downgrade my distance to a 10 k, which I could easily manage.
In another part of the world, my runner friends would be running one of the biggest marathons in the city amidst a huge crowd while I would be running in the solitary company of the woods.
I reached Huddart Park at around 8:00 am to collect my bib and hang around till my race started at 9:15 am. Those running the 50 k ,35 k and 21 k had already started their run. At 9:15, the race director flagged off the run and I found myself cruising downhill into a single dirt road covered with big stones. Carefully, I treaded on them and ran past the shrubs effortlessly. It was getting darker, the further I ventured into the woods.
Trail runs were something that I enjoyed as there was no pressure of timing or pace. I could just enjoy the scenic surrounds, click a few pictures and go slow as opposed to city runs where people run as though they were being chased by hound dogs. 2 km were already done as I began my ascent on those steep climbs which sucked the energy from my quads and calves. I decided to walk up and looked around at the tall redwoods that were shielding me from the harsh glares of the sun. Well lucky me! I spotted some wild mushrooms and decided to capture the images and also of the gigantic trees in the vicinity. Green ribbons were placed at appropriate places to guide runners in the right direction lest they get lost.
My watch buzzed when I reached the 5 km mark. Half the distance was covered. Woods always fascinated me as they were an essential part of my growing up years whether it was through the faraway series by Enid Blyton or those fairy tales of Hansel and Gretel or Red riding hood. I looked around, half expecting to see a wily face of a grinning wolf behind those trees. However, all that I saw were some squirrels swinging their bushy tails playing hop scotch on the bed of dead leaves. The sign board at the entrance did mention about deer and wildlife though. I kept my eyes and ears open just in case.
I passed a bridge and soon found a marker saying, ‘To the finish line’. Already? I thought in dismay at the thought of leaving nature’s abode. I quickened my pace as it was all downhill from there. My ankle seemed fine and I was cruising down like those seagulls that I had watched on the sea shore as they swooped down to pick up their titbits from the sand. The surface was uneven and no sane person would probably think of sprinting down this pathway. There is a moment of insanity that takes over the sane mind when it came to sports. I guess that was applicable to running as well as I ran down the hill. Anyone watching me would have believed that I was being chased by a bear, but no such luck. It was just me eager to receive my 12th medal in a hurry which I did as I crossed the finish line in style.
There were cookies, buns and pretzels offered as snacks which I avoided considering the health buff that I was. Strolling around the woods, I posed with my medal and made my way home to simple home cooked lunch as it was noon by then. The run certainly left a trail in my mind which prompted me to sign up for one more event in February…