Conquering a different demon

After almost a year of planning, preparation, and training the day I had been waiting for finally came. In between there had been two injury layoffs, but on the day of the run I had no injury concerns. I was ready for the long distance running session albeit only for the “half marathon”. I had originally wanted this run to be a marathon but instead chose to enroll only for half-marathon as I did not feel quite ready for marathon. Nevertheless, I was excited and rearing to go.

The date 26th of November, the venue- the hills of Kakani and I was running 21 kilometers. Days before as I was enrolling I had asked the organizers if the run would be on flat land or would we encounter hills and trails? They laughed at me and said you do realize we are in Nepal, right. I did know this but I was only hoping for the terrain to be a bit merciful. However, regardless of the terrain I was ready to go conquer the 21k.

On race day I felt ready and my gut instinct told me I would be able to see the finish line. I did not know what was in store for me during the race, that, I would have to find out as I ran. Before the start of the race I got the chance to meet a champion runner Mira Rai, which in itself was quite a moment and she even wished me luck. J  And then the race began at 10:00 in the morning –

 

The Start

I got off to a fairly decent start, I knew I had to manage my pace and race management was the key. This was my first ever half marathon, but my months of preparation had at least given me an idea that I needed to plan this race. It would only get tougher as the race progressed that I constantly told myself. Also, I kept on telling myself that if I start to compete with others then I might as well throw the towel in. I mean I really wanted to get to the finish line in about three hours that was my primary target. In other words I was telling myself to run my own race and not be concerned about what others did. I managed to stick to this idea and though I felt I was getting overtaken left, right and center, I stuck to what I had to do. I got through the first check point at 1.3K without any concerns and forged on.

Then the race took a turn a different turn as the track converged into a narrow trail. Surrounded by trees the trail was a great place to run and it provided cover from the sun, but since the trail was narrow and slippery. Honestly, I did not like running on such a trail especially because they were slippery, also I was weary of the narrow trail because I was concerned for my ankles. I have twisted both my left and the right ankle in the past year. The left ankle suffering a ligament tear back in December 2015 had kept me bed ridden for almost a month. So, I treaded very carefully, watching my steps and not trying to run very fast. The steep climb and declines also made the trail even tougher and it was best to go slow. I did try to keep a decent pace and had to constantly tell myself that I would not do a leisurely walk. Even, when I did walk on the trails, I tried to make sure that I was walking a decent pace. Then came checkpoint two at 6.2K and it was time for some refueling – biscuits and water.

 

The middle

The legs were feeling it now and slowly they were beginning to hurt. I had gone past 7kms and during my practice runs the most I have gone is around 10. I was getting to a point after which I did not know how my legs or my body parts would deal it. Then came check point three at 9.3K, I remember volunteers clapping and encouraging the runners, this and the biscuits were really helpful. I made sure to also hydrate myself and set forth again. I was beginning to believe now and I felt I would be able to finish the race and in a good time, maybe even in less than three hours. And, then again the track changed and this time for worse. The volunteers pointed to the left and as I made a left turn I could see a climb but I had no idea how long the climb would be. It seemed to go on and on and there was no way I would be able to run. I could see other runners also struggling on this climb and they were walking. I started walking too but made sure I kept a decent pace even when walking. I did not want to walk gingerly and look like I was struggling although my legs and back was hurting by now. I had practiced in the streets of Kathmandu and this terrain was different and tough. But, at least I had trained and that counted for something. So, I pushed on and climbed, expecting the climb to end soon but it did not. It felt like it was never going to end. Just when I thought I saw an opening to a wider track and downhill, the climb on the trail continued. Then the sign showed up – 15k. I was elated at this sight, just 6 more kilometers to go I thought but I had no idea what was to come.

 

The Conclusion

I was past the 15k mark now but I felt as if my legs were giving up now. I could feel the pain on my left knee on my every step and my right thighs were hurting just as much. Every time my feet landed I felt as If I would twist my ankles. I started getting more concerned about my ankles now. The more I thought of it the more close calls I got. Couple of times I did get those narrow shaves. Whew!! I would then say that was close and I walked on. I was not able to push myself to run now and inside my head a demon was growing, constantly telling me what if I am not able to finish this? I had planned my race right, I had not overworked myself and it was not as if I was exhausted but it was more a case of my legs giving up and even more, my head was buying into the idea that my legs had run their course.

I was now really struggling and so I made sure that I was looking behind me and that I gave way to the runners behind me when they got close. And then a group of three running in a line came close, and as I gave way, this one guy in the middle just says “Come hop in the running train. We will do this slow and steady.” So, I got aboard and hopped on the running the train and behold I was able to run again. It was not brisk running but more joggers pace but at least I was back to running and suddenly I was not concerned about my ankles. I just tried to stick with the running pack and matched their pace and surprisingly I was able to keep it up. In the way we also made others hop on the running train and this formula worked. It felt good to motivate one another and running like this helped. At the end of the day for all of us it was more about being able to finish the race. We got to the 18k mark and then it was time for some granola bars, biscuits and water. We got going on and now I knew we were close. I did feel I was tiring out now and so I backed up a little bit, but now I knew I would finish this race, thanks to the running train that got me through the little mini rut I had been in after the 15k mark. I forged on slowly and though the running train went on without me, it had served its purpose for me. I would surely be finishing the race.

There was one final climb which again was long and tough. Once, this was done it was running to the finish. The 21k had been done and the demon conquered. It took me 3 hours and 29 minutes to finish the race, a bit longer than what I had expected but I did not care. I was happy to finish the race, under really tough running terrain.

 

My first ever half-marathon.