Goa River Marathon – 2015 – Post Run

And gradually, I inched and inched and inched my way to the beckoning finish line, guided through the last 10 metres by my mother, who’d completed the 10KM distance earlier that day, while my father and sister cheered from the sidelines, each overjoyed by their own finishes.

I forgot all about my [stupid] cramp for the next few minutes, as I took in my surroundings for the first time in three hours [what can I say? Running makes me egoistic!]. Finishers of all 4 distances [the 5KM, 10KM, half marathon and full marathon] milled about triumphantly, as an air of self-satisfaction settled around us like a comfy blanket.

We bumped into a few friends, posed for a couple of photos and grabbed a bunch of snacks from the food counters before deciding to call it a morning and head back home [but not before planning a post-run celebration party at the beach for the evening with a few running buddies, of course!].

As we waded through the grinning athletes, our hearts thumping as loud as the booming live music, I made up my mind about 2 things;

  1. I was heading STRAIGHT for a 30-minute, cold shower as soon as we reached the house and
  2. 42KM, here I come…
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Goa River Marathon – 2015 – The Run

Encouraging drums were thrashed, frantic “all the best”s were uttered and limbs were sprung into full action as us maniacs dashed off into the darkness, enthusiastic as ever. Puff, pant, gasp, wheeze, we shuffled down the first incline like a stampede of unruly schoolchildren, looking over shimmying shoulders for familiar faces to tag along with.

The first kilometre went off as well as I could have hoped. I stubbornly stuck to the middle of the pack and repeatedly reminded myself to stick to what my legs told me and not get swayed by the initial speed of the crowd. This  turned out to be pretty solid advice as sure enough, in a few minutes people were already being forced to a stop, their energy burned out by a few moments of reckless sprinting.

Shadows overlapped and danced about on the tarred road as I stumbled my way to a reasonable pace, all the while keeping my eyes on Althea, a fellow runner who I’d promised myself I’d trail throughout the course of the marathon.

Didn’t happen.

I ended up losing Althea in the first 5KM itself, which was a total bummer because her animated chatter helps you forget that you’re running [if that makes any sense].

So I trudged on, -this time without someone to talk to- mentally making a note of every kilometre sign I crawled [at least, that’s what it felt like] past;

Okay, okay, 4 done. That leaves me with, what, a little more than 80% to go? Piece of cake.

Ah, 5 down. Seems like a LOT more, to be honest.

I’m only just hitting SIX? Gosh, am I slowing down or WHAT? Come on, Trusha, move a little bit faster…

Wait, it’s only 7KM NOW? Is it just me or did we pass this board half an hour ago?!

Aha! 8KM. Hey, this is actually pretty fun!

Wow, is it already NINE KILOMETRES? I’m barely even feeling anything!

You have GOT to be kidding me. TEN ALREADY? 

Honestly. It CAN’T be the turnaround! I don’t want this to be halfway through! I am having the TIME. OF. MY. LIFE!

Hands down the EASIEST 12KM of my LIFE. I can’t even feel a- OUCH! CRAMP!

And that was the end of my first EVER half-marathon attempt.

Just kidding [thank God]!

At around twelve and a half kilometres, however, I was hit with a pretty bad case of cramps that not only caused me to slow down considerably, but also made me realise for the first time that morning how extremely humid it was. I was pretty much soaked and, as I surveyed the runners around me, it looked like I wasn’t the only one.

So I wrung my shirt, clutched my sides [which somewhat eased the cramp] and hobbled my way into the thirteenth kilometre, looking [I’m sure] like some sort of deformed, running teapot.

I was beginning to believe that I might just finish the entire thing with a decent timing when I felt a fresh, more powerful wave of pain cruise through my bloodstream and screeched to a very unpleasant stop. My insides felt like they were bouncing about on a trampoline [NOT a pleasant sensation] and my right arm became sore from having to grip my stomach for an entire half hour.

Needless to say, it was not one of my finer running moments.

After a few seconds of internally pep talking myself [“If you finish this thing, you can have five- no TEN bars of Choconutty ice cream from Double Dip! TEN!”], I restarted, my body lurching forward.

I overtook and got overtaken by hundreds of people, but barely noticed it at the time. Right then, all I wanted to do was complete the distance, race back home and immerse myself in a cold-water bath. I didn’t care about the medal, stopped thinking about my timing, didn’t bother about the other runners. I just wanted –needed– to finish it…

The Goa River Marathon – 2015 – Pre Run

“10… 9… 8…”

The crowds chanted excitedly; determination and frosty gusts of wind tingling in the air. If I strained my ears, I could still hear the lively music blaring from the Runners’ Pavillion a hundred metres away, but I had more important things to focus on right then. Things like managing to stay alive for the next 3 hours, by which time I should hopefully be either done with or on the last leg of my first –ever– half marathon.

“7…6…5…”

Oh my Garmin, I gulped as it hit me what exactly I was doing. I was going to run 21 kilometres. 21. At that moment, I could barely even remember how to count that high, forget try to RUN that much!

“4…3…2…”

This is it, Trusha, I repeated, over and over. The atmosphere was electric as over a thousand runners tensed up, friends and family cheering festively in the background. Let’s go.

“1.”

GRM Trial Run Number One

I sleepily shuffled out of the car, wondering –for the umpteenth time- why on earth I’d agreed to do this. By “this,” I mean wake up at 04:00 in the morning just so that I could travel halfway across the state and tire myself silly by running for kilometers on end with my Dad and a bunch of other people.
Surely, dear reader, you must be wondering WHY I’m doing it. Maybe she’s running to spread awareness about something important, you ponder. Or maybe it’s to participate n some international ultra-running championship.
Unfortunately, you couldn’t be farther from the truth. I wasn’t running for a good cause nor was I running for a prize. I was running “just for kicks,” because it’s fun to breathlessly gasp as I push my body up sharp inclines and down steep slopes, my clothes becoming sweatier and sweatier by the minute … At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
Trying to shake off my drowsiness, I half-heatedly started my warm-up routine, enviously thinking about my classmates who were probably (and rightfully) be fast asleep at this unearthly hour, savoring the last day of our Diwali vacation.
Sighing at my evident stupidity, I looked around and it struck me how many people had turned up. “About 60, I should think,” I marveled, a far cry from the 4-5 runners who turn up for our usual Sunday runs.
A few minutes of mindless stretching (at least on my part) later, I heard an excited commotion to my right. Peeking over shoulders, I realized that my fellow-marathoners where cheering for Dinesh Heda, Goa’s own ultra-runner, as he bounded towards us. My Dad and I are among the many who have commenced and continued middle-distance running thanks to Mr Heda with his sound advice and glorious example.
A few moments of hurried greeting later, we were all hustled to one side of the street, all sixty of us with our fancy tracking devices and neon sports suits. The run was about to begin.
The trial run was about to begin, actually, for this wasn’t going to be an actual, documented race, but a casual affair who’s aim was to make us more clear and confident about the distances we were aiming to tackle at the upcoming Goa River Marathon (GRM, for short), in December 2015.
I’m not exactly sure why, but the GRM seems like it’s in a league of its own when compared to other long-distance competitions in Goa. Maybe it’s because it’s the oldest and longest running [get it??]. Maybe it’s because it attracts marathoners from various parts of the world and has a prominent air of professionalism. Maybe it’s because of the large banners put up all over Vasco prior to the event, celebrating us participants. Maybe it’s even a combination of all of the above.
Anyway, the trial run had begun and all around me, swirls of Goans from different backgrounds, cultures and walks of life got together to support each other ‘til the finish line.
The chatty ones (like Althea and Liesl, the two gregarious women I stayed close to throughout the run) talked and talked and talked their way to the end of the course. Don’t let their frequent bursts of laughter fool you, though; they can run like nobody’s business and can battle the deadliest inclines without breaking a sweat.
The more serious ones (like my Dad) avoid conversation altogether, preferring to drown themselves in the sound of silence and the rhythmic reunion of their shoes and the gravel. They swoosh past the rest of us, hungry for a new personal best or eager to hit an unprecedented distance.
And then, there’s people like me; lost in the swarm of a determined people, unsure of whether to turn back or plough forward, enjoying ourselves all the same.
My excuse is that I’m young. Younger, at least. I’ve been running for less than a year now and am an irregular practitioner, at best. I have school and karate and tennis and triathlons and blogging and elocution and competitions and too much on my plate to focus on running as much as I should, which, I must admit, is a pathetic excuse, but one I’ve persuaded myself to believe all the same.
Back to the now-underway run, at the 5 KM mark, we took a slight detour and landed up on the St. Jacinto bridge, a scenic spot if there ever was one. There were boats and fluff, white clouds and a magnificent stretch where the sky effortlessly fused with the river’s azure currents.
Picture perfect.
Living in the era that I do, I half expected people to start whipping out snazzy iPhones and snapping horrendously egoistic selfies but, to my surprise and delight, not a single person did, with the exception of Liesl who captured a quick photograph of the view, without her face in it (something that happens all too rarely nowadays).
Alas, our little sprint on the bridge ended in a quick 500 meters and we were back to jogging on quaint roads with their winded paths and clumps of trees poking out from either side.
We ran on, admiring the cosy houses we flashed by and appreciating the picturesque routes. About half an hour and 4 kilometres later, we were still going strong but decided to turn back, keeping in mind the fact that we needed to repeat the distance we’d just covered.
I must add that, unlike my previous runs, most of us hadn’t bothered to carry water or dried fruits or any sort of refreshment as Sanjeev Ojha, a dedicated member of the Vasco runners’ group, assured us that he had it covered. And, BOY, was that an understatement!!
Not only did Mr Ojha have bottles and bottles of water, but he also handed out bananas and oranges, Electrolyte and energy drinks, nuts and wet towels… A runner’s dream! He’s loaded it all in his smart, white vehicle and met us at 2 KM intervals, making sure that everyone was hydrated and well-nourished. He granted us the liberty to focus on just completing our kilometers and it was truly a blessing.
“3 kilometers left!!” Someone a little ahead of my group bellowed triumphantly, and everyone broke into relieved smiles. We might have been having a great time on this fabulous track, but we still wanted it to be over (which is pretty contradictory, but it’ll make sense if you’re a runner).
The end in sight, we charged on with renewed gusto, encouraging each other constantly. Each thud on the road brought us a step closer to our individual goals; goals that started seeming more and more achievable by the minute.
I passed my father somewhere during the last few kilometers, who, after volunteering to keep my company for the last leg (an offer I declined after seeing the glint in his eyes that told me he wanted to complete his first ever half-marathon with a strong finish), glided along his way.
At last, finally and all too soon, Althea, Liesl and myself turned the last bend and found ourselves at the starting point once again. Dust to dust.
A group of victorious runner warmly applauded as we crossed the imaginary ribbon and I found myself feeling that familiar rush one can expect to feel after successfully completing an endurance event.
Not in the least breathless (surprisingly, actually, owing to how ‘m an asthmatic), I spun around to survey the scene: A bunch of proud weirdos, chuckling with each other as they joked around, content and relieved and hungry for more, all at once (wonderful combination of feelings, I’ll have you know).
And I knew then that I’d found my people. A community that would eventually become as much a part of me as I am now of it.

Autumn – The 4 Seasons Saga

Naked branches dotted with twigs

But not a flower to show,

No more emerald, dancing leaves

And no more grass to mow

There’s a brisk breeze blowing through the town

When I set out for my run,

I like it, but miss the colorful trees

Of which there are left none

For they are replaced by dull brown barks

Lacking a single splash of hue

You can still see patches of dark ochre from morn’

Made by the early morning dew

Be that as it l may I still proclaim,

That I love this season most

Of subtle beauty and intricate design

It does humbly boast

The ambiance is superb as I jog

But dusk is steadily engulfing us all

I fasten my pace, but my romantic heart stays

Among the beautiful trees of fall

The Last Run

My sweat-drenched Chelsea jersey clung onto me fiercely, refusing to let go. I couldn’t rip it away from my skin, of course. My whole being was focused on the task at hand; trivial details like tees cinching my body ceased to matter.

Hhmmpp-Nnmmpp-Hhmmpp-Nnmmpp I wheezed, trying to ignore the pain signals being frantically sent from my spine. If this incline continues for more than a hundred more metres, I’m dead I thought, closing my eyes for a brief moment, trying to imagine all places I’d rather be.

But no. Nothing. Even when I forced myself, my mind just COULDN’T come up with somewhere I wanted to be more than right here, running up a steep slope in the middle of nowhere, trying to beat my personal best of 5 miles. [Which, I’ll agree, is kind of measly. But not if you’re a twelve-year-old girl who started training only about six weeks ago]

Why?? Because even at this point, when I felt like I would never be able to get up again if given the chance to rest my butt for a few seconds, I loved it. Don’t ask me WHY. But I did. And that’s why I moved forward, faster and faster with every stride.

Left, right, left, right my feet placed themselves in front of each other as if on autopilot. They’d long since passed the stage when I’ had to actually concentrate on them so as to NOT come crashing down, limbs and necks and tummies and all.

My arms ached, my legs throbbed, there wasn’t a part of me that was at least slightly injured. But I kept going. I HAD to. I had to finish… YES!! I couldn’t help but exclaim as the uphill part of my journey ended and the next few yards of blissful downwardness unfurled themselves.

The next few seconds passed easily enough. In fact, I might have breezed past the finish line [aka My Front Gate] if not for It. You know, the Runner’s Curse. The highly dreaded yet stunningly frequent Cramp.

You heard me right.

Like a dagger stabbed in the right part of my ribcage, a cramp started to form, slowly spreading its fiendish fingers across the rest of my stomach. I slowed down slightly, cradling the part of my stomach that ached the most…

NO!!!! I would NOT let anything come between me and the 6- mile mark. Not this time, Cramp. If you had the guts to think that a little poke in the side would cause me to stop, you’ve got another thought coming. Because NOTHING is going to stop this girl from reaching home in the few minutes. NOTHING.

So I trudged on, trying desperately to shift my mind from the agony that erupted from my waist. I wonder what -Ouch- Mom made -Ouch- for di… -Ouch- dinner… 

Yup, that technique wasn’t working. So I changed tactics; time to bring out the poet in me:

900 metres left,

900 more,

Come one, you can do it

Go, go go!!

I chanted in my mind, repeating it like a mantra. It seemed to be doing the trick, because the burning eased up, allowing me to run faster. I silently rejoiced when it hit me that I was 500 short metres away from victory. Of course, as soon as you find SOMETHING to be slightly happy about, fate comes along and screws it up for you.

Because right then. when I was beginning to speed up considerably, I noticed a HUUGE slope out of the corner of my eye. It was so steep, it kind of resembled a wall. I’m not kidding. A wall.

I groaned, completely exhausted by this frustrating turn of events. But I had a job to finish, and finish it I was going to do.

Just a slight hitch I thought to myself, eyeing the hill warily. It’s surprising how I’d never noticed it while seated on one of the cushiony couch of Dad’s car…

Bracing myself, I jogged up the first part of the ramp. I think that’s when my absolute exhaustion actually kicked in and my legs started feeling as heavy as lead. My trusty feet, don’t fail me now.

The rest of the ascend it a little too painful to talk about. I’m sure I resembled a dying rooster as I waddled up the incline, gasping and panting for breath.

The good news is that I made it. I DID finish it all up and I DID reach home without any serious bruises [except a seriously inflated ego].

The bad news is running is running is permanently stripped of its title of one of my favourite things to do. I’ve heard knitting is fun…