Airports and rest are seldom quoted in the same sentence. While nursing an injury sustained post the half marathon in Mumbai, it was the much deserved rest that I was looking forward to amidst the bustling lounge at Delhi airport. The moment I took off my solely shoes to the sight of a swollen foot, it was a sense of relief over the impending pain that made me think about the recent half marathon experience, which happened to be my first. I was my best companion throughout and it was an ideal moment to relive the last two years of build up.
I am taking a shot in describing the journey from the end to the build up..
@21 kms – Crossing the Finish Line: I just did it. This is different from all I had imagined on how it will be. A sense of relief beholds me and the overwhelming emotions that I had imagined I shall experience are missing. All I witness and fathom is just a lot of people ahead and some behind. None of the emotion, or celebratory lap or any of that I was supposed to get after conquering the feat came close. Not even a sense of satisfaction.
@18 kms – 3 more to go: I will fall on the ground, kiss it, and let emotions take control of my entire body. It is ok to cry and out pour. Yes it is absolutely fine, like how you did behind closed doors couple of years back. Your feat is no normal thing, and when you look back on the build-up you would have made your own self proud killing your own inhibition demons. You would have done it. You would have survived the 21 kms.
@15 kms – 6 more to go : How can you give up? You did not give up couple of years back did you? There were times where you could have given up when the unfriendly visitor had you in its grip. You survived by showing character. Your legs are fine. They don’t feel pain. You just imagine having a pain. Haven’t you fallen for the trap your mind plays with you before? I hope you have not forgotten October 2015? Come on. Go for it.
@11kms- 10 more to go: I circled the beautiful infrastructure over the Arabian Sea, I pay attention to the song on my phone. With the incessant chatter with my mind, I could not chance on it however it was beautiful voice of Bhimsen Joshi at the crack of dawn. I got a confidence that I could pull it off now, just like 2 years ago when Pandit Bhimsen Joshi helped me pull through one of my toughest phase. It was the same Raag Durga and with the same energy transforming my body. I realized I am half way there.
@6 kms – 15 more to go: What should I call you? A survivor or a winner? Well, who is a winner really? Someone who has reached the finish line faster than anyone else or someone finishing the journey as a token of unnerving spirit? I see a lot of people running. I wonder what is running in their mind? What are they running for or why? I see vagaries in the physical appearance. Some short, some plump, some athlete and some reaching out to the sponge bath at the pit. It dawns on me that for all of us running today, our own selves are our companion. People have their own reasons to run. Most of us will complete and have a pyrrhic victory that is at best surreal. Many of us won’t complete. But with the realization that there is so much unseen anxiety and grief surrounding mankind which needs a forum to express, I turn around to complete the sixer.
@3 kms – 18 more to go – I feel content in overtaking in what I thought were a lot of people, however not getting ahead of myself. I cannot control the tinge of smile that beckons me with the analogy. “Not getting ahead of myself”. I admire the massive manpower, dedication and lives it took to ready this engineering marvel atop the sea. It is liberating to understand that there are countless souls whose job we take it for granted and have forgotten to thank in our daily lives. Menial jobs such as the janitor at the hospital couple of years back whom I did not have the fortune to meet. The janitor at the workplace whom I see but never acknowledge. World can be a better place, because it certainly has been kind to me.
Start Line – 21 more to go – Off you go my friend. Another test of your endurance. You have enough medals back at home, but this journey you are embarking on is special one because you are not chasing any medal but an inspiration. Make the most off it. Get people cheered up. Always smile. Smiling works for you. Just like how you went in to the surgery room and most importantly came out smiling. It immediately eased out quite a trauma in the family. So smile. Co-incidentally the music starts “God put a smile on your face” – Coldplay.
Jan 7th 2017 – 1 week to go – Will I be able to complete? Will I have a decent time? This is just a practice run, like a preliminary examination. Memory ain’t your best friend at all, where in one of my preliminary exam, I had scored miserly 54.8%. But in the test that mattered, it was a 90+. I should not have thought about such a deal breaker. It didn’t motivate, but made me stop at 13 kms. There is an inherent problem with our society on how we distinguish success and failure based on an examination. With this thought, I wrap up the practice.
October 2016 – 3 months to go: Run. Faster. Is it me? Or is it just that the weight that I have been putting on sideways and god knows everywhere that is pulling me back? I have been told, that I lose weight immediately. I don’t see it at least when I practiced. I am way off the pace and am unsure if I will ever get to the best of myself that I was a couple of years back before the unwelcome visitor paid me a visit.
October 2015 – 1 year and 3 months to go – Run. Start your first step. Will I be able to? What if I collapse? What will I do? Is it worth the risk? I receive no answer. It is been 6 months since you underwent the brain surgery. Are you sure you should be doing this? I receive no answer. I take the first step. Apprehension gets the better of me. Self doubt gets the best of me. I ran for 50 meters and I stopped gasping for breath. If I am cut out for this? I look at the sprawling Lalbagh Gardens in Bangalore and I ask myself again, if I am cut out for this? Am I going to survive? Yes, is the answer I receive. I take the first step.
April 2015 – Almost 2 years to go: Mom was around. I walked slowly but did a good job in hiding my anxiety and utter lack of confidence. Mom took me to the temple. It was all fine. Until I told her, I am feeling nauseated. I don’t recollect what happened next. I woke up sitting on a chair of a tender coconut vendor, just outside the temple. Mom told me I had passed out. I realized I had my entire pants wet as I was told “you lose control over your bladder when you lose your consciousness. Ek ke saath ek free.
April 2015 – Almost 2 years to go – It is a surgery related symptom. You had a major brain surgery and you will see symptoms of non-functioning motor parts in the beginning. I was seated against the doctor holding my right arm which was hanging there. I did not know if it will be ready for a new inning or forever remain a liability. I saw what it feels like to receive sympathy from your own. My wife fed me dinner as I could not use my right arm and I was never good with my left. That day I cried. I cried to my wife behind closed doors. I cried the entire night while she never let my hand go.
March 21st , 2015 6:30 am.
This is it. I was taken from my ward to the surgery room. There were plethora of emotions. But I stayed strong. I know it was not an easy battle. I was going to be operated to remove the unfriendly visitor. The tumor that was staying with me on by brain. It was not welcome. It was going to be a little less than 4 hours of surgery. Skull, a real piece of strong bone had to be cut. I was awake during the surgery and witnessed the entire thing live. That takes character. Doctors were supremely gifted but kind, the team was kind. They played my favorite music there from my playlist. Bhimsen Joshi was one of them. I was 40% awake and in senses. I saw them drill a hole in my head. It was happening. It just did.
Jan 15th 2017 -19kms – The Last Mile :
You have come a mighty long way my friend. From being at the surgery table two years back where your brain was your biggest enemy, and today where your own self is your best companion. You have done it. It is not about the pace, not about competition. It is about a purpose. When you run the last mile, it has to be for a new beginning. There is nothing called a Last mile. If it were, I would not be starting a new journey. There are so many kind souls I need to thank post this run. I realized how kind the world has been to me. By giving my family the strength to overcome, which they ably passed on to me. I owe them my life for it. I see the finish line. I think about the start line of the race and smile at how far I have come.
“Real courage is the ability to detach from past, look back at the start and realize how far you have come”.
I have survived the first mile.