Saturday, March 04, 2006

My first marathon...

When I ran the Victoria Marathon...

I finished the Royal Victoria Marathon in 5 and 1/2 hours and raised $3224.80 in a total of almost $160K raised by the entire Asha marathon team.

At the end of it all, the most profound revelation that I experienced was the infinite capacity that man has, to eat multiple kilograms of pasta for three weeks at a stretch and not retch at the merest mention of the Roman delicacy.

We pretty much had the entire plane for ourselves. We were 50 extremely noisy and hyperactive, aspiring marathoners on our way to Victoria. We received stares of amazement, amusement and abject displeasure from airline authorities, shopkeepers, and from the general public at large. Victoria from the air is an amazing sight. We landed the day before the marathon, went around the marathon course, felt very discouraged looking at the hills, and came back very apprehensive and tense. Little did we know the role to be played by those hills the next day.

The morning of the race was a disaster. It started out badly with the hotel alarm guy calling up to say "Sir, it is 4 a.m. and is expected to rain heavily all morning". And, was it raining. Seemed like we were back in the monsoons. It was also 30 degrees F, and was quite windy. Luckily there were large tents with heaters in them, and we were huddled around them "warming up" until the race started. We were scheduled for the early 6 a.m. start. Beautiful Victoria drenched in rain is a sight at 6 a.m. We were in high spirits! We were singing "Chale Chalo" from Lagaan and "In the morning" and we had the other runners laughing non-stop. Many of the non-Indians were very amused and were admiring our cheery attitude. It was very cold and getting warmed up was taking for ever.

The rest just happened in a dream. The course at various times went along the ocean. The view seen through a large film of water was breathtaking. I was doing good time until mile 18. I crossed the half way mark in 2 hrs 12min, and the 18 mile point in 3hrs 8min, and was on course to finish in about 4 1/2 hours. Then my quads cramped. I think it was because of the cold. After that, it took for ever to reach the end. Finally I finished in 5 1/2 hours. It took two more hours for the cramp to release.

Between miles 19 and 20, there was a hill of introspection. It was a good 800m long. Seemed like it was gaining many hundred feet of elevation. With 20mph winds blowing against us from the ocean and the ceaseless rains, the hill was quite conducive to the realization of self-evident truths, viz. This path doth cease. I felt nothing. I thought of nothing. Most of the time I felt empty. The next prominent thoughts were, "I am darn hungry" and "I could really use some sleep right now!". It was quite surreal.

However, the end was quite an emotional experience. It felt great to see 50 people huddled in one tent cheering each other on finishing the marathon task. I was upset at not finishing at my targeted time of 4:30 and was eager to participate in a nicer, gentler, flatter marathon where I could do it in a reasonably decent time.