Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Great wall of Amsterdam

The wish :
When I finished my first marathon in 2010 and wrote a blog about that, many replied that they were kind of inspired, though each one’s inspiration was in a different way!
Some got inspired to run. Some got inspired to blog. Some even got inspired not to contact me anymore :)
( scared that I might force them to run !" ;)
But overall I was really happy; at least I could make some people change their mind in their own ways!

After my first marathon, I was planning to do 2 more marathons before I hit the Big F and O, this year!
3 Marathons before my 40th birthday.. Kinda wild dream.. but still achievable.. if everything goes well.
But throwing a coin in the wish well, doesn't mean that your wish has to thrive!

First one on the list was the Rotterdam Marathon in April.
2 days before the Rotterdam Marathon, on a sunny Friday I was so thrilled to get my Marathon gear from the officials and to do the big run.

The slip-up :
Saturday, apart from on the TV, sun also started shining on the sky and my good friends thought of having some minutes of another good sport, Cricket.
My mind was telling me not to play any cricket that day. Why to take a risk just a day before my Big day of running!
But I did not use my grey matter. Tada! 
It is seldom that I do not use my grey matter. For eg: my wedding! ;)
Anyway, I thought, I will go and cheer up my friends at the cricket net!. I decided to just wear a normal slip-on and go to the field.
But then.. once I was there at the nets, seeing that pitch, the cricket ball.. I said.. yes.. maybe a couple of overs, I will bowl.

But definitely no batting. Just bowling and that too very casually!
Well.. The sun was shining. eyes were shining. Cricket balls were shining.. and later my injury was also shining! ;) Yes, the ball hit my ankle. Got a swollen foot that night .
Forget the marathon!!! I could'nt even go to the bathroom! Luckily Imannuel's old diapers were still there ! ;)

Well, on that Sunday I watched the marathon on TV. That was also a very different experience. Watching for 2 hours odd, continuously without blinking my eyes..
Without blinking my eyes!
The last time I remembered watching something like that on TV was Lord of the rings and a Bollywood actress's porn ! ;)

Well, this happened in the month of April .Then on the first week of May, my lottery for the New York marathon also failed.

(Yes, even to run 42km , u need to be lucky at the Big apple!), Which means I was left out with two options.
Berlin marathon or Amsterdam marathon for the second time.

I was keener on Berlin, since it was a new course for me and I loved that city when I visited there for the first time, the same year.

The Tata :
I was practicing a bit for the marathon and then something very Indian came on the news.
TCS, the Tata company is going to sponsor the Amsterdam Marathon and I was like ! wow! this is cool.
Tata, apart from being something which every Indian says when they leave home ;) (these days they also have the email signature like this;) ,  is also a company every Indian loves for their vision and their involvement within the country.
Amsterdam, The city I've been living for the last 13 years, a city which gave me my first marathon, the city which gave me x number of visits to the foreign police, n number of parking tickets, z number of smoke curls!, 0 girl friends!!

So itz a mix of curry and merry!

So , I decided .
Berlin, I will see you next year. Amsterdam baby, here I come again!
We also have something called Dam to Dam! Oh nothing like any water issue here! Another racing event!, which includes running options from 600 m to 6.2 km to 16 km in different categories.
And this time I was in a mood.. I can't definitely say the word mood, but rather in a frame of mind, passing the passion.. passion of running to normal people .. just like me.. (Even though many people won't agree that I am normal! ;)

Just giving that little tint of running and the joy later!
So on the registration day I could persuade some parents to let their kids run. Convincing the other way was difficult!
Like telling the kids , please tell your dad or mom to run.. please ..please .. ;)
But finally I could make around 6-8 kids, couple of ladies and couple of gents to run .Many of them told me later that what they did was something they never thought they could do! Their participation was kind of a big medal for me! The medal was not just a victory , but it was also kind of a principled boost of confidence to do something which people thought they couldn’t. So everyone was happy, I was happy, the organizers were happy.
The people at the pub were very very happy! ;)

The Day :
Finally my D day came. The Second marathon. And this time I wanted to run for a cause. Raising some funds for some good kids and their education. Good kids, which I know personally. So that was on my cortex.
But somewhere deep in my cerebellum, I thought, I would also do my personal best. Maybe a time starting with 3hrs and 59 minutes and 59 seconds.. Just that 3 hours on my timing.. Thatz all I need!
Breaking the 4 hour barrier!
But for that I have to run 19 minutes better than last year. 19 minutes looks a bit faaaar from ok for a stretch of 42km..Attainable.. but .. there is always a but .. Anything can happen and itz not that easy to improve 19 minutes in a year's time!

On the M day, weather was looking pretty good. Morning was around 4 C and the forecast was sunny, clear, and that it won't go beyond 14 C. Good. My ipod was ready. My telephone was ready. My shoes were ready! The people at the pub for the after-marathon party were also ready ! ;)

When I reached the stadium, the Marathon had already started!!! And I was still outside the stadium along with some 200 odd people! (odd, lazy ..Call whatever you like ;). I thought, I won't switch on  my i-pod now. let me go with the cheerful crowd for sometime and later maybe! Slowly I moved to the starting point.
The time was 09.44, which meant that  If I had to finish this under 4 hours , I should reach  the finishing line at 13:45.
And I started to run. When I looked behind me, I could see like 20-30 people, yet to start. The last bench runners! ;)
and also this meant that there were like 9000+ people in front of me!

And I started to run.

Only two things stamped now on my grey matter!
The kids from Janaseva and breaking the 4 hours -barrier!

Janaseva, The aim of this institution is to find destitute children abducted by the beggar-mafia and give them shelter, food and education. A kind of pure love and warmth..I've been there. heard their horrendous stories.

Silent tears. Spend time with them. Quality time...Lovely kids.. My kids played with them.. and I just became part of them.. and wanted that forever.. and I was running for them.

And on the other side, wanted to run under four hours. So I should do my personal best this time. Weather was promising. I knew how the 42k would treat me. Could picturize my previous year run and knew what I should do and what I shouldn't. Well the 'do not's' were a lot, like “focus” on something good while running! ;) just kiddin ! ;)

I ran for about 15 km and still I was not dehydrating myself. So I thought, I should put my complete effort to how much ever I can run..
Meanwhile I was thinking many things under the sky! And I said .. No I won't put my music now. Let me not get immersed in music at this time. Let me think of things. It is actually nice to think many many things while running!

I had my first glass of water , maybe after 21k!
21 kms w/o water ! and I thought , did  I just become a camel or what ! ;)

The wall:

I'd heard of hitting the wall. That is the term they use while running a marathon. The runners just 'hit a wall' and then they decide whether to continue or not.  For my first marathon, my main aim was to finish it. So whenever I felt tired, I walked a bit, then continued again ! But this time I couldn't do that, I had to concentrate on my timing.
So “the wall” feeling… I had never experienced!

And I was running..and running.. When I crossed my 30km mark, I checked the time and it clocked like 2hrs 44 mnts and I was like what ! did I run that good ! wow!
So far so good!
Anything.. Anytime can ensue at any kilometer..Any meter..!
But ,I thought, If I run like this, I think I might be able to cut the mark!.  I might!
Itz just might.. might .. might! Nothing less. Nothing more!

Meanwhile I could see a guy running with a balloon and it was written 4:00 on it with a black marker! and a bunch of other runners with him. If you just follow him, you can finish the 42k in 4 hrs. Thatz all about it! The guy with the 4:00 marker!
(There are also 3:30, 3:15 balloon people like this!).
(There are also balloons with no marker.. Well that goes up to the sky.. Don’t follow that ;))

So I also need to follow this guy, the 4:00 marker guy, enough to make sure that I also finish in 4 hours time!
At one point, I overtook him and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t allow him to overtake me. Well, he overtook me many many times and I knew it was all because of my invariable pace! But I was also doing the same to him. It was kind of a drag race between two unknown strangers!

And I was running and running .
And suddenly I could see ..feel ..my pace was slowing so dramatically and then it just came to a sudden halt.
Halt! Stop! The Circle with that red strip, right in front of me!

2 minutes back I was running and now I just halted. I mean I couldn’t even run a bit. Not even a single step. I could barely walk!

I did hit that wall!
The hinder of marathon was right front of me! Right there

I knew I really wanted to run!
My Mind was shouting at me.. Noby , you've got to make your steps faster. All I could do was just stand there and hear the voices in my head!
I saw the 4:00 balloon passing me. and the other people following it , passing me ...
And I stood there and looked! Maybe the 4 hour barrier, is not for me.. Well, definitely not this time!

But then I have to finish the run.

Jumping the hurdle
And I told myself. Well I will just walk until that tree and then I will start running again. You started to make your own toll points then !
But then I knew.. that tree.. then that car.. then that chic.. then that stone.. No! it shouldn’t be just walk ! Slowly, I started to run. It was very difficult. The pain was all over me. Nails driving into every single cell!
I ran. Then halted. Walked 2 steps. Then ran for 10 steps. halted.. This continued like , say for 1 km+.

Your mind is like a tunnel then. You only see darkness.. You look for the white light! No where to see.. You don’t hear anyone.. You don’t see anyone.Your  heart beats so much..You sweat for nothing.. You get thirsty  for nothing, yet you don’t feel like drinking anything..
And you NEED to run .. you NEED to go on.
Slowly, I could get back to running. I was looking for that 4:00 balloon and now it was nowhere in my sight! Now my next aim was to get that balloon. Grab it and just pop it out and confuse every one who was following that balloon!;)

Never in my life I'd searched for a balloon like this! ;)
Then I saw this balloon ..the balloon which is my main element in my own periodic table .. just going to the entrance of Vondel park, Which meant that I had another 2+ more km to the finishing line.
2+km ....For me these 2+ km at that point,was like swimming across the Cook Strait!

All I could do was to remember all the loved ones that went along in my life. All the blessings we all have got. All the tiny impediments we had intersected! All the turbulent ticks we had triumphed..
And the smiles from the kids of Janaseva.

Yes.. I had to do this. I ran.. At the entrance of Vondel park, I overtook the balloon. I over took the people. I was not even bothered to look at the people around it !
No time to pop the balloon !;)
I ran as much faster ..as much stronger..The Pain.. The ache..the twinge.. All that,I had to forget .. I couldn’t even concentrate on my timing now.
I just ran.
The moment I entered the stadium, I was almost shattered. Another 400 meters more... My friends were all cheering near the finish line.. The very moment I crossed the finishing line, I thanked the almighty ..thanked everyone I knew ..all in one second..,and looked up at the clock!

The clocked showed 13:39! I couldn’t believe myself...I was in tears.. again I looked up.Wiped my tears..looked up again ..13:40...
Yes  ..I did my second marathon in 3 hours and 54 minutes! 25 minutes better than my previous one! 6 minutes faster than I thought!

And Yes ..Under four hours.. I just broke the four hours barrier.. Four hours blockade.

On that beautiful Sunday, 16th October , 2011.. I just ran the marathon under 4 hours!

That feeling at that moment.. All the showers of petals on me.. Felt like the whole stadium was looking at me! All the photographers were looking at me!

The view point:
So now let me tell this again to all my friends... Running  is something we all can do.. It is your own preference how to take it.
But another thing I could really feel this time.. Every obstacle you face in your life is like this wall. But it is only YOU.... only YOU can climb that wall.
Use whatever notions that comes to you. A ladder.. A rope.. A radioactive Spider! ..Itz your own choice..

All that matters is the sentence ''Yes I can do it ! " That is finally the key to all. 42km is your life. You hit the wall here and there. You climb it..and you run again.. ..and finally you beat your own best !

And ...
You Keep Smiling..

P.S: In my last blog about my first marathon "http://me-knobz.blogspot.com/2010/10/ghost-of-pheidippides.html", many people asked me about that mysterious friend whom I mentioned in the blog.

It is my friend "Umashanker Somanchi 'aka' Bobby "
Buddy, I still owe you a lot!

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