I punched in, gasping. I climbed four floors from parking to reach my office. Before starting the PC, I sat down quietly for a minute to regain my breath, greeted everyone, and started with the day. It was a routine.
Those gasps were embarrassing for me. I no longer wanted to be in that state. I played football for half an hour every day. But I did not run much because I didn’t have stamina and hated gasping. To avoid being in that state, I avoided running. Days passed by with this state.
I was scrolling through Facebook newsfeed one day and noticed a friend interested in an event. It was marathon. I commented to ask how much distance a participant needs to run. He replied there were various distances. 5 kilometers (km), 10 km, and 21 km.
The date of marathon was a month away. It was the time I decided I will run 10 km marathon. Not because I want to participate in marathon (which was in my bucket list, but never took it seriously), but to stop that gasping after little efforts. A 25 year old guy does not look good when he gasps after little efforts. I wanted to be fit, build stamina, and feel good about myself. The marathon was a reason due to which I would run every day and build stamina.
The journey had been phenomenal.
I started running from the next day. I gasped after barely 500 meters on day one and my legs began aching at thighs and calves. I increased distance every day. First few days were difficult. For the entire day, I could not walk straight due to pain in thighs and calves, and sometimes in shins. I gave up eating fast food and biscuits, and began eating healthy food only. Two boiled eggs, three bananas, and a glass of milk along with two meals. Chocolate is an exception. It is a sin to say no to chocolates. Whenever I could eat chocolate, I ate. But I tried to eat healthy.
The result was there. After two weeks, I wasn’t gasping and could run 3 kms. Not in the same speed, but I was able to cover the distance every day.
Then I sought help from my friend, who runs marathon and half marathon regularly. He guided me to run with the right technique and motivated to increase distance. When he told me the correct techniques, I realized I had been running so wrong. I used to run by landing the heel first. Landing on heels causes injuries due to shift in the center of gravity. He guided me to run with toes first, swing hands from shoulders, lean forward little, and pull legs as high as to reach butt. I was glad I could know this with two weeks remaining for the event.
I started running with that technique. Again, it was too difficult to run with the right technique. The technique used by marathon runners to reach more distance with less endurance. With this technique, all the pressure was put on calves and ankles. On first day with the technique, both calves were paining enormously. I was limping next day. Though it was excruciating, I ran the next day. I reduced the distance and focused on right technique. But, both calves and ankles gave up on the day two. I was able to barely walk, let alone running. I could not run on the day three with new technique. I did not run.
On day four with the technique, the pain reduced and I could run 3 kms with right technique. The next two days, I increased the distance up to 4 km and ran with the right technique throughout with varying speeds.
Then I made a mistake. I ate Chinese food after a movie next day. The oil used to make the food made a call. I was ill. Only a week to go for a race, I could barely run 4 kms and I had to take two days off to recover fully. I regretted eating Chinese food so much. It was not a big issue, but with my overthinking, I made it. I was so worried. My friend comforted me. He told me not to worry and I could finish 10 kms on the next Sunday because of the vibe of the marathon.
I began running after two days of full rest. Again, the calves were aching. I could not walk straight. The next day was even worse. My knees began aching. It was frustrating. I had the technique right, then why was it happening?
The next day, four days left for the event, was the most painful one. I could barely walk. Still, I began to run. Calves did not stop paining, knees were weak, and shin bone began aching too. Why the shin bone now? Still, I ran 3 km. Very slowly, but ran. It was the day I realized we can endure more than we think we can.
Three days left. I don’t know what happened during the night. When I woke up, I felt very less pain. I don’t know how. But I was able to walk well. When I started running, calves were hurting, but very little. I could feel strong knees and there was less pain in shin bone. I ran 4 km with varying speeds.
The next day was great. I ran 5 km with varying speeds and right technique. There was little pain, but I managed to run. I decided to take a break a day before the event to run with fresh legs at the event.
It was the first marathon of my life. I could not fall asleep the night before. I barely slept for 2 hours and set two alarms five minutes apart.
And the morning arrived. I drove so fast that a street dog tried to chase me but gave up the thought in the next second. I reached at 5:40 am. If I wake up at this hour, I felt cold so much. But today, it was different. The cold environment was filled with enthusiasm, enchantment, and excitement.
The race timing for 21 km was 5:45 am. I noticed participants gathered at the starting point. As I reached there, a participant asked me where I got the pins to attach chest number to T-shirt. I had four, so I gave him one. I asked if wanted one more, but he refused and ran away. He was participating in 21 km. The whistle blew and 21 km race began.
The 10 km race was at 6:00 am. Before the race, they called all participants for warm up. The music played and everyone was doing Zumba by following dancers on the stage for 10 minutes. Everyone was filled with ecstasy and pumped up for the race. There were participants of all the ages. Few people were uplifting participants’ spirit. After the warm up, everyone gathered at the starting point. The whistle blew.
Everyone started patiently. I began with moderate pace and the right technique. First few kilometers were easy. I jogged with uniform speed with random thoughts running in my mind. Sometimes, few moments of the practice and pain popped in my head. Sometimes, witty bantering with friends. There were fellow runners who motivated everyone to keep running. As I moved ahead, calves began hurting a little as my feet touched the ground. After four kilometers, I slowed down as pain grew. I realized the strength in my legs was not enough. After five kilometers, the organizers sprinkled ink on our chest numbers.
As ink was sprinkled, my pace lowered. I moved ahead slowly and could see the sky getting brightened up from dark. It was the best feeling to see light emerging from the dark. The crescent moon disappeared. The sun was not visible yet, but there was light. I slowed down too much. My thighs, calves, shin bone, and groins began aching. I began using the techniques my friend told me. Whenever you feel like giving up, chase the guy running ahead or match the rhythm with other runners. I did the same. I began chasing the guy ahead.
The last two miles were the most difficult. My pace reached the lowest, but I was jogging. I felt like I was going to have abs at the end of the race. All fats burned. When I saw a board stating only one kilometer was remaining, I suddenly felt energized. I ran the last kilometer with more speed. At the finish line, dhol and tasha band was congratulating the runners for finishing what they signed up for. And it felt great to cross the finish line. Then I collected medal and snacks. To my delight, there were gulab jamuns. It was the best thing about finishing. They should have told me before about gulab jamuns. I would have finished earlier. However, my timing was 1 hour 10 minutes 13 seconds.
The organization was fabulous. The vibe was fabulous. And the experience was fabulous. I learned a lot that I would have never learned. And I will keep running even after the event is finished. I don’t want to loathe in the misery of gasping again.