The satisfaction of completion

I am yet to blog about my ride on Bliss In The Hills. But figured I need to write up on my 1st FM(Full Marathon) run on 18th Oct 2015. These days marathons are considered no big deal, with people doing Ironman distance triathlons, and ultra runs featuring 50, 100kms and even 24 hour challenges. I had got back to running earlier this year by running the TCS 10K in 50:48 and the Bangalore 10k (from the Bangalore Marathon organizers) in 49:07 seconds. The latter was on 12th July. I registered for the marathon around that time.

I train on my own and along with 2 groups of runners within my APT complex. Its during one of my solo interal training runs that it happened. Our apartment block has a walking pathway that measures 910m. I was doing 250m and 150m interval training intersperced by approx 250m relaxed running. During my final run, I overdid a sprint. I felt a jolt of pain at the base of my bum, where the hamstring begins. This pain did not go away easily.
I stopped running for a few days to see if the pain would ease, but it did not. My original goal was to run my first FM at a decent pace and run the HM in Mumbai in Jan pushing for speed. But thanks to my greed, I had the nagging feeling that I had injured myself.
Of course finishing Bliss In The Hills was a priority for me , so i decided not to risk further injury( I was able to pedal without much issues), and was able to cycle at decent pace (I did Bangalore – Tirupattur – Bangalore , about 270 km in 10:30 including breaks), so decided not to push my luck. My goal was to wait till Oct 4th and then use the 14 days to train for the event.
When the injury happened, I could barely walk, and going up and down stairs was painful. Eventually I could walk but my right leg was still strained.
It was late September when I decided to take professional help. I went to Sparrc, Indiranagar (This is the place where I had gone last year to deal with another injury – Morton’s neuroma, which kept me off running fo 2 years). I completed 3-4 days of physio therapy (reflex -point therapy is what they call it) and I was in okay condition to ride Bliss In The Hills. Thankfully I managed to complete Bliss In The Hills. After completing BITH on Oct 4th (it took me a couple of days to start running , i was exhausted from BITH). The physio, Ganesh from sparrc advised me to run, but take it easy . “Sir you can run but don’t push for speed. Also if you feel any discomfort, please stop”. On 15th (Thu) I decided to try and run a little and gauge myself. I ran 3.7km in 21 minutes and felt i could go longer at that speed. However later in the day, my hamstring hurt and I was mildly rebuked by the physio for pushing myself. So nothing left to do but relax and run. I had not run more than a few km for more than 2 months. The longest I had run was the 12th July 10km run for a while. I decided to postpone the decision of running to as late as possible. I went and collected my bib, etc on Fri evening and then decided to just go to the start point.
The start time itself was at 4:45 and the reporting time 04:00. So i had to sacrifice my sleep for the night. Slept 3 hours or so (but had compensated previous night by having an extended sleep and had taken a cat nap in the afternoon). Along with two other marathoners , Praveen and Shirisha from my apartment I went to the stadium. Praveen’s driver dropped us at the stadium. From the start time, I ran at a steady pace but well within myself ( or so I thought). At the 3km mark I checked it was 20 minutes, I decided to continue going at this pace, quickly calculating that it would be about 2:20 or so when i reached the half way mark. I decided not to fall in the trap of running faster when I spotted people whom I perceived as slower than me. Today was a test of my discipline on not running too fast, and I decided to stick to my relaxed pace. I remember the 4:00 and the 4:30 bus going ahead of me in Cubbon park. As I went past Cubbon road , the 04:45 bus went past me. I shouted out ‘Which bus is this?’ The bus driver shouted back ’04:45′ .
Me : Does this bus have bus stops?
He(taken aback) : Smiling , ha ha, good one.
The armymen from Madras Sappers cheering us on the ring road around Ulsoor Lake. We took a right turn on to the Indira nagar 100ft road. After crossing CMH Road, I spotted the lead car and the time on it was 1:40 approximately. The lead runners were running behind. As I entered the inner ring road, I spotted Opendro running in the opposite direction – figured he was going to complete in less than 3:30. As I ran midway I mentally posted a goal of trying and completing the hm distance by 2:30 and then push the return to 2:15 or even 2:00 ( I had run a half marathon in 1:57:23 in Jan 2013 ) . I continued running at this pace and reached the 20km mark in around 02:10.
As I approached the U turn point I spotted Kiran Kumar of Fitness through travels stretching on the other side. I remember thinking ‘I didn’t know he is fast’. Once I took the U turn , things started getting a little difficult for me. Things started going downhill from here. the U turn point was at Forum mall and at that point I felt a strain on my legs. After turning around, maybe a few hundred meters later I stopped running and decided to walk. After this I tried running but my legs refused to obey. From this point onwards I remeber really struggling. As I reached Koramangala police station, I needed to push harder. Once I took a left turn at Sony World, I must have had a clearly visible limp, because at almost every stall or aid station, people were approaching me and asking me ‘Are you okay, Sir?’ only for me to respond “Yes I am fine”. But I obviously wasn’t. In the inner ring road, the road is a little imperfect and the soles of my feet were beginning to hurt. I mean ‘Beginning to hurt’ , because it would get a little worse later on. One guy who overtook me told me to stretch. It was hurting to stretch my hamstring, I told him.
He : “Trust me, it might hurt stretching, but please do”
I decided to try it. My hamstring was too tight, so I stretched my calf muscles for some time and then my hamstring, I could do a little stretching, and after stretching for 5 minutes I could move a little better. The hobble, walk, stretch technique of painful locomotion continued till I reached Old Madras Road. Now it was a little late and both sides had been opened to traffic. By this time a group of struggling runners had bunched together, in a rather unstructured way. Very different from the focused superpack that was visible at the start of the race.

Once we came back to Cubbon road, it was easier. The road was not cordoned off and there was traffic but it was minimal and they were not getting in our way. We came across the red light at the Brigade Road (rather Kamraj road at this junction) intersection and ran through the red signal stopping traffic. The Fortis aid station at the fag end of the road had a volunteer rushing out with ice. I told her to give me the ice cubes, she wanted to ice me herself. Not wanting to waste time in conversation and still being in a hurry to finish the race( despite my snail’s pace now), I took the ice from her, firmly pressed it against the base of my hamstring and hobbled till the intersection fo Kasturba Road (JDP junction). At this point we had to cross over to the other side, which we did by running (!) across the road. About 100m before Mallya Road the 37km board lay down on the footpath, and I jumped over it. Now running on the road was very difficult as the pockmarked tar road was really searing my soles. For the first time in my life, I found barefoot running painful.

Kiran, who was running barefoot himself joined me at the start of Cubbon road (or rather, I caught up with him).From this point on, we would be running together (He would sprint a little and stretch a lot, while I would continuously limp at a very constant pace of about 5.5 kmph and catch up with him). We approached and entered Cubbon Park around the same time. 5 km felt like a loooong distance.  There was a huge loop inside cubbon park, we had to go all the way to the back of the library and go through a roundabout route via the road parallel to Queen’s road. All the while I was inside Cubbon Park, I kept hopping on the footpath where the stones were much more comfortable than the pockmarked tar roads. Honestly I kept looking around for somebody to borrow any sort of footwear from. My soles were burning with every step on tar, and was somewhat comfortable on the footpath. As far as running ‘form’ or ‘pose’ was concerned, duh, forget it. I was happy to just go ahead , one step at a time. As we ran on the road behind the library, we saw all the runners coming from KR Circle (We had to go another 3 km to reach a point where I could just jump across — I was tempted to call off the run and go to the stadium and just eat the breakfast 🙂 ) .  As I was thinking these thoughts, I was woken up from my reverie by Kiran. Now me, Kiran,Praveen , and a bunch of strugglers were all motivating each other and making painful progress

On the road parallel to Queens Road, The drummers had got exhausted by now and were sitting on the footpath. We painfully trudged our way inside


“Chiddu, try using the footpath, it is much easier there.” Words, measured words from a friend who has cycled with me on multiple trips. Kiran was also running barefeet, and obviously was struggling as much as I was, to come to grips with the abrasion the soles were taking. So I continued , tiptoeing towards and continuing on the sidewalk. It was much more pleasant there, smooth stones as opposed to the dimpled surface that characterized the tar road.
At one point near the Sheshadri memorial library, we had to cross the road. The route here was such that we had to complete a 3.5 km loop and come back , and there was a barricade separating us from the riders who had added 3.5 km to their kitty.

By the time we reached the stretch parallel to Queen’s road , the drummers there were relaxing , exhausted!. Push , limp, motivate each other, look for the next pole as the target! We kept going ahead , feet by feet. Got on to the road next to Vidhan Soudha and finally back on to Cubbon Park. As we passed the library again, a coach (or motivator) was urging all the walkers to run. So I gave in and decided to limp harder (could not find a better expression to describe it). I limped, lunged , ran sideways and pushed the last 800 meters to conjure up a seemingly sprintish run . Once  I crossed the line, the only emotion that I could detect was one of relief. I headed into the rehab tent, and had the pleasure of meeting Anil Kumar, another barefoot runner. He handed over his ice pack for me to put my foot on.

My result link


PS : Had typed this long ago. Quickly completed a narrative and posted it now.