Monday, January 19, 2009

Because I Can

Why do otherwise sane people subject themselves to physical feats that are slightly beyond them? And having done it once, and proved to themselves that they can do it, why do they attempt it again and again?
These are questions that I should perhaps be asking myself, but I know I never will, because though the answers are there, they just cannot be articulated.
The day before I attempted my third half-marathon, I was reminiscing about the boy who inspired me to cross the finish-line of my maiden half-marathon running. I carried him across the finish line during the second half-marathon I ran, and was hoping I would do the same during my third.
But I had reason to think of him long before the finish line. At the start of the race itself, I had told myself that come what may, I would not stop running till after I reached the 7 km mark, and that I would take stock of my strategy for the rest of the race only after that point. Many were the times I wanted to slow down for just a couple of seconds, but I did not. I just put my head down and concentrated on putting first one foot forward and then the next. Before I knew it, I had reached the 7 km mark, and once there, I continued running.
Even before I reached the turn-around, I knew I was in trouble. The cramps that I had been trying to ignore, could not be denied any longer, and I was forced to walk to the nearest medical camp. Ice and spray later, I was back in the race, but everytime I tried to run, the pain came back in earnest.
By the time I was back on Marine Drive, the pain was so great, the only thing I wanted to do was to just drop out and take a train home. One thing kept me going – if I quit, how could I ever look my son in the eye and tell him that he should not give up just because he doesn’t get something on the first attempt.
Two kilometers to go. Home stretch. I started running. Slowly, very, very slowly, but running. If that boy last year could keep going so could I. Pain shot through my legs – for the first time in my running life, my legs were begging me to give up. But the heart refused to listen. And the heart is always stronger than the legs.
One kilometer to go. 500 meters. 200 meters. The legs had given up sending distress messages. But the heart was not through yet. ‘Now sprint’ was the order it sent out to the legs, which was in no condition to even refuse to recognise a direct order.
I sprinted across the finish line! That last kilometer had been the fastest of the 21 I had run!
I was foolish. I was foolhardy. But I had done it!
As I limped across to the medical tent, a man came up to me – ‘Sister. You were an inspiration to me. You kept me running. Thank you.’ Even before I could tell him it was the sweetest thing I had ever heard, he had disappeared. Was he real, or just a figment of my imagination?
Maybe a little bit of both. But I a sure that next year, he will inspire someone else, and the chain of inspiration will not be broken – it cannot be.
And to answer the questions that any sane person would ask me, I would just quote from the bumper sticker I wish I had 21.097 kms – Because I Can.
But maybe not for too long. After yesterday’s race, I know that the mind is ready for 42.195 kms. How long before the body is ready, I do not yet know.

And before I leave, here is a picture of the person I ran with for almost a kilometer, before an overzealous policeman chased him away for not having a valid bib-
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Michelle Zheng said...

That's amazing, I have to say. This reminds me of a mini cross country thing I had to do for school. Only I didn't have as much willpower as you did...

Great Photo! Oh look, the dog is running too.


Natasha Ramarathnam said...

@Michelle - LOL. The doggie was my 'running companion', not the man. Though I think he and I were moving at roughly the same pace too.

And I guess you get the extra willpower, when you have just spent two hours the previous evening telling your five year old he should not quit! After all, if you are doling out advice, you should practice what you preach.

And thanks for being such a wonderful reader - it is great to have someone comment so faithfully.


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