Five months before I took part in SCMM’s half-marathon last year, I was so unfit, I could barely jog a minute on the treadmill, but I knew I wanted to participate in the Dream Run come what may. Two months before the event, I was able to run about five kilometers at a stretch, and while registering something made me tick the box for the half-marathon.
I lived in denial till the acceptance letter arrived, but with the event handbook in my hand, I could not put off accepting the fact that I had perhaps let myself into a lot more than I was aware of. Through all those long hours on the treadmill, I was conscious of only three things – I had to finish the race, I had to attempt to run at-least half the distance, and I had to do all I could to try and finish in under three hours.
During the lead up to the Race Day, on the early morning train ride, waiting in the queue for the toilets, it was just three things I kept repeating to myself – ‘finish the race, run as much of it as you can, try to do it within three hours.’ At that time, all three seemed distant possibilities, but I was determined to give my best shot.
Two and a half hours after I stepped over the starting mat, I found myself within striking distance of all three of my pre-race goals – I had just crossed the 20 kilometer mark, had definitely ‘run’ much more than twelve kilometers, and at that stage could have crawled the rest of the way and still made it within three hours.
I was that close to the finish-line, and guess what I did? I slowed down and started walking. It wasn’t that the legs couldn’t run anymore or that the lungs were bursting – it was just the mind that decided that it did not matter whether I ran or walked any longer, so Quit and decided to walk. I tried getting myself to run, but couldn’t manage more than a few steps at a time.
The last kilometer IS the hardest!
And then, I saw Him.
A young boy with cerebral palsy, valiantly pushing his wheelchair, while his concerned father walked beside him. That was the picture of true grit – he was so fatigued he could barely move his arms, but still plodded on unassisted to reach the finish-line. There was nothing in it for him – no cash prizes, no medals, no sound bytes. Nobody would have blamed him had he allowed his father to assist him. But he did not. He was determined to do it on his own, and he was doing so.
Tears came to my eyes. I wanted to go to him and congratulate him. Instead, I decided to pay a silent tribute to him by doing what he would have done had he been in my place – I started running again. And I continued running till after I crossed the finish line.
I do not know if he will be participating in the Race tomorrow. But one thing I do know. When I cross the finish-line, he will be crossing it with me. And I hope I run a race that he would be proud of.