On the day before the marathon, we ate a lot of pasta – spaghetti with arrabiata sauce, shells with pesto sauce, toasted bread etc and then packed our stuff and went over to Uncle Aunty's. I kept waking up every couple of hours all through the night. Once or twice R made her way to the bottom of the bed and sat up and started shouting “Mommy Mommy where are you?” :) So by the time, it was 5:15 and time for us to wake up, I was more nervous at the lack of sleep. It must have been stress because I have slept peacefully in the same bed in the same room many times in the past. We got all ready and left at 5:45 am. As P had done this before, it was a piece of cake. He put my bib on my Tshirt for me, put my tracker on my shoes for me hehee so I didn’t have to apply my brain anywhere and could simply focus on running and enjoying the experience. We reached downtown around 6.00 am. Already streets were closed off and you could see all the parking lots filling up close to the race destination. We found a parking lot and walked a couple of blocks to the race. Once again as I had experienced P with me, we did our warm up stretches/exercises leisurely, went to the porta potty (bathroom) multiple times and finally stood with our pace group to start the marathon. 18,000 people ran this half marathon! Everyone was divided into various corrals according to their pace. The atmosphere was almost festive, anticipation, anxiety and impatience to start the race filled the air. The announcer was a funny guy, he was making lots of jokes and cheering on each group as they started off. They sent the groups off one by one – the marathon started at 6.30 am sharp. Our pace group started at 7.00 a.m. When we started walking towards the start point, I could feel the restlessness in everyone around me. I had severe butterflies in my stomach. The announcer kept announcing – Off in five seconds, 4-3-2-1 and off you go……
In the beginning there were so many people, it didn’t feel like we were running, more walking fast in a fair. But then as the roads widened and people dispersed a bit, we actually began to run. It felt so awesome to run downtown along the high funda shops and seeing the buildings which form the magnificent skyline of the city, many people had already gathered to cheer their family and friends. It was an amazing feeling, very exciting. I remember when I had gone to see P finish the full marathon last year, the whole audience was kinda in awe of the runners, it feels so cool and you want to be a part of it. And now I was one of them, I was running and people were cheering me on…A dream come true!
The water stations were about 1-2 miles apart; volunteers had lined up holding out cups of cytomax (gaterode) and water. About a few miles after the water stops were stages set up on the streets, where a different rock and roll band was playing live. That was just amazing, the beats, the music just gave a new burst of energy and every time we passed the rock and roll bands, we automatically increased our pace and ran faster and happier.
The runners were all joyous and in high spirits. We cheered to the audience, cheered to the band, smiled for the cameras. All this lasted till about ten miles. Miles 11-13 were deathly silence, you could only hear the noise of the shoes hitting the road beneath :) and of course then around 12-13 miles, a lot of people started walking and then you could hear the self congratulatory conversations “I have never run this far before, I am so happy”, “I made good time so far, I am so happy”, “At least we have gotten so far, who cares about time” etc etc..I started walking all the uphill portions around the end of the race. We saw a girl fall down and hurt her knee and had to be taken away by medical services, she burst into tears and kept crying as they drove her away. After that everyone around me tread a bit carefully on the gravel. We passed/ran with so many amazing groups! The most amazing person I saw was this old man running slowly – his Tshirt said “1935 Original parts Still running” !!!! So this guy must have been some 70+ years and he is running a half marathon !!!! And we passed him at nine miles or so, so he had already run 9 miles !!! We told him “Tusi great ho” (In English of course) hehe….
Along the 11-12-13 mile somewhere, the toes of my right leg started burning. I got nervous at the thought of it getting worse and my not being able to finish or something but I pushed back the negative thoughts and daydreamed about crossing the finish line. P kept asking me how I was doing as I was unnaturally quiet ;) That’s another thing, I had thought I would chat chat all the way to the finish line (so P had also recommended me not talking a few days before the race just so I could save up topics for discussion on the actual day, Yes, that brilliant idea didn’t work, I didn’t shut up hehee). When we were actually running the race, I couldn’t talk!!!! I had to conserve my energy and shut up!! So it was just us quietly running, with P offering encouraging words and I am proud of yous to boost my spirits :)))
So many people had gathered towards the 12-13 miles, they all kept cheering and assuring us how good we looked, how close we were to the finish line etc. It felt amazing!! Then somewhere around mile 13 marker, N, one of my mentors met us. He gave me a couple of M&Ms to give me a shot of energy in order for me to smile :)) for the camera at the finish line. It felt really good to see him, at that point of time, I was exhausted, I didn’t want to admit to myself or to anyone that I was tired because I thought if I said it aloud, I wouldn’t be able to finish but I was. I was yearning for the finish line and it just seemed to be farther and farther away, around the next bend and the next…..just like our sole Himalayan trekking experience; “Oh yes, our base camp is right after that mountain out there, and the mountains kept shifting”….
But that momentous moment had arrived. P and N pointed to the finish line in the distance and My God it was like a burst of energy surged through my body. I had actually planned to finish holding P’s hands, all romantic and smiling, but when I saw that finish line, my body just shot ahead, without a mind of its own. I raced towards the finish line, I couldn’t believe I was running so fast when I didn’t feel like I had any energy left in me. I kept asking “P, is that it? Is that it?” A highly amused P followed me, gone were my plans of holding hands with him, all I saw was the finish and I ran with all my energy towards it !! I tried to smile for the three photographers perched at different angles and then abruptly the race was over! Just like that! Those last few seconds of adrenaline still left my heart pumping and I felt like I could really run a few more miles on it.
I had thought I would cry when I finish but in reality I was more emotional when I started than when I finished! I was choking back tears when the announcer had said “And off you go, Welcome to the XYZ Rock and Roll”!
I do plan to keep running and aspire to run the full marathon one day. Running the half marathon has refreshed my confidence in myself. I remember when I announced it to different people that I was going to try to run the half marathon, there were different reactions – My boss had said “Maybe you should try a 5K first”, others had laughed as if I was joking, some had nodded in disbelief. It always feels good to prove something to yourself that you can still do what you put your heart to and this gives me the confidence to believe in myself and apply this optimism to overcoming other obstacles in my life. Also in ending, all of this was possible because of the unwavering support of my dearest husband! He was the one who patiently babysat a cranky R on weekdays and entertained her on Sunday mornings, always told me that “Of course you can do it”, and babysat (ran) me through the entire first half marathon experience. Maybe one day we can run the full marathon together and Yes, this time, I will hold hands with him at the finish.