"I can do it, I can do it." For a whole three days, this is all I kept telling myself. A marathon had always been on my bucket list but it turned out to be far more an experience than I had imagined it to be.
Our journey started out together as Krish, my husband, and I went to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel for the race pack collection event the evening before the race. Unsurprisingly, we were faced with a maze of runners all eager to get their hands on their bibs and kits.
A marathon is a perfect opportunity to spread a message and what better way to do so than carrying a message on your back as you run the miles! For years, my mission has been to reduce my dependency on plastic and both Krish and I pounced on the opportunity to emblazon a passionate message of ours on our backs for the race. "REFUSE PLASTIC BAGS. SAVE OUR EARTH."
"TEAM VEGAN: POWERED BY PLANTS."
We left home at 6 am on the 26th of January 2018 and took a taxi to the start point on Jumeirah Road. By this time, the elite runners had already begun their race and the standard marathoners were due to begin at 7 am. Soon, it was kickoff and we began our long journey.
Posing just before the Start line (a broad smile...not realising what it would be like at the Finish line)
Alright, now it’s time to break down the run. As you can see below, my official completion time as per Mika timing, the official time partner, was 6 hours, 53 minutes, and 29 seconds. However, when I took a look at Strava (the app that I used to track the run myself), I noticed that my moving time was 6:19:26, some 34 minutes less than my completion time. So, you may be wondering: hey, where did all that time go? Well, let me take you through the run.
Below is a screenshot of my run recorded on Strava.
As I was fresh out of the blocks, my steps felt springy and full of energy. I was able to maintain a reasonable pace. At this stage, the whole idea in mind was to reach the finish point, and the run was paced out well. Both Krish and I ran the first ten kilometres together. Sometimes, we ran hand in hand to share the joy and spur on each other to the finish line. As we ran, our proud “Team Vegans: Powered by Plants” message led to a few other vegans cheering us along and giving us a shout out. It really pleased me that the messages were having an impact. This momentum and steady pace continued until the 15 kilometres mark.
At around 18 kilometres, I was now in unchartered territory and the first signs of trouble appeared as I started developing some numbness on my right limbs. Using my yoga knowledge, I took a quick break and performed some stretches to ease the muscles and then restarted. However, this time I ran with a different strategy of alternating the run with a walk.
For the next 7 kilometres, until I completed 25 km, I opted for the run/walk strategy with a few stretches in between. My desire was to run for 10 minutes and walk for 2 minutes but with the numbness setting in, I couldn’t run for more than 4 mins at a go. This numbness along with the infamous Dubai heat led to frustration creeping in. However, such was the cheer and support from the volunteers and numerous passersby that I kept pushing on, regardless of the obstacles. A huge thanks to all those who served water, fruits, and motivated every runner along the way.
Between the 25 and 30 kilometres stage, I was struggling to even run and the frustration was mounting. The sun was scorching and I was getting very uncomfortable. Apart from the numbness, I was now starting to also feel cramps on my hip joint, to be precise, the head of the Femur bone. I was struggling to bear the pain but I then reviewed the 5 reasons why I chose to run the marathon and strove to keep moving forward.
After a further 5 kilometres of walking, I had reached 35 kilometres but with every step forward, I felt like giving up. The cramps had escalated and brisk walking was now out of the picture. However, it was only physical fatigue that was plaguing me. My mental and emotional battery was fully charged and with my hands held tightly on my hip joint, I dragged myself to a point where I found a gentleman from the crew and asked him for a pain-killer. He suggested I seek help from the medical team who were about 250 m away. I limped and made my way to the ambulance, where I grabbed a pain killer and sat down for a while.
After a quick recharge, I lifted myself up and started walking. The rest had done me a world of good and the limp had now become a stroll. Very soon, I picked up the pace. At the 41 km mark, the finish line was now in sight and I wished that I could run to the finish line to grab a hug from Krish. Nevertheless, I walked till the end and then let out a sigh in jubilation as I crossed the finish line. I had done it! With no training whatsoever, I battled my way through a full marathon and came out relatively unscathed with only a slight niggle in the hip.
The moment i decided to participate in the marathon, my first point of contact was my college mate Sunil. He was amazing in giving me tips and also sharing his expertise. Motivation from a marathoner really helped me move forward.
Sunil got in touch with his running group 'Soles of Cochin' who showered me with their tips. Thanks to each and one of them for encouraging me.
Krish's colleague, Rency, was almost like a running partner with me, just that she kept motivating me through Whatsapp messages! Thank you to Rency and her family for all the motivational messages that I really needed on the last leg.
Finally, a huge thanks to all my family members and friends who were tracking me with the bib number.
Now, I get asked this question - "Will you run another marathon?"
Well, running a marathon isn't as easy as it sounds. It requires hours of training and most importantly, a passion to run. Though mine was a spontaneous decision, it helped me realise that my spine, which I thought was the weakest part of my body, had strengthened manyfold. This is completely attributed to my yoga practice which has helped me understand my muscles and body alignment. For a person like me who suffered from a slipped disc years ago, this was definitely something unimaginable. In fact, life was back to normal the same evening when i managed to iron my clothes and cook pasta for dinner.
At the moment, I seem unsure about running the next full marathon but I reckon this is the beginning of many interesting journeys ahead...