I had run a Marathon almost three years back (SUN Oct 31st, 04). That was my first marathon (or any official long distance run). I had emailed my experience to my friends and many have commented that it was quite inspiring. So I guess its worth a dekko :-). I am re-publishing it here.
Yes, I did it! I ran the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday (26.2 miles). And as they say in “Chariots of Fire”, we ran with “..hopes in our hearts and wings on our heels..”. My time was 5:28:43.
It was a great marathon, with incredible spectator support. It took us through Georgetown, past all the great D.C. monuments, around a waterfront golf course,
and then back into Virginia, past the famous Arlington cemetery. Being Halloween, there were several runners and many spectators who had dressed for the occasion. I saw several Supermen, Kermit the frog, vampires, devils and what not.
What can I say about the marines? They were absolutely incredible. Every one of them was smartly dressed, courteous, very very fit and always in control. Throughout the race, they were yelling out to support the runners, manning the water stations and were
unfailingly efficient. Some marines ran the race with full gear (backpack and all). I came to the race Start at around 7.20am, checked my bag and joined the Asha (http://www.ashanet.org) team who were already there. While I was a bit nervous the
day before, on Sunday I was excited more than anything else. There were about 15000 runners with an equal number of supporters. Looking at that scene was unbelievable. All you can see was a sea of humanity for half a mile. I started my race at 8.43am. Rock
music was playing in the background. Tens of thousands of supporters were cheering – it was just incredible.
The first two miles were a breeze. All I did was just look around. At mile 2 we passed the highest point in the race. Mile 3,4,5 were smooth – the crowds were thinner, but we were running in the woods and could see the fall colors in full splendor. At mile 6 the sun came out and it really started beating down. I forgot to get my cap and that really started to hurt. At mile 10 we reached the Lincoln Memorial. There were a lot of Asha volunteers there to cheer me up. By mile 12 I was dehydrated and started hitting the wall. Usually this does not happen until 17 or 18 miles, so I was kind of worried. I lost all hopes of completing in 4:30 and just wanted to finish it. I stopped at all the water stations, drank lots of water, powerade and drenched myself all over. At this point I joined a small group led by a marine. He was running with a huge staff carrying the US flag and was singing the
Marine Corps songs. We joined him in chorus – it was so much fun. By mile 14 I was feeling much better. My bhabhi was there in the crowd waiting for me to show up. I felt so happy to see her. I was well into the groove and started picking up speed. Miles 1-6 took me
1:20, Miles 6-14 -> 1:40 and Miles 14-20 -> 1:20 and Mile 20-26 just 1hr. By this time I discovered a formula for boosting my performance. Whenever I started feeling low, all I had to do was run along the supporters and do high-fives. That was more than enough to pump me up.
At mile 22 we reached Crystal City. There was a live band playing for us. At mile 24 my brother joined me and ran till the end of the race. Having someone to run along really helps. We started an impromptu Antakshari session starting with “Hum Honge Kaamiyaab..”, .. “Pyar hame kis modepe lejaaye” and then switched to telugu songs covering Gang Leader and Gharana Mogudu :-). Surprisingly the crowds were
pretty thin during this last stretch. Maybe it was because we were running around the Pentagon or maybe because of the heat. After 25.5 miles I started to sprint. I started using my quads and just ran as fast I could. There was a steep hill and then the Finish
arch was in sight. However crossing the finish line was sort of anticlimactic. There were no bursting of fireworks, no horns blaring, no fans coming over to lift me up :-). I guess I was expecting a bigger crowd, but then they may have left already – it was so hot and I took almost 5 ½ hours. Well I barely had enough strength to get my medal, pose for the post
marathon photograph, grab my bag and head for the Asha tent.
How do I feel now ? More than my personal achievement, I’m happy that I ran for Asha and raised money for the kids. You have supported for this cause, and donated so generously, it will change the lives of several kids in India. They will get an education, and a shot at the future, things that all of us have taken for granted. For those of you who were waiting for me to finish the marathon to donate :-), please go to http://www.ashanet.org/nycnj/events/2004/hoh/runners/vamsi.html. Thanks for all your support – I couldn’t have done it without all of you!
Thinking back about the entire Marathon experience – starting about 5 months back in June, running over 500 miles, braving through all the shin, ankle and knee pains, forgoing many of the evenings and most of the weekends to train and the final indescribable, incredible, memorable Marathon run itself. Was it really worth it ? Well, all I can say is “Yeh Dil Maange More!”.