As I sailed across the finishing line at the Delhi Airtel Half Marathon, successfully completing 21 km in two hours and forty minutes, the memory of the first time I ran flashed before me.
I still remember the incredulous look on my husband’s face many years ago. We had been married about a month.
‘What do you mean… you don’t really exercise?’
‘Well I do. I mean I did. I mean I kind of exercised, ‘I replied.
‘Ok , and what kind ‘ he asked encouragingly
‘I used to exercise to a Jane Fonda video.’
‘Jane Fonda. Ok that’s pretty good stuff.’
He seemed genuinely pleased so I decided that this was not a good time to disclose that I had never gone beyond the warm up and arm exercises.
‘So let’s go for a run this evening,’ he said.
‘Sure’ I said airily. What’s the big deal about running anyway, I thought to myself. Piece of cake!
In the evening I was ready at the appointed time in my brand new pink track suit with my brand new pink shoes. I thought I looked rather glamorous and athletic. I mean, isn’t that all there is to a run.
After running three hundred meters I was huffing and puffing and totally out of breath. It didn’t take my husband long to realize that I was just bluffing and was actually terribly unfit.
In the evening, some of his course mates dropped by for dinner and heard out my running woes. They were terribly upset with my husband. ‘Just what are you doing to this poor girl? She’s not an NDA cadet, you know.’
‘Everyone needs to exercise,’ he told them. ‘Why would anyone choose to be unfit?’
To cut a long story short, his words struck a chord and instilled in me a desire to get fit. The best thing about army cantonments is that you can always find a way to exercise. I started with brisk walks in the spacious cantonment at Ahmednagar and graduated to running.
Then the kids came along. When Addy was six months old, hubby took us along for the JC course at Mhow. There, a daily three kilometer walk to the shopping center and back with Addy in his pram, ensured that the running muscles were –well, walking at least.
Then came Hisar, a beautifully laid out cantonment – and Angad, our younger one. There I started cycling. Not on a fancy cycle, just the regular Atlas kind. But I discovered it was a fantastic way to shed those extra pounds. I cycled ten kilometers every evening and lost all the post baby fat.
The walking/cycling/running bug had bitten me well and truly by then and when we were posted to Allahabad – not truly a classic army cantonment - we were allotted a house which opened onto a busy national highway. I grumbled to my husband that there was no way I could exercise there.
He replied, ‘If you really want to you will find a way.’
And I did. I started waking at 5 am and cycling on the National highway before the roads became crowded with traffic! In the hotter months I started running on the treadmill in the gym. One day I ran 3 km in the gym. I felt I had arrived. My husband suggested I run 5km.
‘No way,’ I thought. ‘I have reached my limit.’
Then he said, ‘It’s all in the mind. If you want to do something, you will be able to do it.’ To my amazement I was able to. That was a moment of euphoria for me!
After that there was no looking back. I became more ambitious and decided to run the Delhi Airtel Half Marathon. I started training very late by marathon standards. I began in mid-July. I started off with two shortw runs on the treadmill and a long run on Sunday mornings. I kept increasing the length of the Sunday run and about two weeks before the marathon I ran 18 km.
I found if I told myself I was going to run 8 km, I could run 8 km. However, If I decided I was going to run 5 km and then tried running more, a whiney little voice in my head would nag, ‘We were to do 5. We did 5. I’m tired now.’ And my body would refuse to listen to me after that. Sometimes during a long run the Whiney Voice would try and psyche me after a while. Sometimes I did get psyched. Then I learnt to tell that voice to keep quiet. The thing about the Whiney Voice is the moment you retaliate it cowers down.
A month before the marathon I ran the Pinkathon with a friend. It is a run exclusively for women aimed at raising breast cancer awareness. That was a huge confidence boost. However, a week before the marathon I began to get the jitters. The Whiney Voice kept subtly planting doubts in my head. Then I told it sternly that I was simply going to enjoy the experience and my only aim would be to complete the half marathon.
A marathon is an amazing experience. To think it all began in 490 BC when the Greek messenger Pheidippides ran 42.19 kilometrers or 26 miles 385 yards from Marathon to Athens to announce a famous Greek victory over the Persians. Legend has it that he ran the distance without a pause, and burst into to the anxious assembly, exclaiming ‘Nenikekamen’ – we have won, before collapsing and dying. This race, to commemorate his deed, came about thereafter, celebrated not only as an Olympic event, but in hundreds of local marathons the world over.
The statue of Pheidippides at Athens
The energy, the joy and the fun cannot be described in words. It has to be seen and experienced. Runners encourage you as you they run past you, onlookers cheer and volunteers hand you refreshments. It is one big carnival. And the euphoria of completing…how can I even begin to describe that! I let myself be carried on by the surge of runners around me, felt that whiney voice come and go, told it to shut up, and ran with the flow. 5 kilometers gone – not bad; 10 kilometers now, - Good Lord I am not even halfway there; -15 kilometers – that’s it I can’t go any more ; 20 , Almost there and then the final exhilarating stretch where the tiredness seems to leave you with the cheers of the crowd and finally the euphoria of the finish. I did it. I am no Phiedipiddes, not even a full marathoner, but boy , have I completed the half marathon.
I now realize that if I am physically fit today it is because of my association with the army. I married an army man who is physically very fit and is always challenging himself by raising the bar higher. Somewhere along the way I guess this has rubbed off on me. And as I pant my way across the finish line, do I dare ask – “What next?’
Hi Supriya Ma'am,
Congrats for being the moderator of this blog! So glad that I got a chance to go through it. Your blog shows your will power, family support and the final message to STAY FIT! Not to ignore the the story behind the word MARATHON & Pheidippides, which are so enlightening!
Yes, now you may dare to go for an Olympic Marathon! :D