I live in odd times, when it comes to Indian festivals. Growing up, we would know when something was coming up because there'd be a public holiday. In grad school I would know because my mom would give me instructions on the phone on when to call and wish family members, plus I would notice the full moon and make a connection to which month had which festival, the new moon festivals went by unnoticed for the most part though. Now, a recent conversation went like this:
Me (to a friend a couple of days ago): I think it's Holi soon.
Friend: Really? I haven't gotten any Whatsapp greetings yet.
Today I woke up to a barrage of videos, stock photo greetings and large group messages. There's no need to look further than my phone, I guess it is officially Holi :)
...I haven't felt this nervous since I had pre-marathon jitters a few years ago. I'm off to join a bunch of friends in climbing Half Dome at Yosemite National Park on Thursday. The nerves started when I was told to prepare for it just the way I would prep for a marathon. Hydrate, carb load, and rest up. Similar to what happened when I looked at the course map 3 days before the DC marathon, I started reading about the cable ascent yesterday and since then slight panic has set in. When I haven't been shopping for hiking gear, I've been having nightmares about falling off the mountain. I did go get a pedicure, so at least I will have nice feet no matter what happens. I don't intend to be foolhardy, and I am excited. I get to see a friend I haven't seen in over ten years though we stayed in touch and she's the one who made this whole trip possible, and climbing Half Dome has been on my bucket list ever since I saw it in the distance in 2007. I just have no desire to kick the bucket while actually doing it.
I'm hoping to come back with some good stories, pictures, and memories to last a lifetime. Now time to go hyperventilate elsewhere.
Another adventure lies ahead. I'm done with grad school. Moving to a new place is exciting but it also means I'll be internet-less for the next 10 days, mostly thanks to poor planning on my part. So I'm celebrating my last hour of internet access from the comfort of the family couch by marking the occasion here. My bags are packed to the brim and I managed one overhead press with my carry-on bag which should suffice for hauling it in and out of the overhead luggage space.
Awake. At 4:30 am. With myriad thoughts chasing themselves round and round in my head. I'm trying to divert myself by making good on a promise made a while ago and so here I sit trying to write something, anything, after a long time... ... ... ...
Since that hasn't really yielded much, it appears, here's a poem instead -
In the house of Mr and Mrs Spouse he and she would watch teevee and never a word between them spoken until the day the set was broken.
Then 'How do you do?' said he to she 'I don't believe that we've met yet. Spouse is my name. What's yours?' he asked.
'Why, mine's the same!' said she to he, 'Do you suppose that we could be - ?'
But the set came suddenly right about, and so they never did find out.
Since I finally bit the bullet and started training for a marathon this fall, plenty of people have said, "I didn't know you run, since when have you been running?" Therein, definitely lies a tale.
Summer 2001 : The treat I was getting after a (supposedly) gruelling 2 years preparing for the HSC board exams and the JEE was a Youth Hostels Association trek up in the Himalayas. It was a memorable trip up in the mountains. I came back sunburnt and happy, with lots of stories, pictures and a ravenous appetite. There's nothing like strapping on a backpack and trudging up mountains at an altitude of a few thousand metres to make you capable of eating everything in sight. It doesn't hurt on the trek but back at sea level that can be a different story.
Freshie times : So with all that trekking under my belt, I started college and got swept up in all the late nights, coffee, making new friends and the rest. While chowing down some of the greasiest, most terrible hostel mess food ever. It was a classic case of the Freshman 15, if there ever was one. Somewhere by the middle of the semester, I could tell my jeans were starting to complain. By the time end semester exams rolled around, it seemed like time for some action.
Dec break : The final straw on this camel's back came when I went back home after the semester. I come from a place that sends about a dozen strapping youths to IITs every year and people are used to seeing these kids come back looking like wraiths after a semester of not being able to eat mess food. And there I was, chubby cheeked and noticeably tubby. Definitely unusual. There were plenty of digs on the lines of, "Suna tha mess ka khaana accha nahi hota, sudhar gaya hai lagta hai." Gets embarassing after a few times.
So I decided to make a New Year resolution (apparently I wasn't embarassed enough to start something right away, in the middle of December), to go running with a senior in hostel who used to run fairly regularly. Seemed like a reasonable option for someone who never really played any sports as a kid. I already had sneakers, shorts (and an abundance of free T-shirts). All I had to do was get out and jog. And jog I did. I tagged along with Vidya on the 3rd of Jan 2002. We went up a hill which defeated me somewhere in the middle. Still, I was hooked. That started a habit of running for about 45 minutes maybe 2 or 3 times a week.
This is one New Year resolution that has stayed with me now for close to 8 years. I've given up on running in between, due to illness or struggling with adjusting to a new place (where I promptly put on weight again). But running has never been far from my mind. I'm happy to be running regularly again, challenging myself to do distances I've never done before.
A friend however, had a simple explanation for why I run. After watching me struggle with a piece of sushi and a pair of chopsticks for about 15 minutes, he said, "I know why you run, you're too uncoordinated to do anything else! "
Finally, I'm back to running regularly. After 3 years of doing the odd 5K and 4 mile races, I signed up for the NYC Half-marathon as part of my training with Team Asha. Running has been fun so far, with a few aches and pains but no serious issues so far.
There was much planning for race weekend. The race coincided with Kray's much awaited trip to the US and so Saturday was devoted to walking around with Sup and Kray seeing the sights of NYC. The good thing was that I was tired enough to fall straight to sleep (post midnight) without too many pre-race day butterflies. There was plenty of advice from many quarters running though my head including, 'Please wake up in time for the race!'
Sunday, 4:00 am - Woke up to a blaring alarm on a beast of a Nokia 3315 phone (haven't seen one of those in ages) followed by two more alarms 15 min later on Sup's phone. (I am immensely grateful to you guys for those alarms, my phone alarm never rang!) Had my morning chai, lots of water and a couple of bananas and headed to the park. Got to the park by 5:40 am and spotted some orange Asha shirts by the baggage truck which turned out to be Poorva and some other fellow Asha runners. Checked in my bag with the UPS truck and meandered down to our corral. Caught up with some more Asha runners and we all hung around, took some pics and made our bathroom stops.
Sometime during all this the sun came up and race day dawned bright and beautiful...No, make that, 'Race day dawned hot and humid'. There had been heat advisories issued on the NYRR website for the race a few days in advance but I was not prepared for it to be hot at 7 am. There were the announcements and the singing and the gun went off! Of course as far back as we were in the corral, all we could do was inch a little further to the start line. I , however had to make a break for the bathroom again thanks to all the hydrating I had done an hour before. After a visit to the porta-pottie from hell (the first 5 I tried to use were out of toilet paper) I finally crossed the start line at 7:15 by myself, keeping an eye peeled for any familiar orange shirts either along the course or on the sidelines. Turns out there are quite a few organisations that picked orange for their team shirts because it's a distinctive colour and the first orange shirt I waved to on the side stared at me completely blankly. Caught up with Sheila and some others who were running together and stayed with them till the first water station. Surprisingly, we were feeling the heat and humidity even at 7 am and we were ready for some hydration as soon as possible.
Mile 2 (Water Station): With the heat, everyone was crowding the water/gatorade tables all thirsty and sweaty. The only problem was that there seemed to be no water in sight! All I could see was one hapless volunteer balancing 3 jugs of water desperately trying to hand out water to hordes of runners. Rumour has it that a lot of volunteers failed to show up at 7 am :( I decided not to get any water and hope for some further along the course. Sheila was starting a headache and wanted to walk for a bit. I decided to keep going at my pace. Caught up with and went past Manish along the way. I passed the 5K point at about 35 minutes on the clock. I felt comfortable with the pace, I was sweating buckets but the water stations along the way were better equipped than the first one. Caught up with Nilesh and Veera along the way. I spent my time looking out for friendly orange shirts and waving at anyone who made eye contact.
Mile 7: After one circuit of the park and some, we were finally out and in Times Square. This turned out to be my favourite part of the run. The road widened so there was more space to run and there was a lot of energy with all the crowd support and the bands playing all kinds of music. (I think the fact the I took a Gu-gel before I exited the park also helped with the energy levels). People were friendly and waving, there were Asha volunteers to high-five along the way and Nilesh had caught up with me so I also had a running buddy. The 10K point went by super quick. I made sure I waved at whichever brightroom camera I could spot along the way, since Kray and his giant camera were nowhere to be seen :) We seemed to be going strong and we knew that there would be a cheering squad at the 10 mile point so that was definitely something to look forward to. I was starting to feel the heat and went straight for the misting station as soon as I spotted it.
15K : As we turned on to the West Side Highway, I spotted the 15K sign and a cheering squad led by Jess. She high-fived us with a cheering, "Take it home, guys!" From there on, I figured it was another 5K, I would finish eventually. The last 5K turned out to be harder than I had thought. It was getting hotter, and there was no tree cover. We were on the West Side Highway and I should have seen the river on my right, but I have no recollection of it. My thighs were starting to complain and I was just focussing on getting from one water station to the next. I was drinking Gatorade for some energy but after two Gatorade stops I was feeling full so I had to stop. Nilesh went ahead, I could still see him but I had no real desire to try and catch up. From Mile 11 to Mile 12 seemed like a while. After a seemingly long time, I finally hit the finish line. The gun time was - 2:26:13, better than the gun time on my previous Half-Marathons in Mumbai. Gratefully took a cup of Gatorade from Abhishek at the finish line and slowly meandered through grabbing a cold towel and some pretzels. Eventually found other people, including Coach Uli. From there on, it was all over but the posing for pictures and grinning inanely at having finished another Half-marathon!
I'm mostly recovered from the race, navigating stairs was a little difficult for a few days. But, the real challenge starts now. As my mentor put it, 'Film abhi baaki hai! ' I've run this long before, from now on as my runs get longer, I'll be running distances I've never run before. I'm a little nervous, let's see how things go from here!