Sunday – 19th September
Kaveri 10k run.
Several others were running 21k and 42k since 6:30 AM onwards in the morning. I had done the mock run on the Kaveri trails on 29th August and it had gone off well. But to run today, 19th September, I would need my mind to push me.
Early, in the beginning of this week, I discovered that an old piles infection had suddenly come back. I needed to check with my doctor whether I could run on Sunday or whether it would be better to avoid the run in case I rubbed (pun intended!) the swelling on a wrong note and got myself in a worser condition. The doc checked me up, gave me a strong dose of medication, this time in increased quantities, and said that I needed to get an examination done on 18th September, Saturday, to check whether it was possible to run on Sunday. He said that if I looked not too good on Saturday, then I could either forgo the run on Sunday or I could run in the worse condition and then it would be left to him, the doc, to get me back in good shape. He also warned me to be ready for surgery since the infection was recurring a second time around.
I immediately called coach Santhosh and checked if he knew of people who had run with this kind of haemmorhoid and what their experience had been. In my mind, I was very decided that if I was not up to, I would not run because this was not the last race of my life and there would be many more to come. To run with an injury, I had learnt on the day of the mock trial run, was a stupid decision. Clearly, I had no life and death pressures to run on Sunday. Already, I was feeling guilty about not being regular on the trainings for this trail run. Hence, I was treating the race day as one more opportunity to work on the running technique.
Coach Santhosh mentioned that he did not know of anyone who had run with haemmorhoids. He also advised me to stay cool and not be upset if I were unable to run on Sunday. I later reaffirmed to him that the boat of my calm and coolness was not rocked by the fact that I may not be able to run on Sunday. Pragmatism prevailed greater on me, perhaps because even in my earlier experiences with Vipassana, I had learnt that in case of conditions such as chronic back aches and joint aches, it is better to take back rest or other support and then meditate rather than try to challenge yourself by trying to bear the pain in order to meditate. If you do not take support, you end up focussing on your pain instead of the meditation and that, to my mind, is futile in the very least and the very best. I believe the same applies to running – let the body rest and heal and the runs will happen good and wiser thereafter!
Thus, cool I stayed. In the back of my mind though, I was concerned about having to go through a surgery. This was just not the time when I can afford to have one, considering the many pressures around me. I was sure afraid in some measure, but like four years ago when the piles condition has come on me, I decided that I would stay cool. Anxiety was not my friend this time!
On Thursday, 16th September, I checked the medication dosage and my prescription. On Wednesday night itself, I asked the chemist to give me 33% less dose of one medicine. I knew that even though I was unwell, I could not put my body through such heavy dosage of medication. I had already decided that my life and death were not determined by the Kaveri 10k and the doc, in all his good intentions, had given me more dosage to ensure that I could run on Sunday. Despite all this, I could not put my body through all these chemicals, and hence, very consciously, I went back to the prescriptions and dosages that he had given me four years ago, when there was no emergency in life. I do not know whether this decision to respect my body enabled me to run the full 10k on Sunday … In retrospect, maybe it did!
Come Friday, 17th September, we were making decisions on how to travel to Mysore where we were to put up for the night of Saturday in order to be refreshed for the run on Sunday. I was still not sure whether I would be able to run. But I told Kiran, who was nursing an ITB injury himself, that I would go to Mysore and in case I was not up to running on Sunday, I would walk by the Kaveri for as long as I could. I had decided that I would enjoy myself, under any circumstances. This was the first of my firsts and even if it were to turn out what Santhosh calls DNF (did not finish), I would DNF in my own style 🙂
The decision to travel easy was a wise one. We were to car pool with Kiran’s friend and travel for about 2.5 to 3 hours to get to Mysore.
18th September – I did not keep the appointment with the doctor. I did not visit him. I shifted the dates of the appointment for four days later. I knew that travelling all the way to reach the doc and getting back in time for the ride would be stressful. I did not want to put my body and mind through this – clearly, anxiety was not my friend for the moment and I would be easier with less anxiety. I decided that I would start the run on Sunday morning and if I felt terrible, I would stop immediately and do my own thing from thereon.
Fortunately, wisdom prevailed on me. Despite not visiting the doc, I bought the ointment which is useful for healing haemmorhoids in addition to the medicines. I used the ointment and went forth for the car ride. I erred on the side of diet that morning and ended up eating the spicy, tamrindy bissi belle bhat and boy, the walls of my stomach roared in protest with a burning sensation. I was feeling a bit down, but decided to stay in a cheerful mood during the car ride.
During the car ride, Kiran and his friends began talking of cycling. Now, I am very very sensitive about cycling. I am a chicken when it comes to cycling. I hate it because I find it very stressful. Also, I am very rash on the roads when I cycle. Once I am on the roads and I am there with my mind, I just ride rough. Early in the week when I rode to Kanakapura, I almost rammed into a bus and later an auto. Both times, both of us parties braked in time! 😛 I hate cycling because of the traffic and because of the pains that it gives me in my shoulders and wrists. And the doc also mentioned to me during the examination on Wednesday that I cannot cycle for two weeks at least given my condition. I heard out Kiran’s plans to go cycling for his training to do the tour of nilgiris in December. I hated every bit of that cycling conversation because as much as it sounded like a lot of fun, all the same, I knew that being the chicken and rough rider myself, I would never be able to participate in all those fun trips that Kiran and his friends were discussing. Meanwhile, the walls of my stomach burnt with the tamrindy and spicy bissi belle bhat and now with the jealousy at the thought of my husband’s fun cycling trips.
By the time we reach Mysore, my mind was in its worst shape. I guess by now, the anxiety of doing the 10k was also setting in. I almost never wanted to meet any of the other guys from the running group because I thought they’d all discuss timing and strategy and here I was – no timing, no pace, no strategy, just a decision to run as much as I could, however I could. I just wanted to shut myself off!
Somehow the evening passed. We met folks from the running group at dinner, in the restaurant. Some folks were taped up for their various injuries. Kiran had a fancy taping too. He had decided to run 10k on Sunday morning and see how much he could do of the 21k distance for which he had registered.
19th September – Kaveri Trail Run: I arrived around quarter to 8. Kiran was already running since 6:45 AM. The announcers were readying us 10k runners. At one point, they apologized for making it out to be ‘just 10k’ and said, ‘it is not just 10k. It is some distance!’ Us present just laughed at this unconvincing apology. Last evening, I had thought that 10k is nothing now and that I could do 21k in a few months’ time. This morning, as the call to run went off and we began bobbing our feets up and down, I realized that boy! this heat is so killing that I could just bow down to all those folks doing 21k and 42k. Indeed, my 10k was just nothing given how much longer the other folks were running and still had to run in order to finish. Really, recognizing their spirit, their gut, their gumption and their courage was a very humbling experience!
As I began, Padma joined along and said that she would run with me to keep to the 3:1 run-walk rhythm that I had tried to inculcate in myself in the last leg of the sparsely remaining training. Having Padma around already helped me psychologically today because I knew I would never be able to run alone. As we started off, I noticed Kiran coming back and I wondered (and wished) that he had finished his 21k for his own satisfaction. He looked a bit lost, like his usual self, but he did not seem unhappy. That was already something to take heart from.
Padma and I egged along. Slowly and gradually. On the way, I ran past fellows from RH and other friends who were running and at all times, either they cheered me or I cheered them along. My lucky mascot, my coach, also ran past on my first 5 kilometers and gave a shout out to keep going. All the other coaches and fellow runners from RH gave their shouts out and we kept moving along. There were no pains in the abdomen but I knew that my body was going through its own bouts of anxiety. This was not because of some unconscious stress. It was mainly because the body was receiving all this oxygen after so many days and like on all running days, my clammed up muscles and all those parts affected by my anxiety were un-entangling and getting their happy doses of oxygen. On my part, I realized after a long, long time that I needed to keep my upper body lose in order to run more effectively. I still have not internalized the concept of moving my weight and loosening various parts of the body during the run. Hence, each run is a reminder of this very elementary lesson.
The first 5k was very manageable and I felt good about finishing it. The tough part was second half as it was in mock run and as it was also in the Sunfeast 10k. I am terrible with the second halves and that is where I spoil all my pace and timing. But today, more than pace and timing, the goal was to finish, one way or the other. I started the second half without Padma since she needed her time and pace to run slow and fast. I was on my own this time. Folks running the marathon were beginning to return. Met some of my friends running back and gave the high-fives! On the way back to around the 4k mark, I noticed Aditya lying down, writhing in some kind of excruciating pain. Earlier, I had seen him run with a limp. I stopped to ask him whether he’d be ok. I offered the oranges in my hand and almost thought I’d stop to sit with him and see if anything could be done to help him. He took a piece of orange and said to move on. I hoped that Pree, the physio, running her marathon, would notice Aditya and do something for him when she would run past him.
Somehow I managed to finish 7k of the total 10. Now the last 3k were getting to me. I was beginning to feel somewhat weak. I took the extra one minute walk and one minute break. I almost thought of walking it back. Then I remembered my little 9 month nephew and my sister telling me how he runs like a mad fellow in the nights. His image gave me heart as I continued the 3:1 rhythm. Santhosh and Preeti on their way to the second loop saw me and shouted out to me. I just continued – hush, hush, phew!
At one point, the fellows started shouting, last 500 meters, go, go, go, go! I was like damn it! Another 500 meters! How much am I running?!?! Ram was standing at about the 200 meter mark before the finish and shouted out to keep going. Ajay was next in line and said I was going strong and I needed to keep going. I told Ajay to run with me so that I could run to the finish. And as Ajay ran with me, I felt I was running much faster than what I had managed to do in the entire 10k patch so far. Ajay stopped 50 meters short to let me finish on my own. And finish I did! Gawd, was a race or, as Jason pointed out to me later, what (G)race!
As I recount my whole 10k experience and now look around at people who did their awesome and best 21ks and 42ks, the first-timers and the veterans, I really feel like my run is nothing in front of the heels that these passionate runners have heated on that blazing Kaveri trail, in the scorching sun which was in no mood for any mercy on that Sunday! And yet, my run means something to me. It means that in that space of 80-85 minutes when I ran, whatever I could manage, whatever I packed in, was really a matter of gut, gumption and spirit. The finish was a sure psychological plus, but when I look back and recount the experiences of the entire week, this medical condition, the other much more serious anxieties, the intense positive and negative emotions that I felt in all those days before this run, I believe that courage truly lies in running in the face of vulnerabilities and frailties.
Since sometime now, Santhosh has been reiterating that it is only human to run. Now I recognize that it indeed is very very human to run. Especially if humaneness is about all vulnerabilities, frailties, intensities, passions, wondrousness, meekness, vile, cunning, graft and everything else, running is that act of nakedness that brings us face to face with our barest bones. To run, is to run in the face of and with this nakedness. To run is to realize that with all the emotions we are cloaked with in our everyday lives, at our most conscious and unconscious levels, at the end of the day, we are naked, bare bones. To run is to discover this simplicity and this essence of our being.
I cannot forget to mention that actually, I never finished this run – it was all those people who kept saying go, go go! who actually pushed me to run, especially in the second half of the run. To say that I ran is both dishonest and unfair – to say that I was made able to run by everyone around me is not only fair, but completely true!
And despite all these words and emotions, to run is to run … just that!
In all nakedness and humility, this post is an ode to myself and to all the gusty and courageous runners out there – may the trails always blaze!