Be all in, or get all out. There is no halfway!
We all knew that registration for Comrades 2017 would start from September 2016. I really wanted to run this, but before taking the first step of registration I had to make sure that my family would support me whole heartedly. I discussed this with them many times and then in the first week of September I took the plunge.
By that time we were already into our training for SCMM, which also was a target qualifier for me. Since we were only a few training for SCMM, it was going really well with each one of us motivating each other on all our runs. Lonavala long runs were the most enjoyable and most looked forward to. Some aches, pains and niggles had already set in during this time, resulting in my regular visits to the physio. Because of severe pain in my plantar and heel I was a bit scared whether I would qualify or not. My coach and my physio always had confidence in me. January 15, 2017 was my exam day at SCMM. Having trained well and tapered well, I too had a positive mind-set by then. About a month before SCMM, a dear friend Parul had started posting some very small but motivating quotes and tips in her blogs and those got embedded in my memory. Of these one was something like – Go on the start line very relaxed and with a positive mind. I did the same and stood very relaxed and with a positive attitude at the start line of my qualifier race SCMM. I enjoyed the marathon a lot and though had some muscle stiffness after 25k, I knew I had to do it and I did it strong with a timing of 4:52. The moment I crossed the finish line I was so overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude that I couldn’t stop my tears!
With just about a week of recovery we were into our training for Comrades. I was very excited about this journey and had prepared myself mentally to endure whatever workout was given to me by my coach. My running buddy Chetan Sheth and I gelled very well. We always got support and encouragement from all others from our training group at Juhu. As per the target mileage given to us every week, both of us planned our daily mileages together and ran together. We would slow down for the other if one was not up to it on a particular day and did nice fast runs when we both felt great. Best thing was that we both were always in sync. Long runs and hill training were most looked forward to as most of us training for Comrades from various centres would train together then. We were in high spirits. By now I had started my gym training thrice a week and had gradually started feeling stronger. Weekly visits to the physio were fixed along with a deep tissue/flushing/needling session (whatever was required as on a particular day). Stretching was now an integral part of the training. Proper nutrition was very important and I was always cautious that all my meals contained protein, carbs, vitamins, etc. and made sure to have at least 2 servings of fruits and salads. My meal times were fixed and I was done with my dinner by 7:30-8pm and tried being in bed by 9:30-10pm. Throughout my training I didn’t have a single dinner with my family as it was too early for them, but they never complained. 9:30pm was declared a curfew time in my house with no noise of any kind, no door bell, no high volume of TV, no one to enter my room except my husband when he had to come in to sleep, no late nights or socialising, etc. Why? Because it was time for me to sleep and any of this would disturb my sleep. My waking up time varied from 1:30am to 4:30am.
Coming to all my long runs, there was always a lot of support and motivation from fellow trainees and friends. Many of them tried to be a part of most of these runs. Here I would specially mention three names – Himanshu, Mahesh and Vipul. These amazing people made sure that they were there for all our long runs, be it in Mumbai or at Lonavala. I feel indebted to their selfless help. Some of my long runs were fantastic and some were really bad when even taking one step further felt impossible. During our first of the four major long runs planned at Lonavala I was excited, scared, positive, apprehensive, all at the same time as that was going to be my first 50k, a distance which I had never run before. By God’s grace and everyone’s good wishes it went well and this boosted my confidence! Somehow my second long run of 65k didn’t go well and I felt my confidence dwindling. Third long run and the longest one of 75k went extremely smooth and very well for me and now my confidence knew no bounds. I was very happy and humbled at the same time. This was a kind of full dress rehearsal for me for Comrades. I wore what I would for my race, carried all the nutrition, electrolyte tablets, salt tablets as I would on the race day, and used everything the way sir had guided us and how I had planned for myself. With everything going as planned, the last long run had to go well and so it did. By now sir had clearly declared many times especially that all of us were ready to face the hills at Comrades and all of us were in high spirits! All through the highs and lows of my training, not once did I get any negative feeling or never did I feel why I was doing this or that I may not be able to finish what I’m training for.
Cut to 31st May and we all are at the airport, all set to face the D-day. Heartfelt goodbyes from family and other trainee friends and we board our flight. 1st morning we land at Durban, check into the hotel and quickly move to the Comrades expo to collect our bibs. The expo was very interesting with lots of running related stalls, a specially designated enclosure for international runners and another one for novices where we were able to interact with 20, 30, 40 times Comrades finishers! It was very informative and interesting. Run at the bay front the next morning was very exciting and it was a beautiful morning. Spent the remaining two days sleeping, sleeping and sleeping (even at the expo when others were busy shopping or interacting with others). The pep talk by Sir on the eve of the race and discussing our strategies boosted all of us. My only worry was that I was not feeling anxious or wasn’t feeling butterflies in my stomach. I was scared whether I was too overconfident and I told sir how I felt. His positive reply was a big relief.
D-DAY! Fortunately had a good 6 hour sleep, got ready on time, gathered in the lobby of our hotel at 4:30am. The atmosphere outside the hotel was electrifying as the start point was very close to our hotel. Did a warmup with Sir and off to our respective start seeding. I was very calm, confident and positive. The race started and I just kept in my mind everything that we were told and took care not to do anything that would jeopardise my race. I enjoyed the race at every step. Everything kept going as planned. My energy level never dipped, had no pain or cramping or any kind of difficulty at any point, even the climbs felt easy and comfortable (though I did a lot of controlled walking- which we are supposed to do to conserve our energy). I made sure not to stop at any aid station; but stopped for a few seconds at 5 physio centres to take a short massage. I didn’t realise when I crossed the big five hills and the last cut-off. All this while I was enjoying the crowd support, the energy and motivation of runners running along with me, the positive energy I was experiencing from family and friends back home and by default kept chanting ‘Om gamganpatye namaha’.
Crossed the finish line at 11:47:03 and came home satisfied and extremely happy and humbled!