Monday 25 April 2016

Love and the comrades ultra marathon

Love is a many splendored thing

Yesterday, I finished my last long run.  55k in 6:39.

Sitting in my car on the long drive back to mumbai from lonavala today, I was thinking about how the 2016 comrades day will unfold.

It's quite an experience to stand on that start line.

I've run Comrades 7 times and experienced almost everything.  I have finished Comrades and I have not finished Comrades.

I have always finished it with only a few minutes to spare.  

I'm one of those ordinary chaps at the very back end of the race who, on occasion, manages  to do something extraordinary.

But as Comrades nears,  I'm again filled with anxiety.

I don't know if I can finish it or not.  I wish I had more faith.  I'm working on the faith department and such.

For someone like me, at the very back end of the race,  the day really unfolds in segments.

At the start, is a feeling of anxiety mixed with a feeling of satisfaction for having made it to the start line.

It is mixed with pride and a feeling of self esteem for I'm standing in the company of people I consider heroes.

It is also a time of tears.  The tears of gratitude are mixed with a desire to achieve something spectacular and to prove to myself that I'm not just another mundane human but a life force who is significant and who wishes to be someone of consequence.  

I want to be better than I am.  I yearn for greatness.
I want to prove my worth to myself.

Later in the day comes a time when i start to battle against time and the outcome is unknown and uncertain.  It is a time when my brain does calculations of speed and pace and my  heart searches for clues.  Clues which can help reveal how my day will end.

The body and mind reach a deep dark place and I battle against all my weaknesses.   The mind starts thinking that this is futile and hopeless.

The space from 55 km to 75 km is perhaps what it would be like to be stuck in purgatory.
I don't know whether I will go to heaven or hell.

Will I finish or not is a question without any answers.   It is a dark grim expanse of time.

Physically, on the watch face however, Time simply starts to fly.  The seconds minutes and hours start to slip by at an astonishing speed.  The kilometres however have their own agenda and want to keep me in purgatory for as long as possible.

By the time I reach 70k i know more or less if I'm  going to make it.

I have had the experience where it dawns upon me that there is no hope.  There has come a time when math simply clarifies to me that without the help of a bicycle I can't make it to the finish.

At that point a strange sadness descends.  It is with a strange calmness that I accept Defeat !  There is a numbness and an emptiness which I have only otherwise experienced at funerals of loved ones.  Except that in this case, it is mine.

It is defeat blended with a strange sense of gratitude that at least, the struggle is at an end.  I don't have to run anymore.  I don't have to fight my mind and body and this road anymore. Please ! Just take me to slaughter.

And yet, it's not all over.   I know that i will have to grind through the aftermath.  To Get into the bail bus and have my bib cut up is like having my beating heart yanked off my chest.

I know that I will have to sit in that bus for a long time as it goes towards the stadium at a snails pace.  I will have to smell the stink of sorrow and resignation and defeat in that bus.  I know that I will have to walk through the medical area outside the stadium and then enter the stadium like a defeated warrior.

I will have to meet friends walking around with medals around their neck while I  just want to have the earth open up and swallow me.    They show me empathy but it is lost on me.  And then, I have to suffer the excruciatingly long journey home.

But , On the other hand, on many occasions , at 70k,  I've had the experience of knowing that I'm going to finish this race.

The math is in my favour and the body and mind are working.  There seem to be no hidden skeletons in the closets.

A smile forms on my face and my chin stays up.  Every supporter on the road  is cheered at in return, every supporter is shown a victory sign or a "thumps-up" sign or a raised fist in acknowledgement !

Tears flow now as well but they are of a different kind.
I've felt a feeling of pride and a sense of satisfaction: I amount to something.... I've run Comrades.

I want to send a signal to neepa and my children that all is well and I'm on my way.  Do not worry.

It is also a time when I miss my father.

My heart is just filled with gratitude and satisfaction and love and happiness.  I've achieved something awesome.  I am.  I amount to something.

I'm in love with life.

My heart is filled with emotions but words are insufficient to describe them. Words aren't of any help.

Helen Macdonald wrote that it is futile to explain how it feels to be in love by waiving an MRI scan of a lovestruck brain.

I agree that explaining the emotions on the finish line is near impossible.

I accept my inability.  But I don't care if I can't explain the emotions of wearing a comrades medal around my neck.

I want to earn one on May 29th.

Being in love is a many splendored thing.