The Auroville Run (Feb 14, 2010)

Every time I run, the butterflies in the stomach stay intact, pretty much. The first run of the year is always a cause for much nervousness and self inflicted mind games.

Auroville is a peaceful ashram a short hop from the rumble and bustle of Pondicherry; an ideal setting for a lope in the woods.

Bright and early for a 6 a.m. start of the half marathon, I gingerly flexed my legs and hands making sure I don’t overdo the warm-up. Advice on how to prepare for a long run are chock a block but the only thing that matters is what works best for you. ‘Drink lots of water the previous day’, ‘Don’t exercise too much the week of the marathon’ are some of the pearls of wisdom I have heard. All I can say is that everything is irrelevant other than what makes you comfortable.

I for one hardly drank too much water the previous day and I ran about 30 km that week.

Okay, back to the event. The full marathon kicked off at 5 a.m. and the runners were given flashlights to run in the pitch black surroundings.

The half marathon started off on the dot an hour later and a huge contingent (probably about 200+ similarly inclined folk) nudged and made its way on the arduous journey to the goal.

The first 3 km are always easy (relatively speaking). The weather was perfect, with a perfunctory amount of humidity (being right next to the ocean and all) and a light breeze. I passed a few cottages belonging to Auroville and then a small village. Very scenic and serene all!

The going usually gets a bit tough for me around the 6-7 km mark as I reach my threshold of 45 minutes. The path got narrower as I slipped in and out of the jungle and the quietness combined with the incessant beat of feet on the soil kept me good company.

Somewhere around 8 km, I heard distant drumrolls and thought it to be some village festival. However, a few minutes later, I was pleasantly surprised to see two white men with huge drums patterning a beat to the rhythm of the runners sitting on the side of the path. For some reason, this gave me added strength to go on and with a smile on my lips I hammered away on the ground. My breath starting evening out as I hit my plateau around 9 km and I knew I had survived one of the tougher moments of endurance. More forest paths, more beauty in everything around me as the sun was well on its way up the horizon; I was loving every minute of it.

I finally made my first stop at the 12 km mark and after about 90 minutes of non-stop running. Quite a feat and my own personal conquest!

The road became a bit more uneven after that and it looked like it was under construction. I really had to watch my step here and after running for an hour, it sometimes becomes tough to focus on the path.

The next stop was at 18 km and again this was for less than 30 seconds as I was on a roll. For some reason, the last few kilometers always seem to be an insurmountable challenge and this time was no different. 19-21 is unending. The final hundred yards is a lifetime. I could see the finish line banner but it just wasn’t getting closer.

The timing according to my trusted phone was clocked at 2 hr and 36 mins a vast improvement (in my mind) of 28 minutes over my last half marathon timing of 3 hr and 4 mins.

The end of the race is always a magnificent feeling. Fortunately, I get no aches or pains ever and as I sat down on one of the chairs, the first call went out to the love of my life…

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