There are only a few races that one runs to prove a point, to prove to oneself, ofcourse. First time races such as one's first HM, first marathon belong here, not all of the timing goals belong here but few do. Then there is a whole "other" category. My KTM 2013 belongs to this "other".
Back in 2010, i ran my first HM with a timing just shy of 3 hr mark. Last year, at KTM 2012, i ran my second one and it was a disaster. It took me 3 hr and 20 mins to cross the finish line and it was a very poor finish. I had a horrible run wherein at one point of time, i just sat down on grass next to the trail as i could not run. At the end, physically, i was dehydrated, dizzy, head-ached and wasted but mentally i was angry, enraged on screwing up my run so badly. Typically, people improve as they run but in my case it was the other way around. My next step should have been Auroville but after this mind-numbing performance, i took a break from everything. I started training for Ananya HM, it was all going great until i had to visit US for a three week work trip. I did not make time to train there and lost all the momentum. A two line email from Santhosh said in no-nonsense terms that i should not run this race. I was even more angry at myself for having failed to straighten the record. So, it was KTM 2013 where i vowed to take revenge, to prove that i am a much better runner than this.
KTM 2013 training started on a great note. I was fairly regular and was enjoying the program. Byalkere Peacock Reserve was a great find and Bangalore's weather this year has just been a paradise. It was all going according to plan until i was told that there has to be another work trip. "It can not be happening again" was the first thought that came to my mind. But i was not going to give up this time. I had tremendous luck this time as i was staying in a hotel that was next to an awesome running trail. My full US running activities are documented here. Outside of work, the only thing in my mind for the entire trip was running - when, where and how. Running alone, without the group, made me push myself to limits that i had not experienced so far. For the first time, i had this feeling that i must run today not because i was to train for KTM or anything but just that i wanted to run. Running made me got up in early mornings instead of the other way around when i used to get up in order to run. Running was no longer a chore, it was what i wanted.
Back from the US, the very next day i ran 10K at Kanakpura and followed it up with a mock run at the Kaveri trail. Both were strong finishes and i knew i was ready. But there was more to it. On last Thursday morning, for bib collection, i realized that i have not received any registration confirmation email. Panicked, i called the KTM organizers who told that they do not have my record in any database. It was crisis time, i had a vague feeling that i have registered but was i imagining it? Next couple of hrs were an exercise through sheer pain. Having done everything, this would rank as the stupidest reason to miss a race. Miraculously, i was able to find my online transaction and using it, the RFL guys were able to look me up and give my bib number.
People sometimes have a surprise look when i tell them that i am a forever finish goal-er. Even though i have quoted timings above, they matter little to me. Running is one of the few physical activities that i enjoy, i do not want to strain it with a time restrictions. Yesterday, at KTM, people finished full marathons in less than 4 hrs, fastest half marathoner was there in less than 90 mins. I just clapped at these numbers, i was happy for these people but that was it. Among all this, there was also an announcement at the finish line, somebody aged 80 yrs has finished his half marathon. Now, that makes hairs on my hand stand tall. If the dream of a time-goaler is to improve his time with every successive run, the dream of this finish-goaler is to be sixty one day and yet be fit enough to have a strong Half marathon finish, to hell with the timing i say.
KTM weather was very kind yesterday, the Sun was behind clouds for most of the time. With 900 participants, it did feel like a crowd but not comparable to TCS by any stretch. For the first 5K, i was trying not to be the rabbit and instead focussed on being a tortoise. After 5K, i knew that people ahead of me will finish early and behind me will be late, so i knew that i have found my placement. From 5-13K it was a rhythmic run. I increased my pace a little after 13K hoping to reach 16K point sooner. 16K is my mental comfort point as in i do not feel exerted to run 16K. But at KTM, at 15K, i realized that i was little tired. 15-19K was completely a mental game, i persisted at a steady pace not relenting to walk. Once 19K was reached, i knew i would be home soon and i also knew that it would be a personal best. So, i increased my tempo little bit. At about 20.5K, i started sprinting and was home with a cheering reception. It took me 2 hrs 35 mins and 15 seconds to finish the race. I was very happy. Not only with the timing but the fact that i was in no pain, able to walk properly (no limping) and with a very mild headache that went away after about 20 mins. So, it was a strong finish.
All the above has been possible with the help of Runners High. Its an awesome group and i am in awe of the dedication that the coaches show towards the community. From my side, i would like to thank Santhosh, my HSR coaches - Ajay and Vinay, our buddy group DreamRunners, especially Nikunj, the awesome people at water-stops during our training runs, and everyone who has been there with the group. A small cheer, a slight word of encouragement, a strong "you-can-do-it" shout goes a long distance in lifting one's self confidence, more than one could imagine. RH is a joy that must be experienced if you are living in Bangalore.
It is only fitting that the RFL bus covers two sides of Cubbon park before stopping right in front of the Queen's park entrance for us to get off. The first long run of this season was kicked off from the very same spot about 15 weeks ago. A fantastic journey has come to a closure. But another one is just beginning.