Chapter 1 - Story 1

CAPGEMINI Bengaluru Midnight Marathon 2016


arathon is not just a distance of 42.195 km, it's an event in itself that fills one's life with cherished dreams. Anybody who starts running, mostly, will harbor a dream of running a marathon someday. The distant future fuels the passion to work hard and breeze closer to the dream. However, finishing this distance without getting injured requires a lot of dedicated practice over a period of time.

When I started running in 2014, I could barely run half a km at a stretch. I didn't even know that there is something called a marathon which is followed by millions of people across the world. I started running not as a self-motivated activity, rather my then-girlfriend (now my wife) Akanksha pursued me to follow a healthier lifestyle.

Back in 2012, I lived in Bengaluru with my younger brother Sujit. I used to wake up by 9:30 am, quickly get ready for the office, and mark my attendance by 10:15 am. After spending the entire day at work, I used to return home by 8:00 pm. Sujit and I watched TV until 11:00 pm followed by dinner and then continued watching TV till 2:00 am. The same regime looped day after day. There was no schedule to manage personal and professional commitments. Exercise was a word that was completely extra-terrestrial for me.

Fast forward to 2014, Akanksha prompted me to join a gym, but I resisted. Within a year, she must have reminded me of the gym many times. Finally, I decided to give it a try. I joined the gym at my office in Bengaluru. I went there for the first 3 days and my body started to ache. So, I decided to discontinue for a few days to give rest to my body. But that few days’ break turned into a month, and I lost interest to continue gyming.

Upon consistent reminders, I made a humble beginning to run in the latter part of 2014 by running just a km per day. A few months later, I managed to run 2 km on the treadmill, and I was extremely delighted.

Akanksha and I got married in 2015 that marked the beginning of a new phase of life.

For the next two years, I finished off several 10 km and 21 km runs, and thought I was probably raring to go for a full marathon. The maximum distance that I had covered before the marathon was 32 km on 4th Dec 2016. One week prior, I had completed a half marathon. In my mind, I was ready for a full marathon. However, was my body ready for the full marathon yet? Let's see what happened on the night of 10th Dec 2016.

I was about to run the first full marathon of my life. I had got no formal training or any remote coaching. So far, I had nailed all the runs without an injury. In fact, I even thought why would anybody get injured by running.

My wife came to drop me at the venue of the CAPGEMINI Bengaluru midnight marathon being organized at Whitefield, Bengaluru. The run was supposed to start at 12:00 am for half marathon and full marathon. I was a bit nervous, but my wife hugged me and said, “Don't worry, have faith in yourself.”

She left after some time and there was still one hour to go for the run. Runners bustled towards the starting line as the midnight approached. Then came the moment when my edginess seemed to fade away; I got a glimpse of the legend Mary Kom on the stage, waving at all the participants. She flagged off the event and the gunshot fired in the air at 12:00 am.

Some part of the trail was poorly lit, so I followed other runners who were carrying lights with them. The trail went past many software parks inside Whitefield. Each loop was approximately 5.25 km long and we were supposed to complete 8 rounds of this loop. There were many volunteers on the road, cheering up for the runners. I was surprised to see so many people in the middle of the night. There was a small stall where a young group of musicians was playing some cool songs. Isn’t it cool! I loved it. Some volunteers had written famous quotes on posters to motivate the runners. I was running at a faster pace than my usual speed. Occasionally, I stopped at refreshment counters to refill my energy level.

By 2:30 am, I completed half the distance. People were cheering and I found new energy for the second half of the run. The official cut-off time was six hours and I had more than three and half hours for the remaining 21 km. It was my first marathon and at the halfway–mark, I was already dreaming of being a marathoner.

As I took the U-turn to start lap 5, suddenly I experienced a sharp pain on the side of the left knee. It sounded as if someone had clicked the switch to turn off the light.

I stopped immediately as the pain was acute. I went to a nearby medical camp and asked them to apply some Volini spray. It felt a bit better after four to five minutes. As a precaution, I requested and kept the spray bottle with me, and resumed running. But after running for another couple of yards, I felt I couldn't run anymore. I had no idea of what kind of injury had happened in my left knee. I couldn't even jog as the pain increased with even a slight amount of stress on the knee. Therefore, I opted to walk for some distance and the pain reduced slightly. I must have walked another half km in that pain which took almost 10 minutes. I was moving very slowly.

It was almost 3:00 am and I was on the verge of giving up when suddenly, an old man ran past me. He must be around 60 years old. At such age, this person was running a full marathon. His energy gave me hope. I told myself if you cannot run, then jog; if you can't jog, then walk; if you cannot walk, then crawl; but don't quit, just keep moving. I banked up on some old happy moments to help me during those trying times.

A few years back, I attended a seminar in New Delhi. During the program, the coach Balwinder Singh Sodhi said to the participants, “When you are in deep trouble and you don't know where to go, then just take one step. After taking that step, reassess the situation and take another step and keep going.”

At 3:00 am, in the cold Bengaluru night, I was telling myself to take one step even if it hurts and ask if I can take one more step. If the answer is yes, then take one more step and so on. There is a saying that fortune favors the brave. What I was trying to do wasn't to prove anything to anybody, but rather to myself that I had the ability to outpace challenging circumstances.

After walking for another half km, there was an incline which caused more pain to my battered knee. On the downslope, I saw another person standing by the roadside and having trouble breathing. I asked him if he needed some help. He politely declined and said he was taking some rest before he could resume running. It was his first marathon as well and he wanted to finish it at any cost.

From time to time, a group of runners came running, bypass us and encouraged us to keep pushing ahead.

It was 4:00 am and very cold breeze was blowing. I was damn hungry. I was fed up with eating only bananas at refreshment centers as they had run out of stock of any other food. Injury, hunger and cold saw me still going slowly about my business.

By that time, we were sure of completing the entire distance. But deep down, both of us knew if we would have been walking alone, we would have quit a long time back.

We found something to eat near the starting point as we finished lap 6. It was already more than four and half hours since the run began. After completing a couple of km in lap 7, we were about to take a turn when a speeding car approached from the opposite direction. Sometime back, the entire road was barricaded, restricting the passage of vehicles. There was still more than an hour to go for the run (walk in our case) and the vehicles had already started rolling on the road. That made me nervous and I saw the same expression on the face of the unknown friend.

In this case, a volunteer was trying to remove the mat from the road as directed by the organizers although there was still one more hour left. Upon asking, he said that the time was already up and he had got instructions from organizers to collect it. However, there was still one hour to go for the cut-off time.

Our mind was already exhausted with pain, and this thing certainly didn't help boost the confidence. We approached the stage area and spoke to someone who looked like an organizer. As we voiced our concern, he said he would look into it. Honestly, I didn't know what else I could have done apart from informing the organizer.

I continued my walk with the unknown friend to finish the final lap. It was almost five and a half hours. There were four more km to go in less than 30 min to complete the race within an official cut-off time. With an injury in the knee, it was impossible to run or jog. So, we continued to walk slowly while talking to each other.

The next stop was the place where the timing guy was trying to remove the timing pad sometime back. We were supposed to go till that point and take a U-turn. But suddenly a thought hatched in our mind that probably that guy would have left the place and so there was no point going there as the timing won't be recorded. Anyways we would not be able to complete the run within six hours. So, we decided to cut short our run and head back to the finish line. In the end, we missed completing the marathon by just 2 km, but we managed to cover a 40-km distance.

Upon completion of the run, I needed urgent medical attention. But I didn't find any doctors in the camp. My wife had reached the venue by that time. She spoke to a doctor who came and helped me by doing a bit of stretching.

I felt a little better after some time. It was time to bid goodbye to the friend without whom I couldn't have come so far. Even to this day, I think that unknown friend was God-sent to help me during those testing times.

The Gold Dust

  • If you can't run, then jog; can't jog, then walk; can't walk, then crawl. But don't quit, keep moving.
  • You are more powerful than your circumstances.
  • Fortune favors the brave.