Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Final Act.

"The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals." ~Hal Higdon

Wow.....it's been more than 3 weeks since I ran and finished the marathon. This post has been long overdue. For a week after the marathon, I was recovering and had so much work in the lab that I was in no position to write. And after that, although the body had fully recovered, the workload would leave me physically and mentally exhausted at the end of the day. Weekends were also mostly spent in the lab, excluding one in which I resorted to retail therapy.  But now, I myself have this itch to write this up before I start to forget small details. It will also be a nice way to end this journey I started on the blog.

The weather was close to perfect. A nice, crisp and chilly morning. Temps reached mid to upper 60s during the day. It was also a very clear day.
Amol captured this while we were making our way to the start line. 
 We were all so excited and nervous. I personally was very very nervous. I knew how poor my training had been in the last month and was very anxious at the start. But the buzz and the excitement around me was very very contagious.

Cold, scared, nervous.......(wow....look at that characteristic Mandlik double chin!)

Part of the team at the MCC tent. All geared up and ready to go........
He has been a huge part of my accomplishment!

The atmosphere at the start line was even more charged up! This was my first experience of something like this. It was awesome. The scale and the magnitude of the marathon was overwhelming. There were some 30,000 runners.

Gun Time
and...everyone was off!

The start line.
The first 6 miles comprised of some real steep hills. They were really steep, but I was glad they were at the start of the race rather than at the end. The excitement, the crowd, the cheering and the fervor were so great, that I almost did not feel those hills. Almost....because...I did feel them later.....when my whole body was sore and screaming :(

The first 10 miles were the best I had ever run. I enjoyed every bit of it. All the festivities, all the costumes for Halloween, all the crowd cheer and the smile on the fellow runners faces. Passing through Georgetown will truly remain a very memorable experience. The music, the dancers, the cheerful crowd.....it was so much fun. 

At mile 11, I saw Amol. Was just so happy to see a familiar face. I had lost SK and Ketki at around mile 5 and then at around mile 7, I met Nalin. After that I was all alone. So seeing Amol at mile 11, felt so so good.
Amol captured this at mile 11. I love this headband. 

After mile 11.....it was all downhill from there. Downhill as in not a decline in the course, but a decline in my stamina. Mile 12 to mile 13 was the worst part of the race for me. I was running alone amidst a crowd of people. I felt lonely and tired. This portion of the course also had the least number of cheering support. It was mentally exhausting.....I saw the 5:30 pace group behind me and I thought that I should run with them from that point. But starting out fast was now taking its toll on me......I could not keep up with that pace group. I was drained out completely. 

And then at mile 13 finally, the cheers reappeared....it was a big milestone! We were halfway there. All the runners would shout out in joy when they crossed the 13-mile mark. I was happy to be halfway done.....but also knew that the second half was going to be hell. Mile 13 to mile 16 was also awful......I lost the 5:30 pace group and the rest all seems like a blur to me now. I encountered a few Asha runners from other chapters.....all we could do was try and smile through the obvious anguish. At mile 16, I spotted Jaya and Amol waiting for us. Jaya was cheering at the top of her voice. I was so tired and thristy....
Mile 16

Their encouraging and motivating cheer pushed me on. From that point all I could think was of crossing the gauntlet mark at mile 17 and then the Beat the Bridge mark at mile 20. Mile 16 to mile 20...I pushed myself on....kept running with stops just to stretch my legs. I had no walking breaks in those 4 miles. I just wanted to beat the bridge so that I could still stay in the race. Upon crossing mile mark 19, I sped up and with a smile on my face I crossed the mile 20 mark. I also met Amol there. I am really amazed at how he managed to meet me all these spots. 

After crossing the mile 20.5 mark, I gave in to walking. I tried to keep a steady pace. I felt really lonely. But another Asha runner from the DC chapter just appeared from behind me....I was so happy to meet her there on the course. We started chatting and shared stories of our training. We crossed the mile 22 and stopped to stretch. And that was when I felt my right knee. It was swollen and was hurting like hell. I have no clue what happened and how it happened. Was it because I stopped running and broke into a steady paced walk or was it because of the stretching? I will never know.....but after being injury-free for the whole training period, I was just not prepared for something like this. I thought that maybe if I continue to run slowly, the pain would be bearable. But it was not so.....every step was difficult and the last 3 miles through Crystal city were getting unbearable. Amol also caught up with us there. I cried in pain and told him about my knee. Sangeeta and Amol kept pushing me on. At around mile 23, my injured running buddy, Pratima caught up with us. I had lost hope for Pratima and had thought that she could not beat the bridge.....but that girl has some guts and perseverance. She crossed the bridge mark with one minute to spare before they were going to close the route. Hats off to her....she was a big inspiration and motivation for me in the last few miles.

My knee was just getting worse after that. In the end I just hobbled all the way to the finish.....dragging my right leg with me. It was horrible. Nalin, Pratima's husband found us at around 25.5 miles. He had finished long back and was waiting for us at finish line. After waiting for long, he just set out to meet us on the course.  

As we approached the finish, all we could think was off crossing it and finishing this once and for all. Pratima and me ran the last 200 yards and crossed the finish hand in hand. The moment we crossed it, the pain on the face disappeared and the smile spread from ear-to-ear. I hobbled to the medal line and while in line, I saw my other team mates waiting for us with big smiles on their faces. I also saw Neha....my childhood buddy. It all felt surreal. It was so bittersweet. My knee hurt like crazy....the swelling was getting worse. But the fact that I had just finished it made me forget that pain and to rejoice with others. 
Pratima and me. 
All smiles.

I did not see this poster throughout the course...so I requested him to finally show me what is on there.
I hobbled my way to the MCC tent. Chatting away to glory with Neha.....I was still dragging my foot.....but the cribbing and crying had all vanished :) Met the rest of the gang at the tent and just felt like a dream was just fulfilled.
celebratory foto!
Thank you team! You all have been wonderful. When I joined the program, I knew that I would be training to run. What I did not know was that I would also be making such wonderful friends and sharing so many wonderful moments with everyone. You all have shown extreme patience for a slow runner like me and have just been awesome! Thank you so much!

A big shout out to my wonderful family! Amol, although reluctant to get on board initially, you were there every step of the journey with me. A big thank you to my parents who always inquired about my running on our weekly phone calls, always converted the mileage in kilometers and marveled at how much I had progressed and kept encouraging and motivating me. A big thanks to my sisters and brother-in-laws, for being with me all through the writing and making of this blog and for making me laugh during the tough training times.

A big thanks to all my friends. I am happy to say that I have also motivated a few to take up running and if even one of you gets inspired and runs a marathon, I will feel like I have given back. If you all remember, it was learning about another friends marathon experience that had got me inspired to run one. So I hope the cycle continues. 

A big thank you to all those who contributed to my cause. At the end of the day, as much as I was running this marathon for myself, I was also running for the charity. I am happy to say that I reached and went beyond my target and all that money is going to really help make the lives of some children better in India. When I started, I thought fund raising would be the toughest part. But I feel truly blessed and thankful for the wonderful friends who made this the easiest part.

The knee has recovered now. The other pain, muscle soreness and tightness were a distant memory after one week. But the knee and the swelling stayed with me for two weeks. Now it is much better. I did go for two short runs after the marathon and will soon start it on a more regular basis.
Running the marathon has definitely been the one of the most significant things I have done in my life. Even graduate school and getting a PhD pales in comparison to the utter joy I experienced at the finish line. I have experience so many different emotions during the training and the run. I have discovered so many personal strengths and fears along the journey. But beyond everything it has made me believe that the mind can really will the body to do anything :)

Thank you for being a part of this journey with me!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


We started in the spring, when the leaves had just started to peep out and the mornings were the typical Boston spring mornings....cold! We endured the summer heat and humidity and persevered. We were blessed with great weather on our last few long distance runs. And now for the last few weekends, its like we have been transported back into the same old cold temperatures. But we are not the same anymore. We have all come a long way since April. We have crossed milestones, become stronger physically and mentally. And now just one week remains for the culmination of this long effort!

I am scared, jittery and very very anxious. The 'what if' scenarios keep playing in my mind. I keep trying to tell myself to just go there and have a good time. Enjoy every moment and be proud of whatever you achieve. But the anxiety always creeps up! The fear takes over and all rational thoughts vanish..............

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Having fun!

Today was our last long training run! Almost 19 miles again. But so much more satisfactory than the earlier 19 miler. I ran the entire way with just one walking break between mile 15 and 16. That too, Amol did not let the walking break extend for more than a minute. He again biked with me the entire way.

It was a cool, crisp morning to run. The weather stayed beautiful right till the end. I was worried in the morning about my run because of my non-existent weekday runs. Early mornings are too cold for me and labwork keeps me in the lab till late. I just cannot find the time to run and neither the energy. I am mentally and physically stressed at work. Learning a lot of new things, playing with real exciting data, but falling way behind on my science literature. The anxiety of the marathon and the excitement of getting data and trying to make sense of it, is all too overwhelming right now!

But for the last three Saturdays, I have been enjoying my long runs. Its like I have a new attitude about these runs. All that it needs to make them enjoyable is to just let go of everything and have fun while running. And that is exactly what I did today too. I was just having a good time out there. Now lets just hope that everything goes smoothly from now till the end of this month! I really really need this positive frame of mind.

We are now at the tail end of the training. Just three weeks to go for the D-day. I am so excited about it.

I promise that I will try and be more regular in my postings. I know that now you all are a part of this journey with me and you come by looking for new updates. I have been really lousy in posting for the past two weeks, but hopefully I will be better now! Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Getting there......

We are at the tail end of our training. Just 4 weeks to go. Two weeks of long runs (15 plus miles) and then two weeks of moderate runs (less than 10 miles) and then the longest run ever on Oct 31st.

The long distances are tiring me out now. I just managed 15 miles yesterday when the goal was 20. I had decided my run yesterday would be with a smile on my face. The weather was so uncooperative. Just when you thought Fall had descended on New England, the as always predicatably unpredictable  New England weather creeps up and bestows us with a hot and humid day.

Amol was not biking along yesterday. The first two miles were very hard as I tried to get adjusted to the weather. I had an upbeat playlist and the smile on my face as company. Gave myself an imaginary pat on the back as I conquered every mile. Till mile 12, I was feeling great. At around mile 14, I stopped to stretch. I felt my upper body was too stiff, so I wanted to just do a couple of quick back and shoulder stretches. And while doing that, I pulled a muscle in my back. The pain seared through my back and I could feel the tightness. So I partly jogged, partly walked and partly hobbled to mile 15 and stopped. When I came to the 15 mile water stop, I found a few other fellow runners who had stopped. They just did not feel up to it to finish the next 5 miles. You could clearly tell that the long runs were getting to us.

I was a little disappointing that I did not finish 20 miles, but was also satisfied with my 14 miles. I had a smile till the end and was feeling good but for the muscle pull.  I knew that I could not have run with the muscle pull. I iced it as soon as I got home. Amol massaged it out a bit and after a nights rest, it is good to go today. 20 miles....I will get to you next week!

Did you all notice the school bus! It now has two kids in it. We are getting close to our target and just a little more and we will have the third kid also in the bus!

                   Thank You everyone!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I have miles to go before I sleep and you have promises to keep!

As I cross off each milestone, I stare in disbelief at my mileage. In April, I could not even finish 1 mile without a huge struggle and yesterday, almost 5 months since that rainy day in April, I ran 19 miles!

Again luck was on our side and it was a beautiful day to run yesterday. A cool, crisp morning with clear blue skies! The route was going to take us from Arlington center, onto the Minuteman bikeway to Alewife, then one loop of Fresh pond, onto Fresh pond parkway to the river, cross the river at Arsenal street, run on the other side of the river and cross back on JFK bridge, back to Fresh pond, Alewife, Arlington Center and then one loop of the Mystic lake and back to Arlington Center. After sorting out all the confusion over the route and the water stops, we still lingered at the start point. The coach had to literally push us into starting! Ketki was going to run with me till around mile 12-13. I was so thankful for having her run by my side. Also Amol was biking along. He was going to serve as mobile water support for us! I felt like I had my own running entourage!

With the help of Ketki and the unwavering support of Amol, I managed to finish the entire 19 miles. After mile 13, Ketki picked up her pace and went ahead. I tried my best to pick up a little pace, but did not succeed much. The last two miles were a combination of walking and running and they felt endless! But I finished the assigned distance of 19 miles. When I got back to Arlington center at the end, the whole team was waiting for me and greeted me with cheers. They are such a special group!

After the 19 miles I felt like I had no energy left. I cannot believe that I still have to run another 7.2 miles on the day of the marathon. So I still have miles to go before I sleep!

But all of you also have promises to keep! All those who are still considering about donating to the cause, please do so! Team AIDAsha is relying on your support to ensure a successful fund raising campaign for this year.To donate you can click here.

To all those who have already contributed, I cannot express how thankful I am! All the support means a lot to me and helps me run those last few miles that are so difficult. THANK YOU!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mixed bag

Did you happen to look at the countdown widget on the right? Yes….there are only 45 days left now.

Right now I am mixed bag of emotions!

I am excited by the prospect of running my first ever marathon.
I am scared of not making it in time.
I am proud of myself for having come so far.
I am nervous of how much more I have to go.
I am happy sharing my experience so far with people and talking about the cause.
I am very worried and nervous about my pace and endurance.
I am freaking out that there are only 45 days left for the marathon.
I am so glad that there are ONLY 45 days left now and soon I will be done with all this and can reclaim my weekends!
I am so proud of all my teammates and the wonderful friends I have made in this journey.
I am sad to always be the last one to finish any distance.
I am so humbled by all the support I have received be it in the form of donations, wishes and encouragement.
I am so scared of letting people down.

This mixed bag of emotions needs to go out and run and clear her mind!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Quick update

Wow....its been more than 10 days since the last post. I am so sorry for not posting my updates. I wish I could say that I have been so busy with all the running, that I did not get time to post! But alas, it is not so. On the contrary, I feel that I have run very little in these 10 days.

We went to Seattle for labor day weekend. I so needed that break. But the timing could not have been worse. Right in between the training and also right when I started to get some amazing data in the lab. Before leaving for the mini-vacation, I felt really guilty about going, but now in hindsight, I was glad that we did go coz we enjoyed so much and were truly refreshed once we got back. We had such a good time there....amazing friends, lovely weather, the beautiful pacific northwest mountains and the exciting Seattle downtown! We enjoyed everything and have come back with so many memories. The best part was meeting high-school friends whom I had not seen in the last 10 years.

This weekend was a cut-back run. We had to do 13 miles on the Minuteman trail and I did 11.5 miles. I was not too happy with my run, but I knew that I had to pay the price for not running the previous weekend in Seattle. Now there are just 6 weekends left before the big day and the next few weeks are going to be the toughest part of the training. And now after a refreshing break, I am all ready for it!