Friday, February 13, 2004

Just do it!

Training manuals and sports instructors don’t recommend it, but running a marathon calls for a certain pre-requisite – blissful ignorance.

When I signed up for the Mumbai International Marathon early in January, there were many things I didn’t know. For starters, there was the big question mark about running. I’ve never really run. Ok, not if you count the customary dash for the 8.22 local, and the paltry 10 minutes on the treadmill. Running entailed stamina and discipline and fell somewhere in the realm of ‘serious fitness’.

The second question mark came after kilometre. For someone who computes distance by railway stations and travel time, discerning the distance in one kilometre was tricky. Leave alone 21 kms. - the length of the Half Marathon, for which I’d signed up.

Third, how did one go about training for a marathon? The website proposed a 10-week training period. And here, I was looking at 4 1/2 weeks. How did one train anyway? Was there a recommended diet? Gear?

But one thing I DID know was that when I first read about the Marathon early in January, I began to think ‘What if…’ with that familiar feeling of fear-tinged excitement, which has preceded most other adventures.

The decision was made. Entries were mailed. Then came the challenging part – duelling with a mind over a body.

The last month has been filled with exhilarating and liberating discoveries. The question marks have drawn their answers. The moment I lace up my shoes and go through the routine of warm-ups, there’s a certain impatience to begin. To discover the limits of the day. To register the feeble protests of the various parts of the body and to gently tune them out. To collapse in one aching, gasping heap only to forget it all and start over the next day.

Nike’s first ever advertising effort was a poster which featured a runner against a headline – THERE IS NO FINISH LINE. When I came across it many years ago, I thought it was a profound statement about the joys of running (in the right pair of shoes, of course!). More recently, I’ve discovered it’s really about the absence of mental finishing lines. If Terry Fox could run it on one leg, and people the world over have battled life-threatening infirmities to successfully complete it, there are few excuses left anyway.

Two days from now, 20,000+ runners will take to the streets in ‘Asia’s biggest marathon’. The mob features some high-profile international athletes, corporate heavyweights and movie stars. But rubbing shoulders with them will also be the physically challenged, people with heart ailments, street children and rank amateurs like me.

The marathon, after all, is not about running. It’s never been. It’s about belief.

And yes, ignorance too…

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