Monday, March 23, 2009

Run the Marathon

Life is fortunately very full of surprises. Nothing much was scheduled to happen this weekend and so it almost turned out. It was a weekend to lounge away in the luxuries of my aunt's house, and satisfy my palate with food that qualifed under "Very very tasty". Saturday evening introduced me to a family invited by my aunt for dinner. The family comprised of two cute little boys, aged 3 and 5 and their parents, Indians and Bengalis based in Boston to boot. The kids' dad was in charge of handling the boisterousness of two young boys and he seemed quite up to the task. And that's because he was a two time marathoner.

This very atypical Bengali told me that he had taken to running only after coming to the US but he was an avid cyclist when he was in India. I guess that's where his stamina came from helping him to overcome the gruelling 42 km (26 mile) challenge. He had completed the Boston and the New York marathons in years past, and was shooting for the Chicago marathon this year. That'd leave him just the Berlin and London ones to cover amongst the great marathons of the world. The Boston marathon, he said, was flat along most of its distance before the runners come to mile 20-21.5 where there is a tremendous steep incline to take on. No wonder this was appropriately nicknamed "Heartbreak hill". A number of participants falter in this final test so close to the victory flag. The marathon is one race where the "Winning is not everything" maxim can be applied.

I talked to him about my brief flirtation with running. During this unique month of my life while in training at ILP Bhubaneshwar, I had taken up running with a vengeance. I used to jog/run to our gym about 2 km away, work out and then run back. I found that once the pain in the first couple of days of running was put up with, this was the most sensational experience ever. The rhythm of my feet and the quiet calm of the Bhubaneshwar outskirts (near the famous Nandankanan zoo in fact) had got me really addicted. And in the mother of all coincidences, it turned out this was the same road that my recent acquaintance had used while he was preparing for the Boston marathon. He was in Bhubaneshwar on a work assignment and this was the road where he set up the rhythm that'd see him through the distance.

Wow! I am in awe of the mental strength required to do something like long-distance running. A perfect combination of will-power and super-human stamina is called for. It entails the sacrifice of smoking, cultivation of intense discipline and regular practice. It is also the greatest challenge a man can set up for himself and find real satisfaction on achieving. I never really wasn't into any physical exertions too much, but running felt like something special, something primeval when your shoes crunch in a hypnotic beat on the open road. Am I reading way too much into this remarkable co-incidence? Yes, I am but even a fantastic dream never cost anything more than maybe a little wasted time. In due time, leading a life of ascetic discipline for an implausible target, why not? Why not run the marathon?

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