A non-athlete tries her hand at a 10K marathon


What happens when a non-athlete takes courage in her hands and runs a 10K with it

“Write that article in your head as you run,” instructs a colleague. “I can either run or think, not do both,” I want to snap at her. I have rashly signed up for a 10K run at the Vodafone Coimbatore Marathon, and now I have to write about it. I stand waiting for the run to be flagged off, penned into an enclosure with 5,000 others. I breathe deeply and try to recall what Pratheep and Balaji, who encouraged me to run, had said. I fidget with the TomTom — programmed by Gautham, another running buddy — on my wrist. It will remind me to start and stop running at timed intervals. “You should be okay with running for 1.5 minutes and walking for 2.5 minutes,” Gautham assures me.

You could say I belong to a running family. My husband has been running for years, my son is a long-distance runner, and my daughter runs up bills. I began running two months ago at the age of 57. The catalyst? A fitness tracker gifted by my son. So here I am, asking myself scary questions. “Has anyone died of a 10 K?” is the loudest and most insistent. “Am I mad?” is a close second with “Will I see my family again?” That is followed by: I should have told my daughter to pick up my blouses from the tailors; reminded Raju to cancel subscription for the home-delivered cold-pressed juice; written a tearjerker to the son telling him he really ought to have got married when I was still alive...

Thankfully, the annoying voice of the MC drags me back from dark thoughts and we begin the warm-up. ‘Never underestimate the importance of stretching...’ I hear the instruction in my head as I reach for my toes. For two months now, a group of us has been meeting on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, when we run a distance of five kilometres and, on Sundays, when we do the full Monty of eight kilometres and more. We are fanatic about warm-ups and cool-downs. And we always carry water on the long runs.

A non-athlete tries her hand at a 10K marathon

I learnt that the hard way. After the first long run, we were cooling down, and the next thing I knew I was flat on the road with someone holding up my legs and faces peering down anxiously at me. I had blacked out! I was more embarrassed than anything else, but it scared me enough to visit the doc, who advised me to be always hydrated and eat something before I left on the run. So a banana at the crack of dawn it has been ever since.

I like the idea of being in a group. While the running loops are fixed, one never knows which way the conversation will go. From recipes and gardening, to bird watching and movie bashing... anything is up for discussion. In between, we are told to keep our shoulders straight, shown the right way to land on our feet, pick up our pace or reduce it, breathe right and so on. I console myself that, if nothing else, I have bragging rights about running shoulder-to-shoulder with ultra-marathoners who have run the Comrades, Two Oceans Marathon, the Iron Man and triathlons galore. I have photographs to prove it! Ah, the selfies. No matter that I can hardly breathe and am sweating buckets; when someone whips out the mobile phone, I drag myself upright, rearrange my grimace into a smile and, as I crawl back home, compose clever FB posts in my head.

Halfway to the finish line, I see people smiling into mobiles held aloft without breaking their stride. There are aid stations along the way, and I weigh the risks of drinking fluids; I am not about to experiment with bathroom breaks. But I grab the half banana, two Horlicks biscuits and a few segments of oranges that the volunteers hand out. I give dirty looks to people who cut across my path, and size up the runners beside me and wonder if my competitive streak will allow me to overtake them. I cross some of them, trying not to look too smug.

By now, I have recited The Owl and the Pussy Cat 35 times. I know that the point where the owl and the pussy cat find the piggy with a ring at the end of his nose marks the end of 1.5 minutes of my running and I can start walking again. I bless Edward Lear as I spot the finish. There is a roar of voices in my head and I can hear someone announcing: “Feel proud and don’t stop running now. You are almost there.” I want to yell back, “I can either feel proud or I can run. Not do both!” But I don’t have the breath to do that, and I finish my 10K instead, in one hour 30 minutes and 56 seconds.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 10:13:00 PM |

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