Auroville 2015 – A dream debut FM

Friday night: The dream…
As I went to bed on Friday, all I thought about was my first FM (Full Marathon) the coming Sunday at Auroville. Despite a few FM distance practice runs to understand if I could really do it, the mind was filled with trepidation. I was keen to finish strong, finish in less than FIVE hours and get back to normal cycle rides the next day. I wanted no blisters, stiff muscles or limpy walks. As I dozed, dreams took over. I dreamt that the FM was done in Sub-4 and Sunday was done. As I was wafting in Lolo-land congratulating myself, the iPhone alarm tinkled and reality hit me. It was 4AM on Sat. Time to get ready to leave with MD Ramaswami, Prem and Swami to Auroville in the next couple of hours.

Sunday AM: Lighted lanterns go up…
2:58AM – A few minutes before the alarm rang, eyes opened. Showered, dressed and on the ECR road waiting for the bus at 3:40. A few minutes later Kannan a runner from Chennai stops and gives me lift to the venue (Thank you!). We are real early, there are just a handful of runners. Ahh, hot coffee at the venue, nice. The buses arrive, and the ground empty a few minutes ago is swarming with runners. Stretches done, we assemble at the start point. 10.9.8…1, the lantern kites are let loose in the sky and the bobbing lanterns fly up. FM commences at 5AM sharp. 

The run: Pools of light…
A lovely cool weather, and the morning still dark with a glorious full moon above, the runners switch on their tiny torchlights and start the 42.2km run. Down the short cemented path, turning left into the mud path onto the trail. Little pools of light bobbing in front, eyes scanning the path intensely, the quiet pounding of the feet, the soft landing on the ground, the moon vanishing as we enter the trail, the runners slowly spread out. I have always enjoyed cycling in night on dark highways where the entire world is limited to about 25 feet in front. This is my first run in the dark with a little torchlight, and it is amazing how mindful you get when the world is just limited to just a few feet. The rhythm of music in the ears, legs moving gracefully, the quiet mindfulness is just wonderful. Peace. The trails become narrower, the leaves kiss you and trail becomes sandy. Once in a way the moon says hello. And the wonderful volunteers on cycles light up the way and cheer at you. After about 70 minutes, the sky lightens up and in a few minutes it is bright. Switch off the torch and give it to the volunteer at the aid station. The torch in the hand was cramping my form and I am happy to let it go. My running form is back – nice. The trail twists and turns, we cross the cow-gate and get into residential quarter of Auroville. The residents are sitting outside cheering us – Lovely. Back on cemented road ‘kinda cobble-stoned’, then again into mud trails and a little later, a sign states “Auroville Marathon – To finish go straight”. The first loop of 21km is done and now it is back on the same route the second time. Only this time, the sun is in full glory, I see the trails that I ran in the dark sometime back. With clear visibility the pace picks up. As I do the second loop, I encounter the HM and 10K runners a little later. Quite a few of them decide to jog, walk and block the narrow trail. I am into a wonderful rhythm and do not adjust the pace, I breathe-hard/quietly-shout out to request the slow walker(s)/joggers(s) to move to the side. Some of them see my Blue BIB and understand that I am in my 25+ km mark, they clap & cheer at me. And this energises me. 

Sweaty underpants and Zen-state…
The sun is warm and the weather humid. The clothes are wet. I am enjoying it and as I cross the 35km mark I feel strong. I am focused on my running form, my hands moving nicely and therefore the feet. No signs of discomfort. Meet Karthik who is running strong, and a little later Chakra and Nayan. Their cheering energises me. I seem to be in a wonderful Zen-state. And the sign is back “Auroville marathon – To finish go straight”. Just a couple of kms now. I look at my watch and am surprised. It is about 3:45 after the start. The first time that I have run this distance/time non-stop, with only a few seconds at aid stations for water/electrolyte pickup. And it slowly dawns on me that it could be a sub-4 finish. Cheers become frequent in the last mile, and the effect they have on you is amazing. Thank you wonderful volunteers. Back on the cemented road, I turn right and sprint onto the muddy finish trail getting into the FM finish lane. The clock shows 3:59:30. Delighted that it turned to be a Sub-4 finish. Subramanyam And Jyothi Kurmi congratulate me. And there is MD Ramaswami to congratulate me, the man whom I have to thank for the Sub-4 finish. He said confidently the previous day that I would finish in 4:20. I laughed at him. This being my first FM, I was keen to finish it strong and injury-free, with at best a 4:45 finish target. But his statement I guess, seeded a time in my subconscious mind. Well I do not know if he meant Char Sau Bees!! My good friend Jawahar said that it was a dream debut. Well it surely was. Real dreams do come true!

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