Fifty Three

If I am still standing at the end of the race, hit me with a board and knock me down, because that means I didn’t run hard enough.

Steve Jones.

ADHM is home turf. It’s the race where I set myself formidable targets and achieve them. In every attempt I am significantly faster and end up moving ahead in the starting line-up. This year too I was remarkably faster than my previous attempt and scored a new personal best.

There was one thing different this time. I fell short of my time target and a line-up jump. Short by fifty three seconds.

At the end of the race I spent a few minutes at the finish line holding on to a railing as I gasped for breath. Upon regaining my composure I walked ahead to collect the medal along with refreshments, and occupied a spot by myself on a stair case. It’s terribly difficult to eat immediately after a hard run, but it’s also crucial for a speedy recovery. So I forced the food down my throat, and as I did that I recollected my entire run and the activities preceding the race—

  • At about 300m to finish I took a walk-break for a few seconds. Another one about 500m to finish, one about 700m to finish, at the 20th km, at 19.5 kms and at 19.2 kms. The final push was painful, but I could’ve possibly ignored the pain.
  • At the 18th km I was on the verge of falling behind my target pace. I pushed harder in panic. Could’ve possibly held my nerve.
  • At 17.5 kms I reached out for water and briefly paused to drop the bottle into the bin. Could’ve possibly endured the thirst.
  • At around 16.5 kms a fellow runner asked me for the time. I switched my sports watch screen thrice to answer her. Could’ve politely refused her.
  • Right before the 16th km, in front of India Gate, I took a sly cut across the runners to get myself captured by the official photographers. Could’ve ignored them.
  • Between the 11th and the 16th km I took occasional 30-sec walk-breaks and let my first half advantage slip away. At the 14th km, right after the timing mat, a runner tapped on my shoulder and egged me to push myself. I thanked her and resumed running. I thought I’d be able to cover up for these walk-breaks later. Could’ve possibly been on my toes during this segment.
  • Right after the 8th km I mistook an orange coloured sponsor board for an energy station. I prematurely slowed in anticipation. Could’ve possibly been more careful.
  • At the 3rd km I took my first walk-break. Keeping up with the 2 hr pacer was getting tough. Could’ve possibly stuck along until the 5th km.
  • In the holding area the 2:10 pacers went ahead in the crowd and I couldn’t be with them at the start. A 2 hr pacer was close so I chose to hang around him. Instead could’ve possibly paced myself at the start.
  • Prior to the start, I was a tad casual with the pre-race warm up. Could’ve been more sincere.
  • Chose to skip the Snickers bar in the morning, something I’ve always eaten before my races. Thought a couple of bananas would be fine.
  • Spent the evening before at Weekender. It was too close to home to skip. Mostly sat around. Didn’t dance. Tried resting myself as much as I could. However I stood through the A.R. Rahman gig and also breathed in a fair amount of smoke (in spite of wearing a dust mask).
  • In the week leading up to the race I cheated on a couple of strength workouts. Also the last easy run.
  • In the month leading up to the race most of my long runs were on flat easy roads. Could’ve trained on the undulating Gurgaon Faridabad Expressway instead.
  • In the months leading up to the race I didn’t adopt a training plan. Nor did I make a sincere effort to shed some weight.

A couple of seconds faster each kilometre is all that was needed and I screwed up so many times. This was the worst I’ve ever felt after completing a race. I wanted to cry, but my eyes wouldn’t tear. Perhaps the glands were dehydrated. I wished someone would hit me with a board and knock me down.

All this while I had imagined that losing on home turf must be a shameful feeling for a sportsperson. That ManU players would be embarrassed to lose at the Old Tafford. That the Brazilians must be ashamed of losing to the Germans in the 2014 FIFA World Cup semis. But now I think the most intense feeling isn’t that of shame. It’s grief.

Much grief.