Sometime in the future, hopefully in the near future, I could share a race story that has me flying low over the terrain, running smooth with the wind tucked into my locks, long strides and elbows pumping like a piston. As I’d pull in to a curve, the pillow on my bottom would make for a strange silhouette, a pillow in place so that my super strong heels don’t dent my bum. Today I don’t have that story, that’s a peek into the future, into a running future that floats low on the horizon, hazy and shimmering like a mirage. For today I’ll have to do with me. Just me. Not a version that’s manifested from magic potion. No unicorns and no big foot. The version today has little pieces of flesh hanging from its knees. A little blood, mixed with fine dirt, smeared to make the legs gorier; a mouthful of sand, a little dizzy and very far from the finish line.
The kaveri trail felt and looked very different this year. The canal wider and the trail wider too. The canal eating into the trail and the trail eating into the shrubs and trees. Trees that provided little cover along the trail now lay along their trunks beside the trail, belly up and their roots reaching into the sky. Though the trail remains, it appears like someone plucked out the prettiness of this place and flung it aside. The quaintness and the little gurgle of the stream were now replaced by a rush of water and a purring roar. The widened trail is fresh with packed in soil, the rocky sections patched in and softer to run on, trail sections that once allowed only two runners abreast is now wide enough to accommodate four. The soft grass that is so ever inviting alongside the trail is now buried deep. I miss the grass by sight and miss it by feel. It’s nice to roll on it in the middle of a run though it isn’t recommended. The track made by bullocks hauling paddy and cane is replaced by a blur of brown packed in earth. The place suddenly seemed to be in hurry, the water tumbling in waves and troughs instead of a ceaseless flow in ripples. That timeless prerogative of the place to charm and woo was dearly missing.
I have these long extended conversations in my head. Made up conversations most of the time. Making up quirky replies to prying questions that someone might ask. Sometimes, I talk to my other self in my head. Is it only me or does everyone have a different image of themselves up there in the vastness of their mind. An image of themselves that they covet or an image to come undone. An image cut and pieced together by looking at some trait they liked or disliked in someone else, a nice bouncy haircut, a well-rounded deltoid or bosom, the drawl in someone’s speech, the energy in someone’s stride or just a make believe character that they have conjured up in their heads.. Is it true when Chuck says ““Nothing of me is original, I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.” It’s a scary realization isn’t it, to realize that everything about you could be fake. Coming back to the conversations that I have, I feel it stems from the primal emotion of fear. The fear of rebuttal by someone if you put your true thoughts across to them. Fear of non-acceptance, fear of success, fear of loss, fear of the unknown; I would drop other words and just say Fear. For fear manifests in every imaginable possible way, fear makes us crave buffer, to soften the fall when we really drop, to make the worst of that we fear seem manageable and survivable. Money is a buffer, that high rise pocket-burning apartment is a buffer, that four wheel drive SUV to drive to a corner office is a buffer, those endless conversations in your mind are a buffer to keep the fear at bay, unveiled and to keep you sane.
Then, there are experiences that wedge into you a double edged burning flint of fear KTM 2013, did exactly that. Forget about the timing – I was battered so hard, timing was the last thing on my mind. Crawling gnawing self-doubt took top shelf; the brightest spot in my mind. Conversations revolved around it. Can you ever pull off a full marathon again? I needed reassurance but SCMM 2014 just added more fuel to that self-doubt. A limping, walking finish adds no mileage to your soul, it just kicks away the crutch of hope you were resting on. I pulled out of Auroville though it’s a favorite race, I do a scratchy and scattered summer season to keep my legs alive and sign up for a full at KTM, the way I saw it, the decent way to move forward was to disconnect from what happened the last edition and give it another go. Disconnect, leave it behind, burn the bridges, water down the burning embers, and watch the ashes of the bridge flow away down the blue river in a grey blur.
Thirty Km into the race, running head-on into cramps and walls [pic: Sandy]
I ran my first full marathon in 2013 on the banks on river Kaveri in the Kaveri Trail Marathon, it was a race of epic proportions and I learnt a hell lot about myself that day and also the unconditional support and love within Runner’s High. The race story;
I squint to look at the bird circling endlessly a mile high in the sky, it looks like a buzzard at first, then slowly as my eyes get used to the light, I see it’s just a crane or a swan and I smile. It’s nice to be lying down in the middle of a race, the concrete slab of the culvert feels nice and mellow, without the buzzard around to pick away at my bones, I’d love to just lay here, just like that, still, without a movement. Without a sound.
“If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?”
Just lay there and listen to the gurgling water beneath the culvert, listen to the approaching footsteps of a runner, footsteps close in to you and listen to them move away.I’d love to just stop, not quit, but just stop and catch my breath and try to enjoy the scenery a little bit more, but it is kilometer twenty six and not mile twenty six, I have a long sixteen kilometers to go and it feels longer than what I’ve trained for. I gather my strength and stand up, look at Paroma who is patiently waiting for me and give a nervous smile, I’m just warming up to my antics on this race, I start to move and trudge ahead.