I remembered Siddharth many times when I was training on an elevation at BARC. I was also inspired by his passion for long bike riding. I was amazed to know that he had covered all costal regions around UAE within few months of reaching there.

A marathon of my dreams is what i call the dreamathon. Ever since I started running, it was my dream to finish a marathon (42.2K) one day, hence the name.

My dreamathon journey turned out to be much longer than I had thought when I started. I would like to break my journey towards my dream into two journeys. The first one stretched over three years from 5 Jan 2013 to 18 Jan 2016, and second one was of five hours, shorter in time span but seemed to be a longer one. I will be telling story of my preparation and run of finishing full marathon at Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM)- 2016 edition.

It took me three half marathons to believe that I can finish 42k. My previous records of half marathons were 2:52, 2:35 and 2:12. Slowly I started building my strength and I qualified to run scmm which was five months away. I customized a running schedule to achieve the goal in 4 hours.

However I made two mistakes during my training. First – over confidently setting the goal to 4 hours and second was to try barefoot running. I loved running barefoot on BARC roads but by the time I was running 30k a week, I started getting injuries and had to stop after a month . I am still not sure whether injuries were due to barefoot running or due to wrong running form. I tried xeroshoes (a kind of thinnest sandal ) and slippers but nothing helped me. I could not run almost for two months. I must say that barefoot running is very much enjoyable.

When only one month was left for the race, I pulled up my socks to accomplish my dream. I have a running buddy friend Mufi with whom I have run couple of races. He accompanied me to complete three practice runs of 24, 28 and 32k on SCMM running track and that build up my confidence. A good running partner always helps. I could barely finish practice run of 32K. Ideally I should have done atleast three trainings sessions of 36K before the race in order to be perfectly ready for the final race. Nevertheless I decided to go for it with a revised target of 5 hrs.

I gave last one week to yoga based stretching and meditation. Stretching is like oiling your machine and it is must during and outside the training. Meditation helps in syncing in the feeling for the big day. I rehearsed in my mind and pictured how I will be running through different courses of the race. After all, marathon is more like a mental sport and not a physical one.

And here comes the Race Day : Jan 17,2016.

I could hardly sleep the night before. A bit of excitement and running dreams kept me awake . The next day early morning I started my second journey amidst 4000 fellow runners and a huge crowd cheering up the runners.The euphoria charged me completely for the race. Although I was a tiny little part of this big event but like every marathoner, my race was to be one of the most important achievements of my life.

I was moving with the crowd. Beautiful marine drive, lots of Dhol-Nagade, music and cheering from the crowd boosted the energy levels immediately.

It is easy to maintain the pace in the beginning. I was running with the pace of 6 min/km. Hence I slowed down. Chauwapti, Babulnath and then comes Pedder road. I easily scaled up this incline by running.

Just then I noticed that Haji ali never looked that beautiful. I was eagerly waiting to reach Worli Sea face as Shreeya (my better half) was amongst the volunteers at a water station. As soon as I entered Sea Link, I heard my name and there she was. Waooo nothing is more encouraging than getting a kiss from your loved one while running. As if my battery was refueled.

I was feeling privileged while running on Sea Link. How many times you get a chance to cross the sea link without paying any toll. And the timing was perfect with the rising sun on my right across the sea at the horizon. It seemed as if God of light and Vitamin D was greeting us. Rising Sun is always inspiring for runners.

I haven’t taken any stop yet. Not even on water stations. In my opinion first stop starts the chain of frequent stops or after your first stop it becomes difficult to resist the urge to stop again and again. That’s why I say; running is a mental sport. You have to overcome the state of mind where your body wants to rest. This is the kind of task that separates the men from the boys. So far I was among the men. I wanted to finish atleast 21K without any break and I was able to stretch it till 23K. In Mahim my calf muscles started to sore. I decided to slow down a bit and took my first stop to apply some ice.

I started my journey again and near Dadar, saw my running buddy Mufi next to me. I was happy to catch him for two reasons: first he is a better runner than me and secondly I knew if I am running at par with Mufi then my timing is just right enough to crack the goal. Suddenly elite runners passed through. They run like horses. Pata nahin kya kha k daudte hain.

Mumbaikars are good hosts. I saw people with everything to cheer us- chocolates, watermelons, oranges and even pastries. You eat these items regularly but here they feel even tastier. But one should not eat much to avoid cramps in stomach.

I was able to finish 30K in 3:25 hrs and now fatigue started to affect me. I knew the difficult road ahead since my longest practice run was just 32K. I was at Worli sea face again and there she was: Shreeya to cheer me up again.

Post 32K, I was taking frequent stops. It was more of walking and running. Mufi developed some cramps and he took some rest. I kept doing stretching to avoid muscle spasm. I could see that many runners were slowly running and seeking help. Happy to see that I was not alone who was tired.

This was turning out to be the most difficult phase. I was looking at my watch frequently and counting kms to run. I couldn’t climb up Pedder road running. Instead I glanced Antilia (Mukesh Bhai and Neeta Bhabhi’s home) leisurely. They are the only people whom I know in that locality but sadly they were not there to cheer up for me ! or they were tired of waiting for me and left. No worries.

Sun was no more pleasant. Slowly I came upto Chaupati. I was almost crawling now. Very few people on the road to cheer us. I guess their enthusiasm lasted only till 10 o’clock.

I was in the final phase of last 3 kms. It was becoming like a hell to finish that tiny distance. I had finished 39K and crying for the last 3K. My legs were sore and old injury was hurting me. This is what a marathon is. No matter how much distance you have covered last 10% always feels longer than the rest.

I walked, ran, walked, ran and walked. Now timing was not important. Only finishing was important. There was a board indicating last 300 m and I ran with full capacity. I wanted to finish this race on running feet and I did that. It was 05:09:32 on my watch.

I am not a great runner. I am also not a lazy runner. I was happy that I could finish it in respectable time. This race was very important for me for personal reasons.

A first time runner will always think – Will I be able to do this? One has to believe in himself/herself other than having physical stamina and mental strength. The joy of finishing a marathon can boost you in many ways. If you love running even a bit, go out set a goal and just finish it. The feeling of completing a run can only be experienced by a runner. Everything seemed different that day, the road, the scenery, sunrise, people on the way and my loved ones. Words are not enough to express it. As Shreeya correctly summarized it

“Its supposed to be hard….and hard is what makes it great” – unknown

Dr. Praveen Pathak