This article by Rishi P is reproduced here from his company newsletter where it was published first.
There I was standing near the Columbus Circle, New York, hands wiping off my tears of joy having just completed the New York City Marathon 2011, the biggest running event on the face of the earth. Here’s how it all started…
Having played various sports at various levels of competence right through childhood, I considered myself quite fit, until then atleast. Once my work lifestyle changed from a field job to a desk job, I reaiized that the sports I played for enjoyment were not sufficient to keep in check my fitness level. While I was searching for outdoor exercise and fitness activities, I came across Hyderabad Runners, an organization of the runners, by the runners, for the runners. The camaraderie and the tales of running within the group completely caught my attention and I got hooked to running.
I kickstarted my professional running with the Hyderabad 10k event in Nov 2010 which opened my eyes to what seemed like a different world, the world of Running. Right after the race was when my running mentor planted in me the idea of running a full marathon (42.2 kms!) which sounded like a crazy dream for me having barely managed to cross the finish line at the 10k event.
He advised me to target running the full distance in the New York City Marathon (NYCM in short) in Nov 2011, a year from then (note to non-runners – NYCM is the Mecca for runners!).
Qualifying to run the New York City Marathon itself was a tough task. Since I was an amateur runner, I put in my application and hoped to gain entry through their lottery system. I forgot about my application and went about with my running and went on to do my first half marathon (21.1 Kms) at Auroville, Pondicherry in Feb 2011 which is our group’s annual pilgrimage. One fine hot April day in 2011, I received a mail from NYCM committee that I have been accepted to run! What followed the jubilation was months ofdedicated training in trying to build up the endurance to run the distance.
Six months later, in New York, I still couldn’t believe I was part of the spectacle and living my dream. Forty seven thousand runners, mostly professionals and a few like me started the run on the cold Nov 6, 2011 morning at Staten Island, New York. As I ran through the scenic five boroughs of New York, I realized it was not just a huge running event, that it was one of the biggest spectacles celebrating the indomitable human spirit. The excruciating pain endured was alleviated by the fact that the whole of New York City was out in the streets cheering and rooting for us and celebrating the eventjust like any festival back here in India or anywhere else in the world! And with all my muscles in the leg and back cramping, when I crossed the finish line, the familiar Runner’s High (an inexplicable feeling every runner experiences at the end of a race!) surged through my body and I had to let it out in the form of tears!
When I was handed over my medal, I knew I had won: won over my obstacles and my fears. And then I looked at the back of my medal, it said “In New York, everybody wins – Grete Waitz” How true the legendary 9 time NYCM winner’s words were!!
A people I talked to were mystified when I told them that the trip was on my own expense. Going half way around the earth just to run at a place certainly does not make sense to any regular person. But as the great Czech runner, Emil Zatopech, put it “If you want to win something, run 100 mts and if you want to experience something, run a marathon” and there could not
have been a better place for me to have experienced it for the first time than at New York.
I had completed what I once thought I would never be able to achieve. That’s one of my best take aways from running. Somewhere along the path I have learnt to focus more, discipline myself more and achieve goals better. Running made me realize and reinforce the fact that there are no limits to what one can achieve in any sphere of life.
Since then I have run another full Marathon in Mumbai, the Standard Charter Mumbai Marathon on 15th Jan 2012, which was tougher due to harsher weather conditions and I am already looking forward to doing something more challenging. Perhaps a marathon on the Great Wall ofChina or perhaps the Comrades Marathon in South Africa, an 89 km ultra-marathon up the hills of Cape Town?
Only time will tell and I continue to train, vowing never to stop running. And finally a little secret about the magic of running… There is no magic, it is still only you, discovering what your abilities are and can be.