What do you get when an ‘intense nature lover’/’earnest aspiring photographer’/’avid aspiring writer’/’spontaneous aspiring poetess’/ and all-rolled-in-one wannabe runner runs a marathon in a very picturesque trail ??? Voila ! Ya, you get a descriptive blog post and a photo journal of the marathon run !!! So shall we begin the run ?!
It was still dark when we loaded our baggage and our kids into the waiting cab. There was a big crowd at the lobby of the hotel waiting for their transportation. It looked like the whole of Mysore was doing the KTM, but in reality lots of runners had checked into the same hotel as us. All of them were in runner’s attire and were fresh and raring to go ! But, I was already running – behind my kids, Abhi & Rahul to ensure that they did not take monopoly of the elevator or the entrance sliding door – testing the speed at which these things can open and close! Sahana, my friend’s kid was trying her hand at drawing. All this at the unearthly hour of 4.45 a.m. Only my friend Lalitha & me had brought our kids along and so were dragging many pieces of big,small and sundry luggage around 😦 Others had come alone and carried just stylish backpacks for a luggage !
The drive from Mysore to Srirangapatna, a distance of 15 kms, was spent in answering kids about the marathon ! At the Young Island Resort,which was the camp base for the marathon, we arranged for the seating and food coupons for our kids and my friends aunt. Soon it was time to catch the shuttle that would take me on a 3 km drive to the start line of the marathon. I bid adieu to all and walked to the bus to take up the challenge of the half-marathon.
I alighted from the bus and was welcomed by the gentle tributary of the Kaveri river, one of the sacred and biggest river in peninsular India. It starts in Karnataka and flows through Tamil Nadu before finally joining the Bay of Bengal. A huge arch announced the entrance to the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary. This is a bird sanctuary formed by the river Kaveri and plays host to the migratory birds between december and august every year. The nesting season for the water birds is between june and november. We had visited the sanctuary the previous day and had seen the birds. But now the running trail would be through a village trail along the river.
A small walk took me to the start line. It was thronging with runners who were stretching and exchanging notes regarding their training. The full-marathon had started half hour earlier and we half-marathoners waited for the whistle to be blown.
Kaveri Trail Marathon is an annual marathon conducted by Runners for Life, a Bangalore based organization that has a friendly approach to marathons and marathoners. The organizers were revving up the spirits of the runners while giving out guidelines for the marathon.
The fog horn sounded at last and we started off on the half-marathon. It was a narrow mud trail about 6 or 7 feet wide, with overgrown grass in some areas. It was flanked by the tributary of the Cauvery on the left side and fields on the right side. The trail curved along with the river naturally. The weather was pleasant and cool. The sky was slightly overcast and it looked like the clouds could burst into showers any minute ! Birds were chirping in the trees and some were flying out of their nests in search of food. The setting was just too beautiful.
Some runners started out fast, while some like me started at a relaxed pace ; not that I ran feverishly fast at any point in the marathon ! I had taken up more than I could, by having signed up for the 21.097 kms. My goal was to try to complete the marathon ; that too without any injuries, without needing any first aid and to reach the finish line with my own two legs rather than in an ambulance ! Hmmm… lofty goals ??!!
The columns of runners ahead of me were blocking my view of the scenery before me, but not for long ! The crowd thinned out after some time and I had a sweeping view of the country side in its full glory. Aah… the advantages of going slow and not going for the gold – beautiful views and stress-free journey, just like in life ! I do not race in the game of life, then why would I race on a marathon trail ?! Infact I dislike marathon being called a race. Race indicates competition against someone or something; but marathon is all about cooperation, motivation, camaraderie, well-wishing, responsiveness, caring and most of all will-power and endurance.
There was lush greenery on both the banks of the river. The paddy fields in bright green occupied much of the cultivable land and the slender stalks were gently dancing to the light breeze. A little distance further, sugarcane fields came into view and one could almost smell the sweetness in the air. The fields stretched out as far as the eye could see. The village residences were nowhere in sight. The villagers were making an intelligent choice in reserving the land close to the river for agriculture and not wasting precious water and fertile land on water-front villas, unlike their city brethren who would make it into a concrete jungle with the best ‘views’ in no time ! Kudos to those wise villagers !
The everyday activities of village life presented itself before me ((I cannot use the more jazzier phrase ‘whizzed past me’ because I was not running at break neck speed!!))… Ok, so the village scenery was revealed like the reels in a movie; the ladies washing clothes, men bathing cows, tankers being washed, ladies going for a bath and men carrying some harvest. Whole bullock carts were taken into the water for washing ! Farmers were already at their fields, tending to the crops, planting, weeding, collecting and rechanneling water. Children cycling and playing or upto some mischief and people carrying load on their bikes. It was life as usual for them !
One repeating scene along the route was the men standing chest deep in water and holding a basin inside the water. After sometime they would bring it above the water do some filtering, much like we do while washing rice. They then carried it above their heads to the banks and deposited the sand on a waiting bullock cart. They also had really big basins, similar to the one they carried on their head, to transport themselves down the river. I guess it is a different form of sand quarrying, while the river is flowing full. I do not know for what purpose they collect this sand, but it could be for construction in the city.
There were fields of tomatoes, marigolds in bright orange and yellow, jasmine, yellow flowers and many other small plants. Coconut trees, palm trees, rice and sugarcane formed the major chunk. Banyan trees (tamil: aala maram), fig trees (tamil: arasa maram, hindi: peepal) and neem trees (tamil: veppa maram) dotted the trail providing cool relief from the heat. Creepers and climbers grew on trees and on the sides of banks making the place greener.
KTM information site had warned that the weather would be hot and humid. I was apprehensive of the heat as I would get dizzy fast with prolonged exposure to excessive heat. But the weather played its part to make this a memorable marathon ! The weather was cool, the sun was very gentle and the sky was cloudy and overcast for the most part. The cool weather added to the beauty of the place and the overall pleasant experience at the marathon trail ! The organizers claimed that they had bribed the weather gods to be gentle on the marathon day ! Well, this is one bribe that I endorse 😉 !
The route for the route for the half-marathon had a turn-around at 10.5 kms, at which point we had to retrace the route for completion. Some half-marathoners were already returning while I was yet to reach the half-way mark. 10 K-ers had turned around at 5 kms and full marathoners would do 2 laps of a half-marathon. The first few kilometers went on well, then at around 7 kms my legs started cramping and I was feeling wobbly because of hunger and the cramps. I spotted an aid-station and feasted on some pbj sandwiches and electral. The volunteers at the aid stations were courteous and offered fruits and water. But since there were no rest room facilities it was tough to keep drinking fluids, but could not avoid it either for fear of dehydration. I guess bladder control training is also an important part of the preparation for marathon and adventure activities.
There were a couple of cops here and there, patrolling or sitting, probably providing safety to some of the world class athletes who were taking part in this marathon (ya, ya like yours truly ;)). Kenyans and other top runners really don’t need any protection, they are in and out of the marathon in a jiffy, before I could spot the very first placed aid station probably !
The return run after the half-way mark was tougher mainly because of depleted energy and sun getting hotter. I slowed down even more; I had to choose between going fast or completing the marathon; I chose the latter. The other runners called out to me by name (printed on the race bib) and said encouraging words. They clapped and smiled and said that its just a little while still. Runners even asked each other how they feel and whether they needed any aid. The responsiveness to the others on the track was amazing.
The river was flowing in full, creating and nourishing life all around it. There were some broken bridges on it, there were some new ones, people using it for various purposes, taking something out of it, putting some other unwanted thing in, but it kept flowing gracefully. The lives of people of the villages on its banks depended on it, birds of the sanctuary depended on it, migratory birds fly from far just to spend some time on its waters, tourists flock to have a glimpse, marathoners run to experience it. That single stream of water was creating a wonderful world around it, serenely.
I reached the finish line to an applause and a medal. I was one of the last few to complete and it was nice of the cheer group to wait so long to cheer even the last ones to trickle in. I was happy that I completed it, though it was not entirely due to my physical stamina. I think will-power and tolerance for pain are the main necessities for a marathon. With such a beautiful surrounding, pain and fatigue became only a minor hindrance and could not stop me on my tracks !!
Marathon is not a RACE, it is CARE; care for your own health and well-being, care for others striving to endure the run,care to appreciate the beauty and goodness around, care to give way for others, care to make sure your fellow runner is fine if you find the other not doing well or demoralized, responsive to the physical pain of the others, care to take time to smile and say a nice word to the other runner even though you might be busy running your own ‘race’. Marathon is a microcosm of life, or rather how human beings should be. Each of us runs our own marathon in life, but it shouldn’t be difficult to be responsive to others, to beauty, to this world in general.
I dedicate this small success to Existence; who has showered, shared and blessed me with everything that I am today.