15th February 2014 early morning 5:00am, am up and ready dressed for what is probably going to be the toughest run that I would have ever done so far. A quick breakfast, water bag packed and waist belt packed. Few chocolate bars, enerzal, kit for wound. With almost all mandatory stuff packed. By 7:00am all runners, running the 101kms, 42kms and 21kms are ready and getting into the bus to be dropped at start point which is at Dholaveera.
I was in the 42kms category. One of my colleague Gokul and myself have already decided to stay together for the entire course come what may. We heard lot about the terrain for the run and now we were going to experience it. It is pretty much cold in the morning. Nowhere close to Bangalore chillness.
We start off with the salt lake to the left, sun slowly rising up on the right. A very beautiful ball of sun. We maintain a steady pace on the marsh sometimes leg slipping into the marsh and sometimes hard surface of the salt sand. Little later we go up towards the hilly section. In the course we find not at all places we would be able to run and even if we run not at the same pace. There are rocks or stones and at times leg trips over it.
It is so far not tough to be on the route with red ribbons tied to either the thorn bushes or fixed on small flag posts. Moving further we still trip over stones and keep climbing up and down. Then out of blue we find rocky terrain where we need to climb up holding to rocks. And same is the situation when climbing down. There are water stations at regular intervals within 4-5kms distance. So far so good.
And then starts more twist to the terrain. There is a red ribbon flag post and looking down its like jump down and down and down or scroll down holding to rocks. Around 18kms mark which is where we turn left (101kms and 42kms runners) and the 21kms runners turn right. There are few runners who did miss the ribbons and get into different directions and were brought back on track.
At this around same distance there is a runner from Mexico who also joins us. We three stay together. We stayed together till the end from here on. At a point on top of cliff we scream our lungs out for a short video. Gokul has a problem with his right knee and the way he was running was dangerous for his leg. Our mexican friend had a bandage for the pain and I found a sharp stone to cut the bandage. The pain was more due to constant tripping over rocks. Of course we always maintained not to fall down at any point of time which would have been very bad. I took regular photos to fill memories later date. And there were fossil rocks too.
We cross some more aid stations and the distance told to us is 12kms to finish line at each station. We are motivated but actually not when the next station also tells us the same. In one of the aid station I give my water bag since it was leaking from both sides and filled with water bottles instead. We maneuver towards 28th kms mark where there is a station and school kids and their teachers standing with placards written ‘Welcome’ and the kids shouting ‘welcome welcome’ beating drums and clapping. We fill water bottles, orange, pour water on head, convey our mandatory thanks and climb up the rocky hill again and turn right, the left turn on top is for 101kms runners.
We could see the salt lake and the marsh and we were like we are almost there. From 12kms to finish line now we graduated to 14kms to finish line. When we got down it was not towards salt lake but rather into sand. Now we were mixing a bit of jog and walk and jog and walk. Not to leave behind the sun is rather sharp on us. 28kms in around 4hours I think. My garmin had got reset at around 21kms and was doing another lap. In the beach sand or river sand we were there and at occasional times found shade from the thorn bushes. Now I was also cramping up. I cannot blame this time that I did not drink enough water. I was drinking water regularly that I was also able to feel my stomach filled with water, enerzal, orange, choci.
We are again walking and mixing walk-jog. We are getting tired. The only thing that keeps pushing us is the remaining distance to the finish line which would be around 10kms. So, by approximation we are sure by 6.5hrs we would at the finish line. We are already basking ourselves in the proud feeling. At the next station we are told 15kms to reach. Our mind starts acting crazy. Is there any other option. We cannot drop out. Though heat is getting on to us. Some more gatorade, glucose, water. Finally after another 5kms we are onto the salt lake marsh and to the next aid station only to hear another 15kms to finish line.
This is where we 3 being together helped. Either one of used to walk ahead so that none of us would drop out. Lot of times we would be walking together. Heat is on us. And its just plain salt lake with no living being in sight. We try to walk fast but we are also slowing down.
Now I don’t even remember what all we talked about. We talked about our work, our personal life and many things under the sun, literally! Yes literally under the sun. By now, I had taken the hanky from my bag and tied it around my head, was constantly pouring water to keep it wet and wore cap on top of it.
This talking helped us and we were sure that at every other aid station the distance would be still 12kms to finish line. Long stretches of marsh and pits in between, salt deposits, bright sunshine.
With all the struggle we reach the last aid station! What a relief, no words to describe. Now we are definitely going to reach the finish line. Walked again, took some rest, walked again. We had absolutely no more energy to run or to jog. Took another quick break and in the last 50mts, we 3 jogged together past the finish line to all claps and cheers and a medal put on to our neck.
What a feeling. We check the garmin stats and we had run 53kms. We definitely were not going to complain for the extra distance. It was not extra by 1-2kms by 11kms. Why would we complain when we feel more proud of having done the ultra while actually registering for 42kms.
We were not alone in our distance calculation, every other runner had the same stats!
Running on flat roads was good to be fit but am sure only after couple of such trail runs is when I would feel confident. But still there could be surprises!