Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Day I Ran 55 Kilometers!

The Day I Ran 55 Kilometers!
                                                                                                             20th December, 2013

Well…actually we could change the headline to ‘The day I ran, walked, jogged and limped through, struggled and fought with my body to cover those 55 kilometers!’

And why am I writing about it? Well, friends there’ll be not many occasions in life (at least in my life so far) that you’ll end up surprising yourself. Instances where you drive yourself to do things you've never done before…and end up being in an ecstatic space where you've never been before. Situations where the world around you believed you were really crazy to even think about it. And finally, situations where you actually achieved those crazy milestones on the sheer strength of your Belief.

It all started with a ‘feel-good’ challenge to support one of our dare-devil colleagues who was on a daunting mission of walking over to the South Pole in Antarctica. 640 Kms of sheer hardship and human endurance all by foot, all in 22 days. Our organisation strongly backed this endeavor in a dual mission of not just celebrating human resilience but also to conduct scientific experiments around our changing environment. The latter so very essential to our core organisation strategy of offering risk management solutions and building resilience for a risky world.

The ‘feel-good’ challenge was simple enough. Form teams of 10 that will cover an equal distance i.e. 640 Kms over a similar period to show our solidarity with the courageous cause. That equates to about 3-4 Kms per day per each individual in a 10-member team. Of course, this was the basic minimum and the challenge was that the team that achieves the highest mileages wins the game!

The stage was set. The teams were formed. We connected with like-minded, like-spirited colleagues and managed to put together a formidable team in place. A Triathlon Ironman who has running ingrained as a part of his regular strenuous regime. An industrious jogger who has the reputation of clocking endless miles on any given day. And so on, an entire 10-member team of reliable walkers/runners who ensured to easily cruise past the minimum threshold of 3-4 Kms per day (though at least 80% of us were infrequent walkers and had never tested the upper limits of our own resilience).

And that’s what exactly remained the underlying theme – the theme of self-discovery for most of us – throughout the Resilience Challenge that we all embarked on. To begin, we soon realized that the initial target of 3-4 Kms/day was too easy for each of us to be attempting and wasn't daring us at all. We created a dashboard and were soon competing against each other. We soon realized the ‘6 small meals formula’ advocated by nutritionists. We could clock much higher mileages by breaking into number of smaller sessions throughout the day, rather than one big workout session. Soon 10-12 kms/day became a set norm. Soon enough most of us went past 20 km/day mark as well.

Incidentally, I missed quite a few days of workout due to ad-hoc family appointments and (can I confess) pure tardiness on certain days. On the final day of the challenge, many of my colleagues had impressive final mileages to talk about. 400, 300 and 200 Kms + final mileages. And here I was, the captain at 7th position with a total mileage of just 195-odd kms.

It was the final day. The day of self-redemption and trying to end with a respectable final tally. In my mind were 3 records –
  • To register the highest individual single day mileage within my team (which so far was 46 kms)
  • To register a half century i.e. 50 kms
  •  And finally, to go past the feel-good mark of 250 kms in the total tally i.e. 55 kms on the last day!
The target today wasn’t speed, but plain, simple perseverance. It wasn’t how fast…but how far. It wasn’t kms per hour. But more importantly, how many hours could I sustain to be on the roads till 12 midnight today. Even if I decided to walk the entire 55 kms stretch in a leisurely walking pace of 6 kmph, I’d precisely need to be on the roads for about 9.5 – 10 hours. That’s a pretty fair deal over the next 24 hours.

Seemingly impossible task for someone whose best so far was 21 kms in a single day. But then, as they say…dare to dream, dare to challenge, dare to beat your best. The day started early, really early…and by 4:30 am started the longest day of my life!

4 Kms down in 30 mins and it seemed to have started on a good, solid note. However, suddenly there was a pack of 4 dangerous-looking stray dogs out of nowhere. I soon realized that they won’t bite. They were loud and ferocious, growled and scared, but didn’t bother to come close. But I was in no mood to challenge them further and decided to change my route. Out of the cozy confines of my building society into the roads of a sleepy suburb. From the roads to a huge public park. The wonderful sights of the morning at 5:30 am that I had forgotten so long ago. The walking/running/jogging was proving to be a breeze. Distances didn’t seem as long as they seemed while driving a car. 8 kms, 12 kms, 14 kms…a good run around the entire locality that I may have never ever dared to attempt, had it not been for the Resilience Challenge.

The day chugged along and I kept on knocking down 4-6 kms every hour and then some rest. Run, Rest, Run, Rest. With clinical precision, with a song on my lip (Bas tu Bhaag Milkha!) and with a strong focus on that mark of “being on the road for 10 hours’…the mission chugged along. There were blisters, sprains and moments of hopelessness. In fact, the journey for the last 15 odd KMs seemed like impossible and never-ending. But the song kept going. Soon enough the first milestone cracked, 46 kms +. Then I limped and crashed through the next 4 painful kms to the coveted 50 kms! And that was it, no more!

It was 20th December and on the television was the finale episode of the immensely gripping 24 series. The episode ended at 11 pm sharp…and here was the final 1 hour of my 24 hours journey towards ‘Self Belief’.

Either give it up and take pride in registering 50 kms in a single day. Or stretch that extra mile (literally) and end up with a final tally of 250 kms. Stirred but not shaken, Bruised but not broken – the mind refused to cow down. The body responded reluctantly and there started the final hour of the longest day of my life. 5 kms to go. Inch by inch, minute by minute…the Mapmyrun installed on my smartphone finally said the magical words “total distance covered 5 kms, total time taken 48 mins, speed is….”

And that was it! At about 11:48 pm ended my toughest journey ever. On the road for about 9 hours 30 mins for the dream target of 55 kms in a single day.

Surely, one fine day…when I run the half Marathon, the full Marathon or even the Ironman challenge (running + cycling + swimming), all this might look like a kid’s play. Much hype about nothing. 55 kms in 9.5 hours…so what’s the big deal man? But then, it would be worth remembering that this was my first major triumph of the mind over body. Of resilience over resistance. Of Belief over everything else that I had ever attempted before. Today, I dared to dream...and then dared to walk my dream. Today, was my first baby step in the space of fitness, endurance and transformation…and being a Milkha for life.

Signing off, this is Himanshu Manroa, Captain Mumbai Milkhas. And today, 20th December was the longest and one of the most worthwhile days of my life. 

Bas Tu Bhaag Milkha! 

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