It was a long drive but Diane's Lexus made our travel really comfortable. Took turns driving and made a couple of stops on our way yet we made it on time to catch up with Phil, Hara and her family. Met at Rocky Pizza as planned for some carbo loading. The Power punch pizza looked very tempting and ended up getting a big one.
Hara was running this for her BQ (Boston Qualifier). We were discussing about all the races that we have run so far and our forthcoming schedule while Sophie, Hara's daughter, was enjoying her pasta and buffalo chicken wings. Very nice of Phil for collecting our race packet. After dinner we headed to our hotel room to catch some sleep. Diane and I headed to the gym and did a mile walk on the tread mill.
Placed some ice packs near the ankle joints and was lying on my bed pondering that the Valentine’s Day weekend is going to be something very interesting and exciting. Mixed feelings, did I commit myself too much, maybe I should’ve listened to my friends, would it hurt, what it would be like were the questions popping on top of my head. I still remember the day when I signed up for four races and this one was unique as it would be back to back. One down and three more to go. My third Full Marathon if I get to finish it and my first one in my Vibram Five fingers. They held up pretty good for my half marathon.
Didn't know when I dozed off. Alarm went on at 5:00AM. Ankle pain was much better but still was a bit sore. That morning was very different. You will never do it; it’s going to be hell, Forget the finish line and thoughts as such. I have never had this feeling before. Tried hard to avoid the voices (sorry if it sounds dramatic) and resisted it harder. Pinned up my BIB and timing chip on my VFF. Found a spot close to the start line and parked the car. The ‘This is it’ moment. No turning back now.

My first ever marathon where there were about 2000 runners, could be more. The moment the race started, it took 7 minutes to reach the start line. It was mix of both marathoners and half marathoners. A two loop course through downtown Birmingham. The weather was freezing cold, 28 def F (Yes that’s -2deg Celsius). 

My training runs on the snow helped. Breathing was so hard and lungs were choking. It took almost 3 miles to gain the pace by squeezing through the crowd. A long way to go, with just me and the road ahead and nothing in between. Mile 8, pain started creeping in near the ankle. Oh oh, not again. Can’t afford for an ice pack on the run. Poured some ice cold water over it, gulped a glass of Gatorade and headed towards mile 9. Reached mile 13 at about 2:10 minutes. There were hundreds of half-marathoners pushing themselves to the finish line. Man, their race is over yet I have to do the whole loop once again. It’s very tempting. Shall I just cancel my entry to Full Marathon and do the Half marathon instead, just a voice inside my head, “Be a man”, that’s the voice from my heart. The heart won! It’s Valentine’s Day people! :)

Hastily, I took the turn towards my second loop. Pain, legs were aching, fat cells were crying. It was around 32 deg F by now but I was sweating like hell. Stride length was getting shorter. Mile stone was showing 15miles. 11.2 more miles to go. While I was trying to gain momentum, the course headed towards a hilly road. I should have anticipated as I just did the course in my first loop. Pulled myself up till the aid station. Grabbed some bananas, oranges and some water. Was feeling better. Never felt the need for a potty break though. Reached the Mile 20. Mile 20-26 always gives me goose bumps. The part of the race that puts me to test. Earlier I could stretch myself and touch my toes without bending my knee. Now, that seemed to be an impossible and grueling task. My nerves have given up I believe. Still managed to do it in spite of the pain. Now the interesting thing in this race is there is a balloon lady, she walks/runs at a 6:00hr pace. If you fall behind her then you are out of the race. While stretching, I look behind and I see the balloon lady. Oh man, I can’t fall out of the race. I must do it. I must finish it, whatever it takes.
 Got some courage to pull myself and started running at a very good pace until I couldn’t see her. I was running like I stole something. Later I found that it was another runner with some heart shaped balloons celebrating the Valentine’s Day. Freak!! Thought would wait for her and beat her up but good I saw her else I wouldn’t have gained the pace. That running pace hurt though. Mile 24, 2.2 miles to go. This is where the theory of relativity comes into the picture. That Einstein guy was right, “When you sit with a good looking girl for two hours, it seems like two minutes but when you sit on a hot stove for two minutes, it seems like two hours, that’s relativity”. The next 2.2 miles was hot stove for me and it seemed like eternity. There were couple of runners ahead of me and decided to out run as many as possible. I would take advantage when they would walk just to see them passing me in a while. 25 miles into the race and the last 1.2 miles to go. 
I could feel the vibe already, am in the downtown area, people standing by the side cheering you. I was literally dragging myself with this new found energy. 26 miles, the final 200 yards, I could hear the music and the finish line comes into view. All pain and suffering vanished, I sprinted the last 200 yards and crossed the finish line. w00t. Nothing like the few seconds while crossing the finish line. I was soon wrapped in mylar blanket by a volunteer and was awarded my finisher medal and my finisher T-shirt. Finished it in 5:18:52

 A very special race for me indeed. I ran this for the pure joy of running, to test myself and for other reasons only known for a few. There were hundreds of them crossing the finish line each for a cause and some for themselves. One lost her brother in Haiti, the other in memory of her child who died of cancer, some for their dear ones and many more reasons. Let me tell you something, you got to be at the finish line to experience what I am saying, wish I could put my feelings in words though. My friends crossed the finish line, 10 minutes after I finished. We hugged each other and said, “We survived, we did it”. Mercedes Medal and the Finisher T-Shirt were awesome. A sweet gift for my Valentine’s Day!
We were hunting for the Y! for shower but no luck. We were craving for Chick-fil-a sandwich though but found it closed and later realized it was Sunday. We had to settle for the second best and headed to Arby's. Had my favorite Roast beef sandwich and headed to Nashville. Done with a Half and Full, next would be the 50K and then the 50Mile. Jeez!!


Shrinidhi Hande said...

it is a good idea to give a T shirt to every one who finishes...

Navin Sadarangani said...

Finally you got bitten by the Valentine's bug too hah - the fact that a lady with a heart made you run fast!
Just kidding. Running in the cold requires guts and it's fun to see you go through it all to finish it 'no matter what'. And 24 hrs after a half, that is something. Way to go!

Run On!

Love and Regards,
Navin Sadarangani

T.I.M said...

@ Navin

"Lady with a heart made me run fast" that's hilarious and so true in real life as well. :) Thanks for your comments. Appreciate that.