A recent visit to the ortho for a knee pain made me forcibly give up running for a while till things got better. I was aching to run every evening, and sometimes when I did disobey the doc, I was aching, literally, to get back home, the pain was becoming unbearable, more so was the disappointment of not being able to compete in a much awaited international-standard running event which was due in a couple of weeks. The frustration increased by the fact that I had already registered for it quite well in advance!
The diagnosis was a strained knee, which sucked by the way, cause nothing was wrong with my knee except the look of it (full of scars from my childhood unlike the kids of today). The actual problem was (and still is), however, the iliotibial band which was hugging my knee a little too tightly on my right leg so it had a habit of rolling and rubbing on the side of my knee and getting irritated as a result (silly muscle).
Three days before the event, I had decided that I would run even if it means I would have to get my knee operated once I come back, if something had to give up, would've had to be my knee! Not me! I was searching some last minute tips to find comfort and ease the pain by some exercise and voila, I found it, it is called an “Iliotibial band stretch”. Thanks heavens I thought, and right from Thursday evening, I was stretching it every hour for it to loosen up by 0900hrs Sunday, when the clock would start.
Friday, and there was not much improvement although things got a little better in the pain section, but still I couldn't have completed 10km in the condition I was on Friday. I had gone sloppy, I was sweating as soon as I hit 2km on my daily runs and gasping through my mouth. I'd hoping my muscles remembered something come Sunday and slept in that thought.
Saturday, I had to travel to B'lore to collect my running number. The bus journey didn't help much, after sitting in a position for nearly 2.5 hrs, I was not able to descend the steps of the bus to get out, knee had frozen up again! Hmmm... time to start stretching I thought to myself and carried on.
Trying a weird dance step from one of the classical Indian dances in the middle of the sidewalk dressed in jeans and a sports jacket isn't the best of feelings in the world, but that was exactly how my exercise looked. Also, I did put my friend in a lot of embarrassment too cause of my weird poses while we had gone for our numbers. My apologies!
Kanteerava Stadium, myself and my friend were suddenly overwhelmed by the scale on which the event was conducted. There were people everywhere, and stalls, and people, and sponsors and more people, well... you get the idea. There was also a full scale model of a Formula-1 car, it's team owned by a local booze baron who was also sponsoring the event and as I later found out, the water too. And right next to the car were a few people.... ahem ahem... we named then “chaddi chicks” (You'd know what I'm talking about if you're an Indian, and you'd get the humor more if you're a local Kannadiga). Those “chaddi chicks” took a part of my attention off my pain (yes, I'm not hiding). Finishing up all the checking out to our heart's content, we then started checking our numbers. Which we found without hassle and also the timing chip used to record our times.
It was now time for a meeting with old friend. Sitting in Pizza Hut, we ate to the brim of our stomach and filled the small gaps with ice-tea. Heading back home, we were treated with nice evening coffee, something that always brings cheer! After discussing small things about bikes and tuning, it was time to head back home and a good night's sleep for we had to get up early the next morning to load up on high energy stuff for the race. I drank a liter of electral the night before and had a pack of biscuits & a banana apart from my regular meal.
Sunday morning, the alarm went off at 5:45am, the day had dawned, the feeling was larger than life, the butterflies all too busy in my stomach. I had to load up, another half liter of electral, half liter of water, a pack of biscuits, a banana and some more biscuits made my power breakfast, made me wish I could fit bigger jets to my stomach and not worry a thing after that. I had to time it well, eating too early would make me hungry at the start line, eating too late would make the food stay in my stomach which effectively made it useless. I started stretching heavily and went on stretching all the way to the stadium psyching myself up to forget the pain that I knew I would experience soon, how soon was the main question on my mind. One km? Or may be two or three? Who knows, may be ten too, yes? Optimism.
After cheering for a photo finish in the women's 10K run (which ended up in a dead-heat by the way) it was time for us to start. We took our places in the upper quarter of the crowd, hoping to avoid the blunder that took us by surprise the last time we were on that same stretch of road six months ago. It didn't help much though, but didn't hinder our run as much as last time too thankfully. The problem is this, some idiots who would know nothing about running long distances would line up at the front and start the race like it was a 100m sprint, they might make it up to the 1km mark or 2km if they're lucky, during that time the real long runners would get swamped by all these block-heads and would have their race compromised. But we got luck, and it was also the last time before the finish I saw my friend, that was when I uttered a few curses at those sprinters as I overtook him around half a kilometer from the start. The first kilometer went well, the knee was working smoothly and I was in good spirits overtaking people left, right and center. At the one km mark came the drinks booth, I took a bottle and tried a sip, no, it wouldn't go in, I lost my breathing rhythm for a while and ended up spitting it out (in running you're allowed to do that) and since it was too hot out there anyway (0900 hrs remember? Summer time) I thought I'd pour it down my shirt. The second kilometer went well too and I was picking up speed, by the third kilometer I had settled into a rhythm, running my own race, following and being within striking distance of a girl who was ahead of me since the beginning (white shorts and white top), a few foreigners had already turned red and seemingly weren't able to decide which speed they should maintain out there, so were overtaking me and falling back many times. By now the whole group had flattened out into more or less a straight line of runners with around a fifty to seventy people in front of me. Coming to the third km I entered Cubbon road, I even had time to wave at the people in the water booth when they applauded me for catching a bottle which I asked them to throw at me. When I could find time, I had a look at my stopwatch, 20 minutes it read. I thought to myself that I should've done around 5 km by that time. Just then I reached Ulsoor lake, Gangadhar Chetty road, where my problems started, I noticed that my right shoe lace had come undone, I thought of continuing as it was but the shoe was getting looser and looser with ever step, so I had to stop just before the entrance of Dickinson road to tie it up again. Then on Dickinson road went on without a glitch, then I turned left to Kamraj Road and an incline was in front of me, gentle enough to go unnoticed during regular times, but steep enough when you've been through five and a half of the fastest kilometers on foot. Then my worst fear came to life, towards the end of Kamaraj Road, barely 200m from the turn and the sanctuary of the plain roads of Cubbon road, my legs felt ten times their usual weight, my nostrils suddenly felt blocked up with cork, I opened my mouth and started gasping. But, by that time my legs had given up the fight, I was stranded and my knee had a pain tearing through the side of it. I stood by a pole, stretched myself in an attempt to get going again and started running, but no, my knee had other plans, it was taking none of my grit or my “mind over body” crap. I was forced to walk for a while and then start running, the pain was unbearable, from then on, I forgot my timing, the distance I've covered, where I was right then, or how far I was from the finish. I remember only bits and pieces of what happened after that, I remember running somewhere near Chinnaswamy stadium passing a person who'd passed out on the sidewalk, remember walking in front of Vidhana Soudha, on turning left and entering Cubbon park, I saw an ambulance probably carrying the person back to base. I remember seeing people cheering other people and then thinking to myself “why aren't they asking me to run?”, then I saw a water booth again, he said “two more km, come on, just two more” then I pick up my spirits and my failing knee and started hopping at first and then running again, trying to forget the pain, by now my knee, I knew was totally finished. My shoes were hurting me as they'd got wet over all the water I'd poured over myself in the last seven km. I reached the next kilometer marker and stopped, started walking again. The moment I came out of Cubbon park was the moment I knew that I was gonna finish the race. Even if my heart had stopped just after exiting Cubbon park and back on to Kasturba Road, it would still have been beating fast enough to take me to the finish line. From my earlier runs I knew my heart would've been doing around 150 beats a minute. I ran the last 800m and entered the stadium and stopped just meters from the finish line, but thankfully somebody from behind tapped me on my shoulder and urged me to go on, fellow runner. I pick up again and reached the finish. On reaching, I somehow remembered to stop my stopwatch. I didn't feel anything, I couldn't move, I limped to the water booth and bathed again. I stood in one place for a long time, staring blankly at one place, seeing people arrive and finish their own race and being happy about it. I thought to myself that I was good enough to beat a few at least. On better days, I could've beaten a few more, had my knee held out the whole distance. It was my first, 54 minutes and 33 seconds my watch read, I still haven't reset my stopwatch. A personal achievement. The consequences are either ways, more confidence, increased pain, greater happiness, higher ambition. Although I'm still not able to walk properly today, four days after the event. My knee can't keep me home for long, and I will put on my shoes soon and start again. It's only a matter on when. Till then, Chao.