Ram’s car was heading towards Pondicherry in lightning speed-the odometer didn’t go down from 90 Km/hr mostly through the journey. The dying sun was showering down light red rays onto the dashboard brightening both of our faces like ripe oranges. Nobi plugged the headphone of the mobile phone into his ears and napping comfortably in the back seat while Ram and I went back to our good old days.
Ricky Martin’s ‘taking back my love’ started pouring out of the car stereo which made us sing together but I sang with a different lyrics: I’m taking back my life, my life, my life! “Justin, why? You lost your life?” Ram enquired. “Yes, I almost lost it once. But now I’m taking it back” I said recalling my nicotine addicted college days during which running even a mile got me breathless. All through the journey when I fall into my private thoughts, I was visualizing the joyful ordeal I would undergo next day with my legs pounding the trail during my second full marathon in life.
The sun had already spitted orange juice all over the white clouds when we entered the Auroville. The reception was cordial. We got ample space including Ram who hadn’t booked a room and not even participating in the marathon. We all went to sleep as soon as we got beds, pillows and blankets.
0330 hours. I woke up even before my alarm gave out its annoying cry. At 0415 the pickup bus took us to the starting point which is known as Certitude. Full marathon runners shouted and hooted in full swing as the commentator started the countdown. “Go!” the commentator shouted through the speakers at sharp 0500 hours and all the runners pounced with full energy and pep into the pitch black darkness that filled the woods.
The first as well as the last mistake I made was that I forgot to take the LED torch which was supplied there. So I had only one option: tail one of the runners who had a torch. In that darkness prior to the ‘lovers’ day’ dawn those torch lights appeared like fire flies. Till 0630 hours, we all run through the darkness and I kept my pace steady. I passed through the narrow trail besides a beautiful lake and at times jumped over the cow gates too. At some points peacocks and peahens appeared gently in the bushes and bowed their heads as if wishing me a good morning and a great run.
Slowly after 0630 hours, morning sunshine penetrated through the leaves of tall trees making them look like lovely silhouettes and our warm, sweating bodies melted the mist, evaporating it to the air. I touched the 21 km mark without much effort and darted from there without wasting much time.
Since my daily run is through the Selaiyur scrub jungle of Madras Christian College, the scenic Auroville scrub jungle didn’t seem new to me. But the latter was bit denser. The motivational gestures and cheering by the people who stood near to the trail were priceless. Old people mostly foreigners greeted me with a bright, smiling ‘good morning’ while youngsters chanted, ‘you-can- do- it!’ At a point, there was crowd of jovial drummers, to boost runners’ enthusiasm and ‘rhythm’. I smiled at them and thanked them for lifting my heart beats as well as spirits.
At 36km mark, sensing the gradual drain in my energy level, I took to trekking for few meters and stood idle for some time to relax my weary calf muscles. Suddenly a middle aged man stopped by. “Hey, each step you take is towards the end. Don’t stop!” he said gasping. I looked at him helplessly, with fatigue banging on my head. But, those words were inspirational enough to take me back to running. “Hey, strong guy! Go ahead! Crack it…crack it!” I could hear that man shouting despite of his weariness.
Some say, real marathon starts after the 35 km mark. But for me it started just after I touched 39th km mark with just 3 more kilometers left to hit the finish line. During that time of low spirits, I got the glimpse of the mammoth Golden Globe, the popular mascot of Auroville. I took on to trekking losing my ‘rhythm’ but enjoying the beauty of that architectural splendor.
Suddenly another middle aged man appeared near to me. I overtook him long time ago during my prime time running. “Bhaai…tum yahaan tak pahunch chuke ho, ab ruko math, aage bado! (Brother, till this far you have reached. Don’t stop now. Go ahead!)”, told that man with beads of sweat rolling down from his forehead soaking his big, bizarre moustache. This time I could just smile at him. Firstly I don’t know how to reply in Hindi and secondly, I had only a bit of energy left in me. That man ran ahead and I continue with my slow trek looking at the smiling sun. Sunny breeze patted my wet hair and droplets of my sweat transformed into fine salt power on my fore head, legs and hands.
Just after few minutes I started running again overtaking three persons including the Hindi speaking man who inspired me some moment ago. We exchanged smiles and I entered the final lap of my first full marathon in 2010. Nearing the finish line I could hear the hooting and screaming of the onlookers giving out the final bit of inspiration to me. In spite of my breathlessness and weariness, I increased my pace with a cheerful, smiling face and touched the finish line clocking 4 hours and 52 minutes.
As soon as I finished up the run, Ram came out of the crowd and hugged me. “Big deal, dude!” Ram exclaimed smilingly. We waited for Nobi while I had my massage which really relaxed my muscles and my mind to some extent. Nobi took one more hour to reach the finish line. After refreshing ourselves, we got into the car. In two aspects I really cherish the Auroville Marathon. Firstly, I didn’t felt much fatigue after the marathon and then, on top of all, I improved my timing by more than one hour!
“Macha, where is your next marathon?” Ram asked me funnily while wiping the windscreen of the car. “In June at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia” I said with a smile. Ram made a funny face and the car started heading back to Chennai. But this time the odometer never crossed over 60 km/hr.