I ran my first half marathon on October 15, 2006 with the help of my mother. I was 18, had just graduated from the High School, had no savings, the registration fee was INR 100, but there was a INR 1000 deposit needed for timing chip. That’s when my mother stepped in and made it happen. Meeting those fast Kenyan athletes, their manager Ian Ladbrooke, who later went on to become a good friend, and the people I met while running got me hooked on to it, and running became a part of my lifestyle. But, what about Big Birthday Bash?
A year later, on July 27, 2007, when I turned 19, I wanted to do something stupid on that day. I asked myself, can I run a half marathon without aid-station support, all by myself? How doable will that be? July is extremely hot and humid, and it rained on 27th without exception. Every single time. Delhi Half Marathon, the only race I had participated in my life that took me 3 hours and 14 minutes to finish, has an aid station every 2 km. I had not run beyond 7 km without support in my life. So, it was worth a shot. To celebrate 19 years of my life, I ran 19 km and crawled the remaining 2 km to make it a half marathon. Next year, I ran 20 km and then half marathon a year later. But what was next? I could easily run half marathons in touch above 2 hours and that was too short of a time for celebration. Thus, in 2010, I decided to go for slightly longer for the first time and logged 22 miles in the middle of the night when rest of the city slept in the comforts. I didn’t have a phone or GPS to know how far I was actually in or how far I still must go. All I knew was, home was still far away. I continued to crawl and covered a total of 56 km circumnavigating my home city, Delhi, on the busy ring road. A few weeks later, I went out to run for 12 hour in my neighborhood, running in circles and covered 77 km in blistering summer of Delhi. Now I knew, I can go on for long, if speed is not a parameter to be considered. But, for how long really?
When I turned 23, I decided to go for 23 hours. However, I knew I couldn’t do it. It was too long to stay on feet. So, I bargained and decided to run for 23 hours in 2.3 days, i.e., 56 hours. Thus, on July 27, 2011, I ran my life’s first 100 km, a total of 143 km in those 2.3 days. Now I knew, I could go on for as many hours as my age. In 2012, with the help of others, I aimed for 250 odd km, but I had to stop at 150. A year later, I again attempted that distance, and bailed out at 200 odd. Learning from the failures, in 2014, I toned down and ran for 26 hours near Pune in Central India and finished at the magical Varandha Ghat, a valley I had been eyeing for two years.
In 2015, I ran for 27 hours circumnavigating Pune. In 2016, I was in the city of Haridwar with a friend. I abandoned him, boarded a bus with no plannning where I was going, got off at a random place, turned on GPS tracking on my phone and ran for 28 hours in the Himalayas. 140 odd km in total and finished at the origin of river Ganga in Dev Prayag. In 2017, I ran 375 km in May instead, to celebrate both mine and Montreal’s birthday. In 2018, I moved to Newfoundland and circumnavigated the North of Avalon Peninsula on East Coast Trail in 30 hours and ran the remaining Southern part in 31 hours in 2019. Then pandemic happened, I fucked my ankle, and here we are in 2021.
This year and past year have been tough. In 18 months I gained over 30 pounds and weighed 81 kilos in February, heaviest I’ve been in my life. When I stepped on weighing scale and read the observation for the first time in 18 months, shock waves ran through my body immediately. I stood there, naked, and hated the person I saw in the mirror. While I was gazing in my own eyes, in shame, I recalled how I got there. Following the failures of 2019 with ankle injuries, isolation due to pandemic, surgery and another ankle injury had mentally broken me and I decided not to race again. Ever. I was stressed, eating four servings of each meal and all that would be followed by ice cream. I was finishing a 3L ice cream tub and over a pound of chips all by myself in less than a week. And then I moved to Oslo and a somewhat similar trajectory continued.
Now, when I was looking at myself, I was disgusted. I logged on to the computer and spent hours searching for fat burning supplements to find a quick fix solution. When tired of looking at those fancy capsule posters with shredded models posing next to them with a fake review, I stood up, wore my shoes, went out for a run, couldn’t go even half a mile and bought another pound of chips and finished it overnight. It was as if I had accepted myself the way I was with no change possible in sight. Then, four weeks later, I took it upon myself to finally take the control back, started actually running again, however miserable, and brought some discipline in life. It wasn’t easy. Far more difficult than what I first started running over a decade ago. But, I didn’t start it for that reason either. It was expected to be difficult, it was expected to break me, it was expected to drain me, and it did. I was no longer starting my runs thinking of when will it end. I was going with the flow. How far have I come? How far I still have to go? It didn’t matter now.
In exactly one month, I will turn 33. I’m still not fit enough to run for 33 hours non-stop on any terrain. So, this year, I plan to run/hike up to two of Northern Europe’s highest peaks in Jotunheimen National Park in a bid to go on for 33 hours in 3 days to celebrate the 33. The trail is difficult and slow and weather in the mountains is unpredictable. So that deems a lot of homework. There is only one thing that is certain – it is going to be epic! And I hope, I will return alive, to share yet another Big Birthday Bash story!
Feature image: Besseggen, Jotunheimen National Park (first 10 km of the run)