During sometime in October last year, all my cousins decided we would start running for the sake of fitness. Since Mahesh, my elder cousin, is interested in such things, he came up with the idea of running at Hyderabad Marathon.

With Nannu (another cousin) around, he can make things happen. He convinced all the boys, and there we are, Mission Hyderabad.

During the build-up, I was told we all were running 21 km, i.e., half marathon. I was telling them, “It’s not an easy task; you guys must be joking.”

But somehow, all these guys seemed to be thinking, running a half marathon was easy. As usual, we did have our opinions pouring in, and at last, the decision was made. “We are running half-marathon.”

Were we?

It was decided that we would have a sightseeing day before the marathon. Since this was my first visit to Hyderabad, I was looking forward to the trip.

Some butterflies also started creeping in when I thought about completing the half marathon, along with the excitement. I have never run that long continuously, and even the distance looked intimidating, but not impossible.

Since I used to run, I did have a measure of how long the distance would be.
Hence the mental passport was ready, and all I needed was the visa of my body.
My physical condition wasn’t up to the standards which were required to run a marathon. Max, one month before the event, I would have run 10 to 15 km at one go.

The question was “maintaining the intensity.” Before the marathon, I was also surprised to see my cousins taking things lightly when it came to the running issue. I kept stressing the necessity of being in shape and, more importantly, mentally tough.

To be on the safer side, I wanted to test my fitness condition. I started focusing on cardio at the gym. I just kept cycling for 10 km and thread mill for another 5 km. This routine I followed ruthlessly for two weeks. Three days before the marathon, I decided to ease out and just did the usual way. So I wasn’t ready physically; also, considering the effects of a double ankle sprain on my right leg, which happened in 2002, things weren’t going to be easy. But it was a challenge, which I took it up to see, whether I can or whether I will?

Our running T-shirts arrived, surprisingly, T-shirt mentioned a 10 km run. I asked Nannu, and he told me the stock for half marathon was not available.

Ok, the day came finally. 24th of November, 2006. I, Ravi (Dali), Nannu, Mahesh, Sharath, Manju, Sandhya, Radhika (Trinca), and of course, my cutie pie Namratha.

This was the gang of Bangalore, all set to conquer the blues of Hyderabad.

We had booked AC train to and fro. We reached on the morning of 25th and, after some time, did find someplace to rest. The plan was to have Biryani after the marathon since we would enjoy it much better, and it was advisable to keep ourselves a low key when it came to eating that day.

We had booked Toyota Qualis for commuting. The entire day was spent discussing the strategies for cracking the marathon. Manju, Sharath, Dali, and Nannu had different ideas to give, although it was a little funny compared to my profound thoughts.

First stop: Charminar. Even though it is not well-maintained, it is a beautiful piece of architecture.

Later we went to Golconda fort. It was terrific, and the evening was a perfect time to be at that place. That day, I was wearing my Superman T-shirt and did feel though I had lots of energy. At the same time, I wanted this energy to last for the marathon in a few hours.

The laser show with Amitabh being the Sutradhar was just the perfect way to know about the history of Golconda and other princely titbits, which have made this place a treat to visit.

By this time, adrenaline was pumping, and we were ready.

Dinner was more of fruits and salads, although others did try their hand at Biryani and other heavy stuff, I was happy with my light meal, keeping the race in mind.

The interiors at the restaurant were simply breathtaking, and for some time, I wondered “whether it is a restaurant or some temple?”

Off we went to bed. We were supposed to reach the venue at seven in the morning for the half-marathon to start. I woke up at 5 am, got ready. So everyone was set for one titanic battle of our bodies and minds. Akshay Kumar and the oomph Sameera Reddy were the people who would be flagging the 10 km race.

We reached the venue. Within minutes, I saw people running past us. I was ready to go just when all my cousins pulled me back. They started laughing. I didn’t understand, and a few seconds later, I got to know we had come to participate in the 10 km. Dali said, “Now he is gonna say, I knew from the start that this was a 10 km run”. Even Manju said the same. Mahesh apologized, saying we are running 10 km, not a half- marathon.

I was shocked, and all I did next moment, to run with those running the half-marathon.

I didn’t carry my phone, neither did I have any money. All I had at that moment was vengeance. I just wanted to show all my cousins that “I can run 21 km.”

As I was alone on this mission, a lot of things were running inside me. After running for a km, I realized, “Rajan, I have come here to run 21km and prove myself that I can run. I have nothing to prove to others; it’s a test of my will power and stamina. I have come here to run 21 km, and I am going to do it for myself and my special friend”.

Indeed, a week before this event, my friend refused to pick up my call. A message appeared as a reply. “Nothing’s wrong with my phone. I don’t feel like talking to anyone. Please don’t call or even reply to this message till I call you”. Ok, this wasn’t the first time, but I didn’t get a chance to know as to why. Anyway, I had to accept the situation and move on with it. Sometimes, it hurts mentally, but one can’t help it. Time is the only comforter, and patience is the key till the other person recovers from this sudden disappearance.

I knew for a fact, my friend was going through a bad phase, and the sad part was; now I was forced to be unavailable for my friend. Whose fault is it anyway?

Hence this thing did occupy my mind while running, and somewhere my triumph would help my friend get enough confidence to deal with the problems.

Coming back, after a km, I said, “I am running this for myself, my mom, and to my special friend.” Suddenly, I was able to see a different picture all around me. There was clarity in whatever I was thinking, and the focus was entirely on the roads of Hyderabad.

Charminar was 5 km away from the starting line, and it looked different from last afternoon when the streets were busy, and it didn’t look like the place where Trinca and I bought bangles for other cousins. (Females, of course)

Next to Charminar was the mosque, which we couldn’t visit the day before due to time constraints. Recently, this mosque was in the news for the wrong reasons. It was the victim of a bomb, which blasted while people were offering prayers.

Coming back, Physically, I was still in good shape, and it was good to see people cheering and encouraging the running. Glucose, mosambi, water, they were plenty of them taking care and making sure we didn’t get dehydrated.

Hospitality was great, and the organizers made sure we didn’t have to bother except for running. Half-marathon was also the right choice, especially when one has to introspect himself with the rest of the world. I did get to think over many things, especially where I was heading in my life.

I like analogies, and to me, it makes sense. My running was a bit similar to the way I was living. It is a big challenge to keep pushing all the time. People are there, and nature is there to help us, but the common trait is attitude. If one has to run the marathon of life, short term and long term goals must be thought of and taken care of. For me, the satisfaction of finishing the 21 km run was vital. At the same time, I didn’t put extra strain on my ankles, and all I did was enjoy each mile.

After 14 km, I did join the rest of the gang who were participating in the 10 km run. It was crowded, and in a way, I started to lose my momentum. Again, I thought, “When things are fine, everything seems to be fine, when there is too much noise and confusion around, one must fight to retain composure, and this fight is solely internal.”

I was losing momentum very quickly because there were thousands of them. Some people were playing around, some were walking, some were making fun, it just reached a point, and I thought I should give up because the race was physically too demanding considering many people around me.

Also, I started to tire down because of less food intake. “It reached a stage, last 6 km, legs exhausted and momentum is not the same as I had for the last 15 km. Even Sun started blazing around.”

Biryani was tempting, and I wanted to enjoy my meal after the run.

I didn’t want to stop at that moment and be a loser. I knew I was trying my best, but I would not settle anything less than 21 km. That was it. I spoke to my stomach. “Look, there’s a good chance that you are going to get brilliant Hyderabadi Biryani, don’t mess it up, just co-operate with me, and I promise I am gonna fill you up big time.” Trust me, these were the exact words I thought, and a deal was struck.

Then it was mind over matter. No amount of physical strength could have carried me further. Not that I was fainting, it’s just that I had lost my physical momentum, but I didn’t feel any uneasiness of higher amplitude.

“No pain, No gain” is something which I always recite, and it did come to fair use. The last few km was a test of my character, commitment, and will power. I met Nannu and Manju in that marathon rush, and they were quite relieved to see me and in good condition.

We parted ways since I had to take a different route to complete.

Trust me, for the last 3 km; I started regaining my lost physical strength. My will power out powered the unwillingness of my body to finish.

At last, I did finish. The relief and, more importantly, the satisfaction was something I can’t quite describe in words. It’s a feeling. I don’t know how Hillary and Norgay felt when they reached the top of Mt. Everest. All I can say is, my feelings were similar to theirs, and it’s just that it was on a much bigger scale for them than for what I achieved.

I would rate myself a winner because I set myself to achieve something when I left Bangalore, and I did it. After crossing the line, my pulse was measured, and they noted my name. They gave me a certificate for completing the 21 km run.

I know I didn’t win the race, but I won the support of my mind and body, and this event also made my mind and body understand each other better and appreciate each other’s contribution.

I met my cousins. All were happy for me. Mahesh told me, “It’s good that you did what you wanted.” Manju and Dali said, “It inspired them.” Nannu was proud that I didn’t get stuck with them and crib; instead, I went and finished 21 km.

I like running because it’s a challenge. If you run hard, there’s the pain – and you’ve got to work your way through the pain. You know, lately, it seems all you hear is? Don’t overdo it’ and? Don’t push yourself.’ Well, I think that’s a lot of advice. If you move the human body, it will respond.”

And by the little experience of running, I can relate a lot of similar things concerning life. This is something I would like to share.

A quote below by- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General

“Now, if you are going to win any battle, you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired. When you were younger, the mind could make you dance all night, and the body was never tired…You’ve always got to make the mind take over and keep going.”

That day, I did feel I had come out of boyhood and, in a way, ready to take up the challenges in life. At least I could sense, I can take it up when given any situation.

One of my favorite athletes, Emile Zapotek, once quoted –
“It’s at the borders of pain and suffering that the men are separated from the boys.”

After the event, I did feed my stomach with loads of Biryani as promised.

I didn’t feel tired. My feet were aching a bit while walking, but it was manageable. The person to meet – Chiropodist would have been the ideal person at that moment.

We visited Secundrabad; Sandhya was born here. She wanted to see her old house, she did manage to find it and did take a snap.

Later to the Snow world, Karachi Bakery (famous cashew biscuits are exported from this place).

Overall the trip was rejuvenating with cousins around. To top it, finishing the half marathon would be the highlight of my journey.

As far as my special friend was concerned- I did get a good luck call two days before the event. Trust me, that call did help somewhere during the half-marathon.

And I did it for myself, my mom, and my special friend.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

This is undoubtedly dedicated to the silence of my Special Friend.