Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gate River Run

Somehow, waking up at 4.00 am for something that you have been aiming for the last 4 months is extremely easy. And then, having breakfast at that time feels natural.

The good thing about there being 15,000 (or more) people for the race is that you cannot see all of them. Unless you crane your neck/ jump up high. Even then, you see a few thousand and the rest just disappear into the horizon, or are around the corner. All you can figure out is that there are just a lot of people.

I was there in line fairly on time. But it took me 2 minutes to reach the starting line once the cannon went off. I know some of my friends took around 7 minutes to reach the starting line just from where they started. (How it works is that you are given a chip that you put in your shoe, and when it passes by the start line, they record your time. So, even if you started at the back and reached later, you could have been faster than tonnes of others).

The cannon went off, with the theme song from "Chariots of Fire" playing. The first 3 minutes were basically run-walking trying to get past slower people and making way for those who were faster. At the end of the first mile, I was worrying about my left foot, which had been injured just 2 weeks back.

At the end of the second and into the third, I was already in two minds whether I could do it or not. I felt as if I wasn't mentally prepared to run. And doubted if I had done enough stretching. What kept me going was the awesome locales through which the race takes you, the people standing outside their homes cheering the runners, and the sight of around 200 - 300 people within 50 feet of you, running. The end of mile 3 brings the second round of water, and also the 5km marker. My time for 5km was 30 mins 21 sec, which was slower than my regular pace, but good enough since this was the FIRST time I was gonna run more than 8 miles.

I guess, the fact that I got my second glass of water and was past 3 miles changed the way I started looking at the race. I started enjoying it. The left foot wasn't hurting any more. I wasn't panting or gasping for breath. You run along the river, past some of the richest houses in Jacksonville. There are live bands playing to cheer you. People standing outside their homes playing loud music. This is also where I got passed by two runners dressed as bananas.

Mile 4, 5, 6 are where the brain stopped thinking, and I just focussed on running. With Nelly and I running at the same pace, it didn't get boring. And each mile marker brought the awesome feeling that you get when you realize that you are running consistently, and faster than what you ran while training. This was the first time I ran 10 mins per mile right up to mile 7. Between miles 5 and 6, Elvis Presley went past us. A runner in full costume, with the same hairstyle. A few minutes later, 4 men in traditional Hawaiian costumes, shouting "Aloha!" went past.

As you approach the mile marker 7, you start getting glimpses of the Hart Bridge. I had heard a lot about this bridge. It really steep. The brochure says its 186 feet in half a mile. Damn! I didn't sign up for rock climbing. At the 7th mile marker, thankfully they gave me a glass of water which was filled full. This is where I stopped running to drink water peacefully. I walked-drank and started running again. The stretch is slightly uphill. And this is where all I did was looked down, and jogged. I think I picked up my speed here and gained quite some distance. And that showed when I reached mile marker 8.

Mile marker 8 is right on the bridge. I just stopped running and started walking. I had a Powerbar and I finished it coolly as I walked to the top. Somewhere there, the song "Eye of the Tiger" was playing. Just too good! And then I started running. It really helps to be tall. I just have to take long strides and I can get ahead of people. At the 9 mile mark, I realized that my brain had stopped working, since I thought that I had one more mile to go. And that almost made me give up.

But then something clicked in my brain and reminded me that only 0.3 miles were left. The watch said that I had run all the 9 miles at around 10 mins per mile. Even though I walked up half the bridge! The last 0.3 miles are also all downhill, down the bridge. And the final 200 yards was a mad dash. I didn't know I had that much juice left for a sprint. But I managed a semi-sprint.

After the race, it was just fun times! We hung around at the runner's expo and took photos. Lunch was had at 5th Element Restaurant on Baymeadows Road. Do visit that place for an awesome Indian lunch buffet. Hot chai kept me from falling asleep while driving back. And now, I am just resting. Preparations for graduating this semester begin asap.

FYI: I had raised $315 before starting the race. And now some more people have donated. You can still go ahead and donate at . Click on the red button at the bottom to donate. All the money goes for a good cause. ASHA has a zero overhead policy, so all the money that you donate is spent on projects. And nobody in ASHA is salaried. Its all voluntary efforts!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The problem with moving on is not that I cannot. It is the fact that I can.

I guess its the natural fear of being forgotten. Or forgetting someone