Thursday, March 23, 2006

26.2 miles of pain, sweat and perseverance ...

... or how I ran the LA marathon.

As mentioned in my previous post, I ran the LA marathon last sunday, and this post is a [somewhat] detailed account of the same.

Lets revisit some of those moments: [link to route, for reference]

Saturday, Mar 18, 6pm: The team got together for a carbo-load potluck dinner. The atmosphere was charged and the coaches each gave a small motivational speech. Also, everyone appreciated my chawal-ki-kheer [or Indian rice pudding :-)].

Saturday, Mar 18, 9pm: I was busy copying songs into my mp3 player so that I keep going. I had gotten somewhat bored with my current playlist and there was more space remaining, so I figured I should load up. Rang De Basanti, Paathshaala and Raahe Raahe remix by Rishi Rich are among my favorites.

Saturday, Mar 18, 11pm: Two hours in bed, but
no sleep -- too much adrenaline I guess. Somehow I got some sleep.

Sunday, Mar 19, 6:30am: I was waiting at the assigned spot. The rest of the team came and we biked to the Marathon starting line in downtown. For those of you who are wondering why we thought biking back 2 miles after running 26.2 would be a nice idea, the answer is towards the end of the post.

We all got together, took some pictures, and squished together near the starting line. With 25,000+ people running, it takes quite some time if you are not in the front of the bunch. The atmosphere was electric, with choppers above us, music around us, and tonz of adrenaline inside us! We all were together, wearing our USC Marathon Team T-Shirts, and did a couple of battle cries! You had to be there to feel it!

8:17am: The crowd started moving and we knew that it had begun - the first marathon of my life. Heather Hydzik and I started together, and the plan was to run together, as we had done in the practice runs. It was cool, us running together, sharing headphones, with Daler Menhdi going "Rang De Basanti" - very cool.

Mile 2: As I had expected, my IT band started to complain. I knew it was not long before the pain would make me walk.

Mile 5: I told Heather that she can go ahead after mile 6, since my knee was going from bad to worse.

Mile 7: I stumbled strangely, the right knee giving way. I told her to go on, and started walking. Her final words were, "resume running soon". I walked for some time, my right leg straight. Tried running but too much pain. Then I saw written on the T-shirt of the guy ahead of me "This is my first Marathon, and I am 50!". That was motivation enough for me to take some 20 steps running, crossing mile 8 in the process.

My aim was to somehow cross the halfway mark, since after that, I knew I would be able to push myself - running, walking, crawling, whatever!

The people on the sides of the streets, cheering every runner, gave me energy, and so did the oranges handed out by them.

Mile 10: I was happy to be in double digits, 1/5th running, 4/5th walking. That is where I met Ashiya, from the USC marathon team. She was also sore, but going on. More inspiration.

Mile 13.1: The halfway mark! I stopped at a medical station, and got painkiller spray on both my knees, and got an ice-pack tied to my right knee.

I thought, I have finished the half marathon, now even if I don't complete, it is ok. But then Adrian's words came in my mind - "They are going to give medals to all those who finish, and what a medal it is!" - I definitely wanted that medal, and 13.1 miles stood between me and it. Needless to say, I kept on.

Mile 18: I met Adrian, who was having his own problems with the IT band. Since his left knee was busted, we walked symmetrically for some time - his left leg straight, my right leg straight - funny :-).

Mile 19: I randomly met Sumun, who had come with her husband to cheer one of her friends. It is amazing how good I felt to see another known face cheering me on!

Mile 20: 6 more to go! I took a stretching break. Then resumed. There was loads of downhill stretches and I used them, since you can run downhill in long strides without bending your knees :-).

Mile 22: 4 more to go, and the stretch on Olympic Blvd. started. Thanks to the training runs on this route, I knew exactly what was coming from this point on. I knew I could do it, it was just a matter of time now.

Mile 24: I saw Heather O'Shea [different from the Heather I started with], sore all over but fighting on, just like everybody else! She proposed that we cross the finish line together, but our speeds were different. I sped ahead, hoping to finish the run before I collapse.

Mile 25: I feel tears in my eyes - I cannot quite explain why this spontaneous crying thing happened. I see that I have 15 more minutes until 6 hours, and decide to finish before that. Time for running!

Final half mile or so: So, I turned left from Olympic on Flower, and could see the finish line, I put on "Rahe Rahe" for the nth time and kept running. I could see the clock ticking to 5:56:59 as I crossed!

On the other side: After I finished, I was like "give me that medal!", and "I want to crash", and "water", and many other feelings, but most of all, I was surprised to see Heather O'Shea standing next to me! It seems that she sprinted the last part and we finished exactly at the same second! Her idea came true after all :-).

Zack was there, as he has always been, waiting for hours for the slow ones to finish [he took 3.5 hours, the fastest from USC]. He took my snap [and one with Heather also, who was all smiles].

Zack and I then biked back to campus. It was interesting to see how biking was not tough at all, partly due to the downward slope, and partly due to the fact that it uses a completely different group of muscles.

Epilgoue: All through the marathon, there was one question in my mind -WHY? - Why do these people stand on the side of the track and cheer complete strangers, give them high-5s, give out oranges and water [even beer at one place!]. What makes them spend their money and time on this day. And yet, who knows how many people like me would have dropped out mid way if it had not been for those who were cheering me. People would go "hey USC, Fight on!" when they would see my Jersey. Some even shouted my name, reading it off my race bib. I wonder what makes them do this?

And then I thought, what made me do this. Why am I paying money and training and then running 26.2 miles, when I am sure to not get the prize? And I guess there I had my answer - it is a great feeling to be part of a marathon, running or otherwise.

So people, make sure you run at least one marathon in your lifetime - no one can be explained what the experience is like, much like the matrix.

Still a bit sore, and still in love with the whole world,


  1. Anonymous5:28 AM

    Way to go, A ! Reading about your marathon experience just might inspire me to run my first next year. I'll acknowledge that's a long way away, though ;)

    Hope your ITB heals soon.


  2. Anonymous6:39 AM

    "So people, make sure you run at least one marathon in your lifetime - no one can be explained what the experience is like, much like the matrix."


    -Himanshu Bhalla.

  3. Good jub done!

    Guess your blogs have been enough motivation for a lot of people to try the marathon next year (Yours truly included)

    By the way, put a post on the charity/donations etc generated by the marathon

  4. WOW. Awesome. Too Good.
    Congratulations! ... that medal seriously does suit you well!

    Like many others, I too am motivated to participate in at least one marathon in my whole entire life. Thanks to you :)


  5. Adrian10:05 AM

    Great post Animesh! It definately was a great experience, eh? Thanks for the motivation. Now we have to let our IT bands heal so that we can run next year's in under 5 hours!

  6. bhai....great post....felt like I was watching it happen in front of my eyes....and like everyone else here I'm also inspired to run the marathon next year.....hopefully I will be able to.

    3 cheers to the whole USC marathon team and one of my fav people in the world....take some rest and let your ITB heal for practice for next year.

  7. Congratulations again, Animesh... Awesome indeed... and thanks for the motivational posts... keeps me going on my 10 milers..

    Want some more motivation? Check this out:

    Its about a guy called Dean karnazes, dubbed as the "Ultra-Marathon Man" for being able to run 100 miles at a time and competing in events that include 38,000 mile elevation change in the worst (desert) conditions...

    Anyone looking for more motivation might also want to check out a book about Dean called "Ultra Marathon Man: Confessions of an All night runner"... you should be able to find it in any Borders or Barnes and Noble...

  8. Hey Ani...that's a great post...befitting the monumental feat you achieved. Just one suggestion - put a timeline along with the mile-line...that would make the reading more exciting.

    And like everybody else, i too promise to run Mumbai Marathon next year...and complete it. And since my promise is to a person like you - I WILL KEEP IT.

    Keep the spirit...

    - V

  9. very inspiring! read it first thing in the morning and it got me all charged up and running. must thank you!

  10. dude... I'm so gonna start running now!! :)

  11. Anonymous12:04 AM

    I'm so proud of u! Reading that made me feel like I was running with you:) although i were to truly run, I dont think I'd make it past the first mile:D


  12. Anonymous1:01 AM

    Absolutely moving Animesh! I read the detailed description of your Marathon experience first with great anxiety then with eagerness and anticipation and finished it with much heartfelt motivation. You are truly an inspiration to many, not only for your "marathonic" achievement but your core well-balanced and kind values. CONGRATULATIONS!!!


    "Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that courage is his twin brother", Kahlil Gibran (Lebanese Poet)

  13. Hi bhaiya,
    Awesome and inspiring post... keep on going :) .. would sure keep the idea to run atleast one marathon in mind!


  14. Good to see a lot of Inspired Folk... very nice...

    You might want to read about Jim Fixx's story...

  15. Anonymous1:25 PM

    hey son!
    i'm moved.thanks for this post. i always wanted to know in details how you felt along the way, what kept you going & so on...& here i find ans to all my unasked ques & many more.

  16. Arjun8:39 PM

    way to go.
    Very inspiring indeed.
    Thanks for posting and letting us know.


  17. Anonymous4:59 AM

    Hey animesh..hats off to u man....i have run a half marathon back home in mumbai...always wanted to run a full marathon.....but always had this undiagnosed problem with my left leg..which has troubled me all my life...i dnt knw if its ITB(but i m sure gonna get it checked..)

    pain or no pain...your marathon experience is motivation enough to run one .....i hope to do it next year....thanks for the was brilliant.....


  18. Hey Animesh,

    Inspiring post !

    I too feel I should run one now. Atleast once in lifetime. Again, just for the wonderful feeling...

    And Congrats ! We knew you would do it.

    - Anupam

  19. Anonymous11:06 PM

    Unbelievable!! A great job done by you. Although never seen you running in BHU, but it was really nice to see you with that medal. It reminded me, of our cross-country runs in BHU.

    You might have observed that if your mind is strong (determined) your body will never be able to stop you from doing anything.

    Well Done!!!

    - Ashutosh Tiwari