Wednesday, September 06, 2006

La Vita E Breva (Life Is Short)

"Life is short... running makes it seem longer." (Baron Hansen)

This journey of mine started many, many years ago. It will, hopefully, reach its first waypoint in 3 weeks.

I have always loved sports. In my pre-teen and teen years, I played cricket for my High School. I went on to represent my college and the first company I worked for. I captained my company's 'B' team in the cricket league in Muscat in 1993 and 1994. Ah! Those days!!

I finally quit smoking in Sep 1991 ("Sep 9th to be precise" as Thomson and Thomson, from the famous Tintin comics, would put it) and took up running in order to control weight gain. Those first few steps are shrouded in the mists of memory but I remember experiencing pain in my chest after only a quarter mile. The years of smoking had taken their toll on my lungs. I persisted for a few months before finally giving up, unable to conquer Anterior Tibial Stress Syndrome, the fancy medical term for pain in the front of my legs i.e. "shin splints".

I moved to Muscat, Oman in April 1992. I started running on the stretch of sand shown in the pictures below, as a way of warming up before getting into the water to swim.

The first photo is of the beach looking to the left while the other one faces to the right. The total width was not more than 0.2-0.3 miles. It eventually got to the point where my interest in swimming diminished and my need to run grew exponentially. I was soon running on the roads in Muscat, mainly in the evenings, right after work, around 6 p.m.

Those were heady days (not that it's not heady nowadays!). Discovering the "Runner's High" and not realizing that there were millions others around the world who were addicted to the same high. My eyes finally opened to the realization that there were many scores of others who experienced exactly what I felt when running after reading Jim Fixx's "The Complete Book Of Running". It was eerie how his description of what he felt while running matched mine completely.

I would be the only one running out there on those roads. This mania soon had me in its grip and I would run anywhere from 5-7 miles daily. For days on end. No thought of resting once a week. I remember one stretch where I insisted on running for almost 29 days straight before granting myself a day of inactivity.

My first race was a 5K on the Muscat Intercontinental Beach. I remember a short, thin young man doing 20m wind sprints before the start of the race. He went on to win it in 17 minutes or so. I probably took about 30 minutes to finish the race. My progress was rapid from there on out. I entered a couple of more races in Oman, including a 15K that I finished in 72 minutes, before returning to the US in Mar 1995.

I believe in my heart of hearts that I have more endurance than speed. Nothing over the past 15 years has even come close to making me doubt that belief. The Rio Del Lago 100, whether I finish the successfully or not, is a waypoint on this running journey.

I feel most alive when I run. The longer I run, the more I get in touch with my innermost fears, desires, strengths and weaknesses. I have never run more than 62 miles in one go. The last 38 miles will be fun to experience. Will I experience what so many others have? Intense self doubt? Intense desire to quit?

I hope I can conquer those demons of darkness and emerge into bright sunlight on the other side.

Am I nervous? Not even a little bit. Au contraire, I am champing at the bit. I want to take on this test of all tests, this beast of all beasts. A race that will test my will and determination and motivation and mettle and resolve and courage like no other.

As someone said about ultras - "They are where you reach down inside you for courage and discover that there is no end to it - your courage is limitless". I want to look into my ocean of courage and not be able to see bottom at all.

Do I have doubts that I may not finish? Am I not human? It is only the fool that feels no fear. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the act of continuing despite fear. I am not scared of the distance. I am not scared of failure. I am only scared of having this chance taken away from me, either before the start or during the race, by an injury or a mishap. I am keeping my fingers crossed these last few weeks.

I've come a long way baby! (apologies to Virginia Slims)

"Some of the world's greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible." (Doug Larson)

"Tough times don't last but tough people do." (A.C. Green)


miki said...

Hurrah Rajeev. I feel the same way about running and pretty much started in the same type of way. My thoughts are with you at RDL. I hope you have a great experience and that your body is as strong as your mind or vice versa that day. I hope to be where you are in your journey some day. :)

Anonymous said...

Rajeev, thanks for the writing - full of inspiration.

You'll definitely find a lot of reasons to quit, but only the glimpse of hope and curiosity are the remaining to have you move forward. Little by little and you turn out to find yourself not far from the 100Mer finish.


Rajeev said...

Miki & Chihping,

Thank you very much. I'm sure your good wishes will help me a lot in RDL. Chihping - you are one of my inspirations. The way you tackled the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 last month (31:31:31) and finished despite blisters halfway into that tough race was very inspiring. Your determination is tremendous.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

good luck at RDL!!!

I love how you write about running. It's beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rajeev,

Life is short, but long enough to do some 100Mer. Let's start from this year.

How's your training so far? Get ready for the 100Mer? Yes, your 24hr run tells everything. Awesome!

Not sure what I'll be like on the 100M, but I'll try "my own best effort" to do it. See you and Anil there!


Anonymous said...

Congrats on your strong finish on your first 100 Miler at Rio Del Lago. Also great jobs from your pacers (Anil and Mr. Char) and sweet support team. I can see the thrill and excitement in their eyes :-)

Looking forward to your report and poem (I'm sure you're busy at it)


Unawoken said...

Well written Rajeev! And thanks for sharing your path to the personal milestone. The inner demons are not endurant enough to keep with you :)