Date: May 29, 2010
Location: Birmingham to London, United Kingdom
Some eager, some filled with trepidation.
Would it end in Nike's grace or defeat,
This race from Birmingham to far London?
The Gods of Rain came first to the party
And from a few soles their resolve they stole.
Few more yielded around mile seventy,
Unprepared to pay this long race's toll.
Forty odd rode out the storm and the night
And strode to the Finish like Colossi.
Better equipped they had been for this fight
And had too this thought as their main ally:
Look within you for courage and you'll find
It's limitless, much though it may be mined.
(Taping my feet in the hotel room on race morning)
I spent the good part of 30 minutes taping up my big and little toes in addition to the heel and the ball of each foot. One more trip to the toilet and I was ready to roll.
(Just before the Start)
Anu and Anju accompanied me to the Start. I reached there around 5:30 a.m. Gas Street was a hive of activity with runners and their crew members all working feverishly to get the runners ready. I met a few friends, from the Thames Ring race, including the Thames Ring winner, Jon Kinder, who went on to finish second 27 hours later.
(Pre-Start interview. Keith Godden and Jon Kinder in leading roles!)
We actually ran up and through Shrewley Tunnel together and then for a bit beyond. I had to stop to pee so he kept going.
(One of the users of the canal)
I ran a lot, a lot, of those first 30 miles. In fact, I ran a huge portion of the first 70 miles. I would hazard a guess and say it must have been around 60 miles.
(Coming into the 31 mile meeting point)
I quickly replenished my supply of chocolate milk and gels and headed out as soon as I could. The ladies were looking to go and check on the phone I had purchased the day before for use in the UK.
(Coming to the 48.5 mile meeting point)
(Mile 48.5 meeting point)
I asked them to meet me again, for the last time until mile 70.5, in the very next meeting location which also happened to be a race Feed Station. This was in Weedon a.k.a the Heart of England.
(Coming into the 53.1 mile Feed Station - Weedon, Heart of England)
(The 53.1 mile Feed Station)
I was in and out of that Feed Station and on my way to get to mile 70.5 i.e. the Navigation Bridge. Another place I was looking forward to revisiting was the Blisworth Tunnel. Right at the top of the climb, I realized that darkness was setting in and so I spent a few minutes putting in fresh batteries in my hand torch as well as my headlamp.
(Putting in lots of calories in the 70.5 mile Feed Station)
I then headed to the car to change into warmer clothes and replenish my supply of chocolate milk. Anju was my pacer for the next 10 miles. I had changed into Tevas for, hopefully, the rest of the way. I had used the Tevas during a 26 mile stretch in last year's Thames Ring 250M and also for the last 36 miles of last year's Lean Horse 100M and they were the best thing I could have done.
(Do swans preen?)
(Southall Feed Station, mile 133, interview)
(After having changed into warmer clothes)
I quickly changed into warmer clothes, put on my headlamp and started off with a few gels in my fanny pack. I had left the backpack behind. I did carry 2 bottle, both filled with water.
Upon joining the canal, I saw a signpost that told me that Paddington was 7.75 miles away. I had been along the canal for about 2 miles after leaving the 133.0 mile Checkpoint. That meant that the urban diversion had been approximately a couple of miles long. I was pretty much alone here at this point. Sleep was starting to make its presence felt but I was able to keep it at bay by singing Hindi songs loudly. Looking back with around 6.5 miles to go I noticed lights. They soon caught up with me. It was Steve, his friend and his wife. We walked together in companionable silence. The rest of their crew was meeting up with them with approximately 6 miles to go. We soon spotted them and Steve stopped to eat and drink while I pushed on.
Sleep was coming on in waves now. I would have periods of intense sleepiness followed by spells of clear vision and thought. Across the canal on the left I was passing factories and manufacturing plants that had people in them for the parking lots were full of cars. There were similar companies on my side with the occasional aroma of foodstuff wafting across my nostrils.
Out of the darkness ahead I saw a light coming towards me. My alertness went up just in case it was someone I would not like to meet in a dark alley (or canal path!) at night. It turned out to be Christian Hottas's friend, Hartmut, who was supposed to run the race but had dropped out a few weeks ago. He had walked the 3-4 miles from the Finish and I was the first runner he met. He promptly reversed direction and started to walk with me. He was a boon. I could not have asked for a better pacer. He kept me regaled with stories of running in Germany and his other exploits. Sleep came in waves still but I was better able to control it. I did ask him to wake me up in 5 minutes while I sat down on a little bench for my one and only stop in those last 12 miles. That 5 minute nap helped. I kept asking him about how far the Finish was because I knew that the girls would be waiting anxiously for me. The phone even rang a few times and I gave them a best guess of where I was.
Finally Hartmut pointed to a very distant light and told me that the Finish was kind of near there! That perked me up tremendously and I called the girls to let them know I was close. It must have been about 300-400 yards to go to the Finish when the phone rang again. It was Rajeev Char asking me how I was doing. I told him I was 300 yards from the end and that it was the most beautiful experience ever. It was! I had gone further in the Thames Ring 250M (183 miles) but had failed to reach the Finish line. This was, now, the longest successful race finish I had achieved.
The 3 ladies were waiting for me. With a few hundred feet to go, one of the race volunteers came out to warn me not to get too exuberant with my celebrations as someone was sleeping. I kept that in mind when I crossed the Finish line! Anu, Anju and Indu were there to hug me, take pictures and even record an interview of me.
(A blurry picture of me post-finish)
A big Thank You to Dick Kearn and his amazing band of volunteers. They kept me alive with their hot soups and good cheer. I am looking forward to next year's Thames Ring 250M (June 22). Anthony Taylor and Dick Kearn have already confirmed that I can start to get excited about my participation.
Anu, Indu and Anju were the best crew members and pacers ever. Always loving, always helpful they fill my memories of the race with a golden glow that is not about to fade for a very long time. I love you three!!
This 145 mile (233K) race finish means that I have qualified to apply for the 153 mile Spartathlon (from Athens to Sparta) run annually in Greece every September. I will send in my application one of these months for the 2011 race.
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