–By Jaydev Raja
The 100 Mile run! How it all began:
I was relaxing on my old ancestral swing, when our door bell rang and the courier guy gave me a brown envelope. I tore it to find out, that I have two more court cases to deal with in my already traumatize life. I knew I needed to be calm and I should stay focused and that things will be alright soon. I knew the next couple of hours that evening of July,2016 were crucial and needed to be spent positively. I knew any negative reaction today, would add up to more worriers for me. Just then the phone rang and it was Anant, my young friend and a Kolkata Ultran. He immediately figured out my mood and he announced his visit in a couple of hours that evening. When Anant was sitting next to me, I told him to take out his phone and log in to the Pune Ultra page. I told him, not to ask me a single question and just do what I was saying. I saw his hand pause when I told him the category. But I knew, any pause in my tongue today and there might not be a second chance. Yes, the next couple of minutes saw the registration of 160 Km take place which is the 100 mile race at the Pune Ultra on 12th November 2016. I know this now, that these kind of achievements look impossible if we try and think over them and they become possible, if we just go for it.
The next month and a half went by with just few unorganized practice runs and I was unable to concentrate well due to my other personal obligations. I lost more ground when from the Hydrabad full Marathon, with no training attempted the Leh Ladakh, Kardugla pass challenge. This is a 72 Km race at 18000 feet on the highest motorable road of the world. I abandoned the race at 19 km and I came back home after promising the Himalayas to come back again and finish the race in style next year. I reinvested in myself again, collected a renewed courage and made sure that the failure at Leh will not effect my 100 miles run. Again, the Kolkata Ultra team which is my running group and my new family came forward for help. Only a month and a half was left and I was showing no proper training. The team members kept on calling now on, to find out my plan. I was forced to plan out a half marathon, every single day and I did an average of 22Km for the next 23 days in October. I was fully supported during my practice runs by the team. I also put in long runs of 12 hrs and 14 hrs here and after the 23rd day, I was quiet confident of my sure finish. I had worked hard and nothing could have tainted my confidence. Especially the tough times which were pulling me back.
The Execution-D Day:
After finishing court rituals, I gathered myself to be strong and reached the race venue a day before. the race. Finally, there I was, amidst the beautiful forest area, near Pune city, which will be my running track for 161Kms and that weekend. We were put up in a small school and I went off to sleep early after a good meal. The alarm forced my eyes open at 4 am to see most of the runners awake and I quickly got ready. After taking my kit, I reached the holding area by 5am. It was cold and I was told a Simla wave had passed by, reducing the temperature to nearly 6 degrees. But carrying extra clothes during the run was not practical, as the loop was of 25k each. A head gear covering the ears though was a must. The race was flagged off at dot 6.00 am.
I started the race with an easy pace and we crossed a village with a lot of dogs barking. I am not very comfortable with these creatures following me, as I have been bitten twice last year, so I just stayed with the pack of runners. We reached a trail now at about 3kand suddenly I lost my rhythm and fell flat in front, on the rocky road that leads to the forest. It was still a little dark, so the other runners didn’t notice and I was left there alone bleeding from my right knee and both fore arms.
Damage Control-The Show Must Go On:
I understood that the fall was a big one and the bleeding needed to be stopped. I started walking in pain and was limping to reach the first aid station at 5km. The aid station team, quickly made me sit and they did a marvellous job to put me back on track. With an encouraging push by the helpful team and pulling up my socks again, I knew the only option for me was to start my race again and finish it well. I knew the first choice of quitting will have to be deleted and the show should go on. I picked up my wits and pace and finished the first 25k loop in less than 3 hrs, with the rubber on my shoe sole giving way. Now, I had to take a break and give some time to my paining bruises, which had to be properly washed and dressed.
After having a nice hot breakfast, my salt capsule, a shoes change and lots of water and carrying a tetra pack of enerzal, I started my second loop. The route was a mix of trails and very little of tarred road which was very uneven. There were a couple of bridges to be crossed and we went through a scenic forest at the base of a rocky hill and returned.The sun was out now and it started getting really hot. I took 4 hrs to complete this loop and was now all sweaty and dehydrated. Just when I got myself completely checked and came near the aid station table, a lady organizer quickly asked me to sit. She had seen it right. I was getting a cramp on my right calf. Ice cold water using a sponge was pored all over my legs and thanks to the Samaritans, the cramp disappeared. But as it was scorching mid day heat now, my head had started spinning and I was showing signs of tiredness and dehydration. I was handed some salt and a lemon and was helped to be taken to the resting hall area, designed for us to rest. This was the second time the thought of quitting crossed my mind. I closed my eyes and lay straight on the mattress. I had to regain my focus and calm myself down. The next ten minutes had to be patiently passed and yes all was well in the next fifteen. Next,I put my legs up ninty degrees for a while, stretched and did some foam roller exercises, as my back was paining at times, throughout the run. I quickly had my salt capsule to control cramps and dehydration and grabbed a tetra pack of enerzal before I started my third loop.
A Surge Of Emotions:
As it was getting warmer now, close to 35- 36’c, this was the toughest loop of the whole race. Here some strategy was to be put into practice. This was the time to pull out tricks from the experience gathered from the last ultra run in Bangalore in 2015. I thought it would be a good decision to take it easy and walk in this hot sun. I knew if I crossed this loop comfortably, then I could gain the lost time in the next few loops. I did exactly that. Had lots of water and enerzal at every aid stations and took big steps and kept walking. This loop took the longest time which was close to six hours. I returned back to the school compound where I was approaching the 75k mark and here I was in for a big surprise. My sister and cousins had come to cheer me up and I was really unaware that they would visit me at the race. I had my bib scanned and as I really tired now, grabbed a chair. As I hugged my sister and thanked her for her visit, a rush of tears overflowed. I started crying like a big baby, complaining to her about why on the earth would I want to do all these tough races and for whom. Why on the earth would I want to torture myself, when I had already lost my family and children. Why the hell all this? My sister held me tight and asked me to calm down, keep shut, stop thinking and close my eyes. I finally came back to my old self with a lot of courage and strength and now I knew why I was here and for whom. I had started running for my sons, my babies Digant and Vivan. I know a day will come when they both will be proud of their father’s achievements. I love you tigers…Yours, Daddy.
Picture Abhi Baaki Hai Mere Dost:
I started the fourth loop, at 7pm and the chief organizer Mr Naveen came to me and said, ”Jaydev, you need to complete this loop by 11pm or we need to take a call.” I saw I was the last one to start the fourth loop and I was tensed. I told him that it won’t come to that and I paced out of the school gate, towards the forest. I knew I needed to focus, in this loop and I have 4 hrs to return. I was already a little tired and now stretching my legs for speed was getting difficult. I was running now and I must have reached 4km, when I could see a runner walking in the dark ahead of me. Now even my head lamp wasen’t working. When the silhouette came closer, I was more than happy to see my running buddy from Kolkata, Milan Burman. This was the first time we met in the whole race and he was always ahead of me. I explained to him about the need to finish the loop with by 11 pm or we won’t be allowed to run further. We superbly finished this loop, running continuously and by 11.10 pm, we registered our return at the century mark. This was the last loop for the 100k runners, where 17 had registered amongst them two tough contenders, a young friend Shruthi and a 22 yr old lad from Mumbai. Both at 87km, were worrying about their pace, to finish by the 17hr cut off. They had exactly 2 hrs to finish the last 12.5km return.
The young champ of Mumbai,told me, ”Bhai, I have to get this medal and you will make sure I reach by the cut off time.”Millan and me both knew even we have no choice, so now we three of us joined hands and started the mission of “Medal 100k.” We now reached the last patch at the 5km booth and 2km trail plus 3km of the village road was to be covered. We had 35 minutes and the young friend of ours had already given up. Now Milan took charge and he literally pulled him by holding his hand through the trail road. We were home. Mission accomplished!
We started the fifth loop at around 11.30 pm and by now we were informed that 10 contenders of 100km out of 17, had not reached by the cutoff time. In our 161km category, five good runners had left the race, in ten entries for 161km. This kind of news, pushes a runner back and I just shut my ears to it. Milan and I left the holding area with a smile. Now, there was a new mission for us at bay. The local villagers had shut themselves in their cosy dens and left their security guards outside for us…yes the dogs! Each house had one guard posted and now carrying a long stick through the village was a must and running here would mean danger. We found courage and crossed the 3km village path with lots of giving stern looks to these barking creatures and trying to scare the monsters, when in reality, we were the ones actually scared. Now, serious running was needed and that is what we both did. We returned back 125km by 4.30am or so and we were frozen to death. It was cold, very cold.
We sipped some hot coffee and after finishing the refurbishing chores, started our last big loop. I knew we were running against time and only 5 hours were in hand for the next 36km. Yes, I knew now, that completing the race within the cut off time was not a reality. We were already tired and even running at a slower pace was difficult now. But giving up was again not an option so we kept walking fast.
Reaching the 150km mark:
By the time we reached half way and reached the U-turn aid station, Milan had given up and his right foot had become red and swollen. He took off his right shoe and he needed time to be helped now. I saw the time 8.30am and now 1.30 hrs were left with a mammoth 23.5km still left to be covered. I told Milan to come soon and I left him to start running my loop.
By this time, the 50km contenders were also on the route and there was company for us. I reached near the first aid booth at 142km, to hear heavy breathing from behind. Yes, Milan had caught up with me. What a fighter. I now felt bad, for leaving him behind and selfishly trying to finish. I was also happy that my friend could still run, as that could get us much closer to the cutoff. But to my dismay, he announced he was in severe pain and which was impossible to bear and he won’t be able to run further. He was also feeling sleepy. Again, being selfish was not me now and I held Millan‘s hand and we reached the 150k mark with lots of encouraging shouts and clapping by the organizing team. Thanks to the Pune Ultra team for helping us reach the 150km milestone. Without them it was impossible. I left the Innovera school ground with happiness and a big smile on my face, promising my return next year, to finish the race in style. For now, bye bye Pune.
“Everytime I failed, people had me out for the count, but I always came back”-Slyvester Stallone