–By Jaydev Raja
Wake Up J Bro!
“Get up guys!!I think it’s about time you two hit the road.I see you both are the last ones,who might just make it within the cutoff.” It was the Tiger of India Running, Indian Naval officer ‘Breeze’. Nitin and I sprang up, both our eyes on our Tom Tom- 12.04 am.
It had been disturbing me constantly,about the unfinished Pune Ultra 100mile race, last November. I had reached 150 kms(in29.44 hrs) milestone, but way outside the cutoff time of 28 hrs.
Diju Boro, a strong Runner with the ‘Kolkata Runners’, had suggested this race to me, a run of 100 miles on the Nashik – Mumbai highway. First the race was scheduled for the 18th of March and then postponed to 1stand 2nd of my birthday month(April). Coincidently, the race came with a warning of the summer Equinox week and warning from the Maharashtra weather Authorities:
THERE IS A HEAT WAVE WARNING IN THE STATE OF MAHARASHTRA,TEMPRATURES RISING UPTO 46 DEGREE CELSIUS.PLEASE STAY INDOORS FROM 11.00 AM – 4.00 PM.PLEASE DRINK ATLEAST 6 LITRES OF WATER COMPULSORY.
Should I Think Twice?
The warning was no effect on my already determined Attitude, to leave no excuses, but to finish the Sayadri 100 mile run from Viholi to Thane in style. My parents and close family were a bit concerned but I had kept no option left to ‘step back’ and I reached Nashik a day before the race. I was sharing a room with a cyclist Nitin Ghorpade from Aurangabad. We kept our air conditioner to 16degree Celsius but still it was a boiler burning outside. Finally, the evening transformed into a pleasant one and we proudly posed with our Bibs. During tea break,I met one of my idols, ‘Captain Breeze’. He talked about his experiences through the race of ‘Bad Waters’, one of the toughest races held in America and was the second Indian to finish this tough race and make India proud. Also, his breathtaking experiences from his Himalayan expeditions with the Army really set my mood for the race next day. Now I was more sure and determined to kill the run and 100 miles was a reality now.
At The Start Line
We assembled on the parking of Nashik Decathlon and after the final proud pose at the starting line, the race began at 5.05 am. Eighteen strong runners started the race. We started running towards Nashik city for 10.5 kms and I returned back to have a nice idly and sandwich breakfast at the Decathlon parking again in 2 and a half hours(after 21K). I was among the last 5 runners but to my happiness, I met Nitin again who finally became my buddy runner for the next 120 kms till the next breakfast stop at Kalyan(Mumbai). Now it was still not quite hot and we planned to run till noon. With the help of Vivek Soni, a very helpful organizer and other extremely helpful volunteers, we managed to constantly run for the next 5 hours.
Now, the sun was at its peak and my whole body had turned red, burning from the direct sun laughing at us! Nitin was still going strong and he still kept his running gear on but I had changed my mode to walking. A young volunteer Rizwan Maraikar did try to encourage me and pace me, with a couple of pepsi bottles and sugarcane juice from the highway hotels, but I had decided to walk .At 2.50pm, I finally reached the air conditioned dining hall of the Manas Hotel, where we were to have our lunch and this was the 61k mark. My mind was happy now as only 100 kms were left to go with lots of time in hand.
Break Time Over!
Nitin had waited for me and with a fresh change, some icing for legs, stretching and foam roller. We restarted the race at 4.00pm along with the fresh 100 kms contenders and my friends Dipesh Gindra and Ronit Damania. Within no time the new runners vanished on the still scorching hot highway and now the tough patch of the race, the Ghats which were the rocky mountains had to be crossed.
Again the organizers and volunteers acted as samaritans and we briskly ran our way through the dark evening with a heavy highway traffic. A new challenge erupted now. As we were running with the traffic, even putting our reflecting waist jacket was not enough to ensure if we were visible and safe on the highway. We were not being able to judge the head lights coming from behind and I was really scared to run on the extreme left patch of the tar highway. Hence, we took to running and walking on the pebbled trial next to the road and now our pace reduced considerably.
We reached the dinner point at 10.36 pm which was about half way through our race at 86kms. The plan was already made to take a nap, so Nitin and I slept flat on our backs and I put my head on my shoes, trying to relax and sleep on the restaurant’s playground. Here, I thank Deepak Valmiki and VipinKhairalia, the two ‘joints and motion trainers’, who acted as our physio all the way through the run. A quick massage and stretches really helped us refurbish.
“Collect a bottle of coke each, as at around 3:00-4:00 am you will feel sleepy and your pace might drop to 3 km/hr. Focus now on your race, as a mammoth 76km is still left with only 18 hours to go. Again the Mumbai heat and traffic will slow you further down”. This was the advice from the Tiger himself, which finally helped us finish our race, a couple of hours before the cutoff. Thanks Breeze Sharma Sir for these valuable inputs!!
There was still more to be done
Nitin had done a lot of such long distance expeditions but they were all on his cycle. He was all set to make a concrete plan but after Breeze Sir’s warning I had just blanked out. Nitin was assigned to the driver’s seat and he chalked out a plan here. He said, “Sir! We need to finish a full marathon in the next 6 hrs. We will reach the Kalyanphatta by daybreak and then we will be in the safe zone”. My response was, “Hmmm Ok”. I was just nodding my head to his brilliant strategy, but did I understand even a bit? Naaah!! The only thing I understood now was that if I do notfocus again and start running, a repeat of Pune may happen and again lead to all dismay and unhappiness for me with the race unfinished. My inner courage swelled from within! The proud “JBro” started waking up. The months of meditation were now showing results. I was awake now and fully in the killer mood. Nothing could stop “Jbro” now and I could see the finish line….
I kept running till I could see the Kalyanphatta toll and only stopped at Vivek’s car as he offered my favourite drink, chai. Yes! We made it as planned! Only 34 kms to the finish line and more than 10 hrs in hand. Kyaa baat hai!! We didn’t mind the biscuits Vivek was offering us as we had time to celebrate. We had reached Mumbai. Yeeeeesssss!!!
Now We Just Had To Conquer The Mumbai Leg
The patch inside Mumbai city was a tough one as smog and traffic made it even hotter. With a sort of on and off running and mostly walking, I finally made it to the Thane Decathlon! Ronit Damania and Priyanka Bhatt helped me through the Mumbai stretch. I reached within 33.43 hrs, to proudly receive a finisher’s medal, certificate and t-shirt which I was eagerly waiting to wear since past four months. The wait was finally over. A big thanks to Mr. Sudarshan Singh, the race Director, the organizers, volunteers and fellow runners who all selflessly helped me through my journey of 100 miles. I am proud to be a finisher of 161 kms and surely this is just the beginning to conquer the world beyond my imagination!
I will be back!