race report by Harshad Morgaonkar
At the finish
I can still hear the Chariot of Fire song echoing in my ears, it was the morning we were all waiting for anxiously with excitement and really not knowing what to expect, we had practiced hard on simulating the route but race day is a race day, we had kept ourselves positive throughout the journey and were pretty confident on the start line.
Cut back to a year ago, we joined Motiv8 and among other goals one goal that we clearly wanted to accomplish was to complete the Comrades. I still remember the conversation we had with Atul during the introductory meeting and we expressed our aspiration to complete the Comrades. From there the journey actually started at least the mental preparation had begun along the way we completed the Hyderabad and Tata Mumbai Marathon.
Hyderabad Marathon was tough on me as I took more than 6 hours to complete it which was a bit of a wake up call, but somehow I took a positive leaf out of it and thought that if I can spend 6 hours on the road running with more preparation I can sustain for more hours came to my mind I took this failure in my stride and started preparing for Tata Mumbai Marathon. We trained hard and the fact that I had to complete it within the qualifying criteria of 4.50 helped me to strive for it, as if I had failed here, the road to Comrades 2019 would come to an end. Things went well I was able to complete TMM comfortably within the qualifying criteria.
Then the actual journey for Comrades started in February and we began our training. Hill repeats became a part of life and long runs were actually the ones we looked forward to. The thought of running all night beneath clear sky under moon light was exciting. The amazing support received from Motiv8 team members and runners really made things easy for us, their level of enthusiasm and selfless efforts really pepped us up to achieve this goal. The training period was like competing in Comrade in itself, back to back long runs on the week end, sometimes we did those during the week; hill repeats, Strength Training sessions all packed up during the week, plus work and family commitments really made us strong mentally.
Before we boarded our plane we had more than 850 kms of running, innumerable hill repeats, guidance and timely feedback from our coach Atul Godbole and tips from fellow accomplished runners with us, in true sense we had what we wanted to take on the challenge of the Ultimate Human Race in the World Comrades 2019.
Here we were at the start line rubbing shoulders with international runners , which was a first time experience, I personally thought we were about to do something which would be recognized globally and only few think of attempting something like this. I truly didn’t know what to expect, I was happy that I was standing at the start line injury free with a clear mind and with only one thought of completing it. Weather was great which was an added advantage.
I was seeded in F section and it took about 8 minutes to reach the start line. One notable difference between Comrades and other marathons that I had completed was that Comrades always goes by gun Time and not by the chip time. After the first 21 kms which went by smoothly, I read the board “65 kms remaining” and I told myself yeah 65K I have done before and had no reason to doubt myself about completing it now.
The kms went by; along the route I met some amazing runners who had done this race more than 20 times, their words of encouragement and advice about the route profile and importance of conserving energy in the first half of the race really helped. The support along the route was incredible never saw anything like this, the best part was that they read your name from your bib and then they encourage you to keep going, listening to your name from an unknown person in a foreign country gives you a happy feeling.
The cut offs went by comfortably and pace maintained as per target given, I thought of pushing myself after the Polly Shorts climb on the decline portion but got cramps near thigh, took some help from the attendant at the next water session, applied some muscle relaxant and then proceeded but a bit cautiously. As the board read “5 km to go”, I started to soak in all the atmosphere, support egging you on.
All these months, we have been preparing for this and it was about to end and in the same way we had thought about. As I entered the stadium, the last few steps all those days of training, discussions came flashing by and as I crossed the finish line I couldn’t stop my tears – tears of joy and happiness of accomplishing the goal was really overwhelming. I missed the target time given by my coach by about 2 minutes, should I have pushed myself in last 10kms is something I asked myself, may be yes, but went as per plan and tried to avoid injury risk and jeopardizing the finish itself. Fact that I was in a position to do better than the given time has given me confidence to push myself more for the Down Run……next year!
I would say the entire race day experience was very humbling as I saw some runners had to leave the race mid-way, some were just at the touching distance but had to abort and fact that anything can happen on the race day made me feel very humble and just thanked the almighty for that 0.1% which made it possible to complete the race.
It was a life changing experience not only for me but even for my family, wife, parents, son, because even they didn’t knew what I was attempting to do and what it took to reach at this stage, but without their support and patience this would not have been possible. Thanks to our coach Atul Godbole for making us race ready, my run buddies from Motiv8 and Pune, friends for believing in me and making it possible.
The entire Team Motiv8 at Comrades 2019
It was truly SIZONQOBA as rightly coined by Comrades 2019 campaign. Together was have triumphed and journey would continue to 2020.