I entered the start/finish point for the 10th time to a thunderous welcome. The audience matched my gesture of ten fingers to signify completion of 10 rounds signaling the completion of the Full Marathon and the announcer welcomed me in his distinct style. I had finished the midnight marathon in 3hours 53 minutes and 13 seconds. I carried on for a few more meters to meet Pani Sir, my daughter (Who had finished her Half Marathon earlier) and Brojen, my cheer squad for the night. I was extremely tired, sleepy and freezing. I looked up to the sky in silent prayer; I know Thanki would have been smiling down at me and my daughter for having participated.Earlier the previous day, Thanki (this is how my daughter used to call my father-in-law, Venkatraman, Venky for short and the name stuck), lost his short battle with Cancer at 4:45 AM in a city hospital.
My daughter and I reached the venue about 30 minutes before the start, my brother who had flown down from Kolkata after attending a conference earlier in the day, joined us. It was extremely cold and we were yawning and shivering. I was even questioning myself if it was prudent to have reached the start point to participate. Soon DM and fb friends started greeting and the mood set in. There was lot of interest as usual in my khadi gear and bare foot! The race started at the appointed time. I took one full loop to warm up and shed my top. The crowd congregated near the start point kept up a chant and it pepped me up. The course was a little harsh on the bare feet at the start of the loop and immediately the gradient which though not as steep as the Naidu’s Cyberabad made up for the gradient with the length. In the first few loops I ran through the climb, but, I was feeling the strain. My ego did not let me walk in the following loops. I found my daughter walking and my brother was slipping behind. I got a doubt if I was going too fast and would I last the entire distance. Thankfully the food was holding in my stomach. I had had a late dinner of south Indian spicy food as late as 8PM. I was doing everything which was against the manuals and what experts would advice for a Marathon.
Pani Sir with his notebook in hand (I am not sure if he kept my loop timings) and his pacemakers team cheered me after each loop. Many runners wished me on the way and made the going easy. The weather ensured that there were no water breaks till I finished three loops, though, I had to stop for a biological break (the organizers had thankfully kept a portable loo near a watering point). My legs started weariying after the half way mark. I was torn between whether to slow down or get it over fast. Cramping looked a distinct threat, I could see increasingly people on the sides stretching to avoid or cure cramps. My brother had fallen behind, but, was cheerful whenever we crossed. The crowd had caught on to my game of raising the number of the loop completed every time I crossed the start point. I picked up energy bars on the run and made friends with kids by offering them the same. It was nice to see young children enthusiastically cheering well past their bed time. I completed the ninth loop and 3 hours 30 minutes had elapsed from start, my daughter’s smiling face welcomed me at the start point. Brojen set me off with cheerful words egging me on for a sub-4 finish. I was doubtful, Amma was more kind than Yeddy in torture meted out to the bare foot runners. My only concern was to finish without a cramp. I crossed my brother beyond the half way mark and I pushed on trusting short period of more torture than waiting for the cramps lomnger on the course. Pani Sir’s welcome after the finish and a thoughtful bottle of water collected by my daughter put some life back in me. Lots of people came to congratulate me and I am reaping the benefits in the number of friend requests on DailyMile and FaceBook even till today as I write. My daughter and I limped back to the organizers desk for collecting my finisher’s medal and waited for my brother to finish. After saying a quick goodbye to my brother we started off for home at 4:45 AM.
After a hot water shower, I got barely half an hour in bed to warm myself before I had to join my brother-in-law to go to Srirangapatna to consign the mortal remains of my father-in-law. The journey through the crowded roads leading upto the river river Kaveri with my bro-in-law tightly holding on to what was left of his father was playing out my association with the man who handed his precious daughter to be my better half! It was ironical that if Karnataka decides to give water to TN (with necessary promptings from the SC), my father-in-law’s remains will reach Kumbakonam downstream to where it all began, my f-in-law spent his formative and most part of adult life in Kumbakonam.
I have known this man for now close to twenty two years. Now a father myself of a lovely twenty year old daughter, I can understand that it’s the most difficult thing to accept any young man as good enough to be your precious daughter’s (and a first born at that) husband, even if our religion places the son-in-law to be the lord Narayana itself! Our initial formal relation blossomed into what was to become a Mutual Admiration Society by the time he took his bow out from the world stage. He mellowed over time from a tough loud voiced father to a good friend. I admired his love for travel, adventure and good food (even if diabetic). Nothing exemplifies his single minded devotion to challenging himself than his taking part in the TCS 7K walkathon after recovering from his open heart surgery. I am sure he would be pleased that my daughter and I kept our appointment for the Midnight marathon and finished it for him. He made friends with kids easily and he was extremely extrovert and helped me become a more outgoing person. I am sure he must be among friends and enjoying good food by the time this hits the press.