Running, by far has been helping me in scaling up my potential every single day and re-discovering my version.next. Since 2011, I have blissfully run more than 60 marathons and 20+ ultramarathons. There was something missing until the day I decided to run The Border 100. The extremely hot day time and chilly cold night along with other challenges the route had offered (especially the last 40 km undulating & winding roads) made the race one real hell of an Ultra.
I was able to relate to the hardship faced by the Indian soldiers who fought the Battle of Longewala The Battle of Longewala and the least I could do was to subject myself through the difficulty of running a 100 miler in the same soil. The first edition of the Border Run, held in December 2018, had 12 finishers out of 22 runners in their 100-mile category and I finished sixth. With just 53 days of preparation,
- Wars come unannounced: From the day I had decided to run my first 100-mile race, I had just 53 days to prepare. The desert race finish point was closer to the Indo-Pak border, and the race started at Jaisalmer and ended at the army post of Longewala. Like how wars come unannounced, even my interest to run the 100-miler, which was not part of my wish list, suddenly appeared. I wanted to discover if I could go there and put all my years of running and coaching experiences to use. I wanted to feel the challenges the Border run would offer to test my own abilities in the process. The more I read about the Battle of Longewala the more I became inspired and committed to taking up the challenge.
- Tuning the guitar: As with any marathon event, I had to have proper training. But, this race came with a challenge. I had a very short time to mentally become tougher for the 100-miler. I had been running regularly and had the confidence that I was physically fit to run. It is just that I had never run a 100-miler before. I fine-tuned myself for the battle by building strength and mentally preparing myself by watching plenty of 100-miler video resources and reading blogs written by other ultramarathoners. My mileage went up to 320 kilometers in November and 165 before the race day. I also carefully planned two 12 hour runs (day and night) to simulate running in the day and night. The simulations made me understand running through the sun and night, beating the body fatigue and sleep cycle. I sharpened my strategy to fuel right; water and electrolyte volume, the rest schedule, what to wear. I experimented with everything possible and I kept updating my plan during my training runs.
- On the day of the war: On 23-Dec-2018, Sunday, at 1200 noon the race was flagged off. During the daytime, the desert was very deceiving and I had never experienced anything like this in my lifetime. There was this mirage effect The mirage effect, frequently observed in deserts or on long roads in the summer, is an optical phenomenon in which light rays are bent to produce a displaced image of distant objects or the sky, and I kept underestimating the distance to landmarks while on the move. Ramgarh (a small town en-route) had a gas turbine plant, and I could see the plant at what seemed like close quarters, but which actually turned out to be 30 km away! I was gifted to run with the company of some of the finest Indian ultra runners.
- The extremely challenging night time: By 5 pm, the temperature started dipping and eventually reaching 1 degree by mid-night. The full moon had lit up the entire desert and this was spectacular. Some army men who I met before the run mentioned that during the night, there could be vipers on the road as the sand was colder than the road surface. Thankfully, I didn’t encounter any snakes! I enjoyed my dal-chaawal (rice and lentils) with aloo (potatoes) at the aid stations (separated 10 km apart) stops and continued my sojourn, spirits high and heading steadily towards the finish line. I had crossed some 80 km in 12 hrs and took a 30 mins nap next to a campfire maintained by the aid-station crew. I had to battle through the cold and also many village dogs who kept a vigil on their masters. It was scary and at the same time thrilling. At many places, the loneliness had hit me and I was blaming my stupidity and also challenging my wisdom to even attempt something like this. But I was smiling throughout those difficult times.
- The finish: My goal was to keep active throughout the run, without stopping. During such a physically demanding activity, the muscles are working as well as breaking down, and the mind keeps asking you to quit. However, my experience of running ultras helped me. I was mentally strong and I never felt like quitting at all. I was always moving. After I crossed the 140 km mark, I decided to set an overall target to finish my run within 28 hours. With a last burst of energy, I sprinted to the finish area in 27 hrs 59 minutes. This was well within the total event cutoff of 32 hours.
The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.M. Scott Peck
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