Marathon runner, Tarun Walecha talks about how he got hooked to running and the joy it brings with it, in a conversation with Nandini Reddy.
Running never came easy to me…for the simplest reason that I never thought of being a runner. Though I had always been into sport, running was something that never caught my fancy. Having played various sports at school and even state level, the quest for me was not just to be fit. It was after years of exercising in the gym (18 years to be precise), which happened due to lack of peer group with similar interests and opportunities for outdoor sports due to working hours, that my mind started wandering around.
Then came along ADHM, the big Delhi Running Fest….happily ignored once…thought of second but missed…and excused again with some triviality of life for the third one. It was then that my first confrontation with a picture of a friend wearing a Finishers medal happened, and all the reasons I had not been running seemed to be lame. So there I was approaching 4th ADHM in 2011, hoping to run but with no guidance or experience of running. Wanting to take the bull by the horns, I started running in the gym. My first run, a 20-minute session on the treadmill…and I was panting. It started in June, and having pushed myself to run for about an hour on the treadmill, I signed up for a 10k cross country in mid-August. Riding on my enthusiasm I crossed over the finish line with an injured shin and back spasm. Ignorance got the better of me, and with bare minimum running and injuries, I headed into festive seasons ahead.
With all the aspiration I held, there was no significant training so far, and here I was sitting at the end of October. The worse was waiting for me. Having got back to my training once again, I suffered from food poisoning coupled with a viral fever which knocked me off for two more weeks. So here I was, ten days before the big day, staring at failure. But no, this time it wasn’t an excuse. I had a choice, either to hide behind my state or to give it all I had. I chose the latter. Limited advice from few friends I knew by now in the running community, rested for a week and on the big day decided to go for it.
So here I was, on the cold nippy morning of November 27’ 2011, after parking my car in the bylanes around JLN Stadium, I was walking towards Gate no 14 for my first real run on the big stage. It was all new, walk inside the stadium up to the holding area, some kiosks and photo-booth by the sponsors, the buzz, the crowd, high octane energy I had no time to think of what lay ahead. The only assurance I had was the 3-hour cutoff which I was confident I could manage. Before I could count the butterflies in my tummy, or ask them to shut up, it was time and people around me started moving ahead. Tapping my feet over, heartbeat rising, I moved on and before I knew I was on my way to my first Half Marathon. I still feel that buzz, still feel the exhilaration, it was like yesterday. From the moment we were out of the gates, to each kilometer mark, each turn taken and each road crossed, it was a first and the memories are still etched in my mind. I finished my first ADHM, running with aching gluts and hurting hamstring, in 2:46:21. The timing at that point to me was incidental, I soaked in the sheer joy of crossing over the finish line, and aching limbs loved the sweet pain of success.
Till date, running is still a challenge to me. At every start line I’m still anxious, butterflies still strum up a tingling melody and I still carry a little dream of the finish line when I start. Having run 26 official Half Marathons, four Full marathons, 7 consecutive days 7 HMs and few trail runs including Hell Race at 10600ft altitude, I yearn for more. Yes in these six years my half marathon timing has improved by over an hour, (PB 1:44:16, SSR 2016), but the timing is still incidental, the joy of running is quintessential. The runner in me who turned a marathoner incidentally, is still seeking that joy of running each time that I step out.