How running a marathon lifted me out of my emotional lows
I first ran a marathon on September 11, 2016 in Ladakh, amidst the Himalayas, with a picturesque landscape of a river flowing in the backdrop. The run was along a meandering path, through the mountains and valleys, which made me feel like I was in a painting. The Ladakh Marathon is the highest and amongst the toughest marathons in the world, testing the limits of human endurance. It not only tests your abilities as a runner but the rarefied air of the mountains makes breathing that much harder as well. I had participated in the Run for Fun 7 km race and only I know how much it took out of me and how I wanted to run more. Running a marathon is not easy.
That run is etched in my memory because from someone who was never athletic and was always chosen as a substitute player in sports as a kid, I became a runner helping me change my perspective of my physical abilities. It was doubly important for me because I had just hit rock bottom in my life around about the same time. I had realised that I had to restart my life and career which had been derailed due to some unforeseen reasons. At that point I was also battling the horrors of acute depression and felt that my life was going along with no direction.
Initially running became a crutch for my paralyzed emotional sense. However slowly but surely it became less of a crutch but more of a therapeutic process. Even before I started regularly running, during my tough times, I used to imagine myself running free and wild through the pastures. Smiling ear to ear. Radiating happiness and joy. And by running my first marathon on a whim, I realised that I could make that dream a reality. Once it clicked that I could live this dream, it became too easy.
For me personally, I realised that running is not where I compete with others, but where I push my own limits. Carve my own goals. The general misconception is that you only run a marathon to win or lose but once you start running, you realise that you win each time you run by defeating your own shortcomings.
After the Ladakh Marathon, I realised that I wanted to take control of the joy in my life. I moved to Chandigarh, all alone for the first time in my life, taking up a job in digital marketing. Starting from a scratch as an intern, I had hit a reset button on everything. The idea was to breathe. To explore my potential. To give a second chance to life and myself. In Chandigarh I registered for all the runs that was organised by the administration and running clubs. The charity runs, Earth Day runs, Women’s Day runs. Various 5K, 10K, Half Marathons. This new habit had become addictive. In fact, I was getting used to the Runner’s High.
My first half marathon was when I ran in Auroville, Pondicherry. Which is another awe-inspiring marathon. The run starts before the daybreak. So, you run right into the sunrise making your way through a trail, which is almost like a forest. Ah! The beauty of it. That is one marathon I would definitely like to run at least once in my life, even if I have to travel from the other side of the world to run it. The locals keep cheering you on, playing bongo’s and drums, inspiring you to put in that extra effort. You run with people from different countries with a common goal. To soak in the experience and finish the race.
I did not realise when everything started making sense to me and I found myself running and fundraising for the CIBC Run for Care (that raises money for Cancer Research here in Toronto) for two years in a row. Finally, I was able to put my passion for running towards a noble cause. I had reached a stage in my life where I was content with my choices and clearing out my head by running played a major role in it.
However, here I would recommend that running a marathon needs practise, and a lot of training. Also, unless it’s a Fun for Run race, before you run your first marathon, ideally you should start by taking a few leisure runs. Or you could also practice few short-paced runs for a few days. Another important but overlooked activity is keeping your legs limber by performing stretches.
Running is a journey that helps you unfold yourself in ways that even you do not expect. On a bad day, a simple run can be the best thing that happens to you or could be the highlight of your day. One of the other perks of running is that you weave a network of runners who help you grow through it. They could be in diverse professions but together you are all runners.
Running is a sport that needs no equipment. Just a perfect pair of shoes which feel comfortable to you. Running can help you find answers to the toughest questions of life. Trust me, those answers come from the heart. Everything seems clearer when you run. My happiest moment is when I inspire people who start running after I encourage them to run my first marathon with me and they outperform themselves by continuing with a perfect running routine. Becoming better runners. There is no better feeling than that.
In the end, I would say that it is a self-belief practice. You question yourself before every run. You question your grit, determination, your muscle power. And when you tie up those laces, you find the unknown. There is only one way to find it out though. To find the fighter in you. By showing up.
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