By Arti Dani
I ran my first-ever full marathon last week at Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon 2018 — it was mental. 42.195 km. My official time was 5.44. I came in 404 in the ladies’ category and 78 in my age group. I loved the crowd support. The atmosphere was electric.
I was full of adrenaline till I came back home and showered. I almost died of pain when the water touched my body because of the friction burns due to chafing. Chafing is common amongst long distance runners. I have been sponge bathing for the last one week but apart from that, life is perfect!
I am glad to be part of a club of marathon runners. Last year, I set a goal for myself to run the marathon and informed some of my close friends — and immediately regretted it. They kept checking in on my progress!
In September, I decided to get serious. I joined a runners’ club called Dubai Creek Striders on September 1 and met some amazing runners. Thanks to them, I ran my first half-marathon 22 days later in the UK, my second half-marathon in Dubai in December and my first ever marathon last week. I was very keen on running my first marathon in Dubai because the city gives me so much joy. Thanks to the club, I met a few other first-timers and we trained together for a couple of months.
All of us were so excited on the morning of the race that we turned up early to deposit our bags, use the washroom, and importantantly, to click pictures.
A few minutes before the race, my friend and I decided to go to the washroom because there was no way we were starting our first marathon with a full bladder. We got separated from the rest of the gang in the process.
Before the race, in the last few weeks of my training, I injured my knee, because of which I did not train in the last couple of days before the race. I rested my knee, instead. I made sure to check with a physio, an orthopedic and a chiropractor that there was no injury in my knees. But the memory of quitting thrice midway during training (because of knee pain) had given me a mental block.
Right up to the night before the race, I doubted if I would be able to finish it. My coach advised me to run in a slow and relaxed manner and to focus on finishing the race injury free. But the moment we started running, a miracle happened — I just knew that I would finish the race and my knee would back me up and support me throughout. The weather was foggy. I had tears in my eyes at the start line. I was so happy to be running.
For the first 16 km, my friend and I ran together. After 10 km and a washroom break, both of us put on our music and continued running. After 16 km, she speeded up and ran ahead. Then, at 19 km, I saw the happy faces of my club volunteers at the Dubai Creek Striders table playing music, handing out pieces of bananas, oranges, bars of chocolate, gels, water, and energy drinks to all runners. These guys had seen my enthusiasm the first time I ran with the club. Some of them had seen my tears when I injured my knee and turned back midway during our training sessions. These were the faces who reached out to me suggesting various therapies, doctors, articles, food that would help me recover faster. These were the people who told me it’s okay if I don’t run this marathon, because life will present me with so many more opportunities for other races.
After a while, I noticed another first timer from my club. I realised that he was walking at the 18km mark. I waved at him and ran past.
I also stopped at one of the first aid stations for a quick relief spray on my knee and after that, I ran out of the radar that was timing our chip. Thankfully, an alert lady who was standing on the road asked me to run back the distance and then run again within the radar. Oh no, three minutes wasted!
I wanted to run faster but I was constantly thinking of my knee. What if that crushing pain came back? Despite continuously running most of the time, I didn’t feel too tired.
At around 22 km, I felt my right foot going completely stiff. I had to stop. I stretched my legs and begged my legs to support me. In no time, I was back to running comfortably, surrounded by other runners. I was chatting on and off with other runners as it gets boring after a point to listen to music. By this time, I had turned off my music.
It was now bright, sunny and windy. I loved it. I reached the auto-pilot stage around 35 km, and at this stage it was difficult to push myself. “One, two, three and four,” I kept repeating to myself every time I wanted to stop. Thankfully, the Dubai Marathon route is flat, no hilly terrain.
I was glad that I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face. The actual marathon happens in the training period, not on the race day. It was the six months of training that got me through 42.195km. I can’t wait to run the Athens Marathon later this year. Hopefully, with both knees ship shape.
Arti wants to get to Cannes this year. And to the Athens Marathon