21.0975 km: Pain can be sweet!

Sometimes you dream of something and achieve it. And then there are times you achieve something, which you haven’t even dreamed of. For me, completing the half marathon falls in the latter category. For someone who hasn’t even ran in temple run or subway surfer, 21.0975 km was like “Are you kidding me!” But yesterday i.e. on 23rd Nov, I actually did finish the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM). The feeling of finishing it was incredible, but at the same time, when you see people 3 times of your age finishing ahead of you, you realize that you can do much better!

It all began is September, when a mail from HR invited everyone to participate in ADHM. And my department decided that we should all participate. On personal front, I had no idea of how long 21 km actually is and if it is anyway possible for me, but then participation was the only way to find out. Moreover, probably this was the challenge which could motivate me to focus on my fitness. Had this challenge came 3-4 years back, I would have been sure to complete it. But the Chartered Accountancy course does take its toll on fitness. And now in job, there were these excels and ppts, which contribute nothing towards your body.

I registered. There was excitement and at the same time, a nervousness. Nervousness because I know my colleagues. If they managed to finish the race and I could not, there were not going to spare me. So, the preparation for marathon started the very moment I registered. I googled- the history of marathon, where and when it all began, why this peculiar timing of 21.0975 km. See that’s the negative impact of a Chartered Accountant job, you feel that your PC is the solution of everything. But it was not any taxation or accounting problem. So finally, I got a schedule (again, through google!) on How to prepare for your first marathon.

It was a schedule for 2 months, with focus on adequate preparation as well as giving rest to your body- 4 days of practice and 3 days rest in each week. For next two months, I followed the schedule, not completely, but partly for sure. I followed all the rest days and decided to give practice days a skip. In simple words, I didn’t prepare. In 2 months time, I went for a walk only 3 times. The first two times, I covered around 6 kms in an hour. That was in the beginning of 2 months period. For next 1-1.5 months, I did nothing (except following the rest days, of course).

It was the last weekend before marathon. Without any practice, I had no idea of my capabilities. I needed to run atleast once. And this time around I was able to complete 11 kms in less than 1.5 hours- not great, but a far better performance than my expectations. It provided me the confident that my body can make it to the 21 km length, no matter the time it takes. So, my target for the upcoming weekend was- Lets keep the timing for next marathon, this time just focus on finishing it!

The Race Day!

Apart from lack of preparation, there was this big challenge for the race day- Getting up at 4:30 AM on Sunday! Race had to begin at 7 AM, but the venue was quite far and I also had to pick up my colleagues in between. There was this enthusiasm for my first marathon race and surprisingly, i was awake even before 4:30 AM.  It was the end of November in Delhi, so it was chilling and dark outside. At 6 AM, I was at the venue.

The venue was- Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium- one of the few nicer things that otherwise filthy CommonWealth Games have provided to Delhi. It was nice to see that a sporting culture is slowly developing in India. People, 32500 in numbers, were all geared up- doing their warm ups, relaxing and simply, enjoying themselves. Despite the weather, there was warmth and a positive vibe in atmosphere. The arrangements were top-class. Take for example, there were over 100 washrooms at the assembly area. There were instructors helping people to warm up, actress Bipasha Basu was there too. I was ready to roar!

DSC_89596:30 AM was the start time for elite runners and from 7 AM, they started releasing us in batches. At around 7:15 AM, the race began for me! Bipasha Basu flagged it off. There was music playing. There were cheerleaders. There were people cheering for us. I was feeling like a celebrity. For first 2-3 kms, it was a cake walk and I could maintain a steady pace. At each kilometer there were water supplies, energy drinks, washrooms and medical aid.

After 2-3 kms, I realized that I need that to conserve my energy. So I followed this strategy- walk steadily and after each kilometer, run for few meters and then walk steadily again. Just don’t burn yourself and do not think about timings even once! During the race, human spirit was clearly visible. No matter if you are waist 42 or 22, you have to keep moving. For me, the most inspiring sites were these two people.

There was this 82 year young guy (he was wearing a born in 1932 tshirt, that’s how I know his age). He could not bend the knee of one leg and even a normal walk was difficult for him. But there he was, running a marathon. There was no surprise why people were saluting and applauding his spirit. He was truly an inspiration for anyone.

The second was this girl, probably in her early 30s, having a prosthetic lower left limb. I had heard about making the most of whatever we have and these she was making the most of whatever she doesn’t have. She had a coach who was running with her- inspiring her, pushing her. After regular intervals, she would stop, re-adjust the prosthetic limb and then move on again. Hats off to the girl as well as her coach!

Coming back to race, at around 6-7 kms mark, I had reached the India Gate. There was slight pain in legs, but I was comfortable. I was waiting for the half way mark at jantar mantar. 8. 9. 10. And there was the half way mark. Reaching half way mark was the mental battle won, because I knew if I could reach the half way alive, then I was going to finish the marathon for sure. The legs were paining, but now I was sure that I can make it. Legs can be taken care of later.

The sun was becoming harsher. But luckily, there were adequate supplies of water and energy drinks. I could again see the India Gate and I knew from India Gate, its just a matter of few kilometers. But wait! There was a diversion just before the India Gate and though it was few meters ahead of me, I had to cover another 2-3 kms to reach there. But no issues, I was going to complete it. The brain already had an  agreement with pain, and now it was just numbers. At no point of time, I felt like stopping, taking a break or quitting.

And there was the board- 500 meters to go, 400, 300, 200, 100 and I crossed the finish line. It was a sense of achievement. I did it. Not bad Sarthak! Ha! It was n’t that tough. 21 km is very much achievable. And I have achieved it.

The Finishers Medal!

How amazing isn’t it? When we are sitting, getting a glass of water is so tiring. One round of Cannaught Place used to take away all the energy from body. And now I have covered the distance equivalent to 25 rounds of CP and I still wasn’t that tired. I could easily cover 3-4 kms more! Truly, its all in the brain. If we have to, we can achieve what we never ever thought possible.


I came back home with the finisher’s medal. The legs were paining, but the pain was sweet. The pain was constantly reminding me of my achievement. That yes, I have finished my first half-marathon. The distance of 21.0975 kms!

But yes, there is more to achieve. The next time, I need to practice and is surely going to improve my timings by atleast 10 percent! That would be the real win. And there is full-marathon too!

Its my strong recommendation to all of you, do give marathon a try. Not for the achievement or any benefit. But to experience that capabilities of your body is way beyond that you can even see or imagine!

The next day was Monday and I was back to work. Another milestone in life crossed. The marathon continues. Normal life, normal routine.

How was your first marathon? Do share your experiences!


Author: sarthakg

A terrible dancer, an abrasive singer and a Chartered Accountant, Sarthak Goyal has been penning his mind through the blog ‘Something. Nothing. Everything’ since 2009. In whatever little time he gets away from sleep, he works for his venture, DTHConnect.com.

2 thoughts on “21.0975 km: Pain can be sweet!”

  1. Awesome. Although i belonged to the former category you described, your account reminds me of my first 21.1 km at Mumbai early this year. I could see the bandra worli sea link, sea face, peddar road, etc. passby. And all the inspiring stories that were around me.

    Your post has bought back deja vu moments for me except for the practice part. That was one hell of a training schedule :)

    1. “hell of a training schedule” and still just 5 minutes better! :P

      On serious note, I know I should have practiced, atleast for the sake of dedication. But daily getting up early in morning is next to impossible for me.

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