"I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind." — Albus Dumbledore

Back in 2014, I could barely run a kilometer without feeling like I almost killed myself. I ran away from cardio days like a dog runs away from cold water. Running short distances as much as a kilometer made me feel so drained out that I used to wonder how people can run marathons or even half-marathons. However, in the year of 2015, something changed. And I started running. I do not know what triggered it. Maybe it was because I saw my friends in Paris running regularly and thoroughly enjoying it. Maybe it was because of my own wish to improve my running distance. Or it might have been just another stab at losing weight and trying to develop a leaner physique. Whatever it was, that decision changed my life. Running is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It is like meditation. One of the reasons I love running is because it gives me time to mull over things. To take a break from my mechanical life and just relax. To step out of my clockwork schedule and go through some of the important questions in life. To just breathe in the pure early morning air. Enjoy each and every breath! Ever since I started running, I have been improving upon the distance covered and have finally been able to complete some long distances. This year, I participated in a 54km Ultramarathon called the Nepal Stupa to Stupa Ultra Trail Race. Although it was one of the toughest things that I have ever done in my life, the amount of satisfaction that I got after completing it is incomparable. Also, while practicing for this run I got a lot of time to think about quite a few things. So I thought I will pen down my thoughts on how running connects with life in general.

Practice: Always be prepared

Long distance running is all about preparation. You cannot just register for a challenging run and then show up on race day without any practice, pretending like you are Superman. I have seen many people doing this and then hitting a wall after the first few kilometers. Your body needs to prepare itself for these kinds of runs. Before going for the Nepal run, I ran around a 100km each month for couple of months just to ensure that my body was in running mode.

Inclines: After every challenging uphill climb, there is a bonus downhill slope for you to roll along

There is just one thing I dislike about running... Inclines. Whenever the track starts getting uphill, I tend to slow down. I am not a fast runner at all. Inclines tend to slow me down further. However, the brighter side is that after every uphill ascent, there is a downhill slope (similar to bonus rounds in video games!) as well where you can catch up on all the lost time.

This run had the steepest uphill climbs that I have ever done. To make things worse, these climbs were accompanied by thousands of stairs. Being a person who runs away from inclines at the drop of a hat, this run was exceptionally challenging for me. However, the thought of reaching the downward slopes kept me going.

Soreness: Pain always makes you stronger

I started this year with multiple injuries and a slightly twisted back, where I had to go for physiotherapy sessions to get back in shape. My back would hurt whenever I crossed the 10km mark.
Also, I had a shoulder injury and a tennis elbow that were still in the recovery mode. I was given a few exercises to strengthen my back. So, I worked on fixing my back for almost three months. The exercise felt really tiring. It was painful in the beginning to lift my back and to perform all these exercises. It took me almost 30 minutes daily to complete the entire recovery routine. Fortunately, by race day, my spine was back to solid steel. Even though the other body parts were screaming for attention, my back felt steady as a rock.

Climbing up is tough but once you are done, it has its own rewards. As they say, the higher the mountain, the better the view.

Think Big: Sometimes it is good to challenge yourself

Till 2017, the longest runs that I had participated in were all 10 km. Then last year, I started running a bit longer. I took part in my first half-marathon… 21km. Then I participated in a 25k run. So before going for this ultramarathon, the longest that I had ever run was just 25kms. The logical next step would probably have been a 42km full marathon. However, I took the big leap and registered for this 54km run. This ultramarathon was more than twice the longest distance I had ever run. However, as my body felt fine even after the 25km run, something inside me reassured me that I could finish this run as well.

I knew that to finish this run I had to be prepared not just physically but also mentally.

Master your mind: You are not defeated till your mind accepts defeat

There is another phenomenon that I discovered during the run. After running in an upright position for several hours, your feet tend to swell up. So, it is recommended that you wear shoes one size larger than usual. Not having done enough research about it, I was running in very snug fitting shoes. After running for more than 10 hours in an upright position, my feet started swelling up and getting squashed in those (now so) tiny shoes.
I knew that I had to complete this run somehow. So, I kept going… drawing every bit of motivation and courage that I had left inside of me to keep pushing myself forward. After a certain point, the pain in my feet became excruciating and intolerable. I was barely able to run for more than a few steps. Luckily, thanks to my recent back issues, I was carrying a can of pain relief spray. I applied it generously to numb my feet as much as possible. Even though the pain had not completely subsided, it reduced enough for me to carry on and complete the run. And after another couple of hours of relentless struggle and persistence, there I was… at the finish point. The complimentary Thukpa noodle soup at the finish line felt so brilliant because I knew that I had earned every bit of it that day.

Looking back now...

Now I am officially an ultramarathon runner. And it feels awesome! I have not completed a full marathon yet but have already done a much longer distance on a much harsher terrain. Completing this run has given me ample confidence to participate in any kind of marathon without even batting an eyelid. Nowadays, 10km runs are like a fun activity for me. I run 10kms almost every Saturday and Sunday just to kick start my day. And now I look back at 2014 and wonder… Why did I feel I could not do more than one kilometer back then?