Marathon Diary of a Couch Potato

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Marathon Diary of a Couch Potato

Marathon Diary of a Couch Potato

How the hell can I do this to myself?

This was the first thought that was screaming in my mind just 25 minutes after I started my first ever half Marathon.

I wanted to punch myself for committing the biggest ever crime of my life, but where was the energy to do so? I was breathless, perspiring furiously and panting violently, gasping for some oxygen with mouth wide open. I had barely crossed 1.5 kilometers from the gathering area at Bandra Reclamation. Hell, I had not even touch the BWSL – Bandra-Worli Sea Link – and I was almost dead.

No… I am not going to finish this one! I declared to myself. I can’t! If this is the condition in the first 2 kilometers, how can I even dare to think of completing the total stretch of 21.097 km? Even 0.097 kms seemed a tough task!

I was mad at myself. Thousands of fellow Mumbaikars were running around me. No, they were running past me. Was Pinky – my wife and fellow runner – going through the same unbearable torture that I was experiencing? Possibly. Her panting was even louder than mine. Was she too realizing that she had committed the biggest mistake of her life by joining Mumbai Marathon 2011? Maybe she was waiting for me to be the first one to announce: Enough… Let’s quit.

Enough it was. Before I embarrassingly fell flat on the ground, I stopped running and started walking. I thought Pinky would push me to run little more. She didn’t. Instead, she immediately followed me and started walking herself. A few minutes of walk led us the entry point of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

Aha… to be on BWSL – my favorite spot in the city!


Bandra Worli Sea Link: Bliss…
Maybe it was for the fact that I was realizing my fantasy to walk along BWSL or maybe I had stopped running long enough to get back to my normal self – I suddenly felt energized. It was around 7 am. The darkness in the sky was gradually disappearing. The incredible city skyline was now visible. BWSL did something to the runners. Suddenly they seized to be runners or even walkers. Everybody was busy taking pictures with their mobile phones or digital cameras. Some gentlemen were even standing in a queue near the railing and peeing unabashedly, enjoying the magnificent view. After all, you don’t get a chance to pee on the latest Wonder Of Mumbai everyday!

I was now in position to think beyond my immediate physical reality. The breeze was so exhilarating; I even smiled randomly. I was now able to reflect. How did I land on BWSL at all? What was a couch potato like me doing here?


Yup, I have no qualms labeling myself as a couch potato simply because I am one. The white leather sofa in my drawing room right in front of a TV has been the most favorite place of my mine since the time I can remember. I must have moved into four houses by now, but my favorite place – sofa in front of a TV – has stubbornly remained unchanged. I lazily stretch my 84.2 kg body on the sofa with a remote control in hand, a plate full of sev-gathiya resting on my ever-expanding tummy and a leg strangely dangling on the back rest – this is the most common posture one would find me in when I am home. I just don’t sit on the sofa, I lie down.

… And I read Think Everest in the same posture.

It is an amazing book written by Atul Karwal – the first IAS officer to climb the Everest. Actually, I had to write an artilce on its Gujarati version – beautifully trans-created by Saurabh Shah – for my book review column in Chitralekha.

As I see it now, the book did the trick. Or maybe I was just waiting for a suitable trigger. I decided to do ‘something’ about my body. However, this was not the first time; I had taken such a decision oh-so-many-times in the past. What made me think that it was different this time? It is the last year of my 30s- was that the reason? I don’t know. We had already enrolled ourselves for Mumbai Marathon 2011. Technically, it was a good enough motive to sweat it out. I started getting up early in the morning anyways and joined Pinky for jogging and gymming sessions. Pinky is quite unlike me – being a typical Virgo, she is quite an disciplinarian.

There have been too many failed attempts and false starts in the past though at gym in the past. Was I serious this time? I simply refused to think on those lines. Neither did I set any target nor did I make any resolution. All I did was sat on my computer and prepare an Excel sheet. I filled up details in various columns: Week 1 – Day 1 (in this case, it was November 9), Calories Burnt, Bowel movements (I have been pathetically irregular in this department), Comments etc. Since keying-in does not demand too much energy, I was sure I would be regular in updating the Excel file on daily bases at least.

First week went by nicely. I did get up early in the mornings, I did hit the gym and best part was, I didn’t miss even a single day. My Excel updates looked impressive. ‘Running on a tread mill in air-conditioned confines doesn’t make sense,’ Pinky declared on Day 10, ‘we are going to start jogging on the ground from tomorrow.’
When did I run on a ground last time? In 9th grade? Or was it to catch a speeding local train on crowded station some months ago? I was never a sporty person, ever. Football, cricket, badminton etc were never a part of my bookish system. Am I going to run? Really?

‘You look so funny when you run,’ Pinky expectedly announced on the very first day. ‘So?’ I asked her even as I was huffing and puffing badly. ‘Nothing,’ she replied coolly, ‘keep running.’

From brisk walking I graduated to 2.5 rounds of running non-stop. The club ground was so tiny; it didn’t even amount to 0.75 km. I started walking-cum-jogging on Juhu beach. Of course, I did bunk many times, but mercifully I had not given up. I actually started enjoying myself. Not that I was addicted to running on the beach. The reason was I was hooked to those delicious salads that they sell at the beach early mornings. Temptations are not always bad, you see.

Did that mean that I was completely geared up for the half Marathon? No way!

I have been a spectator of Mumbai Marathons all these years. Yes, I enjoyed being on the field and cheering the runners. Yes, I liked the madness, the spirit, the energy in the air. But I was pretty clear on this one: since I am a participant myself this time around I would run or walk for, say, 6-7 kilometers, get the ‘feel’ and then catch first available cab to get back home. Then, of course, I would park myself leisurely on my favorite sofa and watch rest of the going-ons on TV. Simple.


But life is never as simple as we want it to be, you know. How the hell would I get a cab – or any other vehicle – on BWSL that day? The only damn thing available out there was an ambulance. Since I was far from being dead, I had no option but to cross the entire BWSL.

And that proved to be the best thing that has ever happened to me!

After doing so much time-pass in clicking pictures and posing and preening in front of mobile camera, I realized that my body was no more aching. In fact, I started feeling surprisingly fresh. Maybe my body-rhythm was set by now. By the time I reached the far end of BWSL, I had already covered some 9 to 10 kilometers in total! Suddenly a stroke of confidence hit me. Hell, I have already covered half of the distance. Why to escape? I would be able to complete the remaining stretch somehow!

The question that was bothering me now was, will I be able to finish it before sunset? Will there be anyone around to receive us, greet us or at least take a notice of us? I decided not to worry about distant future and concentrate instead on onlookers who had enthusiastically gathered along Worli Sea face and beyond.

Trust me, nothing can be more energizing than cheering voices and appreciating eyes especially when they belong to absolute strangers! There would go: ‘Come on India…’, ‘Buck up Mumbai…’, ‘Run, run… don’t walk… Yes, you can do it…’

The cheers and claps were not just encouraging, it was pressurizing as well. I heard a fellow runner saying,” Arre yaar, fir se taali bajane wale aa gaye… Ab fir se bhagna padega.. (Oh these clapping people… We are unnecessarily forced to run to keep up with the image and expectations…)’


They were equipped with bowls full of biscuits, chocolates, orange slices, energy drinks and what not. They would say ‘Great going guys!’ while offering the stuff gently and smilingly. The kids were the most enthusiastic lot. They would feel so happy if runners-turned-walkers oblige them by taking an eatable from their tray. I feared that if I keep on eating delicious stuff along the way, forget losing weight, I would end up putting on more kilos on my body instead!

It was a great feeling, to say the least. It was like entire city was out there to pamper you. They made you feel so special. I found especially citizens of Altamount Road the most upbeat. Was the entry of Mr. Wealthiest Ambani in the neighborhood the reason for their exuberance? I don’t know. But I was ready to shed the impression of South Bombaiites being the snootiest of them all. Nope, they are not!

We were getting mixed up with full Marathon participants. They had started off from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus at the same time ie 6.15 am. Now they were returning back to CST after running to Bandra Reclamation and even leaving us behind. Suddenly I sprinted like never before. Nope, not towards the destination. Instead I took a sharp right turn at 90 degrees, jumped off the road-divider, crossed the entire road and crashed into the place that I was desperately searching for- a Sulabh Sauchalaya. Mercifully I could spot one before my bladder exploded!


Running along Queen’s Necklace: Almost there…

We passed Huges Road and – aha! – now we were on the Queen’s Necklace! That effectively means we already covered more than 2/3rd of the distance! As we were moving towards Princess Street flyover, we could see Dream Runners coming in from the opposite direction. They had put on colorful clothes that were most shocking. They were holding play cards in hands and shouting slogans at top of their voices. Basically, they wanted to hog all the attention. And they did. Entire media and cheering crowds completely dedicated themselves to the Dream Runners. They had to cover the least distance – barely 6 kilometers – and they hogged the most limelight. Exhibitionists!

Exhibitionistic Dream Runners at Princess Street Flyover!

By the time we reached Flora Fountain, my walk changed. I had started walking like Great Khali! Nobody was noticing me anyways. Who would be interested in humanized turtles? Crowds were gathered along the next lane dedicated to full Marathon runners and Dream Run creatures. I felt royally ignored. However, I decided not to feel bad about it. ‘Go! Go! Go! You have almost reached…’ Some official type screamed at us.

Aha… CST! The destination! I could see it with my naked eye. I looked at Pinky. She was beaming. I feared she would break down any moment. And… here it was! Did I just step onto the electronically devised finishing line? Whoa! I did it! Hurrah! I noticed the time: 4 hours, 10 minutes, 17 seconds. Being a sports person in past, Pinky obviously did better than me: 4 hours, 10 minutes, 16 seconds!

Since we had finished before 10.30 am, we were now automatically illegible for next year’s Mumbai Marathon. We were even given beautiful bronze medals with words ‘I Finished’ nicely carved on it. This was incredible! A couch potato like me actually completed the half Marathon successfully in first go! So what if the time taken to finish the run was more than four times than it should be? So what if I was not a runner, but a ‘walker’ in most parts? I had never imagined I could ‘achieve’ even this in my life time. I knew that this as well could be a defining moment of my life!

My 7 year son, however, felt cheated and needed an explanation. ‘Dad, how could you not win the race?’ He shouted at us the moment we weakly stepped into home post lunch time. ‘I saw some Africans won hours ago on TV… Where were you?’

‘Sorry beta…’ I said meekly knowing fully well that he would never going to listen to me in future when I’d push him to find a top-3 position in his school sports meets.

However I did promise to myself: I would sincerely try to finish half Marathon in 3 hours next year. Hell, now I know I can do this to myself…

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– Shishir Ramavat

( Note – This Article is Originaly Written in Year 2011 )


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