How I finished a 12 hour Run

I bring to you the experience of my first ever 12-hour run. In Oct 2020, after a long wait, I finally decided to participate in the 12-hour dreadful & grueling run organized by Tuffman at Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula on 14th March,2021. 

Having spent 5 months at home(because of covid),  it seemed like a good decision at that time, to go spend some time outdoors preparing for the run and finally crossing the finish line after few months in my first ever 12 hours run.

The Run:

The run is called Ultra Marathon Run and participants from every nook & corner of the country participate in this run. The setting is, one needs to complete as many laps (each lap is of  ~420 metres) as one can in given time-frame of 12 hours. There are other runs also organized in this format involving 3hrs, 6hrs, 100km and 24hrs. Considering it is quite monotonous to run iterating the same track for so long, in order to break the monotonicity and to prevent injury for putting the pressure on the body at the same point; the direction of the run is changed after every 3 hours for all the participants (clockwise to anti- clockwise and vice-versa).

First 3 Hours

My race started at 4 AM. My daughter came to see me off at the start of the race. It was still dark when we started running. Because I had prepared for multiple 3-hour runs, I was quite elated, happy and excited during the first 3 hours. My eyes were shining bright and there was smile plastered on my face. If one would have seen,I looked more like a kid in a candy shop. I was so happy, that tears welled up in my eyes, for I felt so lucky to be running in this race. This is the first time, I understood; why people have tears even in the moments of happiness. But rather than shedding them now, I saved it for the last.

3-6 hours

During the 4th hour, my right knee and left leg started paining. This is not something I expected so early in the race. But all I could do was acknowledge/accept the pain and keep on doing what I aimed for! So, I kept running along with walk.

On completing the 5th hour, I started to feel little discomforted in my feet. Considering there were still 7 hours left for the race, I was worried if I might have to battle against the blisters on my feet. I made a quick decision to stop and apply doctor`s tape on my feet and change the pair of sweaty socks with a new pair.

Till this point, my husband cum partner cum my crew, Raghav had not yet come; so I quickly ran and dragged my bag near an empty chair. Got my doctor’s tape out, quickly put it on my feet for nurturing blisters, and changed my socks and put back the shoes on. While I was doing all this there was a person watching over (he must have come to support somebody); he was kind enough to zip my bag, which pushed me to cruise back on the track and clock in as many kms further. Every minute saved at the moment was very critical.

6 – 7.5 hours

Now I was entering a new zone here. Till date, I had practiced a max. run of 6 hours in life. Anything beyond that was unchartered territory for me. Also, I was expecting Raghav to be here by 10 AM (the run started at 4 in morning). And with each passing minute, my eyes were only looking to find him somewhere in the crowd to cheer me. But I just could not locate him.

I was now tired with my knee hurting more and my left leg still paining. Also, I no longer felt I had the energy left within me to count the laps covered (till this time, I had counted all the laps I had done so far (102 to be exact). So, I thought of using another weapon to boost my energy. I took out the MP3 player and plugged-in in my ears to block the pain in the mind. So yes, it was time to tame the ‘mind’ using the power of ‘music’!!! But it worked for few minutes only.

Finally, I was ecstatic to see Raghav at 10:30 AM cheering for me. It gave me yet another push. So, for next 1 hour, I continued with a fervent passion.

7.5 – 10 hours

At 11:30, my second and third toe of left foot started to pain because of a continuous pounding on the tracks. Now, the only thought I had in my mind, was how to tackle this pain. I felt like asking for another pair of shoes a one notch bigger in size. But that was only a wish as I had no extra pair of shoes. I had already spent a handful on my Adidas Ultra boost shoes and did not think of it to be a wise decision to buy another pair.

Now in current circumstances, I had 2 options – to run barefoot or wear slippers and try running in them. Considering I had never run barefoot so far, I opted to change to slippers for some time, for my toes to get some fresh air and then change back to shoes after a while. Accordingly, exactly at 12 noon, I changed into slippers. Now I had only couple of problems, my knees were hurting and my left leg was paining. My shoulders and my back had started to pain, and I was still left with 4 hours of running. Considering there was nothing I could do, I just continued in the slippers for 1 full hour. I was happy, at least my toes were not hurting anymore now.

Running and walking in slippers have their own limitations. So I had to change back to my only pair of shoes at 1 PM. I was glad not to be greeted with blisters on my feet till this stage. But the heat was killing me now. So I poured water on me after every 5 laps and continued what I could do, at this stage it was more walk and less run as I felt even while I was trying to run, I was so slow because of the pain in my knees; walking was comparably faster. This race was getting extremely difficult now, and I was finding it hard to continue. But only one thought crossed my mind, I have to finish this; and I kept reminding me that I never expected it to be easy and this all is going to end in less than 3hours

Last 2 hours

It was hot, and sun was shining bright at about 34 degrees. The last nail in the coffin, my back started to give more trouble than ever. Now basically, my knees, thighs, both legs, my shoulders and even my back were in pain. Each and every cell in my body was screaming to stop. I just could not bear it anymore. Finally, I decided to take my first and only 5 min break to reset those brainy cells and take a much-needed rest.

Also, a thought of wearing knee caps came to my mind. I quickly wore kneecap on my right knee as I had just one knee cap. While I sat on the chair, Raghav just pressed my shoulder to ease the pain. It felt blissful. After taking rest on chair with Raghav acting like a shade against the scorching sun, I felt at rest. The temptation to just keep lying down on the chair and resting was great. But I had unfinished business to take care of! So, I got up after 5 minutes of rest, but my initial 10 meters of walk back on the track was agonizing, painful and slow. I started with a walk, and after few mins tried to run, but my body would relent. This went on for quite a while. I felt bad, dejected as the thought of last 2 hours before it all ends came into my mind. And I just wanted to run. I tried to get myself into running action many times, but I realized my running was getting slower & slower than my walk. For the next 1 hour, I kept walking more than running.

Then at 3 PM. I had finished 69.70 kms. Now I suddenly felt like it’s all going to end in another hour, so I need to push myself to my maximum potential. For next 30 mins, I could manage more run time than in last 1 hour. So, I kept alternating between run and walk, but this time it was mostly 40% run and 60% walk. I was happy to be doing this at this stage into the race. In last 30 mins, I just wanted to give it my all, but suddenly I felt completely at loss of energy again. My knees hurt more than ever, and with every step I felt excruciating pain in my knees. It took so much effort for me to get into running action from walk. And just 20 mins before the end, I could not control my tears as my husband came near to cheer me up. I told him, how my body hurts and how I am trying to do all I could to run, but still not able to run. He comforted me and told me to just keep on walking. He reminded me this is my first 12-hour run, and I have already been under immense pain and out there running/walking for more than 11.5 hours. That gave me a sense of relief. And I planned to walk fast for some time, till I could run again. So, I walked fast for next 2 laps. And finally, with just over 12.5 mins remaining, I got my rhythm, enthusiasm back and I started running again.

I crossed the finish line with 1 minute to spare, there was no way I could do another lap in 1 min, but I kept walking on the track, till I could hear the finishing race sound. Rather than turning back, I just resolved to finish this one last lap as my coach often tells me “Always finish the lap that you’ve started!!!”. I finished the lap running to the finish line with a photographer waiting to capture the delightful smile on my face.

I went straight into Raghav’s arms, cried like a baby and telling him “Yes, I’ve finished the race and it is hurting me really bad!!!”. I am not sure the tears were because of happiness or pain. But I am sure they were with me since the start. Initially for the happiness of being able to run in this race and lately because it was hurting me so bad.

Finally, I’m glad to have finished the race, which until the previous day was THE DREAM!!!

By Minal

8 replies »

  1. Beautifully expressed how you felt at different stages of the run…hatsoff for dreaming about it and then finishing it strong 💪👏❤️

    Like

  2. Amazing Minal… very inspiring. If I had read this 10 years back I would have gone solo to cover 108 kms of run to Bangalore for the cause of “water”. My plan to take 10,000 people on walk of 108km for the cause after making 10,000 people climbing a mountain had a luke warm response.
    I had the desire to go solo but my supporters n volunteers held me back.

    Leader Bhaskar, 9901278838
    (Squadron Leader)

    Like

  3. Very well written and. Your poured your heart out as you poured all your strength, willpower on the track that day…. Stadium runs as much a mental test as physical test… and you slayed this one… Congratulations once again !!!

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    • Thankyou so much Rashmi.. I just saw your message today.

      And being in touch with you have inspired me so much to go out and do what you love.

      Thanks for always inspiring me. 🙂

      Minal

      Like

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