I completed the marathon in six hours and forty six minutes. Of course, you're going to have to take my word for it. There is no official record of this. At the six hour mark the timing mats were removed at the finish line and traffic restarted along the course. By the time I crossed the finish line (or what was left of it), the sun was high up in the sky and people were up and about. The bustle of Bombay had returned.
I can't say I "ran" the marathon. Doing so would be disrespectful to those who trained far harder and for far longer than I did to complete it in six hours or less. For myself as well, such statements would be disillusioned at best and narcissistic at worst. I walked for a total of about four hours of it. I know there are purists who would scoff at this, and I will not disagree. I cannot claim anything to the contrary. It is what happened.
But I sure as hell did complete it. Under my own power. Forty two point one nine five kilometres. And it was the toughest thing I’ve ever done. I walked for about the last two hours nonstop because I had blisters on the sides of my toes, and the joints of my knees screamed like hot metal leaking into them whenever I tried to jog. Every step was agony for nearly two hours. I almost broke down at the thirty nine kilometre mark, because I had miscounted and had thought that I was already at forty. One kilometre more doesn't sound like a lot, but coming at the end of a haul like that it can almost tear you apart.
I didn't expect to receive a medal. I didn't expect to find people at the finish line to congratulate me on completing the marathon. There were no TV crews or swathes of cheering crowds. After all, what I did was hardly an honour. And yet, a medal awaited me. My medal. And I was applauded and cheered on heartily by the volunteers who were packing up at the finish. Just like that extra kilometre, it's the little things that can make a difference, even for the better. The raised palms of children hoping for a high five as you pass, the applause of bystanders despite knowing you’re among the last to finish, the pat on the back and the words of encouragement from a fellow runner after you’ve doubled over due to a cramp.
And that's the beauty of it all. I’ve often said that the choices you make should be for yourself and not for what others think of you. But in this I have an addendum to make. Even though I signed up for the marathon because I wanted to test my own self, I know that I brought that medal home for everyone else. For the runners who stayed the course ahead of me, and for those who did so behind. For the volunteers ever ready with packets of biscuits and bottles of water. For the friends who’d stayed up all night to make sure I would get up on time. And for her.
Because it is true what is said; “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.”
But of course, you're just going to have to take my word for it.