“There’s nothing like the Ladakh Marathon.” You’ve heard it before. I’ve heard it before. Past runners did their best telling me what to expect: Cheering fans lined along with the armed forces jawaan all across from the Shanti Stupa to the finish line and Ladakhi kids hold hands and run together as a unit and the jawaan boasting the morale of every runner. Of course, you cannot forget the huge mani wall and the Mani wheel somewhere between mile 7 and 10 and planes flying over your head to land in the early morning mist as we weave though skara road, putting one foot in front of the other.
All that stuff is definitely there on race day. But no words can ever do the experience justice; really describing the vast emotions a Ladakh Marathon runners feels striding through all the arid mountains is hard. Sure, everyone’s experience is different, but for me, September 14, 2014 may very well be the best day of my life so far.
Running through the city i call home, sharing the streets with so many other people who share my same passion for early morning runs it’s all so surreal. Then there’s witnessing the best and the worst’s that Delhi offers. Then running through the arid mountains of Ladakh is a different feeling, Ladakh offers something for everyone and while running on these high altitude is a plethora of emotions opening up and i realize how small of a space i take in this massive world.
Without a doubt, the largest burst of emotions came right before the finish as i turned and saw them in the stands: friends, others runners and audience shouting to pump every runner for the final stretch, so darn happy. Friends taking blurry photos that i’ll treasure for the rest of my life. Crowd was waving that same teen inspired “you were born to run!” sign that’s been in their hand at every rare supporting the spirit of runners. The tears started to form. I made my way across the finish line victorious at my very best. I cried. I smiled. I started to wheeze. And then it hit me. I not only accomplished my goal of running the race under the given time, i ran before a lot more people more fitter than me could finish it. Nailed it.
As i reunited with my ecstatic friends, lips blue, shivering, smile crying, it finally felt real. Just like it’s hard to explain how wonderful the Ladakh marathon is to someone who’s never run it, i can only imagine how it feels to overcome such a major obstacle and make such a wonderful dream a reality. I did it. We were together. And in that moment, I may have been the happiest I’ve ever been.
So what’s next? I’m not sure. For now, I’m happy with his marathon. I’m satisfied taking a step back, getting back into other forms of exercise aside from running. For now, I’ll continue to think back to that moment seeing myself crossing the finish line. For now, I’ll smile and say, ” I’m a Ladakh Marathoner.”