My colleague, Sneha Mathew, participated in the Dubai Marathon last week. When she came to work on Sunday, she was radiating a happiness that I had not seen on her face before this. Hearing her stories from the marathon gave me a lot of inspiration, which is why I thought I’d interview her so that others could benefit from her experience as well.
When and why did you decide to take part in the marathon?
The Dubai Marathon has been happening for many years now and I have been an outsider to the same. My sister’s office was encouraging people to join the marathon and run under their name. So you could say, I was pestered into joining by my sister. Of course, I always wanted to do something new and different, every year. But would end up doing the same routine work, home, crib, eat routine.
When the moment came, I said, “of course I will fail”. I could not walk on the treadmill, how would I run a marathon. Logic. So amidst my talk of failure, my sister enrolled me. Her friends encouraged me. Said, just participate, don’t finish. But meanwhile I thought, well I am just going to drop out. With no time to practice or follow a regimen, there was no way I would finish right?
Everyone I shared the idea with concurred. Please don’t run. Drop off. You are too overweight, for your legs to carry. Don’t bother. Until I spoke to our office driver Zubair, who was also participating in the Marathon. He encouraged me, saying even handicapped people participate and you should be thankful that God has given you hands and legs that work. That changed my mind. And it was my way of telling God that I was sorry for being melodramatic. Finish or not, win or lose, I would participate and maybe just drop off mid-way. At least that was the plan.
Have you ever done anything like this before?
I have never done anything like this ever. Have dreamt of running in a Marathon. But never realized that the time is now.
Did you do it on your own or were any friends/family with you?
My sister was my biggest inspiration. And her friends. They had this amazing faith in me when I didn’t. I ran with friends. Made some on the way. And came out of the race, accepting and realizing I am stronger than I give myself credit for.
Did you feel like giving up? If so, why didn’t you?
See the plan was to run for a bit and give up. So by the 6th kilometer I was set. Couldn’t feel my legs. My heart wouldn’t stop thudding. My thirst wouldn’t be quenched. Cramps all over. So I was all set to throw in my towel.
But then I saw a vision in front of me. There was this lady, wrinkled skin, with a water pouch held at the back, one leg thin and straight, the other crooked but looked normal. She was walking and jogging her way with a smile. All of 65 years. Happy for the opportunity.
On my right was a man in crutches, limping his way to the finish line with a happiness I have seldom known.
That renewed my determination. If handicapped people are going to finish the race, so am I. A wave of renewed energy came into me. I jogged. Ran. Walked. Walked slower. And inched my way towards the finish line.
Was it well organized?
The Dubai Marathon was superbly organized. There were police patrol cars on the sides for any help, police cars stationed every kilometer monitoring the runners, ambulance vans patrolling & checking into the crowd to see if all was well. There were police on motorbike, Adidas volunteers on cycles, medics at frequent station, even ambulance unit members were running amongst us and periodically checking to see if we needed any assistance.
Helicopters and drones were covering the event live, hoards of photographers, the general public who braved the cold Friday morning and came out to support & cheer us on and the thousands of volunteers from standard chartered, Masafi, Adidas, etc. who kept pepping us and cheering us. And I must mention the villa owners and restaurant owners along the Jumeirah road where we were running. They not only woke up early morning and came out to support us, but many of them opened their doors for us, when we wanted to use their toilets. It was humanity at its best.
How do you feel after achieving this?
I always underestimate myself. And I never knew how strong I was. The word awesome doesn’t even begin to convey what I feel. I am in a euphoria. My heart knows genuine joy. And I feel I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it.
I completed the run in 1 hour and 40 minutes. People who practised completed the same in 1 hour & 20 mins. Not bad for an overweight person who doesn’t exercise eh?
Would you recommend this experience to others?
I would recommend this to everyone. Especially if you think you can’t do it. Everyone running as one, on the same road, without any preferential treatment, no adjustments for the passport you carry, or the colour of your skin, or the money you make. It’s a great equalizer. You get to see people. At their best. At their strongest. At their weakest. And the best part? You get to meet yourself.