Jogger’s nipple is what happens when the nipple constantly rubs against the fabric of the t-shirt while one is jogging/running. The constant rubbing may cause cracking, soreness and could even lead to bleeding. It can be a rather painful experience and there are several precautions which can be taken to prevent the same; the said precautions include covering the nipple with band-aids or medical bandage, using Vaseline to reduce friction etc etc.
This just one of the things I learnt after finishing my first half marathon in Hyderabad in October this year. It also happens to be one of the things I wish I had known before I ran the bloody (pun definitely intended) race!
You live and you learn I suppose. But still.
Anyway, the half-marathon course of the Hyderabad Heritage Run promised to wind through the ancient sites of Hyderabad starting from the gorgeous Chowmahalla Palace, past the splendid High Court and past the current city before culminating at the majestic and royal Qutb Shahi tombs at Golconda Fort.
Around three months before the race, I had decided that I needed to run a marathon. Just to see if I could do it. When someone has more than enough time to spare, it helps to have goals in mind. Otherwise the said someone faces the distinct possibility of going insane. True story.
Anyway, I registered for the course, downloaded a running program from the Internet and spoke to a couple of people who knew what running was all about. Three months of intermittent practice, a series of self-doubts and some serious second thoughts later, I found myself in Hyderabad.
More specifically, I found myself in the lawns of the Chowmahalla Palace at four in the morning along with hundreds of other people. These people were dressed in a wide variety of clothes, ranging from the shockingly short to the paunch-hidingly baggy (I will let you guess which group I belonged to). And so I stood in the crowd, looking at some of the fittest people I have ever seen while they did their stretches and their lunges and checked to see if their hydration packs were in order. (A friend of mine, who happened to have run several races earlier, told me that the shorter the clothes, the more professional the runner. He was not making it up). There was a gentle buzz in the air, the hum of activity and nervous anticipation.
I have felt out of place numerous times and hence the feeling that I experienced at that point of time was strangely comforting in its familiarity.
So there I stood, staring at the beautiful lawns and the charming palace and wondering when the race would start and how I would dash into the front and then just run and run like Forrest Gump. Or something like that.
It was nearly five a.m. when the organizers called everyone’s attention. There was going to be a group warm-up session. People were asked to stand in formation, leaving enough space between each other. And then they played the song. THE song.
Imagine five hundred people standing near the well-maintained lawns of an old palace. An old palace that used to be the home of one of the richest people in the world. Now imagine those five hundred people doing stretches and bends and this and that to the tune of “Chhamak Chhalo”. Yup, none other. A highly remixed version at that too.
Though I have to admit that by the end of it I was pretty pumped up and there was this real positive vibe in the air.
From there we moved towards the start line and the nervous buzz began to get a lot louder. The full marathoners were to leave first and we would follow after a half-hour gap. And so I waited, nervousness building, as the race started and the timing mat went “beep beep beep” a hundred times (each runner is given a timing chip, said chip transmits the runner’s data every time the runner steps on a timing mat resulting the said “beep”) and there was another surge of excitement.
When we were eventually waved off, I was a bit surprised to note that it was a pretty sedate start. For some reason I was expecting a mad dash but it was completely different. Most people simply jogged across the start line and it was then that I learnt another lesson: run at your own pace, you only have to meet your goal, that’s all.
So I too ambled across the start line, taking a few minutes to settle into the pace I was comfortable with. At this point of time, the sun had barely come into the sky and the air was quite cool. There was plenty of history on either side of the road and things were looking good. Plus there was an extremely attractive derriere that was running right in front of me. In a nutshell, things were looking good.
For the first ten kilometers or so, things went pretty much according to plan. The few up and downs along the way, though unexpected, were not too tiring. The water breaks were taken as per plan (every two kilometers, no gulping) and the crowd had thinned and broken down into several groups. I was already eying the oldies that I would overtake in the final few meters; a glorious burst of speed and youthful energy.
Then, things started going downhill. The roads were no longer empty, there were some stretches where the traffic was almost alongside and I was tiring of the undulations in the course. I had begun to walk more frequently but every now and then, there would be musical band belting out beats and this would up my spirits and I would be jogging again. Each time a distance marker was crossed, I would egg myself on “Only x kilometers left man, c’mon!” I was learning how important the mental aspect of running is.
When I reached kilometer sixteen and found out that I had done it in just less than two hours, I felt like God. That meant I had only five kilometers to go. I could do this easily. No worries at all. In short, I was da man!
I have been wrong several times in my life, the only differing aspect being the margin of my incorrectness. This time the margin was HUGE. Like Lexington Steele.
Somewhere near kilometer seventeen I noticed a woman runner staring at my man-boobs, an event which was more than a little unsettling. But I ignored it and trudged on, slightly puzzled but largely indifferent. Eventually curiosity got the better of me and I looked down to notice two red dots on my bright WHITE t-shirt. Right above the nipples. Remember jogger’s nipple. Make the connection in your own sweet time, please.
So there I was, another three kilometers to go (later I found out that some of the markers had been incorrectly placed so I am not really sure), with bleeding nipples and hurting legs. The sun was out, the air was still and it felt like I had run forever. I was walking a lot now, doing 80 counts of walking, 20 counts of jogging and then walking again. When we finally turned off the public roads, I thought I had nearly reached. I could sort of see the Golconda Fort from a distance. It looked pretty high up actually and I began to hope and pray that the finish line was at a spot much closer to sea-level.
The last two kilometers were a bit of a climb. Uphill roads are bad enough when you have to walk them but when they are at the very end of a long walk, why then, it is just cruel. I was walking now, my body telling me to stop and my mind telling me to quit being a baby. I am quite sure that if I had stopped at that point of time, I would not have finished the race. It was getting really, really difficult.
It did not help that every two hundred meters or so, some volunteer would say “Only two hundred meters left”. Lying bastards. I would somehow gather up the remaining reserves of energy, start jogging (I had decided that I would not walk across the finish line) only to discover that the end was nowhere in sight. The last kilometer was pure hell. Pure, unadulterated hell.
My legs had given up and my mind was dead. The oldies whom I had plotted to overtake were going at the same pace they had started the race with, never tiring and never slowing down. Bastards.
When I finally rounded the last corner and saw the finish line, I gave myself one final push and as I started running, I heard my name being called out and I realized that my family was at the finish line. I could not have asked for a better surprise.
I crossed the finish line in three hours one minute and twenty-three seconds, a little behind schedule and then I broke down. Literally. Words will never describe that feeling at the end of the race. There was relief (bloody race is over), there was happiness (I did it!!) and there was a massive dollop of pride (I did it on my OWN!). It was by far one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life. Things got pretty teary thereafter, I was hugging my parents and my sister and flashing a massive smile and shaking hands with other runners and generally acting like a bit of a crazy person.
And that is the story of my first run.
I want to make running a regular thing; there are quite a few runs around the country and the sport is really picking up. Perhaps I will and perhaps I won’t, I do not know. What I do know is that next time I am going to be better prepared, a couple of extra band-aids in my pocket and a t-shirt which is any colour but white!
This is me after the race (approximate image):