Dr Balakrishnan started practicing and running for marathon just a couple of years ago. He was 45 years old then, had a thoroughly occupying job and had regular work commitments for family and home. He runs four hours everyday, come rain, come sunshine. We saw his form change from a regular person to a thin athletic person.
A standard marathon is 42 kms long, 42.195 kms to be exact. Then there are half marathons too. What is more interesting that there are 80 kms and 100 kms marathon too. The marathons are now at geographically varied places, on sand, over mountains, in rough areas and in cold areas. One qualifies a marathon when one completes the distance within a particular prescribed time. Our marathon man has done it 12 times! Some of these are half marathons, some full marathons, some 60, some 80 kms and yet some 100 kms. At times the gap between the two marathons was just about 2 to 3 weeks.
For all these marathons he would need to travel to these places and sometimes go almost immediately for the marathon after reaching there. What I have come to believe is that marathon is not just about physical fitness and endurance but also about fortitude and faith. There was always a new challenge for our marathon man. The time he did 80 kms at Coorg in 11 hrs 55 min 20 sec (11:55:20) overcoming the heat, humidity and elevation along that distance, he felt contentment and thankfulness. A handful of people were able to achieve the target and anyone who did was called a Tuffman and joined the Tuffman club. What got a special appreciation for him in this marathon was how he during the marathon also collected waste generated by his fellow runner.
The Goa marathon in 5 hrs 30 min, a marathon in Mumbai in 5 hrs 50 min, an 80 km marathon in 12 hrs and a 70 kms marathon in Nilgiris in 11 hrs 15 min. He knows his strength. When people slow down or tire out towards the end of the marathon, he can hold on very well so that his last lap is distinctly the game changer. He also has a special award for the fastest last lap in the marathon.
When undertaking a 100 km marathon for the first time having done 80 – 85 km until then, he modestly remarked, “I am going to try. Let’s see.” Over a period of time I have known that this means the next thing I will hear of is the medal.
The marathon medals are beautiful. All the ones I have seen look like they are made of metal and usually have a 3 D image of a building or structure which represents the place where it was held. India Gate for the Marathon in Delhi and Char Minar for the marathon in Hyderabad. They are like art pieces one wants to hold and have privilege to own. They are the only things that our Marathon man will not part with and rightfully so. His treasure he stores in a wooden box which I am sure is shrinking in capacity as the medals are pouring in. He keeps them there and does not display them for they need no further praise or glory. They are what they are, memories etched in the metal.
Our Marathon man is a man of few words but many kilometres. He continues relentlessly with his intense 4 hours of walking each day for he has miles to go. His most challenging marathon has been in the Garhwals. I find his life very simple. A long walk or a big climb and a carved medal in the palm at the end of it.