Sun, Coconut Trees, River Banks, and Running…

December 9, 2018

The Goa River Marathon route is one of the routes we have wanted to do in a long, long time. Most people raved about the beautiful route for time on end. Flying in from Mumbai to Goa for the run the previous afternoon, we rushed to collect our bibs from Baina beach. Baina beach is this unheard of beach in South Goa (nothing to shout about) – small stretch of beach with zero tourists. Unfortunately they are building some sort of highway/ flyover parallel to the beach which ruins the beach completely.

Turning in early the previous night, we were all prepped to wake up at 4.30 a.m. the next day for our pick up. Our hotel was situated around 2 minutes from vasco station where shuttles would leave at regular intervals from 3.30 a.m.

I had packed for cold weather, but when I woke up opted for shorts and a tank top (the weather being surprisingly warm). We boarded the bus with several other runners at around 5.15 (some even the 21k who were late). The start point was chicalim joggers park – chicalim joggers park is this huge green Oasis in the middle of Goa with well manicured gardens and paved walking paths. The compere for the event was shouting directions and cheers, and 10k runners were limbering up and warming up for the run. 

It was a medley of black and white color jerseys (the official colors of the marathon jersey) interspersed with varying colors. Some runners were with the physiotherapists getting stretches done. To an outsider, it would look like a bunch of crazy people paying to run at a God awful hour in Sussegad Goa of all places – to me it was heaven. Heaven in shorts, tracks, sneakers and running watches with a spattering of green leaves and adrenaline thrown in the mix. 

I had a marvellous stretching session before the run – the first time ever, since we were ridiculously early (actually well in time) for the run. As we walked to the starting line, you could hear shouts of “I can’t wait for mutton vindaloo“, and “hey men, what are you doing here”. Surprisingly, most of the runners were not just from out of Goa, but a lot of them Goans – so next time you say Goans are lazy – think again. A lazy Goan will not wake up at a ridiculously early hour and pay a fat sum to run in their own sunny sussegad Goa. 

The first 1.5 kms started off a narrow road peppered with runners with the lights off. Navigating through the dark was a bit difficult at first, but we caught up. The next 1.5 kms took us through the wider highway with palm trees shaking in the wind on each side. Then came the downward slopes where you let gravity lead you – but what goes down must come up, so the route back was going to be tough. We then rounded up to what I had come to Goa for – the view. Picture this – the undulating road leading up to Saint Jacinto island with jungle on one side and the meandering river/ coast on the other side with huge industrial ships (not all functional) on the right, and the sound of water lapping against the shore. All I did was sink into myself and I could hear the sound of shoes thumping against the road, smell the sweet smoky smell of burning leaves, and feel the wind of the palm trees against me as I made my way up the slopes. The route was dotted with young volunteers handing out bananas, oranges, and cola fast and up (that was a burst). The most wonderful part of the run was the complete absence of any traffic – kudos to the organizers for being able to shut down a main arterial road for a run (this would never happen in Mumbai, except for Tata Mumbai marathon).

As we dotted around the U-turn to go back, you could see the lovely San Jacinto island in the distance. It was about 5 km down, and it was brilliant. I had a chance to experience the same wonderful feeling again as I plodded onward. But now with the crazy crazy slopes climbing upwards, it was a true test of my leg strength. As we made our way to the 7 km mark, it was like there was a mirage in the desert – there were volunteers holding out ice cold towels of water which was so welcoming in the crazy heat.The volunteer support at this race was superb and the race was wonderful – the curving meandering roads, the heat, the slopes – I would do it again in a heartbeat.

As I ran this 10 km I couldn’t help smiling and thanking the Almighty for being able to do this run. A lot of things had happened the previous week – a friend backed out, my dad was unwell, I was nursing an injury, and I was at one point thinking of cancelling out.

As I finished the race, I realized I had made better time than my earlier race against all odds. 

Post race refreshments were breakfast followed by beer. The breakfast was average but it being Goa, the beer was a hit. We stretched out at Chicalim joggers park post the race and unwound at a coffee shop whilst waiting for a friend to finish her 5k run.

Sipping our tea (not coffee), we listened to conversations of Goan runners who had finished their 21k (half marathon), and were planning for their next run. The smile never left my face the whole run.

I loved the entire experience Goa River marathon and I think one of the reasons I loved it so much was that I was so mindful throughout the run, I experienced it fully. I thought about what my physiotherapist had told me before the run about “running for the joy of running”, and with this run I think I reconnected with myself and running. 

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