Quest Leh & Ladakh – Days 4 & 5 – MARATHON TIME – The Grand Finale

Day 4 came, and with, intense laziness at 5 AM,. I sat down, and contemplated my condition. I had gained 8 kg after my iliacus muscle tear, I was to run in an area which was 15000 feet above sea level, and to make things adventurous I was already a known patient of allergic bronchitis. I knew I had a capsule of acetazolamide last night, but I just took another in the morning for extra measure, reminding myself that I had to stay hydrated, or the medication would definitely cause severe cramps. I packed my steroid tablets as preventive measure against cerebral involvement in mountain sickness praying that I would not need to use them. My asthma puff was a life – saver, and I kept it in my pocket immediately.

We got ready, then headed down to the car by 545 AM, to take us to the starting point of the marathon. Unfortunately, they started turning away cars half way through, and I sent Sanju back with the car, while I walked in my tshirt, shorts and thermal wear, complete with beanie and marathon bib (which I had gotten at the end of day two from Rimo Travels, who were the organizers of the event).

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The chill was not as bad as I expected, and I walked briskly to the start point. Here was a grueling one hour wait, during which I was forced to kneel down after decades by the military who did this as a measure of preventing people from pushing forward to initiate the start of the marathon! When I guessed this was going to happen a second time, I slipped out of the crowd and headed back to a peaceful area, till the marathon started.

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The chill was penetrating to the bone, but with some brisk warm – ups and dynamic stretches, I trained my body to get used to the jarring cold. Soon the race started, and everyone were on their way.

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The first notable scene we passed was this:

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By this time four km were up, and things were actually looking easy. No sooner had I thought this, than I experienced a tugging feeling in my ankle. The extra ‘diamox’ had prevented me from getting sick, but was interfering with my muscles! Realizing I had better be careful, I hydrated myself well with gatorade at the refreshment point (this was one of them, and there were one for every three km)

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After crossing six km, I started using my inhaler for periodic puffs, and by 8 km, I had slowed down from 8kmph to a speed of 7 kmph. After I crossed the ten km mark, I stopped feeling ashamed of myself and settled for a brisk walk of 6 kmph, still managing to cross a few people and kids who had stopped running and were panting with their hands on their knees. Here were a few wonderful sights I crossed

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The last 7 km were perhaps the most grueling I had ever experienced in my life – it was a steep uphill road, and almost all the participants had resorted to walking. I realized if I kept this up, I had every chance of collapsing, even though I didn’t feel like it right then. I hailed the ever present ambulance, and used the oxygen mask twice, taking time to recuperate before beginning to walk again (Thank God for giving me this knowledge as a doctor, instead of blindly plunging on ahead like the others). Sanju, by this time, was at the finish line waiting for me and had taken the following awesome pictures:

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I managed to keep up the pace, and pushed my calves, practically pumping my rubbery legs to move forward at the last fifty meters. The result was a rather feeble jog and I ended up finishing in 3 hours and 22 minutes, which was almost half the time extra compared to my previous half marathons which I had completed before my muscle tear. I settled for the accomplishment of completing this event at the world’s highest rooftop (Leh). The award distribution function had its own perks, but after such a nerve and muscle wracking race, all I could think of was rest, rest and more rest. I took some more oxygen from the resting area, then Sanju & I took a ride back to our hotel, courtesy of Sonam. We slept after a meal from the restaurant, then took a walk, following which we rejoiced in our room after collecting the participation certificate and the medal from Rimo Travels.

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The event was finally over! I sipped on my tea, thinking of our last day at Leh the next day. Our dinner was awesome as usual before hitting the sheets.

Day FIVE:
We used this day to relax before starting our hard journey back. We used the morning to take a walk to town, where I bought an awesome soldier outfit, and a few more souvenirs from Tibetan refugee markets before having lunch.

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Deciding to try something different, we had lunch at a German bakery with restaurant attached right next to our Hotel Omasila. The soup was out of this world, but the steak was rather rubbery. All – in – all, it was a good experience, and we returned happily to our hotel.

And as always, all good things have to come to an end. With sad feelings, but happy memories, we started back to Delhi on day six. After a four hour wait, we got our flight to Bangalore, where our taxi was waiting. Salem invited us with open arms, and we embraced it, with so many wonderful memories of a beautiful, exciting, tiring, but also a mentally relaxing trip.

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