Hard packed sands, a deserted seashore, and azure blue skies..

March 18, 2018 – Kihim, Maharashtra

We love nature and the feeling of stillness and calmness it brings to us. It was Saturday morning and we were venturing out for our weekend trip to the beautiful Kihim beach.

Our trip to Kihim was to run the 10K at the 7th Running and Living Marathon at Kihim beach. Lots of stories and tales reached our ears about what a fantastic experience it was to run at Kihim beach, and so we took the plunge.

We reached Kihim beach on Saturday afternoon after a long journey to Kihim. We drove through meandering village roads with quaint cottages until we reached our destination – Crystal Villa (opposite the starting point for the 7th Running and Living Marathon at Kihim beach).

As soon as we reached Kihim, we went off to pick up our bibs. We met the friendly Rahul Verghese (organizer of the run) who seemed to be managing everything as a one man army. I was amazed by the fact that he did it all – the handover of the bib, new registrations, updates on the run etc. It is quite unusual to have the main organizer of the run handle it all – you usually have volunteers who do this who very often are not runners. It felt wonderful to be able to interact with someone who runs himself.

We then ventured to check our route – the Kihim beach. Kihim beach beckoned us with the roaring surf, the sun kissed sands strewn with shells of various shape, size and color, fading in and out of sight, with each wave. We took a walk along the route, and were a bit worried when we saw that the tide was completely out, leaving little space on the beach for a run.

Jokes floated around as to whether it would be a water run. The week before the run was a particularly drab boring work week, and I was teething at the reins, waiting for this run (our first run since the Pondicherry trail run). The entire week before going off to bed, I worried whether I would even be able to run since I was nursing a shoulder/ back injury. Evenings of the week before the run were spent in physiotherapy and a hot bag on my back. However, miraculously, my shoulder was fine by Sunday morning.

Sunday morning dawned (finally, the day of the Kihim run), and we were up and raring to go – at the beach at 5.15 a.m. Our 10.55 km run was scheduled for a 5.45 a.m. flag off time. As we stepped out of the hotel and onto the starting point, a medley of sounds greeted us – the excited chatter of runners, the rustling of the trees, and the stillness of the early morning.

Light had not yet broken as yet, and the sea far off in the distance (yes – the tide did go in) was pitch black. The only light we could see was the light from the illuminated start area, and the boats out at sea (far away in the distance). Of course, we had our four legged friends for company whilst we warmed up for our run. A spattering of the 21 km runners passed by as we limbered, and were greeted with shouts of encouragement. Rahul explained the route to us, and then the countdown began. Runners were offered small torches to help find their way through the inky darkness.

Words will not describe what a magnificent and unique experience this run on Kihim beach was, but I will try my best to do justice.

Countdown was announced to the start, and runners set their fitness bands, their watches, and their mobile applications, and then it was go. We ran into the inky darkness with magical fairy lights glistening in the distance – torches of the 21 km runners moving like fireflies into the night, and the faster 10.55 km runners. The darkness disoriented me in the beginning, but gradually I gave in to the moment, and relaxed. I realized I was doing what I came here to do and what I love to do. The moon shone dimly, and the trusted run photographers with their flashes would catch my eye every couple of minutes. Meditatively calming were the sounds of shoes hitting the shells on the beach, and the sound of my breath.

I reached the 1.75 km mark where runners were quenching their parched throats, and did a U-turn to go back towards the opposite end of the beach. The 10.55 K run had limited number of runners (barely 50) and the feeling of not having to worry about bumping into another runner or rubbing sweaty shoulders with another runner was liberating. The vastness of the open space (especially for me, living in Mumbai) was unbelievable.

I crossed the starting point to go to the opposite end of the beach (we had to pass the starting point again, to go upto 7 km at the other end of the beach, and then make our way to the starting point for the finish). I ploughed my way through the route. Light was starting to break. The route was now clearer, and the mile markers (I know it should be km markers) could now be seen. I love mile markers (it gives me an immense set of satisfaction as I cross each km).

Nature around me was like a postcard which I could now see – the flat hard packed sand making running an absolute dream, the palm trees swaying in the background, the waves breaking far away in the distance, the outcrop of rocks in various shapes and sized, and the enthusiastic runners pumping the distance, pushing their limits. Spattered in between were the morning walkers.

I was now making my way to the 7 km mark, and stopped for a bit. I was tired, and my shoulder was acting up now. I pushed myself to go telling myself that I should be grateful that I have the privilege of being able to run/ run in such a wonderful exhilarating setting, which so many people can’t do, and spurred myself onward.

As I moved towards the 10 km mark, I saw the 21 km runners pass me by, on their 2nd loop. They encouraged me on, and I encouraged them as well. That’s the wonderful thing about the running community – everyone is always encouraging you and supporting you. The only fight and competition is the competition and fight with your mind, and the voices in your head. It is a mind game. You push yourself to limits you have never imagined possible.

I finally crossed the finish line, and was greeted with a medal, loud cheers, and some wonderful coconut water. One of the things I loved about the run was that since this was a small group of runners, in the spirit of running, breakfast was served only after all the runners had finished.

The energy, and the atmosphere of the 7th Running and Living Marathon at Kihim beach was absolutely fabulous. Nature provided a wonderful backdrop and setting for the event, and the Running and Living team did a fabulous job working with nature. Yet another point which made the run enjoyable was that it was completely non-commercialized, and it was running for the love of running. The support of the runners, the post run breakfast, the positiveness, the professionalism and the passion of the organizers, and the encouragement was unparalleled.

I made the trip to Kihim beach and went on this wonderful journey with my husband and best friend, Hywel Pinto, and a good friend, both of whom are as passionate about running as me. I had done the Pondicherry run about a month before this run, and both were different experiences in their own way.

I salute and take my hat off to the Kihim Running And Living Beach Half Marathon team, who opened my eyes to nature in our very own backyard.

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