This’ll definitely be one for my kids, and my grandkids: When I was in India, I spontaneously lucked into running the Goa half marathon. It was a last minute decision, I hadn’t even brought my running shoes with me to India (I know, I know, what kind of runner doesn’t bring their shoes with them?!) so I borrowed a pair a size too big from a friend and took a cab in the early morning to a half marathon in a foreign country (with two of my other travel buddies, and we met up with the Rotarian who had organized our race entries! It was safe!). But instantly I felt at home and back on familiar territory, milling around with nervous runners in various styles of shoes and running gear. It reminded me of a local, old-school Guam race: show up, pin your bib to your cotton T-shirt, and line up behind the flour dusted line in the dirt. I lined up at the starting line, stretching and bouncing with the other participants, this could have been any race, anywhere….except that I was still floating on cloud nine from just BEING in INDIA. Every other thought that ran through my mind during my travels was, “I am in INDIA and this is AMAZING.” And then the race began.
It was an out and back course, and halfway through the race I was making good progress, I had started out conservatively since I hadn’t been running for a few weeks, but I was passing people one by one and moving up steadily. After the turnaround I started keeping pace with this young man, he looked about my age, or a little older. We ran, sort of side by side for a mile or so, and then he started chatting with me. When I run, I feel more comfortable talking to people and making new friends than I do at any other moment in my life. I just feel comfortable, I have no energy to be anxious….my focus is in my feet propelling myself forward, so I completely let my guard down. His name was Surya (pronounced Su-raj) and he was in the Indian navy. I told him my name and what i was doing in India, where I had been and where I was going, and that I was a university student. But about 10 miles in, I started flagging. I needed to slow down…so I told him he’d just have to go on without me, I was tired…but he wouldn’t. Instead, he looked at me and told me I was the prettiest girl he had seen and that he wasn’t going to let me go. I was flabbergasted. I felt the like the farthest thing from pretty, I could just imagine how drenched in sweat and red my face was (it was way hotter in India than Oregon!)…he took my hand, and literally did not let me go. The last mile was pretty much agony, we had caught up with more of his navy friends and he introduced me as his new girlfriend. I think he pretty much dragged me by the hand until we got to the end where I managed to finish with some kind of a kick. But, I imagine the sight of us, an American girl and an Indian boy running across the finish line hand in hand, was a beautiful thing 🙂
We crossed the finish line and exchanged emails and phone numbers, I wish I could have stayed, and he as well….I was interviewed by a local reporter for finishing fourth female, and probably for a good story to go with the sensational picture the photographer snapped of us (above).
I believe that this moment was one of the happiest ones of my entire life, it was like a love story, and I will never forget it.
*On an interesting side note, the first and second place women ran the whole race barefoot!!!