Birthdays are a strange occurrence. They represent a bittersweet moment, a joyous celebration despite the ominous connotations they bring forth with them such as the passing of age and loss of youthfulness.
As of 2002, I celebrated my birthday by smoking a lone cigar; an activity I knew would definitely shorten my life expectancy; however it seemed a good way to celebrate. Starting 2012 however, I decided to do the exact opposite. They say smoke shortens your life expectancy whereas exercise increases it. I chose to exercise.
Last year I turned 26, in celebration I ran 26KM. It was an arduous experiment, my greatest distance to date, 3hrs18mins of constant movement. I decided to add a KM for every year on every birthday.
April 21st I turned 27, this time however, I decided to go all out and run a full marathon of 42.2KM.
My resolve was strengthened by the encouragement of my running group, the Q8FootSoldiers. One member in particular, Adam Ayesh, would remind me every morning of how many days I had left to “The Great 42”.
On D-Day, I was aroused from sleep by the ringing of my lazy alarm, oblivious to the task I had set at hand; persistently filling my ears with annoyance to the point that I was required to make the conscious physical effort to silence it, removing me from the land of dreams completely.
I lay in bed for the next 15 minutes, my body desperately attempting to convince my mind to drift back to sleep, to not put it through the arduous torture of a 42KM that it had never experienced. My body begged and pleaded, and had it not been for my heart stepping in and saying, it shall be done, I would have most likely fallen back to sleep. I forsook the usual morning pick-me-up of coffee as it does terrible things to long distance runners.
Arriving at the starting point, the intersection of the Fahaheel Expressway (Road 30) with the 6th Ring Road in good timing, as the sun was just about rising; I set about finding a parking spot and synchronizing my equipment.
For the journey I had packed 30 dates in packs of 3, placed inside a weight belt that was devoid of any weights, and a lone 330ml water bottle. The dates would provide energy during the run, and as I was not used to drinking water for running 25KM, I rationalized I would only need a small amount by the end. How wrong I was.
At 5:40am, I set out to conquer my quest.
The first few KMs were relaxing. I ran into Adam somewhere in Salwa and he selflessly followed me on his bicycle, making sure to keep the traffic away from me, as well as document the journey on film. Had it not been for Adam, I would not have lasted the distance, as he also replenished my meager water supply which I had severely underestimated given the weather conditions that set in.
The first 10KM was knocked out in 50mins; previously my fastest 10KM was in 45mins, so the law of energy consumption was being followed. At 21.1KM, the halfway point, I was at 1hr42mins, previous record being 1hr35min.
At exactly Souk Sharq, I had to rely on Adam to replenish my water supply. Before reaching the Palace I noticed that the sprinklers were turned on for the sidewalk gardens, and the effect they drew with a myriad of rainbows was intoxicating, mesmerizing me like a siren song, and I ran through the sprinklers, getting a much needed cooling factor.
Past the point of 25KM, my knees began to protest and my shins began to tire. As the music steadily flowed into my aural canals, I persisted to push forward. Adam’s constant motivation was a breath of fresh air as well. As we reached Kuwait city, the KPC building came into view, and the final leg of the journey began.
My legs were screaming at me to stop. The Nike+Running App lady on my iPod urged me to continue.
We reached a traffic light where Adam pointed to a sign and asked me to read it, in English it read “Detour Up Ahead”, but Adam corrected me saying it read “Greatness Up Ahead”.
We arrived at KPC with 7KM to go to complete the 42. The sun was blazing down upon us, sapping our strength through the pores of our skin, relentlessly beating down upon our tired minds but unable to faze our determined spirits. We ran around the garden near KPC, Adam discarding his bike and joining me on foot. When I would falter, he would urge me on.
At long last, the final 200M was joyously received with a sprint after 42KM crossed; there was a little left in the tank for one last hurrah, a dash toward determination, a proclamation that any obstacle no matter how demanding can be overcome with the proper mindset. The final verdict was I had maintained a steady speed of 5mins per KM, 165 strides per minute; Total time: 3hrs30mins.
It was then that another savior from the Q8FootSoldiers came to our rescue; Cristian Craita, one of the first few to run from the northern border of Kuwait to the South, and the coach that guides me. He arrived bearing refreshments, replenishment for lost sugar and fluids, besides the ones that Adam had been carrying on his back for the entire distance.
Our personal goals can be accomplished with the help of friends. Had it not been for both of them, this goal would never have been accomplished.
Afterward, upon receiving a shower of congratulatory comments from the FootSoldiers, and on the day of my birthday, I came to realize just how amazing this group of individuals was, as they bamboozled me into a surprise birthday party with the following centerpiece grabbing the group’s attention:
The Q8FootSoldiers are not just a group of friends, they are family.