The lovely Kathakoli Dasgupta, the young woman who started me on my running journey, nearly 6 years ago, is a frequent contributor to this blog, happily & generously sharing her UK-based running adventures with hubby & fellow runner Dave.
But of all Katha’s posts over the past couple of years, I think the one you are about to read may be the most inspiring yet.
Read this smashing account of how these 2 love birds spent last weekend, both of them conquering their fear of water.
By swimming. In a triathlon. As one does.
I now hand the blog over to Katha…though I might well interrupt a few times along the way. Editor’s privilege, don’t you know?!
“Call us race gluttons.
My husband Dave and I signed up for a race/challenge (or two) every weekend of July barring one.
So the weekend that just went by saw us in Yorkshire…
(Editor: Yaay! My old home 🙂 )
…racing in the premises of Castle Howard and surrounding areas.
The super sprint triathlon we signed up for was the biggest challenge for us this year, as we went out of our comfort zone and attempted our first open water swim at an event.
To give to a bit of background, Dave and I are ‘runners’.
I couldn’t ride a bike until February 2016, Dave learnt to swim backend of 2015 and I am aquaphobic (having learnt to swim in 2010 after discovering my utter fear of deep water!)
So when we moved to the UK in October 2015, we challenged ourselves with a sprint pool triathlon the following season, and have been doing it since (we are hooked!).
So anyway, despite all the training last few months, we felt far from confident and so a couple of weeks back, Dave registered us for a run race at the same event, though the day after the triathlon—as a back up!
That’s a first, innit?
(Editor: You’re both certifiably bonkers. Said with the utmost love, of course :) )
We managed to complete both satisfactorily.
(Editor. Again. Katha, you are becoming SO British 😛 “Satisfactorily” forsooth. “Bloody marvellous” springs to mind)
As the likes and comments on our FB posts are pouring in, it is very tempting to take all the credit for it, and swell with self pride.
A day after the event though, having reflected on it I realised it is far from it. Our ‘achievement‘ was a combination of factors and people.
Our tri club coaches and fellow members
We have been so lucky with the gym we joined after we moved to the UK in October 2015. Not only does it boast of superb facilities and classes, it also has an active tri club. There’s swim, cycle and run training on offer most days of the week to all members of the gym, irrespective of whether you want to do triathlons or not. The ever expanding group consists of people of various abilities—novices, to those who’ve completed half iron man, or even compete in Team GB events.
There’s no discrimination.
That’s one thing about triathlons that both of us like—that it is a great leveller, people can play to their strengths at races and work on their weaknesses during training. And we’ve all got each other’s backs.
It was all the pre race coaching as well as the good wishes and shouts on race day that saw us through.
Everything at this large scale, two day, multiple sport event panned out like clock work. It was flawless, a far cry from an event we participated in two weeks back in Windermere where even the basic amenity of porta loos was a disaster.
Every single person behind the event at Castle Howard, from the race director to the marshals to the British triathlon officials to official photographers and publicists to volunteers did an amazing job.
The race offers free entry for a day’s volunteering at the event—such a good idea to ensure they are never short on numbers.
A special shout out to the absolutely magnificent lifeguards and marshals in the lake without whose support and encouragement, Dave and I would never have been able to complete the swim. During our practice swim (yes, the organisers offer that too, on evenings ahead of the morning aqua events), a lifeguard, said the nicest possible things and paddled alongside me all of the 400 m distance to help me overcome my fear.
During the event itself, the boats came by my side within seconds of me panicking and flipping on my back and thereafter, one of them paddled alongside me until I crossed the finish line. With that ‘safety net’ by my side I was able to swim at ease, non stop, utilising wisdom from our coaching sessions about optimal technique until I reached the shore.
No more panic attacks.
(They did the same for Dave. And yes, we were probably the only couple at the event that got the lifeguards out in the first 100m!).
Watching people create records (even if it’s their own personal best) as they cross the finish line (including Bailey Matthews, a 8 year old with cerebral palsy who completed the triathlon) is inspiring in itself.
But sometimes, people, complete strangers, have a more immediate and personal impact.
And it was this that saw me through my first 10 k trail run on Day 2.
Even after a well paced (not a foolishly quick) start, I found my energy waning after barely 3 km. And I took my first walking break. A sudden pat on my back by a fellow participant and a few words of cheer egged me on. And I picked up my pace again. Thereafter, the two of us, sort of played cat and mouse and looked out for each other on the undulating course. I completed the race a few minutes before her, but stood at the finish line and welcomed her with a hug.
I remain indebted to her.
And then the half marathon and 10k for Dave and me respectively on Day 2 … posing in finishers tee.”
Katha, that is SUCH an inspiring blog post.
It is fun, it is kind, it is generous, and it is inspiring.