Day 63: Light at the End of the Tunnel
Banihal to Anantnag, 80.7km
Tomorrow was the day it would all come to a close and it was literally and figuratively uphill from here on out.
The entire team was in overdrive to make things as perfect as they could be. For some of us it was the longest and most challenging journey of our lives. But Pat and the crew weren’t the only ones who would be crossing that finish line tomorrow.
Thousands of people bore the weight of this run, the most historic marathon in the country’s history – a feat which has never been attempted before and may never again.
People from Tamil Nadu to Jammu and Kashmir had given days or weeks to ensure its success. They’ve been waiting for more than two months for Pat to take that final step.
Today, at the eleventh hour, we truly felt the weight of the entire country on our shoulders; and no one felt it more than Pat. He decided he would be skipping Anantnag and finishing as much of the remaining 120km today as possible. To do that, the final road involved running through Jawara tunnel – a massive corridor through the mountains which alternated the direction of the traffic every day. With special permission from the state and with assistance from the military, a special concession was made for us to cross through.
We were told the tunnel was anywhere from one to 10 kilometres long. It was closer to 2.5km, but we would never have noticed. It was dark in the tunnel save for some ambient lighting, and the other end began as a single atom of light which gradually expanded. Freezing winds rushed through and as Pat came out the other side, he was greeted by a clear view of the Himalayas and another marching band.
We were officially in Kashmir territory and we revelled being so close to the end.
As he always has, Pat was going to cross that finish line even if he has to crawl over it. Regardless, it’s always been about the journey and not the destination. For 63 days, the Spirit of India Run achieved an impossible kind of unity. India has always been able to live in harmony with itself, but even the citizens here joke about the inexhaustible effort it takes to organise even the smallest things. Somehow, we were able to bring together districts, states, federal governments together to work with every kind of man, woman and child. Pat ran through the country like a needle and thread and would be bringing them all together for a final moment in Srinagar, tomorrow.
There was only one sleep left and though this story would be coming to an end in less than a day, the spirit of our journey would live on forever.