My wife nowadays have started saying that I have lost it since the time I have registered for this 100k race called as Bhatti Lakes Ultra. Even my colleagues second her point of view. Her declaration is because once a week, mostly on Saturdays’, I wake up at 0100 or 0200 hours to start my long runs. It’s quite intense, for me, but insane for them, the non runners.
1. Female elephant is known as Cow and male as Bull.
2. Herd comprises of Cow and her offsprings.
3. Bull join up the herd only for mating. Otherwise, they are alone or with other Bulls.
4. They are herbivorous and stay near water.
5. Bulls leave the herd on puberty i.e by 14-15 years of age.
6. They can move at a speed of 18km/h for short distances.
7. They spread their ears to cool off or when feeling threat.
Now to the story. I had planned to do a 40k, as per my training plan, on this Saturday. On Friday evening, we saw this wonderful movie called Drishyam. I wanted to go home as early as possible after the movie, to get my stuff like hydration pack and food supplies ready and sleep. However, my wife disagreed to the idea of going home. She wanted to eat out. But I won the argument. She understood my need for this long run. Predicament of the wife of an endurance athlete! While going back, she started teasing my son saying that dad is going for a run early morning and what if he has an encounter with a wild elephant. Not realising the gravity of the situation, my son replied that dad should then ride it. Whatever happened to the love and care for parents! By the way, he is 4 years old.
We reached home and I started preparing my stuff and slept off by 2230 hours. I woke up again at 0120 hours. I am a slow runner, so keeping my regular pace in mind, I chose the starting time at 0200 hours. I have to attend the office after the run too.
As punctual I am, I left home at 0200 hours after kissing goodbye to my wife, who was still awake. She is a night owl. I started my regular loops of 6.6k at a decent clip with the Runkeeper app calling out time and distance covered every 5 minutes.
I was merrily sipping water and running on the empty streets. The air was cool outside with the wind blowing gently. An ideal day to run, I thought. Now, there is a patch in the route after about 4.5k to be exact which is infested with dogs. But having rained and being overcast, very few dogs were sitting out on the road. But you know there is always one dog in a pack who is has an itch to bark. So, this one did and I had to start walking, keeping an ever watchful eye, even after crossing them. That dog kept growling at me.
After this patch of the road, there comes a dark portion of road which runs close to some residential quarters. There is another road which runs parallel to this one and goes through these quarters. These two roads are separated by some overgrown grass. I always sidestep to the one next to the quarters because the main road is frequented by elephants at night to crossover over to a jungle patch on the other side of the family quarters.
I had my mind on the dogs when I was entering this dark patch. I was about to crossover to the road, which goes by the family quarters, when suddenly I saw this giant male elephant, all alone, munching on the tall grass next to this main road. We momentarily saw each other and acknowledged our presence. Then he flapped his ears to charge position, raised his trunk above his shiny white teeth and gave out the loudest roar I have ever heard. He was not more than 10 feet away from me.
Listen to the second roar and see the elephants position of open ears and raised trunk. It was the same way this elephant came charging at me.
I have never run 100 meters faster. I crossed over to the family quarter road and kept running. I looked back only after 400 meters or so. I saw the elephant walking about angrily on the road. He stopped chasing me after about 20 feet. He must have got disturbed while he was enjoying his veggies!
I stirred a small herd of crowd, sitting in the family quarters area, when I sprinted through them. Also a group of dogs guarding the family quarters gave me a chase. But didn’t care because the elephant could have trampled and killed me and not these stringy dogs.
When we shifted to this place from Hyderabad last year, I was being told again and again that one can’t outrun an elephant on foot. So, when this guy roared and chased me, the only thought in my mind was that I am a dead man now! Why did I start running so early? I have to run as hard as I can!
It happened so suddenly. The spotting of elephant, his charge and my sprint got over in a matter of not more than 30 seconds but I kept thinking about it during the next 3 hours or so of my run. I thought of cancelling my run and going home to sleep. But here came my EYE OF THE TIGER moment and I decided to continue running. Come hail, storm or elephant, I will continue running. However, I decided to cut short my loop from 6.6k to 5k, which avoided this particular patch of road.
Once, the sun started coming up, I resumed to run the route on which I encountered this male elephant. On my last loop I saw this guy moving about in the bushes, about 400 meters from me, probably going to some place safe, with a white crane on his top as his passenger.
So long buddy. Till we meet again.
What’s your scariest wild life encounter on the run or otherwise?