At one in the morning, I make myself some oats and coffee. There wasn’t any sleep so far. It’s a long story involving termite poison fumes, oppressive heat and an almost forgotten birthday. The plan is to lend Gagan my Firefox viper and see him off around three. Then load the cyclone and Amrit in the car around 3:30 to reach Sukhna at 3:50. Four sharp is the starting time. We have to be into the mountains by the time it gets hot.
Amit and I decided to run to Tikkar Taal during our run to Shimla two weeks ago. It would be a good last long run before the Mashobra Tuffman 80. Now, I had my doubts. It will be hot. The prediction is 42 degrees Celcius in Chandigarh and 35 in Morni. I eat my porridge, drink my coffee and then go to bed for an hour.
We start at 4:08. I have my belt with two 250ml bottles; one for water and one for Gatorade. Jagteshwar and Gagan each carry some water, bananas and energy bars.
The roads are quite empty apart from the odd vegetable seller on their way to the market and this raucous little group of “adventurers” on their way to the mountains.
A pit stop caused by my early-morning coffee causes our group to split in two after about 6k. At 15k we meet up again as Amit and kie took a short break close to the toll gate. A few hundred meters after the toll gate we turn right to what is new territory for me. We see the mountains clearly now as we make our way up the cement road.
And then the sun rises on our left.
The road gradually gets steeper and around the 20k mark, it gets really tough. Yogesh joins us as we see the storm clouds gather, hiding the sun.
Not too long after that ice cold drops start falling. The road now winds steeply through tall trees and past steep mountain walls. The wind tries to blow us off the mountain. Walking up the steepest parts, Yogesh and I leave the cyclists behind who struggle up the wet road. It is cool… no, cold and I feel strong.
We see a gazebo-like lookout point a bit off the road and decide to go see what it looks like from there. The wind blows even more there and I shiver. Still, the unexpected cool weather is a gift. We take pictures and wait for the others to join us.
Amrit, Avii and Amit join us and we decide to carry on. Dharminder must be waiting. Gagan is struggling with my heavy bicycle. And that too with a sore ankle.
Finally, one more turn and we meet up with the main Morni road. Thirty kilometers done. We order tea at Tarun Dhaba and dig out the biscuits, bananas and energy bars. It turns out my calculations and map reading skills failed me and Dharminder is waiting further back on the road. He starts coming. We cool down, the tea scarcely helping. The wind is still raging. Yogesh turns back to his car. Dharminder now joins us and his wife and daughter is here with their car.
Starting up again after half an hour proves painful, but luckily not for long. The road is steep. The signs are confusing. First, it is 9 to Morni and then it says 10 after a kilometer! Tikker Taal is downhill from there so that is something to look forward to. Amrit and I go ahead. Again walking up the steepest inclines and running the rest, the kilometers pass quickly enough. The good weather holds. Cool, less wind, still a few drops.
There is a sign that says Morni: 0, but that is all, so we push on. Finally, we go over the crest of the hill and start on the road that will take us down steeply to the lake. But Amrit’s back tire is flat. There is no cell signal so I scribble a note on the WhatsApp group. But we push on, literally. Amrit is a formidable runner himself. He has a heavy backpack and pushes the bike. The downhill makes it possible. After 2k we switch and I push. Before it was Amrit’s turn again Sanjeev comes with a bike from the back. He has the repair kit. He and Dhiraj Bhatti joined for support.
By the time the puncture is fixed, everyone is together again. Bhatti with fresh legs provides great encouragement. It is steep down. Ask the cyclists who came back the same way! My legs feel fine. Funny. We pass the first lake, then before we expect it, the Tikkar Taal resort is there and we stop. Forty-eight point 4 kilometers. It is 10:30. Amit arrives shortly after us but wants to complete 50 so he does not stop. Dharminder wants to complete a half-marathon so he does the same.
There is cold water and chairs and we order tea and coffee. We runners are done. It was good. A fantastic experience. Amit plans his back-to-back run the next day – another 50 or 60k to Kasauli. I plan something a bit less ambitious, the Chandigarh Runners Puma 10k run. The cyclists wonder which route they should take back and decide to take the same route we came by. Ouch.
I go back with Dharminder and family. They treat me to a great buffet lunch at the Golden Tulip. Another run done. This one will be remembered for the unexpected fantastic weather and the selfless help of our cyclist companions.