Sunday, December 10, 2006
Half Marathon (Nov 2006)
A half marathon is twenty one kilometers. Why would people want to run twenty one kilometers and end up at the same place they started running? Two hours and six minutes after I started, I had the answer .. It takes 21 kilometers of running to figure out how good it feels to finally stop running. But again .. let me start from the beginning.
As with all my mad moments, there was a wheelie behind this one too. Anand Takale. Wheels' resident marathon runner. It all started with him innocently directing me to the website of 'running chick'. Hers is a fascinating story .. started off as an amateur trying to lose some weight and as I write this she has qualified for the Boston marathon with a time of 3 and a half hours (a marathon is 42 kilometers). I was inspired. Much like the dog 'Dollar' in 'Richie Rich' cartoons, I was transported to a world where I was beating the Kenyans and Ethiopeans in 100 kilometer races. It all looked so easy. Twenty one kilometers was puny in comparison .. and so I resolved to run the Hyderabad half marathon.
There I was, in KBR park, all set for my first run. 30 mins, easy pace, piece of cake. And so I started running, it seemed like time itself had stopped for me. When most people say 'time stopped' it's usually to describe some wonderful, romantic moment in their life. In my case, it was because I was gasping and panting and about to throw up and the darned watch was showing only 5 mins. I huffed and puffed for another 5 minutes and finally gave up. Walked a couple of kilometers and went back, a dejected and demoralized 'former runner'. The next day the aches and pains started. My ankles pained, my knees pained, my groin pained, even my shoulder pained. I wanted to throw Anand off the 5th floor balcony. Fortunately for him it was all I could manage to reach my seat. That pain, however, saved my cause. There was no way I was going to give up after going through that.
So I soldiered on, day after day, following my schedule and I did my 12k a full month before the half marathon. That was my best run. I dint get tired, I ran fast and after that I really felt I could target a sub 2hr half marathon. Unfortunately the one above chose that moment to throw a spanner into the works. He laid me low for a couple of weeks with a severe cold. It was a low blow that I never saw coming. A failed attempt at 15k dented my confidence even further.If that was a test of character I failed miserably. Only a pep talk from my wife made me decide to turn up for the race.
The race was at 6:00 in the morning. Ganesh, Atul and I had planned to run together for as long as possible. There were a surprisingly large number of people there and I couldn't find either Atul or Ganesh (turned out they arrived at the last minute). So I had to start off alone. I managed to find someone to run with and we set off. He said he was a policeman who had just run a 5k in 18 minutes and was now looking to see how good he does over long distances. I dint even bother to tell him who I was, this was the time for action. In a flash I bent down as if to tie my shoelaces and told him to run on. Whew!, saved from being forced to retire at the 1k mark itself. By then I had caught sight of Ganesh and Atul and we ran on for a few kilometers. Those two, however, were doing a recovery run as part of their Mumbai marathon training. They dint plan to go all out. So I was forced to move ahead. I ran into a couple of runners who seemed to be running at a manageable pace and I fell in step behind them. We plodded on till the halfway mark. Surprisingly I was still fresh. The adrenaline of running a race as well as the wonderful atmosphere was getting to me. I really want to thank all those policemen who held up the traffic for us (It's really difficult to do that in India, and they did a wonderful job). That little sub 2hr dream of mine peeked out again and I picked up the pace. I was on target till the 16k mark, but by then I was exhausted. I had to slow down and I regretfully decided to shoot for that in the next race. By 18k I had to stop, walk a bit, and start again. I did that twice more and finally there was just 1k left. I don't know where it came from, but suddenly I was fresh again. I pretty much sprinted down that stretch, with lots of people clapping and cheering me on. Final time - 2hrs 6 mins. I guess that's ok for a first timer who had never run more that 12k in practice. I loved the run. I loved the race. I'll do it again, and again, and again. Alright Anand, I'll hold on that thought of throwing you off the 5th floor.