Home > Uncategorized > September 27, 2009 – Sunday: My 1st Half Marathon

September 27, 2009 – Sunday: My 1st Half Marathon

September 29, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Let me get this off my chest first – I did it. I still don’t know how, but I did it. :-). My 1st (and hopefully not the last) half marathon was done in 2 hours, 23 minutes. At 8:33 AM on my watch, I literally staggered across the carpet, completely exhausted but equally elated.

The route: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=3226206  

Now for the long drawn story.

I had slept well on the flight down to Madras and so couldn’t sleep much on Sat night.

Deepu was a darling. She had everything laid out for me – the bananas, t-shirt, bib, shorts, socks, glucose sachets, Gatorade, juices, vaseline – she had of thought of pretty much everything.

Waking up at 4:15 on Sun morning was not a problem because I was so keyed up. Not that being keyed up amounted to anything, because, quite honestly, I was not expecting to run much. All I wanted to feel was to soak in the marathon atmosphere, feel the rush and go as much as I could.

I did some good stretches in the morning and went over to Prabhakar’s place to pick him up. He had a big, strapping, booming friend, Vinu with him who was running as well (I understood later that he was running with Krish’s bib number because Krish fell sick and backed out).

The 3 of us went and parked at Island grounds in semi-darkness and got to the starting point, bang on time – at 5:30. The Chennai Runners were there in good force, with the super-enthu Shankar clicking away. I have him to thank for the pictures I got.

The excitement was building nicely – stretching out, wise-cracking at the bungling Tamil Maiyam organization, laughing heartily over very feeble nervy jokes. There were all kinds of people – from the types who announced that they were going to try for a “PB of under 2” checking on their water belts, to the ones like me who made sure that the most important thing carried was money to catch the auto back.

When Vinu asked if it was alright for him to run ahead instead of being saddled with us, I was happy to give him the car keys (since all the stuff was in there) and request him to wait for us/ wait for my call to pick me up.

Weather update: It was so perfect. It had rained a little the previous night leaving the morning fresh and beautiful. At 6:00 in the morning, it was not cold for sure, but certainly didn’t feel like the dreaded Madras sun out to singe us. It was overcast with a lovely cloud cover. This was just one among the several pieces that fell into place to make my day.

Anyway, surprisingly, every one agreed that this was a much more organized chaos compared to the complete bedlam last year. The international runners formed the 1st running rows, followed by the national runners, followed by the city runners – each set had different bib colors to differentiate them. While I did not understand the rationale behind this setup completely, I was not that rankled to be denied the best opportunity to win the race. 🙂

The organizers were probably so pleasantly surprised with their own efficiency that they felt the desperate need to prove their comic ability, which they did with a 10 minute oath ceremony which involved all runners to raise their hands and pledge <plenty of stuff in Tamil and English>.

Thankfully, Kanimozhi decided that 1500 people were too few to waste her patriotic discourses, and so the balloons were sent soaring at 6:07 (6:10 in my watch) – just 7 minutes over schedule.

And so, off we went. Even before the initial euphoria settled and the crowd started separating, we were crossing through the Napier bridge. We had, obviously and very wisely, decided that we would do the 4:1 RWR method. We were running quite slowly to start off and most people were overtaking us on either side. It felt even more bizarre that we started walking in exactly 4 minutes. At that time, we 3 were the only people walking and I could almost see the incredulous stares of people when they swept past us wondering if we should have joined either the 7 k city run or probably the wheelchair run might have been more apt.

In retrospect, that decision to be disciplined about walking every 4 minutes was probably, no, most definitely, what allowed us to finish the race. It is not even a fast walk – when we walk, we slow right down to a crawl that we are barely moving. But, it really works.

The 1st watermark came up near the Gandhi statue, about ½ a km before the light house (I think it was around the 4 km mark). At that time, we didn’t want the water, but looking at the enthusiasm with which the water was distributed, I was both happy, and at the same time worried that there wouldn’t be much left when we were coming back. But then, who was I kidding – I wasn’t going to be coming back. 🙂

The only other thing that I remember at around that time was the real strong wind gusting away with us, almost pushing us along. Again, I pitied the folks who were going to be running back. (Just in case I forget to update later – the wind had disappeared when we were running back and it was totally still – miracles happen).

Vinu, who was expected to disappear, disappeared – but on the wrong side. He fagged out by the 5 km mark and sheepishly asked us to move along. He still had the car keys though.

Now, somewhere near the St. Bedes cathedral, we started overtaking, though slowly, one posse of Chennai Runners. They were having fun, laughing, giving interviews to NDTV, strolling through the tar park, while I was concentrating intensely on my breathing, on my rhythm, looking at the watch waiting for the break – you name it. I probably starting enjoying the run a lot more after that point. One runner, from TVH (True Value Homes), who were one of the sponsors of the event, joined Prabhakar and me and ran/ walked with us till the Ayyappan temple, when he dropped off as well.

Just past the Ayyappan temple, at the 7 km mark, we had been running for about 40 minutes or so, setting a decent pace while running, settling into a nice rhythm, crawling for our walks, and felt good overall. I think it was only around then when I had my first water break.

It was also then, the Kenyan runners came rushing in the opposite direction. My jaw hit the road. They were clipping. It’s an unnerving site.

I was now starting to feel the strain a little bit, but not too much. It was getting a little hot. Time for another miracle – It started raining. Not a downpour, but a nice, soothing drizzle. Whoever scripted this one couldn’t have given me a better role. I loved it.

The onlookers were awesome as well – the water guys, the cops, the garbage cleaners, general onlookers – all of them were clapping and urging us along. This was right through the run and it sure added a good dose of adrenalin into me.

That reminds me – a few remarks on that front: There were plenty (some said too many, which I didn’t have a problem with) of water stops with real enthusiastic folks handing out the water in ½ litre bottles. There were plenty of garbage cans to drop the bottles into. There were quite a number of garbage cleaners to clean out the dropped bottles. All good that side, except for the runners attitude. Most runners would grab a full bottle, take a gulp/ sip and fling the bottle away – either right on the road, or just by side – mostly still, ¾ full. They weren’t concerned either about the litter or about the water wasting. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t run with the water till it gets over, or at least till the nearest garbage bin which would, at worst, be 500 mts away. Anyway, I walked/ ran my thought.

The pace didn’t slacken much as we ran down the Adayar bridge and down into the beautiful Besant Ave.

Me and my superstitions meant that I was too afraid to contemplate me actually finishing the course. It was probably around here that I actually started entertaining hopes of doing the distance. I was still feeling pretty good and I couldn’t believe it.

The 2nd jaw breaker arrived in the form of the lady runners. They were supposed to start at 6:30 – giving us a head-start of 30 minutes. The leading ladies swept past us when we had just finished around 9 kms. Oh yeah – they pretty much swept past us, some of them even running barefoot.

Some of the Chennai Runners stalwarts (Ram, Narayanan and couple of others whose names I can’t recall) crossed us on the opposite side, again, clapping and urging us along as we crossed.

I took a small pee break then. :-). Bright yellow pee. What the hell do the women runners do, especially during the full marathons? Damn!

It was 7:15 or so, if I remember right, when we reached the half way point. We actually felt so good when we near the half point that we actually skipped the 1 min walk break at around that point.

On the way back, when we had turned from 5th Ave, back to Besant Ave, we crossed the Chennai Runners, and Shankar took another snap of us – which is what is on the Facebook album cover.

Then, another surprise – we saw Vinu, with his booming smile – walking and running on the other side. That was nice. We thought he had given up. No way! He was determined to do the course. Good for him, though it just meant that we waited by the car for about 45 minutes before he came. 🙂

Somewhere around here, we switched from 4:1 to a 3:1. That worked great too.

We turned back from Besant Ave into Durgabai Deshmukh road when Prabs asked me how I was feeling. Honestly, I was surprised at myself when I said I was feeling fine. Massively tired, but still fine. My wall hadn’t come yet, but I was sure it was just around the corner and I was already preparing for it.

But, Prabhakar foot nerve injury had started acting again. It had disappeared sometime back, and chose the worst possible time to reappear. He was in real bad pain and he was running through it. Just before the Adayar bridge, we decided to stop and give his foot a quick massage. That alleviated the pain a bit and we trundled on.

Now, as we turned into Greenways road, the running was getting a little labored, but still not as bad as I had expected. We saw “14 kms” painted on the road near the Ayyappan temple, smiled at it, smiled at the temple, smiled at the wayside cheerleaders and pushed along.

Now, thinking about it, the patch between then till the lighthouse, somehow, is a blur. All I remember is pulling out the glucose pack from the pocket and emptying half of it in one go.

What I do remember is being completely fagged out by the time we reached the lighthouse. With just 5 odd kms to go, I was done. Deflated. Battery had run out and I was struggling big time. Prabhakar picked exactly that time to have his 2nd nerve attack and we stopped again for another quick massage. That, and another water swig, probably gave me a small recharge.

From then on, the run was completely bedraggled. In fact, it was not even a run – I was just falling forward. I was washed out, but there was no way that I could give up at this point. I am just so thankful that I got to this state with the finish literally in sight – it is just one long road and I could see the Napier bridge, even though my sight was all getting blurry.

We really slowed our run down to a crawl and you can imagine what the ‘walk’ was like.

I remember just focusing on some landmark and running from one to another – and thankfully, the Marina is littered with prominent landmarks – statues, cricket ground, Parthasarathy temple entrance, Presidency college, TV tower, Anna/ MGR samadi – they kept coming and each landmark got us closer. I would estimate the distance to a landmark that we could possibly reach in 3 minutes. That patch was painful. Completely excruciating.

We staggered over the Napier bridge and I was gone. Prabhakar probably wanted to sprint the last 200 mts. Sorry, I couldn’t.

I took the last 1 minute break with just 200 meters to go. But, now, I knew I was going to finish. For sure. I would crawl on my fours if I had to, but I was going to finish. That 1 minute was great.

Then, we ran to the finish. I looked at the watch – it was 8:33.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Divya
    September 29, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    I am so proud of you!!!!!
    Its such an amazing experience and I am sooo glad you had as much fun as I did! As I read your write-up its crazy how similar my thoughts/emotions were 🙂
    I really hope we can run a race together soon!!

  2. karthikpadmanabhan
    September 30, 2009 at 4:23 am

    We surely will. 🙂

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