Date: September 23rd, 2012; Day: Sunday; Time: 06:15 AM; Place: Greater Noida, and here I am running with my friends around the Golf course, discussing how tough it’s going to be exactly after a week. Yes, next Sunday will be the beginning of the running season for this maniac and what a run to start with – Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM). We did two loops of the golf course (~22 Km) and this is our last long run before the next Sunday carnival. Today is the last day to collect the Bib (running number that runners pin up on their t-shirts), so plan is to go to the expo in the noon.
AT THE EXPO
We (family) reached the expo at NSIC grounds Okhla at 1. It is a happening place. We (sister and I) collected the Bib and goodie bag. First official run for my sister, not a half marathon but shorter Great Delhi Run (6 Km). I needed a new pair of shoes. This is my third ADHM and my previous two were also in brand new shoes (educated people say do not run in new shoes on race day but I go with my feeling). Wow, there is a “Catch Masala” outlet too at the expo giving away 20% discount on MRP. Sounds odd in a running expo but needless to say that it has many takers including us. Bought the parking ticket and after spending around 30 mins to zero down on the feel-best shoe we left for Lajpat Nagar market (well with family you cannot avoid shopping).
I am being used as the “Conveyor belt” to load the shopping stuff and in between I am doing trip to the parking to off load myself in the car. While they are busy shopping, I stole some moments to have a fresh-hot-bread-pakora. It’s nice and then to quench my thirst I gulped chilled Banta (tasted it for the first time in my life, if you don’t know Google it) with lemon. The shopping spree went till around 8:30 (good they start closing the market). Long tiring day. Will the next Sunday be so tiring? Definitely NO. Running for two hours is much more comfortable than being a “conveyor belt” for 5 hours J. I can do a Marathon in this much time and will be in better shape as I am now (little exaggerated, but chalta hai).
When I woke up on Monday morning my throat was congested. Next morning means Tuesday the cough increased and I also felt little feverish. Is it the CHILLED-BANTA-EFFECT poured over hot oily bread pakora? Can’t say. But run is on Sunday so no worries I will be definitely in the pink and healthy by then. On Wednesday I test drive my new shoes, they are feeling great and cozy.
Thursday, I woke up with fever. Missed office. Panic started to creep in. Mom suggested seeing a doc and I agreed at the first instance. It’s the first time that I agreed so readily but do I have an option. Now the camel is under the mountain J. In our home we also keep a homeopathic medicine for cough and cold. I started swallowing the tasteless white tablets every five hours. Took steam before going to bed. Never in my life gave this much respect to cold and fever. Necessary Evil.
Combined effect of Ayurveda, Homeopathy and Allopathy is that I am much better on Friday. Now this is what you call a Team-Effort. Went office, my colleagues wished me good luck for Sunday.
PRE RACE DAY
Perfect Saturday. I am healthy, still on medicines but nevertheless in good spirits. No worries, No anxiousness. High carb breakfast of Kotu-ka-chila (Buck wheat for the uninitiated) stuffed with potato. I announced to the house that I will take my lunch at 2 and dinner at 08.30 and will sleep by 09.30. They just smiled. So how am I feeling? Well I am excited. No, I am very excited. It’s like a carnival for THE RUNNERS like me and I am waiting for the morning next day.
This time my pre-race day preparation is exactly as prescribed in the running manuals. Do not want to put a foot wrong (have done it already by having a bread-pakora topped with Banta). In the evening itself my running attire is ready. Bib pinned to my t-shirt, timing chip tied to the shoes. My brand new digital watch with lap memory is out. I took out a hundred rupee note from my wallet, a hanky and took out the car key from the bunch and placed these three items together (stuff which I will be carrying while running). Family saw it and again smiled. Good, at least for a day I am the reason of their smile.
Had a glass of milk with a bowl of chickpeas. Not feeling hungry so delayed my dinner to 9 and then Mr Bachchan kept me glued to the TV set till 10. With alarm set at 4 in the morning I went to bed with couple of glass of water already in.
At the stroke when clock hit four, the alarm went off. Got up instantly with zero delay. Doubled my water intake and went ahead with my morning rituals. Race start time is 06:40. Plan is to reach the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (race venue) by 06:15; so will leave home by 05:20. Race venue is around 45 kilometers from my house but should not take more than 50 minutes to reach there at wee hours.
After having my bath, I am at the dining table at 5 am in the morning. It happens only on the race days. Eating Aloo-Ka-Parantha, my absolute favorites. Had a couple and settled them down with a bowl of oats (Educated people believe that our meal should be at least 2 hours before the run and should be light). Is this light? J, but who cares. I believe in Khali pet na hoe bhajan Gopala (you can’t pray empty stomach) and for me running is DIVINE. Great, solid defense.
Left Home at 05:25 after hydrating myself for a very eventful day ahead. Its dark. Cool, calm weather. I am enjoying my drive. City is still sleeping, its Sunday for them. But I have miles to go before I sleep.
Reached the parking area outside the stadium at 06:10. Tried calling my friends but their mobile is switched off, seems they are already inside. Switched off my mobile, kept it in the car and started my walk to the stadium with three things in my running shorts – key, money and hanky. People from all walks of life, old and young, thin and fat, individuals and groups are advancing towards the stadium entrance. All dressed athletically in colorful attires. These are the moments which I love most. Dawn is breaking.
I thought to jog till the start point to warm up my legs. One of the runners in a group signaled at my Bib and said to his friend “look he is from category A” (category A is for the runners who did their last half marathon under 2 hours, and last time I somehow managed to crawl to the finish line just under 2; how humble I sound isn’tJ) and surely my chest went 2 inch broader hearing that but I pretended indifferently. But it was like a tonic to my already soaring high spirits. So I guess it’s time to announce my race target for this time. Well I am planning for anything between 1 Hr 50 Min to 1 Hr 55 Min. Let’s see how it pans out.
After jogging for around 500 meters I saw a public convenience complex. Well this is the most sought after place for runners before any race. I made my bladders comfortable and just when I am coming out of the complex, I realized I have not called back home that I have landed safely here. Well this is not the time to take chances and I don’t want Procam (race organizer) to pick me half way during the race after getting a freaking call from my home. I raced back to the car, switched on my mobile. For the first time I cribbed for the delay my mobile took for starting up (many FIRSTs happening to me these days and many more to come). After conveying my message home, I again switched it off, put it back and locked the car (Event# 1). Its ok, I still have enough time to reach the start point. Its 06:25, no worries, nothing can go wrong. I started my jog back, this time little bit faster, to the start point. By the time I reached the point from where I had turned back to call home, I again realized that I have forgot to take off the chain I am wearing; and for god sake now don’t tell me that I have to run with this chain. No way. Forget jogging, I ran back to my car, took it off and sprinted back (Event# 2).
I ran through the stadium entrance. Security personnel are checking everyone entering here. Halted, gave myself to the security person and after the check I ran ahead to the start point. Looking for holding area ’A’ and saw one of my friend. After patting him good luck I reached the holding area at 06:38 in the watch. With good luck I met my friends with whom I was planning to run. Exchanged pleasantries. I am sweating and breathing little heavy (courtesy 3 Km run which I just finished). Not a start I would have expected but I guess it’s been a tremendous warm up for my body. The holding area is all crammed. There is no separation between different holding areas. My friend is planning for a 1 Hr 50 Min finish. I will try to match him till I can. Reset my watch in timer mode.
Exactly at 06:40 am the whole mass of thousands of people started to move ahead. I am walking easy till the starting mat (official starting point) and first thing I did while crossing is to start my timer and immediately went into my rhythm. But man there is no space to run. It’s so crowded. Nobody is following traffic rules, no lane driving and I am like a crazy driver overtaking others from whichever side possible (well, there are others too doing same to me). While navigating my way ahead and keeping a good pace, for once I almost tripped. Thanks to the runner in front of me who is wearing a water belt, which somehow I managed to cling on and save my jaws. My friend is already 50 meters ahead of me. I increased my pace to catch him, but seems he read my mind and increased his pace too and soon disappeared in the crowd ahead.
Loud music, drum beating and cheer leaders are making the start electrifying. Hey Sai Nath Paar Lagade are the words of one of my fellow runner. I just smiled in my heart, saluted Sai Baba and ran past him. Weather is warm and humid and I am sweating. Thanks to the tree cover on Delhi roads. After couple of kilometers I got some space to run. Legs feeling strong, body feeling great, I motivated some of my fellow runners. One turned his face to look at me as if I encroached his privacy but others reciprocated it with smile. It’s not that I am good at heart and so I am motivating them, but I myself feel very energetic doing this and automatically my speed increases (selfish meJ).
I am looking for kilometer demarcations but could not see any. On usual days, these roads would have been jammed with vehicles but today they belong only to us. Here it is, Km 5 and I recorded the split time. I am surprised, I am running faster than planned. I kept my pace with occasional pat and chit-chat with the fellow runners. I am enjoying my running. So many corporates participating, with whole group wearing same attire having company name at the back. Nice way to make your presence felt.
Km 7, still good pace with India gate in front of me. Running past India gate, on Rajpath with Rashtrapati Bhavan in my sight is truly memorable. This what makes this route so charismatic. What’s missing here is, tree cover. But good that sun is at our back. Having a cup of orange color water with most of the powder settled at the bottom. Improper mixing, but it still softened my dry throat. Motivated another runner and he thanked me for pulling up his spirits. I wanted to overtake him but he matched my pace. We strike up a conversation. He was practicing with Arun Bhardwaj group (The famed ultra-marathon runner from Delhi). Coincidentally he is working near my office only. My eye-watch co-ordinationJ and company of this new running partner is keeping me busy.
And see who is here, my lost buddy Podolski. We met in Mumbai full marathon and there he humbled me, not to mention that he is one of them (THAT SPECIES). I greeted him, made him remember, smiles traded. It’s time to return the favor. Stepped up my pace and went past him. Podolski, you can beat Messi but not me (and if you missed the pun intended, refer to my Mumbai marathon 2012 blog). World is indeed small.
My running partner stopped to have some water but again catches me. Am I slow? Well, don’t know. Km 10 and I did it in 51:35. 1:50 finish is well in sight. We are talking, matching each other’s step. Around Km 12 my running partner left me to move ahead. I am surprised, from where he got this energy (little while ago he was sulking, seems I motivated him more than required and yeah all these thoughts did crossed my mind) and tried to match him but the gap kept increasing. After sometime I could only see his black cap which too disappeared soon. My eyes are looking for my running friends, with whom I do my Sunday runs, but can’t find them.
India gate is back but sun is in front and glaring directly into my eyes as if challenging me. Stretch between Km 12 to Km 14 is tough. Not a hint of shade. Volunteers are standing close to the road to give water, orange slices, and cool sponges. I need water and signaled a volunteer at a distance to open the bottle and he obliged (nice of him, precious seconds saved). Drank all of the 200ml and tossed the empty bottle in the nearby bin. Shot misses. Fun of running at the India gate is missing on the return journey. Legs are no more fresh and heat coming from the sun is soaring with my energy levels dripping.
Km 14, and my watch is telling that my pace is getting little slower. Now my mind is speaking loudly to my legs and commanding them to keep up the pace. And suddenly I realized that I am no more talking and motivating my fellow runners (since I am listening more to the tussle between my mind and body). Do I need motivation? Who is going to pat me? But my condition is not bad, it’s the pace which is hard to sustain. Immediately I exclaimed to a runner “good running, keep it up”. Feeling better nowJ. Ambulance sirens can be heard. But I am running and running strong.
Km 17. A runner collapsed and volunteers are attending him. Few are stretching to make their cramped legs comfortable and I am running while looking at my watch after every Km. My splits have increased by few seconds. I am trying to run fast in last 3 Kms but my legs are not ready. It is hard to maintain my current pace, forget upping it. But I am trying. Km 19, Drums and cheer leaders are back but even that is not making the legs smile. Someone around uttered Jai Mata Di, I repeated it in my mind. Km 20. A fellow runner came from behind and said “Come on” (first time someone else took the initiative, guess he needs energy) and tried to get past me. Being challenged, my legs become faster and over powered the trespasser.
500 meters to go. Huge crowd of people, standing on both sides of the road and cheering for us. Now this is special, awesome, heavenly. Feels like whole nation is cheering for me to win the Olympic gold. Legs started to do overtime. People clapping and screaming. I did the Shahid kapoor act of Kaminey (I mean I sprinted and obviously not topless, evidence below).
This is the moment when your body forgets everything, give all it has. Finish line in sight and I am running as if I doing a 100m sprint. Hearing the beeps for the one final time while crossing the finish mats is just great. Hurray, finished the run and my engine is slowly coming to a halt and so does my timer. It’s reading 1:51:05. Official timing can be little different. Fantastic, I am happy. No, I am proud. Congratulating myself.
Took a Gatorade and started sipping it slowly. Saw my friend, whom I lost in the starting Km and on his shoulders is another friend. Seems he got cramps in his legs. I gave them high five. They crossed the finish line couple of minutes earlier than me. By the way these guys are from Indore and Bengaluru and here just for running. No dearth of maniacs. You will find many more here. And here he is, my running partner who ditched me at Km 12. I congratulated him and immediately complained “you left me and ran ahead”. He said “No, I was behind you”. “Oh, were you not wearing a black cap”. “No”. Geez, I pushed thinking it’s him. We took each other’s email to stay in touch.
It’s better to do some stretching now. Doing stretching and congratulating some unknown faces. Collected my finisher’s medal. They put it around your neck to make you feel accomplished. Took my refreshment packet. The area is getting crowded. Met most of my friends and with whom I boasted my timing. Meeting my running group, with whom I started my running career two years back, is always special. So, everything hunky-dory, this write up should end. Well no, picture abhi baaki hai mere dost.
I am waiting for my sister and little worried too, how will I be able to catch her in this crowd? Although I have already told her to meet in front of the medal distribution counter after her run, but none of us have our mobiles and crowd is huge. Luckily, did not have to wait much. Here she is, Oh I found her pretty easily. I asked her how was the run and she just shook her head (in her lingo this means nothing great). I am cramping a bit. I asked her to stay together and collect the refreshment pack. Just then someone asked me “where is the medal distribution counter”. I pointed him to the direction and Bingo, my sister is missing. She must be in the queue to collect the refreshment packet. After 15 minutes of my search operation I gave up (Event #3).
She resides in a hostel nearby, so no worries. Till now none of the events have affected me in anyway. They occurred to give me some anxious moments but nothing more than that. Time is 10:30 and like other participants I also crawled back to find my way out. I exited from gate# 14 and parking area is around 2 Kms from here. There are many others like me who got out of the wrong gate. “Can’t they announce that people having parked their cars in Barapullah parking should exit from gate# 8”, I complained to one such unlucky person. Seems the glaring sun has finally got better of me. Literally I did a parikrama of the stadium. Limping, cribbing and feeling the heat I reached the parking area.
Time 11:00 am. Opened my car and kept my stuff inside. Switched on my mobile, called my sister and she has already reached her hostel, Great. No discussion on where she disappeared, I am in hurry to reach home. And just when I am all set to take off I figured out that my gear is locked. I must have locked it in the morning out of my habit and obviously as you all know I do not have the gear lock key with me. Man I am missing to see my facial expression as this news broke out to my mind. What a scene it would have been (Event# 4) and this one will surely affect meJ.
Within minutes I regained my composure, this is surely going to be a special day. I called home, told them the story and assured them that I will manage it. No worries. Called one of my running friend to check just in case if he is still here so that I can get a lift till home, but he has already reached his home. Situation is pretty simple now, leave the car here and come back tomorrow WITH GEAR LOCK KEY to fetch it. I kept the water bottle with me and locked the car. I am looking for a parking assistant, saw one. Told him my story, got his number and requested him to keep an eye. Spend 15 minutes more talking to the security guard at the entrance gate of the parking. Left my address and number with him. He assured me to watch if someone tries to go out with a red SantroJ.
Time 12:00 noon. Out of the parking. Waiting for some rickshaw or an auto but to no avail. I am sure that today it’s going to be different, so without wasting further moments I walked to the INA metro station which is couple of Kms from here. And believe me I am contend and smiling. Even bargained a fruit Walla for apples, but he did not succumbed to my offer. I loaded my body into the metro, needed to change it once before reaching Noida. From there I took bus to Greater Noida. Saw a vacant seat and sat there. It is a ladies seat, I looked around to find any other general category seat but as it happens in our country, general category seats are always full. Anyway I don’t have the option so tried my luck (by the way I know my luck today). After 5 minutes someone tap my shoulder. A lady. Well yeah, as a gentleman I got up. Oh yes, my legs can carry me still.
Another 5 minutes, SPLATTTTTTTT (flat tire). And the bus slowly came to a halt on the side of the road (Event# 5). Instantly I smiled. Ok get down, stand in the sun, and find another bus; are my first thoughts. Mr. Driver and Conductor sahib had an inspection, came back and proclaimed that it’s the inner tire and bus can still move slowly. While I am standing, I noticed that there is a photo of Sai Baba and Goddess Durga on the front glass of the Bus. “Lord, is this the punishment because I smiled that time, but it was an innocent one?”. “No Son, It’s not your punishment. If this been a punishment, you would not be travelling in a bus comfortably”, pat came the reply. Anyway, my self-talk stopped as I reached my station. Got down, hired an auto. At 02:30 I am home, lunch is waiting.
In the evening, got a call. “Is the red Santro parked here yours?”. “Yes”. “Remove it in an hour or else we will deposit it in the police station”. I collected all my politeness and requested the person to let me take it next morning. He reluctantly agreed. Next morning at 08:00 hours I am leaving home. Only runners can understand how my legs are feeling now. My walk is a treat to watch. Took the exact mode as the yesterday’s journey with just one change. Took rickshaw from the metro station to the parking, my legs need it. At 10:20, I reached there and yeah with the gear lock key. As human, checked the car and the stuff in the rear box. With everything intact, I thanked the security guard and left for my office. Now that wraps up my third ADHM. It was a memorable experience which I loved to the hilt. Will the next year ADHM be like this? Oh yes, I will love it; but will make sure I leave the gear lock at home.
TARGET FOR THE NEXT YEAR
Let’s have a look at my report card below:
Goal for the next year ADHM is same, to reduce THAT SPECIES overtaking me. Let’s see what the population of THEM is, this year?
Population of THAT SPECIES = Number of runners from fairer sex overtaking me + Number of men runners with grey hairs overtaking me.
So, Population of THAT SPECIES = (565 – 555) + (555 – 512) = 10 + 43 = 53
Gosh, 53 of them pushed me hard and humbled my MACHOISM. Great, the contest will go on and I will definitely reduce this number next time. But THAT SPECIES is not the one to get extinct, in fact it’s growing and after a decade I myself will be converted to themJ.
And what if I am not able to keep my commitment; well I am not Mr. Salman khan. Waise Salman khan se yaad aaya, next weekend I am having ITBP half marathon which will be flagged off by Mr. Salman Khan, so see you all after that. Good Bye.