I had signed up for half marathon mainly due to peer pressure. My previous long running experience was when I ran a 10k race couple of years back, out of interest. I thought of signing up for 10k this time as well but I got carried away by peers pushing me for 21k. We managed to convince our employer to pay for the event and tick off the CSR objective. My practice run started 8 weeks before the event and ended 6 weeks before the event. To say that I was not prepared to run is a gross understatement. I was up against the odds in an event that I don’t fancy much. I managed to complete the run, somehow. This post is just an account of what raced through my head before, during and after the run. Feel free to click on the little ‘x’ mark on the window if you are looking for inspiration. You will not get it here.
The event was supposed to start at 6 am sharp. The organizers had a tie up with Uber – the ride to and from the race location was free (worth INR 200 each way). My home falls within the free ride radius. I started looking for an uber cab from 5 am but did not find any in my area. Either I was unlucky or the free-rides were just a marketing gimmick. From what my friends say, it seems to be the latter. My friend picked me up and we reached the venue by 5.50 am. I had already gone through every single marathon motivation video on YouTube the previous night. Some were very motivating and some were not. The cut-off time given was 3 hours for 21k and considering my recent experience in running, I decided to give myself the full time. See, one should not be too hard on himself. In a nut shell, the intention was just to complete the run before the organizers would close the shop. I read a lot of websites for strategies and realized that there were more strategies than the kms in the half marathon. I was too late into the game, unfortunately.
So the run started. I told my friend the starting point would be some 200 meters ahead and we would start running from there. After crossing 200 meters I realized that the starting point had already crossed. Some people said they would follow negative splits – meaning, run first half of the run at slower pace and the second half at the faster pace. It made sense to me, after all, I didn’t want to use up all the energy and fall down at 10.5k mark. It all looked good till 20 mins.
Around 20 mins, I was close to 3.5 km mark when I saw a bunch of young guys picking up speed and running in full pace ahead. I was wondering why they were running fast all of a sudden. Half a kilometre further, I saw them running towards us on the other side. Just then it hit me that these guys were not part of 21k but a 10k race which started 15 mins later than our category. So frankly, they started 15 mins later than me and crossed me when I was around 25-30 mins into the run which means they have reached this distance in about 10-15 mins. How is that even possible? That was humiliation #1.
Then I saw few girls running ahead of me and returning on the other side before I crossed 5km mark. Humiliation #2. Anyway they were professionals, so I told myself not to worry and continue running. This is exactly what I told myself “Why do even think about timing when you are not even sure if you will complete?” With that tight slap of reality, I started continuing my run+walk combo. I fixed myself a target – there was a big guy, out of shape, who was catching up for his breath. This was the guy that I had to beat. The game was on between me and him. He overtook me when I was walking and I overtook him when he was walking. Both were panting for air. I was gulping water and the energy drinks available at every other km. I read somewhere the will keep bananas also every four km or so. I started scanning for that from the 3rd km but never found one. Carrot on the stick, I guess.
At about 7.5 km mark, there was a loud cheering from the runners. We spotted some runners returning. They were like 6 km ahead of us. Humiliation #3. And there were girls who were part of that returning group. Humiliation #4. They was not even an ounce of tiredness on their faces. Humiliation #5. At this point it was evident that I am not going to make a podium finish. About 9 kms into the run, I saw my friend returning from half way mark. He was ahead by about 2.5 kms. I thought maybe I should catch up with him in the second leg. Then my devil inner voice yelled, “Focus on finishing first”. I got new energy and ran like mad with a goal in sight. I ran continuously at full speed possible for next 200m and reached the water/sports drink counter. Phew! Whatay run for 2 mins. Then I managed to cross 10.5 km mark in 85 mins which I really think was wonderful.
Then it all started. My favourite Rahul (Dravid, not Gandhi) often used to say that once he had played for quite some time in the test match, he zones in and sees only the ball. I was in a similar condition. I zoned in and all I was able to see was the road. Nothing else was visible. I ran for long time and I felt like I could have easily run for 4kms. The milestone told me the harsh reality that I have actually crossed only over 1 km. Sigh. I did not observe anything except my goal – my competitor – the big guy. He was a little ahead of me. We were still playing catch-up. I heard voices quoting me Winston Churchill – ‘If you are going through hell, keep going’. I heard a counter voice almost instantaneously – ‘STFU bro!’ Then I do not know what happened for the next 4 kms. All I know was that I was looking for water stations.
When I read milestone “Last 3 kms” I had a sudden surge of energy. I continued running and walking. I spotted few of my friends who were on their way back home after completing 5km walks. Last km was difficult. The big guy who was my target seemed to have raced ahead of me (Humiliation #6) and it was impossible to catch him up now. My friend who I thought I could catch up with in the second leg had also moved way ahead of me. I ran for good 500 m and started walking for a while when one of the spectator shouted “You can’t walk; people are watching you”. Damn! These guys know how to manipulate you into doing what you think you can’t. Oh, they call it pushing somebody? Okay. So finally I completed my run posing for photographs wherever I saw people with camera (In spite of that, my photos came out very bad; that’s a different story). My race time was 2.45 mins. I felt good. It was 15 mins earlier than what I had set for myself. I was happy that I was able to complete it. I went straight to organizers, got my completion medal. Went to the breakfast area and hogged three plates.
My friend told me that her husband was running slower to encourage his friends and he completed in 2 hours 10 minutes. Humiliation #7.
The race timings were out. The winner had completed the race in 1 h 25 mins odd. Humiliation #8
There were elders aged 60+ who completed the race in less than 1 h 45 mins. I am losing track of the humiliation number now.
I was ranked 850th. One more there.
Was I happy? Yes I was. Heck! I was able to complete 21k.
Was I humiliated? Not really! After all this was only my second attempt at long distance without preparation and I was able to complete it.
Do I like running? No. It was boring. But develops patience and resolve.
Will I do it again? May be not. Although I wish to complete full marathon once to tick that off my bucket list.
Overall, it was a mixed personal experience. Though the run was difficult the feeling of completing is quite amazing.