Sunday, September 4, 2011

Marathon – A Non Runner's perspective

On our trip to Ramoji film city, taxi driver asked my wife "mam, did u come to Hyderabad for some work or generally?" (translated to English). Anu paused for few seconds thinking whether to just pass this question. Then she said we came for the run here. It was yesterday. She asked back if he knows about it. First he shook head with a no but then traffic block the previous day, struck him. And he exclaimed - that police one. My wife thinking this might be easiest way to explain as he would have seen lot of policemen deployed, she said yes. So, mam, is he (asking about me) selected? - he asked back. Anu didn't get his question. He framed the same question differently - mam, will result come later? She believed that he got it correctly. She affirmed - ya, it will come later. She meant the race timings. Just when she was getting to rest back, he queried again - mam, was this selection for constables? She moved ahead uncomfortably now. He continued - "or for SI?" Anu whispered to me - I don't know what to say now. And to him, she announced that it is not known yet, ensuring topic is closed.

I wonder what a non runner person (like this taxi driver) will imagine about hundreds of people running on road in the middle of day. Would he ever had imagined that most of these runners are just running for personal satisfaction with no hope of winning any competition (or police job)? And what would he think if we would have told him that we just ran 42 kilometers for fun? 

I do receive many such questions about running. The answers to many of them are just so normal to runners and sounds totally out of world to the non runners. Some of the most common ones are 
  • Did you win the race? Obviously no. I try to explain that long distance running is only sports where 90% of people don't compete with others but just try to beat their own time or simply run for fun.
  • So, do you run continuosly? Are you allowed to walk? When I try to answer this, I am made to feel, I cheated in race by walking somewhere.
  • How long was your marathon? More than anything, it is ignorance. But calling 5K as 5K marathon is simply insult to magical figure of 42.195 km.
  • Are you nuts? Why are running this much? Almost impossible to explain that running marathon is pretty normal. 
If you are runner, you would have received many such questions? What was most funny (or embarrassing) question for you?

Hyderabad Marathon - A New Strategy

My wife looked at me and said I look worried. Yes I was. Because I had not done my last full marathon in July due to IT Band Injury. Because I have just run once more than 18 km in more than three months. Because I have not been able to clear my bowel since I have been to Hyderabad. And here, I was standing at starting line of Hyderabad Marathon to run my 7th full marathon of the year. None of this would have worried me so much if it would have been any of those smaller runs. But this was full marathon - real test of the body and mind. Slow runners like me put their body to work for continuous five to five and half hours. And that is a really long duration. It is not easy to predict how the body may react to this test, especially if one hasn’t tried for sometime.

Nevertheless, I was there at the start line determined to complete this marathon, no matter what happened later. Race was delayed due to late arrival of chief guest. That gave me more time to meet up more folks and mark my pacers during this time. As I planned earlier, I wanted to get on to the 5 hours bus.

Race started approximately 25 minutes late. I started running pretty close to pacers. But I was not very involved with their talks. Approximately after five minutes of run, I hear five, four, three, two, one, Walk. I was little shocked. I asked them - Are you going to do this very often. Karthik said they are going to do 5-1 in first hour, 4-1 in second hour, 3-1 in third, 2-1 in fourth and 1-1 in last. I couldn’t believe that they plan to do a sub-5 marathon with a run-walk. Balaji, who had pacer balloon at back, told me that I should follow what I am comfortable with. I just moved ahead. Very soon they caught up with me. I was now sure they knew what they are doing. My mind got involved in convincing me that they must have thought about it. They are the pacers here. I anyway had no strategy other than just run. I asked them in what time they plan to do their 5K. They firmly answered - 32-33 minutes. Also, they informed me in what time they plan to finish half marathon. And how much distance they plan to cover in first hour, second hour and third hour. I was convinced with their plan. Next time when I heard Five, Four, Three, Two, One, I walked. :) I had new strategy - something that I never tried ever in long runs. 

Pretty soon, it was evident route is not going to be easy. There were flyovers one after another. I stuck with the pacers. It was quite fun with Balaji, Karthik and other Chennai Runners. We were going pretty strong. We could do half marathon in 2:17 hours. This was way far better than what I have done ever. But I started getting tired after this. Soon, I was left little behind. And then I was losing run-walk rhythm which I was getting with pacers. I was running just couple of 100 metres behind the pacers but it was extremely difficult to catch up with them. At this stretch I ran with my running buddy - K P Suresh. He runs with such an ease. And it is always so nice to run with him. He was running his half marathon. Our routes got diverted after I was done with my 25 kilometres. I was lone again. Good part was that I could still see the pacers. I caught up with another set of runners. I asked them if they are running for sub-5. I was wishing if I can get some company. When they said they are slow for sub 5, I moved ahead. I was somewhere still hoping I could catch up with my pacers. I was hardly walking now to put every effort to catch up with Balaji and group. I did my 27th km in 6:30 pace to reach as close to them as possible. They had target of doing 27 km in 3 hours. I was almost there but two minutes late. And they were ahead of me by those minutes. My desperation to catch them caused fatigue. And by 29th km, I was sure it will be difficult for me to catch up with them. I slowed down. During 31st km, I felt some pain. I stopped for a minute to give a little massage to myself. I was tired. This part of route looked little deserted in terms of runners. I decided to go on my own rhythm of run walk. My garmin was not set for showing detail timing in seconds. So, I decided to follow a vague 3-1 run walk. This was giving me pace of little above 8. I was satisfied with that then. After 34 km mark, route was through Hyderabad university. This was little better route. But, I continued same pace with same strategy till 37 km. 37 km has always been very important to me. That is when I start the count down with 5 km left. I improved my pace slightly by occasionally increasing my run time. At around 39 km, we left the university to face the traffic road. We were running in opposite direction to traffic. It was fine most of time but there were issues at some places. At 41 km mark, route entered the stadium complex. That helped me in further improving my pace and  42nd km came at 6:49 pace - something which is very easy on any other day but not after already running 41 km. Last 100 metres was to be run on the track in stadium. I was welcomed by 12m12m folks there. They cheered me up.  They paced me up. And I believe I ran the last 100 metres faster than I could ever run. According to Garmin, I touched the max speed of 17 km per hour. There I was crossing finish line at 5 hour 4 minutes 23 seconds. Failed by few minutes for my target but happy that I could do my personal best, beating my previous best by 19 minutes at what seems to be toughest marathon route I have been at. Felt extremely happy to receive my finisher medal.

Finally, Happy Me :)

Thank you Hyderabad Runners for this wonderful experience. Big thanks to Balaji and Karthik for pacing me up. And another big thanks to Suresh for running those tough part of route with me. Also, this race became so special for me as Anu did her first half marathon here.

Anu and Me after the race