I looked up ‘Strava’ desperately tapping my screen to make the app get back to recording my run after a few drops of rain made the app to stop functioning. I had crossed 20km in Skechers marathon and I was fiddling with my phone while trying to maintain a pace of 5 minutes per km – man, this wasn’t going well at all..
Saturday – pre race day (4/1/2020)
We were all set to travel to Madras for SPCM 2020 where I was to do my fourth consecutive 42.2km marathon. I never miss this one because it’s my favourite.
My wife and I made it to Chennai by 9am, had breakfast and set out for collecting the bib at expo.
This was at Kalaivanar Arangam near Spencer’s. Met a few people there who I knew and collected my precious race kit then proceeded for lunch outside.
Once I got home, I checked up on the rest of my stuff:
Nike zoomx Vaporfly- check
Injinji socks – check
Bib pinned to polyester shorts – check
Marathon t shirt to wear to startpoint – check
Cap – check
Prebooking taxi for 3am – check
Decided to head out to Phoenix mall to complete the day since I was still fresh – Sanju and I covered all the floors before deciding on a Japanese restaurant for dinner. Taking a huge risk I had two bowls of non veg base Ramen as a carb up meal.
Sunday – (5/1/2020) RACE DAY
The taxi was right on time as prebooked. I reached the venue at 330am and met Anand, with whom I walked to the actual start point which was 1km inside YMCA campus. Had the privilege of meeting my college senior Dr. Arunandhi who is also an elite runner.
After fifteen minutes of waiting, we were asked to walk for five minutes to the actual startpoint from where we were flagged off at 4am sharp.
I made the huge mistake of not making it to the front before the start and paid a huge price of three minutes of slow running trying to get out of the crowd. Once free, I sprinted hard till I covered 1 km in 4:48 pace. I checked myself – no hard breathing, heels flicking backward, slight forward lean from the hips- everything seemed to be in order and so I proceeded at 4:10 pace for a while till I caught up with three people who were running at 4:30 pace.
I knew it would be tough to maintain but I felt it could give me a margin to relax in the last hour of the run. I held on for dear life as the runners in front chatted, laughed and joked as they continued to run at 4:30 pace. My plan was to hold on till the 11th km then let go. I changed the plan to 14km after making a few calculations in my mind and assessing my body.
At the fourteenth km I let them move on and dropped my pace to 4:40. The refreshment points were awesome and I made sure to stop running for ten seconds to fuel whenever I needed to eat something and just slowing down for water or Fast&up electrolytes. The pace soon dropped to 5 by the time I crossed 21km distance. Strava was causing issues by automatically pausing every time a rain drop or a bead of sweat fell on the stop button. I tried to use my Xaomi watch but it didn’t find a GPS signal.
By the 25th km (now on ECR) Strava was on pre save mode and refused to return to recording the run however much I tried. I cursed inwardly as I strained to maintain pace and finally ditched the app – I had now come to Seashell avenue. The turn reminded me of my previous run last year and I remembered being winded by the time I reached the coast. Nothing much had changed!
There was a modest incline but combined with the sea breeze acting against us at the 28th km, it was a tough place to get through. My legs were aching all over and my lungs were on fire. I stopped for a good twenty seconds to get my bearings, had water, electrolytes, a banana then shoddily attempted running again. My pace had dropped to a dismal 5:30 by the time I made it back to the highway. A few minutes later I saw the trio who I followed at the start on the opposite lane – I made some calculations and found they were already on their 35th km!
Getting my energy back (motivation?fast&up? Banana? Lack of headwind?) I went back to running at sub five pace. Good news? Strava had started working again. There were two more similar loops leading to the coast, each one slowing me down to 5:30 or worse, before I eventually reached the 31st km, where we were to take a U – turn. The beep from the recording strip sounded as the volunteer announced 31km time 6:20am – that wasn’t bad! I had just 11 km left to cover in 1hour and ten minutes!
The new found motivation spurred me on to five pace. I sighed as we were made to repeat the three loops to the coast. The one to Seashell Avenue dragged me down to 6 pace. I struggled- I shouted inward and flicked my heels rather than reflexively using my calves. I noticed Venkat sir, Srikanth, Anand and Hari – all members of Trichy Endurance Team on the way and managed to encourage them.
Just seven km to go! 35 minutes left to reach a goal of 3 hours 30 minute marathon! I knew I could not make it – but that didn’t stop me from trying. Whenever I felt I was exhausted, I slowed to 5:30 pace. One of the refreshment points were serving watermelon and I hungrily munched on one piece, had fast&up and sprinted at 4:50 pace. Just two more km to go! I could soon see the finish line – should I sprint it?
I eventually managed to convince myself to do it but to my dismay it was the finish point for the twenty – miler and not the full marathon! The actual finish was another five hundred meters away -i looked at my phone – it was 7:30am already and my goal time of 3 and a half hours had crossed. I still managed to sprint in perfect form and completed the event in 3 hours 32 minutes and 20 seconds.
It was wonderful seeing other friends from the running community who welcomed me with open arms. There was even a volunteer who read out and congratulated our names individually as we walked up to get our medals. The people there were mostly half marathoners and twenty -milers.
I met Vignesh, Ramya, Karthy, Yogaraj, Mr and Mrs. Gopi and Albert to name a few.
I warmed – down with a few dynamic movements and static stretches, had breakfast and slept on the lawn. It was a successful day for everyone on the team – probably the best way to start a brand new year.
The page from MyRace showed my position as 16th out of 495 runners in the full marathon.
There was hardly any pain but I did feel a little giddy – overall an awesome experience. I’m already waiting for Skechers 2021. This is Vinod from Trichy Endurance Team, signing off till next time.