A dilemma – that’s what it was. One day before the marathon on the 4th of January, the wee hours of 5 AM saw us driving at 60 miles per hour through lonely highways and narrow lanes, in search of ‘Konganapuram’ for scouting the area and to collect the bibs before the big event. On reaching Konganapuram, we noticed the start point was nowhere near the place! So off we went, our next target being ‘Seeliamman Kovil’, which was supposedly the starting point of this ten year old marathon experience. It took us an extra half hour just to get ourselves oriented to the area of the temple, without actually finding it. We ended up returning because we had to get back to work. Feeling incomplete, I went through work – hassle and got it done, trying to be patient with all the patients who came with their eye problems in sincere need of treatment.
After 5:30PM, it was all about the marathon again, as Mohan, I and Sanju rushed back to the place to collect our bibs at JPR Kalyana Mandapam. The staff were responsible and very patient, considering the heavy inflow of participants. We handed over the tickets we had registered online, and were promptly rewarded with our bibs and t -shirts (cute light blue and pink for men and women by the way). We wanted to register our other friend Mani, who decided she would get a last – minute registration done at 5 AM on race – day.
Then off we went to bed. 4 AM saw me up and at the fridge, searching for bread and hershey’s chocolate cream (yum by the way). Went to bed again, got up at 4:30, woke up my better – half, following which we picked up Mani, Mohan and our friend Patric (the one who actually convinced me to get back into running) and raced to the starting point. We followed the crowds and found the Seeliamman temple, and got Mani’s registration done. It was exciting to perform warm ups at 6 AM, with many other like – minded people who had come in their own vehicles. The races started soon, the only disadvantage being a huge gap of half an hour between the start of each race.
Sanju and Mani started their 6 km women’s race at 6:30 AM. After seeing them off, we had to wait in sheer boredom for the men’s 11k run at 7AM (the full – marathon and the half – marathon – events started earlier).
When the grand moment arrived and the green flag was waved, an incredible 700 participants filled the road, hardly making it possible to run faster than 4 km/hour. This was frustrating for the first ten minutes, following which we managed to find gaps and squeezed ahead of the rest of the slower crowd. When the narrow lane fanned out to a bigger road, the crowds grew thinner. Mohan and I sticked to a speed of 10 – 12 km/hour for the first five km. Following this, I took the lead and kept the speed steady at 12 kmph for 2km.
When a total of seven km had been reached, we both slowed down to a speed of 10 kmph. Following this, Mohan slowed to a 8 kmph speed. All this while, I didn’t bother with using water or refreshments, while Mohan had stopped at one of the aid stations for 5 seconds. By this time, it was becoming a little difficult to keep the pace at 10 kmph, as I continued to run ahead of many other runners.When a total of 9 km had been covered, I grabbed a water – packet from the last aid – station and sprinkled a few drops into my mouth and over my face. Then came the most difficult decision. I made a desperate all – out effort and tried to raise my pace back to 12 kmph. After what seemed another kilometer, the finishing point (AGN School) was in sight! I turned, expecting to see a ground which would have required a full circle to complete the race. Surprisingly, there was just a short 100 meter stretch to the finish line. Making a huge effort, I put in all I had into my quads, hams and calves, sprinting at what could have been 16kmph for the last 100 meters, passing two other people and finishing the 11 km event in 51st place in a total time of 55 minutes. Mohan finished just 2 minutes after me.
Just when I was thinking the most tiring part was over, came the waiting time for certificates. To make matters worse, the huge participating crowd made it impossible to reach our food parcels in any time less than one hour.
Complicating issues arose when we realized the end point was at a completely different place compared to the starting point, which was 11 km behind us! After gaining some strength and waiting for Patric (who finished 20 minutes later) and the girls to arrive ( the women came by bus from their 6 km race – end – point). We requested the organizing committee to use one of their bikes to drop me by my car. Driving back was such a relaxation! Soon in another hour, we managed to get our certificates signed, and were ready to head back to Salem, in an air conditioned ‘Ritz’ after all the sweaty hours under the sun.
We couldn’t get medals as they awarded these only for the first 50 finishers, but we were more than content to be a part of those who finished in this famous event.
I don’t know if I’d return for this marathon, but it definitely did beat sitting in the couch and staring like a moron at the idiot – box in the living room. Thank God. 😉