I groggily looked at the dial of my watch, squinting hard at the fluorescent display. I had gotten up before any of my alarms had started ringing exactly 2 minutes before 4 AM. (I usually set ten alarms on my mobile before a marathon event). I got up, went for a quick wash, asked Sanju to lock the door and was out, with a sleeveless tshirt (bib binned) under my regular t – shirt with a pair of black silk sports shorts and feet adorned with Injinji socks and New Balance shoes.
The drive was thankfully uneventful and I reached the starting point at exactly 5 AM. I was surprised to hear the sound of rock music filling the air, and to see the finish line lit up majestically.
I found the allotted parking area, and parked my ‘Ritz’ before making my way back to the starting point. Unfortunately many of the participants arrived late, and the starting time was shifted to 6 AM from 5:30 AM. But there were no further delays. After removing my outer t – shirt and keeping it in the car, I went back to the school/ start – point, and did a series of warm ups – starting from my neck, then slowly working my way downward, briskly activating all the joints in my body. Nothing broken – thank God. The team had hired drummers who did their job beautifully, energizing everyone in vicinity
Following this came a few stretches and a dynamic run – on – the – spot after which I felt prepped to go. Patric had arrived by then, and we exchanged greetings before I started the run just 5 minutes later. The flag was waved, and around 50 of us were off! I managed to stay a little ahead of half the pack, and slowly jogged from an 8 kmph speed to a 11 kmph. The sun had not yet risen, and the full moon seemed to be making a statement of its importance as it lit up what would definitely have been scary streets if it had not been for the huge crowd running with me. I took in the scenic awesomeness and proceeded to increase my pace when I noticed a school kid trying to pass. Pretty soon I had made it to the 4 km mark – I looked at my watch: twenty two minutes had gone by. I decided to go with the same speed of 10 to 11 kmph, and slowly passed many would – be – runners who had little idea of what speed they should have been running in. They were now exhausted and walking.
Time seemed to drag and my legs started feeling heavy by the 6th km mark. Refreshments were served every four km, and I helped myself to a sip of ‘gatorade’. Following this I upped my pace, and overtook the only person who was ahead of me. I looked for others ahead, but they were nowhere to be seen – not because I was first, but because, they were horrendously fast.
Soon after I heard footfalls closing in behind me and two runners, one being a man around my age with a ‘Chennai Marathon’ t – shirt and the other a somewhat heavier boy. Not to be outdone, I feverishly kept pace with them step – by – step. The 10 km mark came, and we had to take a U – turn to run back down along the same road we had come.
I groaned, as I realized that we had to climb all the inclines we had easily passed in a descending manner on the way there. I attacked each one with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, but my running speed was severely injured – to as bad as 5 kmph. After the inclines were through, I had my share of a few drops of water and a sample of orange – fruit (the magic of this fruit is it not only provides carbs and electrolytes, but also hydrates you with water just enough to keep running), then increased my pace to 5 minutes per kilometer (a 12 kmph speed). I soon overtook the Chennai runners and was on my way to overtaking the other tired 21 k runners and also 10 k runners who had made a U – turn at the 5 km mark to get back to the finish point.
I checked my watch and realized it would be hopeless finishing before 2 hours were complete, but I still kept my pace, as I heard more footfalls closing in. I was thankfully not overtaken anymore till near the finish line, though I did have to fend off a ‘doggie’ which was threatening to have a piece of all the runners passing by. With ten seconds to the finish line, I had an odd experience with my sixth sense, which was never wrong. I turned around and saw two kids sprinting toward me. I tried increasing my pace but was exhausted and gave in around two feet from the finish line, finishing the race in exactly 2 hours, 32 seconds. It was nice to be welcomed by the organizers via microphone, being announced my timing and given a medal on the spot. (unfortunately, no certificates were issued for the 21 k runners).
Patric had finished his 10 k in an hour, and was waiting at the finish with his certificate. He helped me out with getting breakfast which was being served nearby, and I collapsed into a bench in a classroom and hungrily gobbled up the hot ‘kicchidi’ served with sambar. I would normally run a 100 miles from kicchidi, but at the moment, it was the tastiest meal in the world. Patric and I took a few pictures and left with happy memories.
I came back to my room, and Sanju & I headed back to Salem starting from there at 1 PM, with arrival at 3:30 PM.
Next marathon – Rock ‘n Run has been canceled; was looking forward to it! But then, I guess I could substitute with the Madurai 11 km marathon around March 16th! Take care folks!