Monday, 16 February 2009
I write this again half asleep. Yesterday I finished the Auroville half-marathon with a time of 2:07. I was aiming for a sub 2 hour timing and I would have gotten it, if I hadn't gotten lost in between and run another 1.7 KM extra. The time when I reached the 21.1 KM mark was 1:57:43, but I'm not considering the sub 2 hour goal complete till I have it on an official certificate -- of course I don't consider the midnight marathon certificate, listing my time as 1:06, official.
The race was overall well organized. The trail was scenic and well marked, except for the one place where I managed to go the opposite way. Aid stations were there at every 4 KM, with water, lemonade, biscuits, bananas etc. People running the full marathon started at 5 AM and were given torches. The half marathon started at 6 AM. The accommodation facilities provided by the organizers, for the out-station runners, at Auroville was rudimentary, but for Rs 200 it was fine. The pre-race pasta and the post-race breakfast was pretty good though.
The weird part is that I expected my race to go really bad, but it in fact it went really good. Here's a short course of events.
We reached Pondicherry by train at 10 AM on Saturday -- the race being the next day. One of the organizers came to pick us up, but he told us that the place we were supposed to stay won't be open till 4 PM and we therefore had to kill a lot of time. So we couldn't change, no shower, but ended up roaming around Pondicherry the entire afternoon. Even after reaching Auroville, and collecting the bibs, we were asked to stay for the pasta party (dinner at 6 PM) and then go to our accomodation.
It was 7:30 PM before we finally got a place to settle down -- note that I didn't say rest. We were put up in, what seemed to be one of their art galleries, called Kalakendra. The organizers had laid out portions of thin synthetic material on the floor, which was going to act as our mattress. There were three rest rooms and plenty of competition. Fortunately for me, as soon as we reached there was a power-cut and most guys decided to wait for the power, before the shower (ooh ... rhymes). I being impatient, went in the dark and got my deeds done (the power didn't come till morning). That night I didn't sleep well -- I had dreams that the race had started and I was still sleeping.
I woke up at 4 AM on race day. Everyone got ready by around 5 AM and were taken to the starting point by bus. On the way we could see the full marathon runners' torches bobbing along. There was a check-in counter at the starting point, where I deposited my wallet, cellphone and camera. I warmed up with a bit of walking and slow jogging. Finally it was go time.
I was exhausted and low on sleep, but once I started running all that went away.
Like the midnight marathon, I had planned for a negative split. I ran the first half of the race at a pace of 5:40/KM and the second half at 5:30/KM. Given that it wasn't too crowded I could easily stick to my plan and didn't spend too much time weaving around people.
Till the 12 KM mark everything was going according to plan. I was within my goal time and was feeling strong. I had passed many runners and I could just see one guy running in front of me. So I followed him. Then I crossed him. Then I reached a crossing where there were a couple of volunteers and they were looking at me quizzically: both me and the other runner had taken the wrong route. One volunteer decided to guide us to the correct turning. He got on his bike and lead. Frustrated I increased my pace and followed; hoping that I would still make the sub 2 hour cut. Finally, into the correct turn.
When I reached the 14 KM mark, my Garmin read 1hr 30 mins (15.8 KM on distance). There was still 7 KMs to the finish line. I had never done 7 KMs in half an hour. Although I was maintaining my 5:30 pace, I knew that I couldn't cross the finish line before 2 hours. Slowly and steadily I passed the remaining kilometers and many runners whom I had crossed once already. Finally when I saw the marker which read 21 KM, I sprinted. There were people cheering and I was running at full steam. I crossed the finish line. Just for that, the whole ordeal was worth it.
At the end it was again a personal best, a good race, and a good experience, but I was disappointed that I didn't get an official sub 2 hour time.