Friday, 12 February 2010

Auroville Marathon: Race Preview, Controversy and Race Plan

The Auroville marathon is upon us. This time again it's on Sunday, Valentine's Day. Being a single-lonely-heart, I will be running the half-marathon there rather than visit expensive restaurants with bouquets.

On to the race related details, controversies and my race-plan (I always have one, even if I don't).

1. Race Preview

 The Auroville Marathon has 4 events: the full marathon, the half marathon, the quarter marathon and a 5K. I'm only going to talk about the full and the half marathons -- not because I don't respect the quarter marathon distance (10.5 KM) or the 5K, but because I don't know much about those events.

Figure 1: Auroville Map for Full and Half Marathons

Most of the Auroville marathon (approximately 83% of it) is a nice and easy flat trail. The full marathon is two loops of the trail and the half is one loop. There are aid stations at 4 KM intervals -- which is correctly placed for distance runners who have trained properly. These stations, at least last time, had water, electrolytes and things to eat. The trail has enough shade and it's pretty even as compared to other trails which I have run on -- RFL's Bellandur track, Bangalore Ultra, etc. Some parts of the trail are pretty narrow which make them really enjoyable to run, but hard to overtake (and you know ... I'm always ... like overtaking people and shit). Parts of the trail have loose red dirt, so get ready to get dirty. Also it's very easy to get lost in the trail, so be careful and watch out for the markers.

The full marathon starts at 5 AM and the half marathon folks start at 6 AM. The full marathon participants are provided with torches, but from what I have heard is that the torches won't be of too much help and you will be forced to run carefully -- which might not be too bad during the start of a full-marathon, where flying away early could be detrimental to your goals.

2. Controversy

The Auroville Marathon was announced publicly some time in November or December (I forget), with the deadline for registrations being set as January 20th. As it would happen, a number of runners didn't register till the deadline was past. Also, there were a number of runners who were dropping out of the race. So two things happened:
  1. The late-to-register runners approached the organizers, wondering if there was any chance of getting into the race.
  2. The drop-outs started to put up their bib numbers on the RFL Google Group, so that people who wanted to run the race could run on their behalf. 
 In the 1st case, the late-to-register runners were told by the organizers that late registration was not possible. Unfortunately, the email exchanges between the organizers and the runners weren't too pleasant.

In the 2nd case, the organizers decided not to allow any other person to run with somebody else's bib. They have announced that, during bib collection, the runners need to bring a government issued identity proof. Only if the ID proof is provided, will the bibs be given. The bib controversy is not new and it happened last year as well.

3. Race Plan

This is going to be my first half marathon this year. The last race which I ran was the Mumbai Marathon. The last half-marathon which I ran was the Bangalore Midnight Marathon, where I got a PB.

Although I haven't trained specifically for a half marathon, I have done decent distances over the past 3 weeks. I might be a bit ambitious here, but here are my race goals:

  1. Get a personal best (beat 1:55:02). 
  2. Run a sub-2 hour race.
  3. Finish. 
Unlike the midnight marathon, I'm planning to set a hard (hard for me), even pace of around 5:20/KM and retain it till the end (well, I will hopefully sprint the last 200 m). 

To more personal bests, we run.