To do that ... I happen to write!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Story of 21km: Delhi Half Marathon 2011

By the time I crossed 5KM mark, I had already taken up around 40 minutes. Though happy about the fact that my usual right ankle pain hadn't seared up so far, and I was settling into my rhythm - I felt a little anxious: For next 16KM, I just had 100 odd minutes left to complete the race within the time I had in mind: 2 hours and 30 minutes. And running in half marathon is anything but linear. Especially if you have never run beyond 12 km in your life...

Breaking into a run at 17km Mark!

Last time I ran The Great Delhi Run and felt it was a joke. People stopped en route to playing bands and started dancing, and the podium with celebrities created a human traffic jam etc. ! Clearly it was more of an entertainment-run than anything else. So I thought of giving 21km a try this year around.

However, I was not sure if I could run that distance. Moreover, I wasn't in a mood to practice a great deal for the event. Still unsure with final registration date drawing to a close, a text by N asking if I have made up my mind yet acted as a great push and I registered for event on 5th Nov.

With less than 3 weeks to go, I started practicing bit by bit running anywhere between 5-8 km twice a week. And one fine weekend I ran from Saket to IIT Delhi and back amounting to 12km. The good part about all these run was that I wasn't dog tired after them. I could go to office, or go cycling, roaming around etc.

27th November arrived without much pomp and show, and I slept at 11 PM on 26th - ignoring my flatmate's plea to not cut short our usual gossip session! 

The Race:
I woke up at 5 AM to a cold dark Delhi morning. The humming excitement in me got me out of bed, into my shorts and tee and onto the street without much ado. I walked over 3 km to and from metro stations refusing to pay arbitrary rates quoted by Auto Drivers, hoping the walk would anyways help me warm up.

Concentrating on my game plan, I started the race jogging mildly - the image of Shahrukh in his dark sunglasses (really? at a foggy 7AM!) and ponytail, and that of Bipasha who was clearly sidelined by the aura of SRK playing in my mind. In fact, I too noticed her just when I was taking my eyes off the podium. She maintained a broad smile nevertheless.

I kept a slow pace initially avoiding any zig zag takeovers and accelerations, sipping 200ml of water for 3 km on the way. At 5km mark I realized that I was going a little too slow, having already spend 40 minutes but I decided to not go any more faster till about 10km mark. However, as I crossed 6 KM mark the pros literally stormed past us: they were already coming back, on the other side of the road, taking strides equaling probably 2 of mine in a single go. As I watched several athletes go past in a steady flow, I decided to rev my engine!

Running on the track in Lutynes' Delhi was an amazing experience: well metaled and marked roads turning through iconic government buildings and monuments pepped up my zeal a notch further. My trance was broken when someone tried to steal a clap with a surprised Rahul Bose.

By the time I crossed 10KM mark at India gate I had just taken a single 5-7 min break; my ankles and everything else were doing fine. I revved a little further, choosing not to see how I was doing on time.

15KM and I was still going strong. And I increased my speed a little more, probably at 6 minutes to a KM, hoping to break into a run at 17KM mark.

17km mark came and went and I didn't go full blow. A cold sweat had broken on my forehead and I wasn't confident if I will make 4 km at high speed. As most of the other people slowed down and started walking I stuck to my speed. Finally at 18 I accelerated again and at 19 broke into long strides: doing probably a little under 5 minutes per km.

And at my peak speed I crossed 21Km mark clocking around 2 hours and 23 minutes. I threw up my hands in air as I crossed the finish line. I had complete a race, which was nothing but a race against my own self...

After a less than required cool down I headed home - legs throbbing a little, ankles hurting a little, and head aching a little. Though my immediate concern was hunger :-)

The effects of such long race takes some time to appear. I realized that I had a bruised my under feet due to a tiny speck of stone which had stolen its place inside my shoes. By evening I had also developed swollen knees which are currently getting ice-pack!

On the whole, I believe I could have shaved off 5 minutes from my time - but I am much happy having completed the race in respectable time, in a single piece, much to the relief of my friend S saying that I might 'vanish into thin air' by the end of it.

Foremost being that Delhi crowd still needs a great lesson in littering. Labeling the race as 'The Delhi Kachrathon' wouldn't be a stretch. Thousands of bottles and energy drink packets lying around the refreshment stalls were a sight to watch! Slipping by stepping on bottle caps was the last thing I wanted to happen. And to the credit of organizers - there were HUGE boards saying 'don't litter' but no easily visible dustbins.

To credit people further, Gul Panag mentioned the chauvinism of Delhi Men here. Sarcastic, I am being. Faking news has driven the point home much better - here. This was last year. I won't be surprised to find similar posts coming up this years as well!

Other noticeable things was the immaculate organization of the event by Procam, and the whole hearted enthusiasm of the volunteers who kept to their toes in serving water and energy drinks to the runners.

And lastly, on running: It's a solitary sport. You might be running with the crowd, but you're running against yourself. Some people rush past you, others slow down - you ignore everything and just continue at your own pace. Patience and will power were key takeaways :) Though on my way back, when a DMRC worker asked me about the proud medal hanging in my neck - he was quite surprised to hear that "that's all that I got for running 21km". "Aur kuch bhi nahi mila", he quizzed. I somehow refrained from telling him that I in fact paid to run! :D

On other note, I am ranked 2000 among 10K participants. Sticking to my view about 'running against yourself' I am ignoring this fact :D


  1. I did the Run myself in 2009, and my experience was similar. Dying to run a half-marathon, but I missed the Mumbai 2012 registration deadline by a week. Will have to wait :-(

  2. I'm doing this the next time it happens around me

  3. Congratulation!!!!
    awesome feat mere dost..good show and a good post too!
    i think i can do at most 12 km after which i will faint or die. but considering my weight...i would have done the same work (mu.M.g.s) as you :)

  4. You completed 21k! Congratulations!
    It's a life list item for me to participate in a marathon. In fact, I'm planning to begin running in the mornings from Dec onward.

    May you run in more marathons!

  5. @Aragorn: Running in a marathon is an achievement, but I can tell you trekking is much more fun. And you can do awesome lots of them living in Mumbai :)

    @Jatin - Bangalore 10K types kuch to ho rahi hai!

  6. @Gujju - Thank god for you work is a scalar quantity :P

    @Sosha - Thank you :)Any favorite spots in Mumbai to run? Marine drive seems to be the outright favorite - I found Joggers Park nice too :)

  7. Mast achievement...! I am panting even reading about 21km :-) May be to celebrate your feat I will go to cheer the Singapore's acclaimed SCB Marathon this weekend :-)

  8. My short term goal is to run 2.1 km without my usual, small walking breaks :)

  9. I know. 10th december. but this is too close, and us weekend busy hu. feb 12 ko auroville me kuch to ho raha hai

  10. @Shubs - Nah, don't cheer. Go and run the 7 Km or something!

    @Surbhi - Mumbai run is round the corner ;)