Sunday, November 09, 2008

Delhi Half Marathon 2008

Remember the joy of running?

The catch line was nice -- TV advts and endearing images of children running out of classrooms and splashing on a beach, no doubt contributed to the record turnout at the Delhi Half Marathon and the Great Delhi Run 2008.

I got hooked too. For the first time since I broke my leg in a cross-country race, I was persuaded to go beyond my regular morning jog, to join the throng that participated in the race last Sunday.

Ever since my NCC days I've had a love-hate equation with the lonely sport of distance running. I hate getting up in the morning - especially in winters. The very thought of stepping into my shorts on a cold, dark, foggy morning gives me the shivers. Within minutes of stepping outdoors my face feels like a numb mask; my fingers hurt and the ears feel like they're going to drop off.

But once your body gets into the rhythm of running all the pain seems to get subsumed in the rhythm of thumping feet and steady breathing, until you break in to the final sprint and your heart feels like its going to just burst out of your chest... and then that glorious, weightless feeling when you cross the finish line!

It was great to experience again the camaraderie of those crossed the finish line. The organizers had done a fine job of making it an event to remember but I do wish there were more serious runners around. It was quite obvious that most of the alleged 28,000 participants had no intention of even trying to run. They jogged a few hundred meters, made a great show of grabbing the water bottles from the side-stalls, waved to the cheer girls and bhangra dancers along the way and then ambled about joking and chatting with their friends, gleefully taking short-cuts and blocking the roads for the runners who were struggling to complete the race.

All this was such a contrast to the African runners - thin, wiry, superhuman figures who seemed to be just floating over the roads with their long, graceful strides! Deriba Merga finished the 21km race in a mind-boggling 59 minutes 15 seconds, long-long before most runners had reached the halfway point!

My ranking is not even worth mentioning; my legs still hurt but it feels great to have participated.