Monday, November 24, 2014

A Half Marathon to Remember

 (ADHM 2014 - pic - BS)

"Chin-up!! Just 300 meters to go!" 

Music to my ears.

This was one of the best things I heard during during Sunday's Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM). The fact that it came from a co-runner speeding past us made it so much more... credible. Thanks to him, and to numerous other unknown runners who helped me keep pace, ADHM-2014 turned out to be my best race yet.

I finished the 21.095 km in 1 hour 55 minutes.

ADHM this year was memorable in other ways too. It was a lot better organised than the Mawana Half Marathon I ran last year.

Yesterday, at 5:30AM in the morning, the organizers had set in place adequate volunteers and security guards to facilitate a smooth flow of vehicles and participants into their respective enclosures. Plenty of portable toilets and water stations had been set in place. As more and more runners crowded into their designated enclosures, keeping themselves busy jogging, stretching and warming up, a knot of youngsters stood around an elderly gentleman, seated on a low platform, wearing a yellow t-shirt captioned "Born 1932". This was the well-known veteran marathoner, Wg Cdr. Dr. Ashis Roy.

At 83 years, Dr. Roy is one of the oldest runners in India. He had started running marathons after crossing 50, and had competed more than a hundred full-marathons. He joked about ADHM's pathetic obsession with "Elite Runners" when globally the sport was celebrated precisely because it was egalitarian. "Anybody, anywhere can do it! You don't even need shoes to run!... It is like a festival -- you can make so many friends - just like today!".

When somebody joked that the 21 km would be a breeze, he pointed out that age had been catching up with him. A recent spine injury had earned him four screws that held his vertebrae together. And thanks to arthritis, he now needed help "to warm-up till the start-line". So when the gates opened, we held hands and jogged till the start-line with its huge time banner flashing "07:11 AM", into a sea of swinging elbows.

Out of the stadium, on to the open roads, it was frustrating to be dodging and weaving through crowds. Many 'runners' had started walking even before the 2 km mark! The crowds gradually dwindled only after India Gate, and by this time the "Elite Runners" - mostly lithe African runners in graceful, long strides - were already touching the finish line.

The trick for inexperienced runners like me was to find the right group of 'pace-setters'. It was helpful to see runners with timing flags. I had passed the "2:15 Bus" flag around Purana Qila and kept close to the "2:00 Bus" until Parliament Street. From here on, sensing that my body could maintain a certain pace, I had selected two faster runners to track - one in a yellow-T sporting "Delhi Runner - Rahul" and a Japanese runner sporting a blue outfit. This worked quite nicely -- right until the finish line.

Across the finish line it suddenly hits you -- that heady, giddy feeling, just like when you're drunk. Your legs hurt and wobble but they keep going, taking you past other exhausted runners, sitting on the steps or sprawled in the Recovery Zone. They take you to the refreshments zone, and to the finishers medal around your neck.

For the next couple of days the legs hurt like crazy and you swear never to run like this again. Then, a few days later, it all seems like a forgotten dream and you are searching for your running shoes, once again.


* Ashis Roy - Marathon Man -

* Airtel Delhi Half Marathon --
* Timings - Bib no. 31605 --
* Results Link -
* Certificate -
* Pics -

* ADHM-2014 Winner - Guye Adola (Ethiopia) -

In a different context, the graphic from the Economist nicely illustrated the problems during the first 5km of the half-marathon:

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