The Toughest Half Marathon till date

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I went to the expo on Saturday morning to pick up my bib. I heard Rahul Verghese (the organizer) advising someone to run the 10 km instead of 21 km. I wondered why anyone to say something like that. My first half marathon was a trail run. I finished it… so can anyone else.

I developed a cold last night and got nauseous by evening due to the heat. Sleep came in fits and starts at night and I don’t remember sleeping for more than an hour. The alarm at 4:30 am was a relief and I was shocked how hot it was at 5 am.

I reached the start line by 5:15 am. The trail run last year in September started at Golf Course extension road and proceeded towards Behrampur village. This time it was a 100% trail run which started near Bandwari village (5 km ahead of Behrampur village) and proceeded into the jungle. I spotted the 50 year lady who had run her first half marathon same time as me. Last time I met her in March she was running 25 km so I was surprised that today she had registered for 10 km. That should have given me a hint.

The terrain was so rough that very few water points had been arranged. We had been asked to carry water bottles and refill them at the water stations.

1-2 km:

There was no road just a regular track.

2-4 km:

There were only rocks going uphill. I didn’t run, it was impossible. Only people who are experienced trail runners could have run on this terrain. One slip and my ankle would twist. The weather was ok. Not bad but not great either.

4-8 km:

This was a regular, flat route. Generally, the path is hard but not here. It was quite sandy building pressure on the ankles. I find that the harder the ground, the easier it is to run. I didn’t sprint because I wanted to conserve energy. I don’t know whether that was a good idea or not because I lost steam in the last few kms. I could have saved time through sprints. But then again, maybe the last 4 km would have become more torture. I didn’t stop at the 8 km water point since I had some water which would last the few kms. I decided to refill on the way back.

9-10.5 km and 10.5-12 km

We had to take a U turn and then run on the same terrain. This part was torture. It was downhill but full of rocks and only rocks. I was about to slip and fall once and twist my ankle. I decided to take it slow. The way back was so much harder. Now the rocks were uphill, it had become sunny and hot and I was thirsty. My water had become hot and there was little left. Then I got lost for 100 meter, realized my mistake and quickly retraced my steps. Counting each 100 m I reached a water point.

12-18 km

This should have been easy. It was back to the flat but sandy ground. But by then I was dead tired. On a regular run, it is my breath which slows me down… never my legs. I don’t think my legs ever hurt during the run. I could feel the 40 degree heat and walked quite a bit. There were other runners around and that kept me going. But even they were exhausted and walked most of the way. I gave up on time tracking and target. All I wanted to do was finish it. That in itself would be an achievement. The water at refill points had also become hot by now. The lukewarm water didn’t help with the thirst.

18-21 km

At 18 km, my ankles started screaming at me asking me to stop. I told them it wasn’t an option because:

  • A jeep had passed by with volunteers few moments ago asking me if I was ok. I told them “Yes”. I don’t think there would be any more patrols
  • So the only way to reach the finish line was on foot. I had to walk it… no matter what
  • I didn’t have any of the organizers’ numbers so calling them for help was out of the question

At 19 km, my shins, calves and knees were ready to murder me. I wondered if I would faint. I have never fainted before and didn’t know what it feels like. By now I had stopped trying to even slow jog. 3 hours were over already and this was going to be the worst timing of my life… exceeding the first half marathon. Not that it really mattered. I just wanted to finish and drink cold water at the finish line.

Last 500 meters:

Torture. I thought I was last till another guy walked up to me and proceeded to slow jog the last 500 m. By now, I was past caring. I had no energy in me. I was pukish. All I wanted was cold water and my bed. Somehow I reached the finish line without collapsing and vowed “Never again. A 100% trail or even a trail run- never again. In this heat- never again”.

I rushed to Cafe Delhi Heights for some breakfast and have spent the whole day drifting in and out of sleep. I feel fine now and will probably run the Cross country half marathon in August since only 8 km is a trail.

But yeah… hats off to trail runners. It is soooooo much harder than road running and requires special kind of stamina. I have also noticed that a lot of things impact the run pace- weather and terrain. I pick up pace when the weather is great… extreme cold and hot weathers slow me down. Also, my fastest runtimes are on familiar terrain. Like, Galleria. I know the road so well picking up pace is not even an effort. Or the road around my complex. I am slower when the road is unfamiliar.

The plan is to eat lots of carbs today, get a foot massage tomorrow evening and get back to workout from Tuesday.

 


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