Monday, November 17, 2008

Bangalore Ultra Marathon 2008

Pre Marathon Thoughts:

It has not been six months since I've started having an obsession for running. Before that, I could hardly run more than 3kms. So with these experiences tucked into the past, I decided to run my first official race- the Bangalore Ultra Marathon 2008.

I registered for 50kms. You should be thinking I am mad. Anyone will. After registration, even I thought the same. So the last-to-last weekend, I decided to do my regular training run, and decided how much I can push myself. I did 36kms in a time of 4 hours 9 minutes. Not bad a time, but, I could not push myself to the distance of 42kms, that I wanted to run. I was defeated. That too, badly.

End of the run, I started developing shivers and what-not. I had a hard time driving back home. I was almost going to throw up, and I decided to go and sleep with an empty stomach. I finally managed to sleep, for 5 hours straight.

It is after this realization that I pondered, if 50km will be a bit too much on me. Especially remembering the fact that I'll not be able to reach back home as and when I want. And the result: I boldly chickened out to 25km category.

Bangalore Ultra Marathon happens at a resort called Our Native Village (ONV), approximately 50kms away from Bangalore, near to Hasserghata. The organization of the whole event was very good. They had a bus service from Cubbon Park to the resort, and back.

The buses for 25km category runners were stipulated to start at 4.30AM. That meant I had to get up at 2.30AM, pack my stuff, and get ready. I then had to find a "safe" place to park my car, in that, at the end of the gruelling race, I did not have to tackle another race of hunting for a towed away car. I decided to leave the car at Church St, adjacent to Brigade road, and walk till Cubbon park.

I parked my car, walked up, and reached the bus. The time was 3.45AM. Another 45 minutes left. There were few many runners there already. Most of them were for the 50km category, whose running will start earlier. So also, they had their bus leaving early- 4AM.

Many of the runners left in the first bus, and many joined in with us for the second bus at 4.30AM. Finally the bus took off at 4.35AM. On the way, they distributed oranges, biscuits and such. But I declined all of them, as I can run only on my empty stomach. (Yes, thinking of the food at the end of it is one good motivation to run).

At 6AM, we reached the ONV resort. The only small glitch, that I found in the organization of the event, was that there were only two toilets, and no bath rooms to take bath, or extra changing rooms. I felt, this is the only thing they could have taken care of.

There was no other runner from my running group who was participating for the event. I thought that I'd be stranded alone in the whole pack of runners. Luckily, I found Ashok, a pleasing chap who we used to keep bumping onto during our weekend runs, and had even run with our group once. Now, I had company.

By 6.15AM I was all ready for the run- in my running shorts, shirt and my favourite running shoes. Me and Ashok, marched out to the start-and-finish point of the race.

The 50km runners were already near the start line, waiting for their gun fire, commencing their run at 6.30AM. Aravind, the organizer of the event, and a offical of Run-For-Life running club was dispensing information on the running track, aid posts and such.

The running track is 6.25km one way, making it a 12.5km loop. And 25km meant 2 loops. Sounded easy enough. There were 4 aid posts on the way, serving electerolytes, oranges, bananas, water, and even peanut butter sandwiches (OMG, whose gonna eat that between the run is the first thought I had hearing this).

50km runners already started. Now time was approaching for the start of our race. Just a few minutes before our run, one runner from 50km category came to the finishing point, finishing his first loop- this means he is running at a speed greater than 12.5km/hr. And, no prizes for guessing, he was the winner of the race.

6.30AM: Gun fires. Our race starts. Seeing the pack of people, bumping on to each other, I started getting nervous. All I was thinking of is how to get out of the pack. Just as soon as the race started, the adrenaline rush, along with the urge to get out of the pack, made me sprint out. Couple of minutes, I was in a comfortable position, but, already feeling that I shouldn't have done that sprinting exercise. What I forgot is that the runners is going to get spread across this whole track of 6.25km in a matter of minutes. Early aggression, I knew, is bad. But I couldn't control it.

I had already set my watch to 9minutes count down- to run at 8:1 ratio, running for 8minutes, recuperating the next 1 minute with a walk.

The track is a red mud track. Music had already started pumping me the energy. And minutes passed by with seemingly no change, except the amount of gatorade in the bottle.

I must have finished the first 6.25km in a matter of 30 minutes. I kept running at the same pace. By the end of 10km, I started feeling it. I began realizing I was pusing it harder, and if I did that I might not even finish the 25km.

Lap one ended. Time should be approximately 7.40AM. Pace was okay. I changed my gatorade bottle and had a bite of chocolate. I took a sip of the drink I had in my sipper, synthetic caffeine with lemonade flavour. It just did magic, and I literally sprinted on my way out of the first lap.

Few minutes later, tiredness started kicking in. By the 4km mark, I was doing 7minutes run and 2 minutes walk. I finished the 6.25. I was tired that I didn't even notice the time. At the aid post, I picked a few pieces of orange, ate a few, and dropped a few in my pocket.

By this time, my play list had started its second loop. I tried Linkin Park for some time, and it was too heavy, I felt, it was draining energy out of me. I decided to switch back to the first playing list, my favourite.

The last 6.25km lap was extruciating. I started feeling tired, growing afraid if I'll drop out. But I believed in myself, told myself that I've done more distances than these, in better times. I just kept pusing. The trance had set in my mind. Running was the only thing happening. I was not even listening to the music that was playing.

Two aid posts and a couple of orange pieces later, I was at the last 2km mark. There was a person almost 2-3 meters infront of me. I wasnted to catch up to him, badly. Started pushing harder, and I began realizing he is a better runner than I.

Last 100meters, 50, 20.. 10 meters. The last turn and I can see the finishing line. Yes. I finished it in 2hours 37minutes and 30seconds. I'd have been happier if the time was below 2hr 30minutes. But, I am still satisfied with my results.

Athul announced the finishing of bib number '026', that is me. I felt happy hearing the clap from the spectators. I should be in the top 20 runners to finish, among the 170 runners who participated in the 25km category.

I stretched my legs and arms. Kept some ice on the knee, took off the bib from my chest. And joined the spectator crowd. I talked to few other runners who had finished already. And finally I caught a glimpse of Ashok. He had finished in 2hr 51 minutes, but I missed him finish.

There was a photobooth to take some memories of the event along with you. I went there gave my name to see what they give. They said, they'll be mailing me when the photos are available, over email.

In between, a runner passed us, and an announcement came from the stage: he is running 200km; and had started running 6pm on the Saturday evening. This meant he has already been running for more than 16 hours, continuously. Probably he'll finish in another 5-6 more hours- in 20-24 hours of time. Now, that is what I call endurance.

There was a good lunch provided for the runners. I finished that by around 12.30PM and moved out of the crowd. Made a few calls- announcing my achievement, and by 1.45PM, I was in the bus. The bus, back to Bangalore, took off at 2PM.

The back seat journey was tough on my back. Finally 2hours, a dozen jumps, a seat change, and a few pleasant talks later, I was back at Cubbon park. I walked (or rather dragged myself) back to the car in the Church street. And unsurprisingly, the car was still there and was not towed away.

I thought of getting some books on the way back, but ditched the plan. Got back home. Finally after a bath, some food, and a movie (you'll call me crazy, yet again, if I said, I watched "Silence of the Lambs" to relax myself) I was back in shape. Night came in early for me, and I still can't figure out when I slept. :-)

Post Marathon Thoughts:
Marathon is tough. It is more about endurance than fitness. I was surprised to see people running 75km, 100km and inevitably 200km. It took a lot of guts to do that. What surprised me even more was that there were women running in 50 and 75km categories. Some of them should be in their 40s or 50s.

Indians were less into running for quite some time. Just like any other western habit, I guess running is also getting accepted in the Indian society. And luckily, this time what we have acquired out of westernization is not an evil, probably just a minor madness. :-)


Tanvir Kazmi said...

Congrats! Your post on the event was an "ultra" in itself! and I enjoyed reading the experience.

sajith said...

Impressive. Congratulations!