The half marathon is a very popular distance. It is long enough to test the athletic ability of even the most hardened ultra marathoner- but short enough for anyone to achieve. Racing season is on in full swing. Delhi- Goa-Chennai. Every weekend there is a race as we train for our marquee race- SCMM 2015. For some of us these races are a time trial for 21k, as a part of the full marathon training, and for others they are testing the waters before their final race, to gain confidence.
Yes Delhi is an easy course and the weather is the biggest advantage. But we still have a couple of months for our all-out races. So this is a great ego booster! For me, this 1:54 finish has been the realisation of a long awaited dream. “Sub-2”, “Sub-2” I had driven myself and everyone around me crazy. At least my chant can stop now! My new name is 1:54!!!
After consistent 2:04/2:05 half marathon timings over the last few races, a dejected me stopped running this distance as a race. I am not a fast runner. I am a better long distance runner. It became a joke that my half and full marathon pace was the same. Fair enough. I resigned to my fate and focused on bettering my Full Marathon time. That was a daunting goal in itself. If I match that time I will be happy! Anyway, with single minded dedication I started working towards SCMM 2015.
I attacked my hill-o-phobia by training and running a successful Satara half nonstop. As I got stronger I upped the speed training. The incidental result of all this hard work was that my conversational pace dropped dramatically. We continued our chats as we flew on Sundays over long distances. The most critical fun factor was retained!
How should I run Delhi I asked Savio the Sunday before the race over breakfast. Thus came the cryptic reply from the expert, “Just run your race.” I was stumped. What does that mean? I mulled over his wise words, unable to make anything out of it! I left that thought to gestate in my head and reached Delhi. Excitement was high. Most of us had run Delhi before and knew what to expect. We knew we could safely push our limits and go for it. I geared up my mind to go for it. 1:59:58 was all that I wanted!
Come Sunday morning, we all looked like a bunch of goons with jackets, hoodies, head gear, and a few like Pervin and me, a couple of cartoons using garbage bags as ponchos to protect us against the cold. With all thanks to Siva, we were right up at the start line, rubbing shoulders with the Elites and the celebrity runners. At 7.05 am we were off.
After the surge of the group A runners, I settled into a good rhythm and by 3 km I had found my pace. Comfortable. Easy. And most important the one that I could still talk at. And so I went with one of the most unfriendly crowd that I have ever run with. No one talking – no one encouraging. Some with ipods plugged in and others who were too focused on the race. I tried for a bit then gave up. After a bit I caught with Rahul and it was him and me going along. Almost together the entire distance. This time, following the advice of Pulin, I divided the race into 4 sections of 5 km each- suddenly it became a small distance. As I kept an almost constant pace for each lap as the course was pancake flat. We ran past India gate, the lawns of the Parliament house, which itself was hidden behind the smog. As I ran along, I was flying high. Feeling amazing. That is when I realized what Savio was talking about. I was running my natural pace. With myself. Not running for a time or anything. Just running. A beautiful run, as we turned around and traced the route back, into the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. I flew to the finish crushing the last 2 km in 10 minutes.
I followed my intuition and ran a successful race. Maybe I could have run faster, but I definitely would not have enjoyed my run more. This was one of most satisfying runs of my life. Of course my much improved fitness level played an important part in this.
As I mature as a runner I see the long road ahead. In the short term, I have to focus on SCMM 2015. In the long run, I have to become stronger so that the races become easier. The distance seems shorter as I am used to much longer runs. It is all relative to our comfort level.
Train with some pain, do the hills stronger, the speed drills a bit faster, and see the race become easier.
We can train for hills, we can train for speed. But if we run with Joy, that will be our best pace.
Set a goal, work for it. Fail, and try again. Succeed and move onto something bigger. It is essential to dream to endure the pain. Victory will be sweet.
Possible titles for this post came from my Playlist (on shuffle) of
the last 5km:
Rang De Basanti
Taare Zamein Par
Rise Up- My dream is to Fly…Over the Rainbow, so high!