Kaveri Trail Marathon is a tough, demanding, grueling marathon held on the banks of a flowing canal, with paddy fields, sugarcane fields, bullock carts, hay stacks & farmers intently working, along the route. There is very little tree cover and the surface is dirt track more used for village life than city roads. The track is interspersed with stones embedded into the ground and it is narrow with capacity to hold only two runners at a time. Moreover, running right through the centre of the track are green tufts of either grass or other some small plants with the result that each runner has only a small place to land his feet. The runners have to constantly keep shifting from left to right and be alert all the time or they could stumble and fall. There is only one small slope at after the 9.5 kms mark, otherwise it is a flat track. The route for half-marathon is a straight one to 10.55 kms and return to the starting point, whereas the full marathoners have to do this loop twice.
Saturday, 18th September 2010 saw nine of us (Raj, Zico, Kavin, Bhaskar, Ashok, Gautam, Mahesh, Amit, Rahul) at the Santacruz airport at 9.15 a.m. all looking fit like going into war. Bhaskar had already started the first of his many witty remarks and repartees, when Kavin commenced the first of his Sardar jokes. Both of these gentlemen kept us in splits throughout the two day marathon safari.
Bangalore was pleasant at 11.00 a.m. when we started on our long road trip to Mysore, which took about 5.5 hours, with a halt for lunch at Kamats hotel enroute. The lunch was a feast in a traditional Mysore style with rice, sambhar, rasam, etc. in a plaintain leaf.
Okay, carbo loading done, now to the Ginger hotel which we reached at 4.30 p.m. Mysore weather was even more pleasant than that of Bangalore and by then it had started raining. I am sure many runners would have eyed that PB, and of course quite a few achieved it as well.
We came down at around 5.15 p.m. and decided to go for a short walk which ended with a loss of few thousand rupees from our wallets – all this happened in a blink of an eye – a friendly neighbourhood autorickshaw wallah eyed us undecided what to do, where to go, when he offered to ferry us to the market to have a look at the traditional Mysore items and bring us back, all for a princely sum of Rs.50/- only. Decision made, 6 of us clambered into the auto, got the red eye from a couple of traffic police guys and reached the venue still undecided what to buy and what we came there for. Raj made the decision to buy some sarees for his wife and everybody followed him in a frenzy and polished off about 20K in less than an hour. We runners have affinity for doing everything with clockwork precision.
Dinner at Ginger was a runners’ special with pasta, curd rice, fried potatoes, fruit jelly, ice cream et al. We had an early dinner and retired to bed around 10 p.m. Sunday morning dawned in an almost chilly cold weather and all of us said “Wow” this must be great – little did we know what was in store for us as the day progressed.
We had to travel about 20kms to a place called Young Island Resort from where we had to collect our bibs, timing chips & food coupons. That done, we had to travel back about 2 kms to the starting point, which was a little inside the main road and where the RFL stall was in full attendance with all supplies already in place. We came across some venerated runners like Honda, Sabine, Kothandapani et al There were some other firangi runners as well and the atmosphere was charged with excitement though it was lacking in the tension usually associated with a big city marathon like Mumbai.
The full marathon race started exactly at 6.30 a.m. after the usual instructions to the runners. Out went Zico, Raj, Mahesh, Amit, Veera, Sundaresan, Krishna. The full marathon route was two loops of the distance from starting point to 10.55 kms and back to the starting point. Water and aid stations were laid at 2.5, 4, 5, 6, 7.5, 9, 10.55 kms and were well stocked with water, lucozade, bananas, oranges, parle-g, peanut butter jelly sandwiches and first aid. Few volunteers were roaming the distance in motorbikes to look out for people who were feeling discomfort and they were a couple of them who kept the volunteers busy. An ambulance with medical doctor was stationed outside the start line which was also bought into use a couple of times.
Next was the half-marathon which also started with clockwork precision exactly at 6.45 a.m. Out went Ashok, Giles, Mani, Mahesh Gune, Sridhar and myself. Giles was in close pursuit of Bhasker and the dream fight had begun. The rain clouds which was witnessed on Saturday had decided to take a day off on Sunday and therefore it was a clear sunny morning which saw the half marathon participants take the road. The route was very scenic and a sight for greenery starved city denizens. The RFL organisation was razor perfect with kms markings in chalk on the ground & cross markings to ensure people do not wander where cows & buffaloes are allowed to.
Few kms gone into, terrain gauged, pace adjusted, steady and determined strides, full concentration on the road ahead, 6 kms – need for replenishing lucozade, 8 kms - runners returning after doing U-turn at 10.5 kms, exclamations, motivations, determined faces, 9 kms - our runners coming, Bhasker galloping back, (where is Giles??), Ashok, Zico, Raj and others, 10.5 kms need for a break. Sun out in full fury now, chugging along slow and steady pace, stumbled about 3 to 4 times, which triggered the cramps, first in the right calf, then in the left calf, then in both calves, taking all the water stops, walking for a few steps after the cramp attacks, then again re-starting till last kms reached, volunteers out – shouting encouragement and the distance to the finish line - 800, 200, 100 to go and then sprint to the finish.
Pleasantly surprised to receive a finishers’ medal and kept it proudly around my neck until the strap broke – no problem, medal a first one. Ran into Giles about to plunge into a local Jacuzzi and Bhasker and Ashok looking fresh as ever, even without the jacuzzi. Again a cramp attack after we started walking towards the Resort, which Ashok kindly helped reduce with massage.
We collected the bib money, had our lunch, which was again quite fantastic with rice, sambhar, rasam, papad & payasam – quite a feast after the early morning work. By the time we came back to the venue, Krishna had finished his race and Mahesh had gone to fetch the others.
The sun was at its beastly best and we were only waiting with trepidation because the usual stalwarts were yet to come. But come they did: one by one Zico, Amit and then a long wait for Raj. By this time we were really worried for Raj and we (Ashok, Bhaskar & myself) decided to venture out into the route with a worried look on our faces. A few minutes later Raj emerged regally escorted by Krishna on one side and Mahesh on other side. We decided to join the party behind the royals and all of us sprinted across to the finish line. Of course, none of us were given a second finisher medals. Kavin was left to finish his first full marathon in the capable hands of Rahul, Amit’s brother. We had to perforce leave the venue because of check out restrictions, damn.
Quite a few achieved their personal best - Amit (whopping 30 mins), Mani (sub 2 hour half & also PB), Sridhar (whopping 23 mins), quite others achieved good timings - Ashok, Krishna, Mahesh, but the real hero was Bhasker Desai with a fourth place in Veteran Category. Kavin, Veera & Sundar achieved their first full marathon.
Endurance building on those monster hills at Aarey and BNP definitely helped in sustaining the pace under the unrelenting and merciless sun. All Mumbai runners finished creditably in this trail marathon.
Food taken by the full marathoners, bibs refunds obtained it was time to leave Mysore, which we did around 2.00 p.m. Enroute we again descended on Kamats, this time justifiably proud of our early morning achievements. All of us ordered Idli & Wada, which was probably the “in” thing to have in Karnataka, along with the dosas. The idli was shaped in a cylindrical shape, enveloped in a patta This was the first time, we were seeing idli in a shape other than like that of an UFO. The dosas mercifully survived the revolution and were round in shape.
Reached Bangalore airport at 8.15 p.m., the plane took off before time and landed in Mumbai after circling overhead for about 30 minutes, enough time for us to have a nights eye view of the Ganpati pandals in Mumbai. Reached home at 12.15 p.m. and had probably the best and soundest sleep in yearssssssssss.