Saturday, April 16, 2011

BNP 5k Team Relay Race

Though the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi is known more for its organizational mess and corruption, it was also the event which saw some stirring performance by Indian women sportspersons – one of such electrifying performance was the Indian women quartet winning the 400 metres relay title besting holders Nigeria and England. This was followed a month later by another stupendous feat of winning the 400 metres relay gold at the Asian Games held at Guanghzhou in a tougher field. Indians were on their feet!

This led to a clamour amongst the runners’ fraternity in Mumbai to host a similar such event for runners i.e. a relay race – thus was born the concept of a relay race for long distance runners. The idea was to have a 4 into 5K relay race in a team with four runners each doing 5k each totaling 20K for the team. We were aware that RFL Bangalore organized urban stampede on somewhat similar lines, so were comfortable with the concept.

The concept was debated amongst few of the organizers and it was felt that the team selection should be left to the runners themselves – the organizers would not get into the nitty gritty of selecting teams – however, since this was first time event in Mumbai a lifeline was offered to the runners in the sense that they could look for teams online. The event was originally scheduled to be held on 28th November, 2010 but due to some reason got postponed and then the Mumbai marathon season dawned upon us, which therefore resulted in the event finally being scheduled for Sunday, 27th March 2011.

A core organizational team of Ram, Giles Drego, Milton Frank, Ashok Someshwar, Shashidhar Shankar, Bharatbhai & Kaushik Panchal was formed to tackle the various issues that kept cropping up vis-à-vis the organization of this race. It was decided to give certificates to the first three teams and for that purpose Milton Frank took control of the design and printing of the certificates. Bharatbhai took charge of the printing of team bibs, Kaushik of organizing day passes at the Borivli National Park and Giles Drego of procuring the team batons. Giles and Ashok were responsible for doing the km markers at the BNP in yellow paint, a back-breaking job in itself. All of us met a day prior to the event to take care of last minute glitches and procure the snacks and refreshments to the runners.

We received entries from 30 teams for which registrations were closed one week prior itself. Many a teams were made online at the RFL wall, some were locality based, few were company based and a few teams kept on getting changed from time to time and sometimes on a daily basis.

Finally on D-Day i.e. March 27th, 2011 we had 24 teams turning up and every team hoping in their hearts that they would do a good race, do well for themselves, come in the top three etc. Bibs distributed, it was time to brief the runners the rules; tell them what to expect and explain a few other details. This was beautifully done by Milton Frank with a few skipped out details being added in by Bharatbhai and Giles Drego. We had four volunteers collecting the registration fees and giving out team bibs and batons. A couple of teams were made on the day of the race itself comprising of runners who did not have teams or whose team members did not turn up at the last moment.

The Relay was of 20K and each runner in a team was to do a run of 5K. The runners were supposed to go 2.5K out, U-turn and return back, passing the baton to their next in turn team mate. The teams were a mix of champion athletes, veterans, regulars, sprinters et al. There were three all-Girls teams as well vying for glory with the Veterans. Surely there must have been some thought process to the composition of the teams as well as race strategies. There was a lot of eager, animated and frenzied talk of which team would win. Hot on many runners lips were teams like The Twlight Zone, Flying Cheetahs and Speed Kings; the first two teams boasting of State Level runners.

The race was flagged off by Khushru Patel a legend in running circles in Mumbai. Khushro Patel, 71 years still runs regularly and recently completed the Mumbai half marathon despite having an injury. Khushro was recently felicitated in the RFL Mumbai Runners’ Bash held in January 2011 with a Lifetime Achievement Award in running in view of his tremendous achievements in the last few decades.

At the whistle, there was loud cheering and the runners were off with some of them running with such pace and gusto that it looked as if they were in a 100 meter dash. But it surprised many to see the first 3 or 4 runners all doing their first 5K Leg in 18 to 20 minutes. Looking back, that should not have surprised many, as there were quite a few top runners, some representing their State and others from top Mumbai clubs and groups.

Once the event started, everything started clicking in clockwork precision – batons were exchanged to the thunderous roar for the incoming runners and steadily each teams started completing their respective legs. Priya & Sripad were noting down the names of each team that came in at each leg and Venkat Krishnan & Ram were noting down the timings of the teams that were finishing at the 4th leg.

Few popular runners such as Giles Drego, Radhika Misquitta, Roshni Rai, Ganesh Krishnan, Mahadev Samjiskar, Shiv Dogra etc. came in to thunderous applause from the remaining runners and people gathered to witness the event.

The Flying Cheetahs team of Gaurav Saktavat, Gautam Salaskar, Parvachan Kumar & Dharmendra Yadav came in first in a time of 1.25.50 hours followed by Twilight Zone comprising of Radhika Misquitta, Adrian Lasrado, Gareth Dias & Craig Fernandes in a time of 1.28.02 hours. Third came in BNP 3 team of Ambarish Gurav, Prashant Abhange, Devendra Yadav & Sanjay Kasle in a time of 1.36.01 hours.

The certificates were awarded with Milton Frank being the MC of the event and the first three awards were given respectively by Khushro Patel, Ashok Someshwar & Bharatbhai Oza. At the end of the relay, soft drinks and glucose biscuits were provided, snaps and photos were taken by our official photographer Ashok Someshwar.

Thus ended the 1st edition of the team relay race which we hope will be a regular feature in the running calendar in Mumbai.

Thane half marathon makes a dream debut

Narendra Deraje and his team deserve a standing ovation – for an almost perfect start to the Thane half marathon innings – few glitches remained which has been pointed out to him and for which he has responded in double quick time with positive intentions.

THM route straddled between two highways – starting from eastern express and almost touching the western express highway – it was a undulating hilly route with few twisters – a tough route for runners. It was an out and back route from the starting point it goes to the left for about 500 metres before turning back all the way to 11.5 kms and then returning to the starting point. Timing mats were placed at 1.5 kms and 11.5 kms in between – the road most part was concrete on the way up and on the return leg, there was a small stretch of tar road on the extreme left, which was used by the runners. The route was a straight east-west road and so on the return leg, the runners were running into a climbing sun, which was gentle for most part of the stretch except perhaps from 15 kms onwards. One part of the road was closed to traffic, so the runners had one entire part to themselves. Volunteers there were plenty – all enthusiastic and smiling friendly faces – lots of water stations, forgot to count, including lucozades and also volunteers holding water bottles in between the water stations. Medical teams was roaming up and down the entire route and ambulances were blazing their sirens up and down the route indicating the toughness of the route and the requirements of medical aid by few runners – in between young volunteers were providing relispray to the runners. Music bands there were about four in number, I think – providing much needed boost to the tiring legs.

THM was to start at 6.00 a.m. and so we set out from our houses at 4.15 a.m. travelling by eastern express highway despite staying in the western suburbs in order to pre-empt the possibility of road jams on the ghodbunder road. Reaching the venue at 5.00 a.m. we found everything in orderly fashion – volunteers directing traffic to the parking slot, people standing at the entrance guiding runners – everything working in smooth clockwork fashion.

Bhasker, myself and Sripad travelled in Bhasker’s car to the location and ran into a whole horde of RFL runners – it seemed the entire RFL fraternity was there – enthusiastic, eager and boisterous – Mike with his camera and all others exchanging notes and hi5s and wishes a plenty. Met with Neeraj from DM site while waiting for the event to start – the holding area was huge with sponsors’ banners on one side and cloth wall on the other side – fireworks was in eager display and announcements from the MC kept us in high spirits.

Start at 6.00 a.m. got delayed first by 5 minutes, then by 5 minute instalments until at last it started at about 6.33 a.m., delay which we thought was due to a politician’s delay in arriving at the site, but clarified by Narendra to be due to an overturned truck which needed a crane to be brought in to clear the site.

The weather was pleasant at the start, the route reached the main ghodbunder road and then branched off to the right for about 500 metres which had the first timing mat and then turned left – Milan stayed with me for about 5 kms – good going at the start – brisk pace – unfortunately there were a few walkers who were blocking our road – we had to urge them to move to the extreme left in order to allow the runners to proceed. First small incline at just after 5 kms – okay no bother – Milan stayed back at this point. At about 6.5 kms there was a monster hill which was a twister as well – a real beauty – almost 1 kms in length. The kms markings were on the road so had to strain to look out for them. A couple of times, had to stop to re-pin the bib, which was coming off, possibly due to sweat from the t-shirt.

At around 8 kms, runners started coming back on the return leg, our guys started I think at around 9 kms onwards – first of course, the marathon monk Apurba, no surprise that – was looking out for him only as the first one – followed by ageless Bhasker, Sohanlal, bare chested Ajit, Kavin and others.

Reached the turnaround at 11.5 kms still going good, sun not yet out in the open. Again on the return leg, hollered out to runners still coming in to the turnaround at half-way mark – Hari, Gary, Genieve, Supriya, Pandurang and others, Shashi bringing up the rear. Encountered a few hills on the return leg as well by running slowly and picking up on the downhill. From 15 kms onwards, the sun started hitting the runners, but there were plenty of water stations, so stopped at a couple of them to throw water on my head and neck. Ran into Mani who was not running but was there to encourage us and to take some pictures at around 17 kms. Dr. Oak passed me with his trademark umpire hat and full sleeved white shirt at about 19 kms, turned the last corner - slight twinge of cramps here, but not enough to come in the way of an almost sprint finish – to a personal best of 2.06.54 hours.

Came in to a joyous reunion with RFL friends – almost all of them returning their personal best – unanimous confirmation that it was a beast of a course. Stayed put at the finish to greet other runners coming in one by one – Supriya, Mohana, Ganesh, Dhanraj and others. Went in to collect medal from an ever smiling volunteer who actually put it around my neck, some refreshments, some more joyous shouts, hi5s, camera clicks galore – all in all a satisfying second event of 2011.

Waking up from a much deserved siesta, a SMS greeted with the net timings – WOW! how brilliant was that – Masthane has surely upped the bar with their outstanding first marathon at Thane.