Saturday, April 16, 2011

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.

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