Monday, August 29, 2011

Hyderabad Half marathon - Rolling Beast


The decision to take part in the Hyderabad Half marathon in August 2011 was taken as part of the program to do at least 8 events in the calendar year 2011. Plus we were busy in the organization part of the BNP Half marathon the week before and therefore, needed one event to participate in.

So, Hyderabad beckoned on 28th August 2011. Spontaneously, about 7 to 8 of us joined and said ayes to Hyderabad. Unfortunately about three of them had to withdraw at the last minute citing office situations.

About 5 of us traveled together in HussainSagar express on Friday evening, Bhasker coming in by air on Saturday. The discussions throughout the journey on the train centered around the marathon event and various running related topics. It always marvels me that we runners find so many things to talk entirely about – running. We had carried the graphic route chart for the half and full marathon and pronto, Giles Drego became energetic in dissecting te various ups and downs on the chart, the hills to attack, which ones to go easy with and what strategy to follow.

We reached Begumpet at around 11.45 a.m. reached the hotel, refreshed and set out for a lunch before setting off to the bib collection venue. The lunch, an unlimited meal costing Rs.50/- obviously did not set our wallets on fire but certainly did set our stomachs on fire, spicy as it was, saving grace was the dahi, of which we had copious quantities.

Lunch done, off we went to the St. Mary’s college in Yusufguda to collect our bibs. There was a nice little sale going on of perfomax t-shirts and shorts – the prices were good, colours were better, so all our wallets became lighter in one hour at the bib venue.

That done, Kavin and myself went to Nampally to buy some biscuits from the famous Karachiwala – I think, in the process our legs got hammered from so much walking, standing on the bus, climbing stairs etc. It was getting late and we were sort of getting edgy to get back to the hotel and relax. But any and every auto-rickshaw guy was quoting exorbitant rates to ferry from one place to another even a 2 to 3 kms distance. The guy just quotes a high price and then starts coming down repeatedly to where we desire the price to be. I wonder why they don’t have a system of metered tariff in these parts. Finally, Kavin hit upon the idea of going by local train from Nampally station to Begumpet station and then hitching an auto ride to the hotel. The local train ride from Nampally to Begumpet was an experience in itself. The cost of the train fare to Begumpet was Rs.2/- which was about 5 stations away from Nampally. The journey took exactly 13 minutes, so our calculations to reach Begumpet before too late was better, though it was tiring in itself.

The organizers had made transport arrangements to pick up participants from the respective hotels which they had mentioned in the website, but the pick up time from our hotel was at an unearthly hour of 3.15 a.m., which meant we had to get up at 2.15 a.m. at least in order to get ready by their pick up time. Luckily, we had a runner in the hotel who had arranged for a cab to take him to the venue, so the full marathoners i.e. Dnyanesh & Sebastian hitched a ride with Madhu in his cab. We, the three half marathoners also arranged a call taxi to pick us at 5.00 a.m. Ready as were by 4.50 a.m. the call taxi guy needed multiple directions from us, newcomers to Hyderabad, in order to reach our venue. Looks like Hyderabad traffic police needs to give geography lessons to its cab and auto drivers, because very few knew all the distances thoroughly.

We reached the venue at around 5.15 a.m. and the full marathoners were still lined up to start because the dignitary who was supposed to flag off the race, as expectedly came late. Off they went to tumultuous applause followed few minutes later by the relay runners. Next we were lined up to start at 6.00 a.m. There was a song item by a local singer, which as an item song and a few runners started dancing vigorously to the tunes. Wisely the singer stopped a few seconds before 6.00 a.m. and the race was flagged off with a lot of enthusiasm. There were a lot of local runners including some who I think were from the police or some services department and they were enthusiastic in running as if left out of school early. That jammed me up a little at the start. I was planning to stick to the 2.00 hour pacer but he was going too fast and all I could see of him was at a distance already about a couple of hundred feet ahead. The race was jammed up for at least half kilometer before we started getting space to move around.

I did not see any kilometer marking until 11 kms so my description will be devoid of each kilometer description. At the start itself we ascended a flyover, which threatened to never end and when we came down finally, we ran into another hill going up. It became a constant succession of one hill ending and another one looming ahead. The gradient varied from gentle to monstrous to double headers. Constant gusts of wind was blowing across the runners hitting them directly in the face and abdomen. The route traversed through the office district of Hyderabad and then it went onto Cyberabad and Hi-Tec city (not sure if these are the same name for one place). Enthusiasm was evident at various places by the organisers – the water station was well stocked and neatly arranged with water and Gatorade and few places also had bananas. The route was passing through some famous brands like Porsche, Nike and some local ones as well. At one place there were boulders on the left hand side, so I thought this place must be named Boulderabad. There were very few people lined up on the road to cheer the runners since the route did not hit any residential district, but surprisingly the police were cheering the runners. In fact, they were multiple tasking that morning by cheering and giving directions to the runners, holding back the traffic, scolding the jaywalkers etc. What surprised me is that the police were cheering in English and they looked fitter than the police we find in Mumbai. Home Miniter, R.R. Patil to note this and do something about it, rather than close the dance bars. The roads were clean and without potholes, though the same cannot be said entirely of Hyderabad – some very dangerous potholes could be found here. But the roads on which race traversed were smooth, tar roads with nary a crack in it.

Well, digressing from the report, but the run had now become one to enjoy the scenery, Personal best be damned. It was one of those days, when you run into an unsurmountable mountain, you decide the next best thing to do – to somehow reach across without too much damage. That was my strategy now and chugging along nicely at comfortable pace, took walking breaks three times for exactly 15 seconds each. One pee break and two times that I stopped to refill my bottle meant I did not run for about 1 minute. Came across offices of TCS, Microsoft, Lemon Tree hotel – all state of the art buildings and gleaming nicely on a Sunday morning and waiting perhaps for the throng of its employees to join it. Well, IT people do work on Sundays as well, I am told.

19 kms done and we entered Gachibowli stadium and still more than 1 kms to go. The outer periphery itself is more than a kilometer, so there I was running along nicely the 2.30 pacer was ahead of me, then he became behind me as I accelerated the pace. With only 300 metres to go a sardarji runner on my right stopped suddenly, so I urged to push for a few more metres. I came into a stadium track with only 50 metres to go and pumped up the pace to finish in 2.27.15 hours. Not a bad effort in a rolling, undulating hilly course with very strong head winds – I call it as the Rolling Beast. It was definitely not an easy track to run and since I have done more than few half marathons, I had to call upon all my experience to pace it properly without getting burnt off in the middle itself. Not at all unhappy in not getting a personal best – finishing was important here and enjoying the scenery.

The Gachibowli is a magnicient stadium, very clean and elegant but the runners had started throwing the discarded food packets and various other things on the track itself. It was sad to see a magnificent racing track littered totally with garbage. While the organizers did a marvelous job in bringing this marathon to fruit and I hope this event happens every year – there were a few hitches and hiccups, which needs to be highlighted.

My friend Bhasker Desai in line for a sub-4 hour marathon and a strong contender for a podium finish in the senior veteran category was denied a relispray by the people manning the water stations at 35 and 36 kms. In fact, they did not even have a relispray on hand. I thought that was basic in any marathon. Few minutes lost at km 37 blew his chances for a sub 4 hour finish time. He did come 1st in the over 55 age category. Plus I thought they should have arranged for few garbage bins in the stadium itself so that people could throw leftovers in the bins rather than on the track and the grass.

Amongst our group, Dnyaneshwar Tidke came in 3rd in men’s open in his personal best of 3.11 hours whilst Sebastian Schuller came in 5th in 3.17 hours. Veteran runner Giles Drego came in 1st in the men’s senior veteran in half marathon and Bhasker Desai 1st in the over 55 age category in full marathon. So, all in all four top 5 finish from a six member contingent from Mumbai. Not bad, eh!