Monday, October 29, 2012

Vasai Virar Marathon - a tough one to conquer



Vasai Virar Marathon – a tough one to conquer

It was a late decision to run the Vasai Virar Marathon on October 14th. There were a few other commitments coming my way and by the time those commitments were cleared and i was free to run the Vasai Virar marathon, i guess the entries were closed. But thanks to Anand and Bruno Goveas who is the main organiser of the race, i got a late entry.

There were no butterflies in the stomach at the prospect of running a 42 kms race because i was intending to take this as a practise long run for the marquee event in January i.e. the Mumbai Marathon.

So bibs received the previous day we went by Raj’s car to the Viva College in Virar which was the starting point for the race. Alongside me were legends of running like Bhasker Desai and Raj Vadgama and young upcoming marathon runner Sandesh Shukla. Sitaram Meena another young and refreshing marathon runner was in another car.

Mani had arranged with his friend for a room near the starting point which was a blessing in disguise for us because we could refresh ourselves before starting off for the race as well as relax afterwards. The starting point arena was agog with activity befitting a city marathon with pandals, police barricades, scores of volunteers, announcements galore.

The race was to be flagged off at 7.00 a.m. but almost got off three minutes before itself in the enthusiastic melee surrounding the event. Ultimately it got flagged off at the right time and off were at 7.00 a.m. along the roads of Virar.

The first five kms wound through a village and it was amazing to see the number of people out on the streets cheering and rooting for us with all their might. People of all walks of life and all ages and many school children were cheering, rooting, shouting, exhorting the runners amidst a cacophony of live music, drum beats, bugles et al. The adrenaline rush was tremendous and never before in all the races have i encountered such a cheering enthusiastic crowd. The non-stop cheering just lifted our tempo and myself along with Sandesh were going at a fine clip of 6 minutes per kilometre with nary a struggle or effort. There were plenty of water stations along the road and the two flyovers were encountered on the way up was dismissed with the contempt that regular hill runners give to such flyovers.

Sandesh had set a target of 2.15 for the first half but we were well within that time limit passing through 21 kms in 1.59.32 seconds, a personal best for me and a first time that i had run that distance in under 2 hours. So one achievement already under the belt.

From 22 kms onwards the pace started dropping for me but Sandesh was going strong so i advised him to carry on nevertheless. A combination of heat and traffic started affecting the runners later on exacerbated by lack of water and medical aid in the latter part of the race. There was only sporadic cheering from now on, but whatever cheering brigade was there they were very enthusiastic and rooting for even one runner. It was very enervating to the tired legs. The traffic started getting denser and the heat was affecting the runners more at this juncture. I had one gu-gel with me which i thought i will take only at 37 kms when i need it the most. There was one gentleman who was providing glucon-d powder and it was like a manna from heaven. I got one small packet of parle-g biscuits at around 24 kms which gave me tremendous strength to push through another 3 to 4 kms comfortably. I was looking for a banana vendor along the way but looks like Vasai Virar is not a banana country because i could not espie even one such vendor along the route. But the people on the street were very friendly and encouraging and clapping for the runners along the way.

At around 35 kms i got talking with a young guy all of 16 who had run the 7 kms race and had come 22nd in the event. He was pretty enthusiastic about long distance running but i advised him not to overdo the stuff. The toughest part was between 23 to 30 kms but after crossing that milestone i was pretty damned sure that i am gonna finish and from the time on my watch, with a decent personal best. After 37 kms we again enter the village belt but this time the sun was beating down mercilessly though the traffic was negligible along this route. The only worry was water getting over but thankfully there  were many good Samaritans along the way providing water at exactly the right stage. Mulraj Gala came at around 38 kms and gave some cold water which was a great relief. Finally the end was in sight and ran down to the finish in a personal best time of 5.07.00 hours.

I would say it was a gruelling tough marathon due to a late start and not sufficient water on the return leg. More volunteers on the return leg and especially when the runners were finishing would have been great but i guess the organisers would improve upon it next year. Their heart was in the right place though and the sincerity was evident along the route. This is one marathon which i feel is going to grow by leaps and bounds in the future. .  .

So that concludes my racing calendar for the year having run 4 events only during the year, three of which were first timers.