Saturday seems like ages ago. I took the metro to IFFCO Chowk, where Souvik picked me up to go collect the bib. The most difficult part of the race is just getting to the starting point. The map marker is basically in the middle of nowhere. If you don’t believe me, look for yourself.
On Sunday morning, I woke up at a god forsaken hour and Souvik picked me up around 0400. It was a nice long drive over to the start point. Despite the fact that I was there the previous morning, I felt like we were nearly lost several times (we weren’t). Once we got there, we met the other crazy people like us who woke up incredibly early and made the long drive to the middle of nowhere to run a cross-country race. Rahul Verghese acknowledged this when he got on the mic. He said, “Congratulations, you’ve done the toughest part of this race. Getting to the start line!” The sun was just about rising when the half marathon folks started at 0530.
The 10K and 5K group was flagged off at 0545 or so. I’ve noticed that if I start with the crowd, everyone tries to run fast and eventually I burn out quite quickly. This time, I started off right at the end and walked for a few minutes before I started running. In fact, I was among the last few people cross the start line. I made a good attempt to run by feel/colour, though I suspect I need more practice.
Rahul warned us that things would get tricky very quickly for about 3.5 km and then it would open up into a nice smooth trail. Damn, he wasn’t kidding. It was dusty, there were rocks all around, and thorns. I think we’ve all got scratches and bleeds today. At that point, I was warmed up enough to slowly start passing people. If the rocks didn’t get you, the mud would. Or the thorns on the ground. Or the thorns on the trees. Being tall, I had to duck very often to avoid thorny branches. About this time, I was warmed up enough and confident enough to overtake folks who started too fast :D That went well for a while until the bottom of my feet hurt like hell as through I had a stone inside it.
I stopped and cleared out my shoe thinking I had one of the sticky thorns stuck inside my shoe. I found nothing. I tried walking again and it still hurt. It then dawned on me that I stepped on a thorny branch. The thorn broke off and it was poking my feet through my shoes. I found a large stone, sat on it, and then started trying to pull the thorn off. It took me a good minute to get any grip on it. Perhaps, the next time I should carry a pair of pliers ;)
After the stretch of stones and thorns, it opened up into a nice wide trail. This stretch was good to run on and I made good pace here. I mostly ran this stretch with a few short walking breaks when I noticed I was out of breath. Between the Faridabad XC and now, I certainly feel like I can do longer stretches of running. Every time I wanted to slow down, I told myself that I’d slow down in the thorny area anyway.
The heat was horrible. By the time we started, the sun was high up in the sky and the heat was tearing at us. On the way back, the last 0.5 km or so was awful with no tree cover at all. This time, I seem to have managed to smile at the camera more often. Also, look less like I’m about to die.
At the finish line everyone was congratulating each other and talking about their experience. The best feeling in the world is when I got the cold towels and dumped it on my face and head. That felt good. I forgot about Strava when I finished. I only had eyes for the water counter. I desperately refilled my bottle and finished it in one gulp.
My goal was to finish under 1:22:00 to qualify for the Airtel Delhi half Marathon. Thanks to some confusion though, the 10K ended up being actually a 11K. Though my GPS told me it was about 11.2K. I finished the race at the official time of 1:27:13 with a pace of 7:56 min/km. I’m incredibly happy with the pace, especially considering it’s my first 10K and first cross-country race.
Today, I signed for my next 10K.