Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Auroville, Autograph and Anuradha

Auroville marathon- This was supposed to be a family run - My wife running her 10km and myself running a 21km. We had booked the train ticket, hotel and return bus ticket well in advance.

Unfortunately my wife fell down during a cycle ride and her marathon participation was ruled out.

I discussed this with my cycling buddy shankar and he agreed to accompany me as he was running a 10km. Initially we had some apprehension about railway authorities not allowing shankar to travel with a ticket booked under a different name.

On Friday night we met at yeshwantpur railway station. Everything i heard about this train was funny to both of us. It's called garib rath - which means it is meant for poor but it was a complete AC train with nice comfortable seats and berths.This train has generated very poor response due to the route it takes or maybe due to very few travellers between pondy and bangalore.

Anyway the TTE was very nice to us. He asked shankar to take a ticket on the spot. Then it was the usual chat with fellow passengers. The discussion obviously was about running and cycling. Once they got bored of us and slept ( some were pretending to sleep to avoid us ) , myself and shankar continued talking about guitar and western music. This is what happens when 2 extroverts suffering from insomnia decide to travel in an empty train. Shankar also has a nice habit ( which proved fatal to me the next night ) of reading novels before he sleeps.So it was around 3 am that we decided to close our eyes and go to sleep.

The next morning i also met my friend and running buddy John leo who was in the next compartment. Fortunately john also had booked the same hotel. All 3 of us got down and started walking towards the hotel. On the way we had our breakfast too. I saw lot of people cycling on the streets of Pondycherry including ladies and most of those cycles were single speed-WOW.

Once we reached our hotel, we got freshned up and ordered lunch ( thali ). Post lunch we planned to visit Auroville to collect our BIB for the next day run. We got to know that the marathon organizers had arranged shuttle buses that picks people form different hotels and bring them to the venue.
It was during this time i met Anuradha - mother of 2 kids who is passionate about running marathons across cities. She has run in Mangalore, Mysore, Bangalore etc. More about her later.

We reached the venue very late - thanks to the driver who was told to stop at every hotel and pick up other runners on the way. Once we collected our BIB we headed to a session that discussed about Auroville marathon and barefoot running session by Frederick and Barefoot Ted

I am a barefoor runner too. Sometimes i run with minimalistic shoes and sometimes i go completely barefoot. I somehow got an Autograph at the back of my BIB.

People who are interested to know why we should run barefoot can read this book - BORN TO RUN

Shankar collected his BIB and had left us to meet some of his friends. Lot of runners had pasta as their dinner @ Auroville. The shuttle bus returns back to pondycherry leaving the venue around 8 pm. This pissed me off as i wanted to hit the bed early. Somehow i reached the hotel around 9 pm and had curd rice with john. John's room mate was running a full marathon and hence the 1st bus was @ 2 am. Our plan was to take the bus and reach early. I called shankar.

Rajani   : Hi shankar, where are you ?
Shankar: Hi. I am waiting for my PIZZA
Rajani  : You left around 6 pm. I thought you would have finished your dinner by now.
Shankar: No man. We were just chilling around.
Rajani :  Please come soon. I am about to sleep.
Shankar: This place is just 2 km away and I will be there in 30 min.

Hoping that he doesn't go in search of ice cream after his dinner i tried to sleep.Normally before a lond distance cycle ride or a marathon i don't get sleep due to excitement. It was 10 pm and here i am still awake thinking that the previous night too i slept after 3 am.Somehow my eyes closed and i don't remember when i went into deep sleep. I had a dream that there was some noise. It was not a dream. It was dear shankar knocking the door. Shankar was busy finishing his restoom formalities and i was trying very hard covering myself under a blancket to close my eyes to get some sleep. The lights were still on. Shankar and Robert Ludlum were still romancing each other.

Rajani: I don't think i can get up early to catch the 2 am bus.
Shankar:Let me check the bus details on my mobile. We have 4 buses overall.
Rajani: Cool, i will take the 3 am or 3:40 am bus. I will change my alarm from 2 am to 3 am.

Thanks a ton to shankar he woke me up around 3:30 AM to tell me that i can still try to catch the 3:40 AM bus :-). He had slept with the novel on his face and the lights were still on. Looks like Robert Ludlum did a good lullaby job. Anyway if he had not woken me up i would have done my marathon in my dream. Somehow i quickly got ready in 30 min and went down hoping that i would get some help from somebody. Luckily i met a guy who was waiting for his friend and they offered me to help.They were full marathon runners and i thanked and wished them good luck.

Since i reached early ( around 4:30 am ) i could see the FULL marathon event. It began with a warmup session. I saw yogesh rao and sunil ( daily mile buddies ). I spoke to sunil for sometime and wished him good luck. It was very nice to see the full marathoners running in that dark night with torches in their hand. There were few cyclist with headlights and taillamps guiding them in the dark.

6:15 AM : HALF marathon starts. I saw Mayank Rungta and his friends. I also saw Anita bora . We handled the bag to the staff at the baggage counter. I had a nice warmup session running around with John. I was right behind the 1st row as i didn't wanted to run with many people around for the 1st few kms. Lap by lap I was passing through the amazing woods of auroville. At some point there was LIVE music to cheer the runners and ofcourse several aid stations where water, electral and snacks were provided to runners. I never stopped anywhere until i completed 12 kms. It was a continous run. After the 12th km i stopped for 5 seconds to take a cup of water. I might have stopped 2 more times to pick few more cups of water/electral. All the way i was monitoring my GPS watch that records the distance and time taken for each km. My average pace was around 5:30. I knew i would finish this half marathon within 2 hours but i wanted to finish it by 1 hour 45 min which seemed impossible at the pace i was running. Pondycherry being a coastal town and i being a bangalorean - the heat around 7am was not what i expected. But no excuses. A marathon has to be intense, challenging physically and mentally or else why would we travel so far to run. We could as well run in our neighbourhood without getting out of our comfort zone.

I was slow towards the end but i somehow wanted to reach the 20thkm asap. I have a habit of running the last km very fast - I think most of us do it though we don't know where we get that sudden energy - we just want to reduce the total time. I was like a kid who was coming out of his school. I just sprinted and finished my 1st 2012 half marathon within 2 hours. The official timer board displayed 1:58:29 and my GPS watch showed more or less the same. As with other marathons i have run, here too i found that it was not exactly 21.0975. Infact it was 21.54 as per my GPS watch. For details see here - http://connect.garmin.com/activity/149317894

Anyway why bother or rant as long as i am happy - Auroville says - Run for joy. And it is TRUE.
Post run it was all about medal and pongal. I also collected a beautiful free marathon T shirt.
As per this list http://marathon.auroville.com/index.php?option=com_raceresults&view=list&Itemid=38 i am @ the 43 rd position out of 515 folks who ran the half marathon ( 21.1 km ).

Thanks to the organizers who have done a fantastic job right from start, publishing every details like map or hotels on their website,arranging shuttle buses from pondy to Auroville and choosing a track which was predominantly dirt road. I hate running on asphalt or concrete.

Once the run was over i wanted to quickly come back to bangalore. shankar wanted to return by car with his friends. John wanted to wait for his friend who was running a FULL marathon. I decided to come back to the hotel and this was when i noticed Anuradha. She had come from mysore and thus she was more desperate than me to return home. We took the 1st bus back to hotel and we decided to quickly get refreshed and catch a Bangalore bus. After sometime Shankar returned and i informed him about my plan. We settled all the bills and myself and Anuradha caught an auto to bus stand. This guy charged 60rs for a distance less than 2 km. Anyway we are used to such bad experiences in bangalore. All i want to say is that there are bad auto guys everywhere and not just bangalore.

Also we met few more banglore runners at this dirty bus stand. It was a horrible 8+ hours of journey - rash driver honkering too much, bad roads, some water leakage problem leading to a hot engine.

But thanks to Anuradha who was sitting beside me and chatting, the whole journey seemed to be fun. We spoke about running, biking, her kids, my kid,how to train, where to run in Mysore etc.

It's amazing and inspiring to meet such wonderful ladies - who inspite of managing everything - home, kids and job still find time and energy to travel so far and participate in marathons. Anuradha took 63 mins to complete her 10km and every runner out there should be proud of it. Normally It's not easy to run 10km in 1 hour. I have asked her to run uphills especially chamundi hills once a week so that normal flat roads becomes a heaven during a marathon. We got down at Laalbagh and took an auto to mysore road bus stand. I wished her a safe and happy journey and returned home in another auto.I had a heavy dinner and closed my eyes but could not sleep. I wanted to try shankar's technique but i had a boring novel and snoring kid beside me :-)