Sunday, 19 August 2012
Notes from the 3rd Borivali National Park Half Marathon
I had run the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon in January this year and so when I signed up for the 3rd Borivali National Park Half Marathon, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I mean, if I could run 42.195 kilometres, then I ought to be able to effortlessly run 21.0975 kilometres without breaking into a sweat, or so I reasoned. I just hadn’t factored in the terrain at the Borivali National Park (BNP). Two days before the run, someone asked me how much time I expected to take to complete the half- marathon? ‘2:20 or so,’ I casually replied. When I ran the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon in January, I had taken around that time to cross the half-way mark. Since then, I have trained sporadically, the intermittent nature of my morning runs more on account of my work and other hobbies than due to sloth.
The day of the marathon, I took a cab to the BNP and got there by 5:30 a.m. The marathon was expected to commence at 6:15. There was a huge crowd of runners attired in all sorts of gear, milling around the entrance. Why haven’t these folks gone in? I wondered. I would soon have the answer.
The BNP, now formally named Sanjay Gandhi National Park, allows pass-holders to enter the park from 5:30 a.m. onwards. If you don’t have a pass and need to buy a day ticket, you won’t be allowed entry till 7:30 a.m. The organisers of the BNP Half Marathon had obtained permission for us to enter from 5:30 a.m. onwards, but the chaps manning the gates at the BNP had different plans that morning. We waited and waited for sense to prevail. A few runners left. I got tired of standing around and walked over to the other side of the highway and bought myself a litre of water from a stall which had just opened.
Finally by around 7:00 a.m., it started drizzling and all the runners took shelter under a flyover which is in front of BNP’s entrance. A few minutes later, we were allowed to enter the BNP.
If I had done some research, I would have known that the terrain at the BNP is hilly with elevations between 30 m (98 ft) and 480 m (1,570 ft). For the 21.0975 kilometre run, we were expected to run an uphill course of 5.5 kilometres, return to the starting point and then repeat the same. I wasn’t carrying any water and the only energy supplement I had was half a packet of chocolate balls, which my five year old had discarded. The organisers had promised to make available sufficient water, Gatorade, biscuits, bananas and dates enroute. They were as good as their word and I did not regret my decision to not carry any water.
Once the race started, I forgot my irritation at having had to wait outside and the delay of over 1.5 hours. Nothing really mattered once I was running and was surrounded by scores of other runners. It started raining again. I wished it would rain heavily, but it was at best a heavy drizzle, which would peter out and start again. The BNP is used by many people, especially senior citizens, for their daily constitutionals. Buses ply inside and there are a few cyclists as well. Since it was drizzling and everything was slushy, there were minor traffic jams and the runners had to slow down at times to give way.
At home in Bandra, my usual jogging course takes me up and down the steep Pala Mala road, as it leads to and from Carter Road. I could therefore justifiably claim that I had done some training on a 'slope'. However, the truth is that I had not fully prepared for running the steep incline at the BNP. I do wish I had prepared myself better, by doing some additional ‘hills’. Despite that, I am happy to say that I ran the first leg of the marathon without any breaks. Towards the end of the first leg, we were faced with a really steep climb of around 300 metres. Like many others, I walked that bit. The return trip was relatively easy since it was mainly downhill. When I started to run the third leg of the race, my lack of preparation became woefully clear. I stopped a few times to take a few deep breaths. I took two ‘walk breaks,’ walking a few hundred metres each time. My back started to hurt.
As I have detailed in this post on running my first (and only) full marathon, I am almost flat-footed and I have a back problem which flares up once in a while. I ignored the back pain and took extra care to land mid-sole. Slowly the back pain disappeared.
Then by around the 14 kilometre mark, I got my second wind. The last leg was relatively easy, especially since I knew that the end was neigh. I was greeted at the finish line with a medal and some refreshments in the form of a banana, a cupcake and a sealed packet of poha. I found out from a couple of very kind volunteers that I had taken 2 hours and 46 minutes to complete the half-marathon.
Post note: Many thanks to Ashok Someshwar who took the photograph which appears above and for giving me permission to post it on this blog.