The Airtel Delhi Half Marathon – Preparing for race day is as important as the final run itself. Maybe more. The preparation starts with a good taper – reduce mileage without losing out on the interval runs in the week leading upto the run. So my being in Delhi that week did not affect my preparation.
I was on a reduced mileage plan. I did a short run around Lutyen’s Delhi on Thursday. The pollution was perceptible, I could smell it and feel it in my throat. Then, followed it up with a stiff work out on Friday – lots of squats and lunges. My legs started to feel stiff and I wondered whether I had overdone it. But I still had two days of rest.
The second most important thing is hydration and I ensured I was well hydrated. Lots of water, less tea and coffee on Friday and Saturday. That was the plan. But Delhi gets cold in November, and a lot of water means frequent visits to the restroom.
And finally, carb loading – the one thing that is easiest done on the preceding day! A lovely Biryani Lunch at Biryani Blues, CP with colleagues was followed up with a nice hearty North Indian dinner with my friends and co-runners Rahul Kulkarni & Amit Barve.
That’s not all. After getting my running gear ready, I always need to turn-in early to get a good night’s sleep.
When I woke up in the morning on Race Day – 20 Nov 2016, I was well rested and had no pain or niggle.
The Airtel Delhi Half Marathon starts at Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium and runs through Lutyen’s Delhi to end at the start point.
After a good warm-up, I moved towards the starting line up of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. As I moved into the line-up section B, I found myself amongst runners who looked fitter and stronger than me. For a moment, I thought I had come to the wrong section but quickly realised that it really didn’t matter. We were all running our own races against our set goals. My aim to clock my personal best.
I had clocked my previous best Half Marathon time of 1:58 at SCMM 2014. I was confident that I could get to 1:55 at Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2016 and maybe better. So, I had to track the 1:55 bus. (A Bus is a pace keeper who brings home the runner at the targetted time – in this case 1:55). The pace keeper carries a flag with the target time so that he/she can be spotted easily) The plan was to get a negative split. A slow and easy paced first 5 KM, followed by running at race pace between 6th-16th and then breaking out.
I heard a loud cheer and that meant the run had been flagged off. The Elite Runners of Airtel Delhi Half Marathon went first. Then section A, and then it was our turn. I pulled out my iphone and started tracking on Runkeeper as I crossed the starting line. I was on the clock now!
As I tried to keep my run slower, I found runners overtaking me all the time. It affected my pace. I was going faster than I should and consciously tried to slow down. In no time, I was nearing India Gate.
The sight of India Gate in the morning is so inspiring. I wanted to take a picture of myself running at India Gate, but didn’t want to break my pace. So I resolved to take a selfie on the return leg – 13 km mark.
I was now going faster than I normally run in training and was feeling fine. Tracking the 1:55 bus, I could spot it a 100 mts further ahead. I knew, if I kept the 1:55 bus in sight till the 16th km, I should be able to catch it before the race ends. And maybe overtake it?
When we turned the corner at 11th km mark, I spotted the 1:50 bus about 200 mts ahead. Maybe I could catch up with the 1:50 bus. That became my immediate next goal and started dreaming of a 1:50 finish!! But I stuck to plan, and kept on increasing pace ever so slightly. I was already running at a very good pace – 5:23 per km at 11th km mark.
Shortly I crossed India Gate and took a quick selfie with India Gate without breaking my pace.
By now I was overtaking runners one by one. Eventually, it becomes easier at this stage as you start to pick one runner at a time and overtaking them. I still felt strong, even though my legs had started to feel a bit sluggish. The thighs were feeling stiffer than usual, but I put the thought aside.
As I neared the 16th km mark, I was already running at a strong pace. Then I caught up with the 1:55 min bus. I asked the pacekeeper ‘how are we doing’. He shot back saying ‘We’re doing great. We’re one minute ahead’! My thought was to bag 1:54!
I picked up pace as planned and was running at good speed now. Soon, I could feel the pace as I easily overtook the runners in front of me. On the 19th km mark, I found myself closing onto the 1:50 bus. There were two of them. After the 20th km mark, I crossed both of them in quick succession.
And now it was time for the sprint! I gave it my all to cover the last few hundred meters. The last burst of energy and the sprint across the finish line never felt so good! It was exhilarating! I switched off my runkeeper timer and checked! It was 1:51:09! My personal best by a margin!