Monday, December 14, 2009

Bengaluru Midnight Marathon - 2009

We (Bharath, Deepu and myself) left from my home at 9PM to Varthur, which we had looked up on google maps beforehand. It didn't take us much time to reach Varthur from Vijayanagar at that time of the day. As we approached Varthur, we saw that the left half of the road was blocked for marathon and we had to pass on the right half of the road. We saw few runners warming up or probably running a 5k event while we drove towards the parking. The parking was arranged at Ramagondanahalli Government school which was stones throw away from the registration counters.

We parked the car and walked to registration counters to get our bibs. I overheard one of the passerby's conversation in Kannada, "yen ee nan maklu vodtare anta raste yella block maadbeka?" (Just because these people run why should they block the traffic?) We went to registration counter, showed our tickets and took our running bibs. Our bibs were accompanied by a cap with a Cisco print on it (instead of having Bengaluru Midnight Marathon) and a bookmark with tips to save energy. Next to registration counter was a timing-chip counter, which costed an additional 250 bucks, we opted out of it since we didn't have enough money. We took some photographs, returned to the car, put the camera back, threw our jackets and cell-phones in the car and went to Sigma-Techpark.

At Sigma-Techpark, there were makeshift cloakrooms to leave your belongings, Runners-for-Life stall, food stalls and Bisleri water stalls. Also there was a band playing live music on the stage, they were just too cacophonous. We spent sometime and walked out unable to bear their noisy guitar onslaught. Outside the gate, pop-music from Aqua (I'm a Barbie girl in the Barbie blurted out in the background while the emcee kept screaming something. It was almost 11:30 by then and we had 30 more minutes for the marathon to begin, we started warm-up.

When it was 10 to midnight, we joined the procession of marathoner at the starting point. The route map for the event is as given below:

Initially we had to run the A-C-A loop four times for completing the half-marathon and eight times for full-marathon. But later the distance between A and C was reduced and we had run the loop five times for half-marathon and 10 times for full-marathon. I had imagined running a 21km trail on Bangalore roads, but running repetitively in this loop was highly demotivating for me and probably to many others. The crowd wasn't that big, my guess is about 500-600, nothing in comparison to 35K strong of Sunfeast 10k event. Most of them were from kinda pro runners like Africans, Runners-for-life and anterior marathoners, but for me this was the first ever half-marathon of my life. With Times group being one of the sponsors, it was surprising to find such less crowd.

At 12 on dot, the event was kick-started with a 5 countdown. Bharath and myself paced quite well initially. The onward direction of the loop was easier to run down the slope, while the return path was steep and hence slower. There were many water points giving out water bottles and juice. At the turning point of the loop, there were volunteers with markers to mark on our bibs the number of laps. We did the first loop (4 and odd kilometers) in 22 minutes which was decent for our standards. I saw a bunch of Africans running in a group, I felt they were sprinting instead of running a marathon.

During second loop, I couldn't help slowing down my pace while Bharath consistently maintained his speed. Third loop I improved my speed a bit. I realized that my dream of completing the half-marathon within two hours couldn't be fulfilled, for I was running slower and was tired. I immediately changed my target from two hours to two-and-half hours which still seemed possible. Fourth loop was the most tiring one, I had to walk for a certain distance to relax my knee-caps which were terribly aching. The saving grace for all marathoners was the pleasant winter night weather of Bangalore. Most of us were saved from dehydration by the cool soothing breeze that kept blowing constantly.

My brain often kept telling "Give-up" while my heart kept telling "Run" and it was difficult to follow the heart...for the legs were terribly paining and running on the same road with same ambiance around was not that interesting. There were people at the starting end of the loop some of them tried motivating the runners, some of them took photographs, some of them just sat shivering in the cold. There was music and a slideshow of photographs on a large screen. At the other end of the loop were just water givers and volunteers to mark on the bibs.

The last lap was a painful one yet a motivating one for I knew I would soon finish my first half-marathon. I had to walk for long distances to replenish energy in my leg and the last 100 meters I sprinted and when I tread the finish line it was exactly 2h:23m:27s in my stopwatch. Bharath was there waiting for me who had finished it in 2h:2m, which was indeed great for he was down with ankle pain just two days before marathon. It was a delightful feeling to finish a half-marathon, but it assured me that I can't run a full-marathon in my life. As I was basking in the glory of finishing the marathon, the emcee called upon an African on the stage who had finished a full-marathon of 42.1km in 2h:20m which was both awe-inspiring and disheartening.

We relaxed for a while and went to get some bananas back stage, but it was terribly unripe and inedible. It was sad that they couldn't give decent fruits atleast after completion, let alone finisher's medals or certificates. We thought Deepu had not made it since he didn't arrive even after 20 minutes of waiting, we left for the parking. But we found him walking towards the finish line and he finally made it in I think 2h:50m+ It was exhilarating to all of us to successfully finish the half-marathon, which we were all apprehensive about at the beginning.

The event was well organized though they could done something more. A big conspicuous digital stop watch at the finishing point would have greatly helped the marathoners to keep time. It ain't that expensive and complicated a thing to arrange. Also they could given a bag of fruits containing banana-orange-apple, like they had given during the Sunfeast 10K, which would greatly help to recover. With such small crowd they could have even given finishers medals or certificates which would save the memoirs of the event among runners eternally. Also the cap they gave should have had "Bengaluru Midnight Marathon" instead of a Cisco logo. Bisleri guys could have given smaller water bottles, I felt it was a bit too big to carry and too much water to drink in one shot, as a consequence of which I saw many people wasting too much water. And I don't understand why they had to charge for timing-chip, even though we return the chips to them. When there are so many marathoners running for a noble cause like "Go Green", why can't organizations do a small favour of keeping time, atleast for such a noble cause?!?!?! Last of all, they could have chosen a better place in Bangalore, say in front of Vidhana Soudha or Cubbon Road or Kasturaba road...than an ugly stretch in Varthur.

Official website of the event:

Related posts:
Sunfeast World 10K Bangalore,
Duendes 5k & 10K, reportage.
10K, experience...
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