My First Half Marathon experience at Adidas Half Marathon 2008 (Silver Stone F1-Circuit)

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Yep.. Thats right. I am now officially Mr. Half Marathon man. Just to clarify I mean I am one of those who have completed a half marathon (13.1 miles). Today, As I take an off-day from work to rest my stressed legs and body its time to look at how the whole day went. Let me try to recollect whatever I can of the glorious day..

Getting There..

It all started very early at around 2 PM thanks to bedbugs and an extra glass of water I had the previous day (old form of alarm which fired too early :-/). Slept again to wake up at around 6:45. Plan was to catch 8:30 special bus. Anxious of getting too late, I got up early and finished my daily chores and called Krishna, my (best) pal would accompany me to the event. We left our individual house around 7:30 planning to meet at 8 or so at Victoria tube station. I reached around 8:10 and just before I dialed his number the announcement said ‘Partial closure on Piccadilly line’ and I knew what was coming. I called up Krishna to find where he is. He was in a replacement bus :-(. It meant that there would be a obvious delay. I searched a bit for our special bus and by the time I got it located it was 8:25 am. I spoke to the driver about the problem but they clearly said they have to leave at 8:30.

On the Move..

Though they waited till 8:40 by the time Krishna had called me to say ‘I am here’ it was around 7 minutes too late. By this time I had searched a cozy place beside a young brit lady. She was engaged in what looked like a maths assignment. With the experience I had in Infy buses in breaking Ice with ladies sitting beside me this one was never a tough job (Why? Infy Ladies are exponentially fussy talking to a new guy compared to a Brit lady). 

I started off asking her for her previous marathon experiences. Even though she looked young, to my amazement she was a very experienced runner. She had completed several small runs and one full marathon just the previous year. She was talking to me like a ‘baccha’ saying ‘Oh! your first run, you must be so excited’ (which I was). However I did not stop asking my questions as I always wanted to ask to another long distance runner about lot of things. So went on shooting one question after another. Though she did not show resistance in answering my questions, she was not too eager too. Once she got a phone call she forgot that I existed beside her and with that I retrieved myself into a sleep..

Before the Run..

Never been there before so I was never sure what to do. We reached one hour before schedule and I was wondering how to proceed. I had my pants put on top of my running shorts, so a corner was enough to get into my runner gear. The climate was uncertain with sun peeping in and out every now and then. A chilly breeze was always there making sure that I stay confused on whether to run with the jackets on or not. I went to a corner and sat down to put the timing equipment called the ChampionChip on my shoes. It was a tedious task but I managed it in the end. I did the next important thing – double knotting my shoe laces, an essential step to ensure that laces don’t give trouble during the middle of run.

After this I woke up and walked around. Everyone I saw looked very assured of what they are doing. Some doing set of warm ups, some doing stretching exercises but I was doing nothing. Then I realized the article which I read in the bus which said stretching is most important before and after the race. So I planned to do some stretching. I knew very few stretching exercise myself so I looked around. Looking back at these things I feel may be I might be the most under prepared runners out there. However just that as in the past practice runs, my (blind) confidence always made things happen for me.

The Run ..

I managed to spend the time till people participating in the event were invited to line up for the run. the run was getting organized in the famous Formula1 SilverStone circuit. We all got in and lined ourselves like F1 Cars. I had read in the event magazine that runnersworld would send out experienced runners to lead batches at different paces (7, 8, 9 min/mile pace). I was searching for 9 min/mile group but what I saw were only 8 and 7 min/mile runnersworld leaders and not the my 9 min/mile leader.  I was not very confident of going with 8 min/mile batch as my avg speed when I ran my previous best distance – 10 miler in the ground it was near to 8.5 min/mile. So with more than 3 miles more add I was not ready to take any chances. So I planned to run with 8 min/mile runners until i feel tired and from then on to run at my own pace.

The track got filled with people and all started to do their usual warm ups. Family and friends of sitting at the stands started to waive their hands to their loved ones who were running the event. I wished I had Krishna out there for me. After few moments the run started and all legs started keeping small steps. It will be so jam packed at the start of the run that you feel it takes an eternity to start a decent jog let alone running. After some time I got some breathing space and I started to jog.

I had felt good all day and it got translated into my running. I started running at a decent pace and it was crowded at start I started running on the edges of the road, footpaths and outside. I got past as many people as possible. I got past 8 min/mile folks of runnerworld and that too quite easily. It felt good. I ran first few miles at a decent page (i.e my best pace and not optimal pace) and the lap route we took around the circuit was around 3.5 miles. I took over 1/2 hour for completing it.

I had no watch for this run. I wanted to ask Dushyant but then choose not to (or rather forgot to). So running was not that much fun as I was not really knowing how I am performing. The run looked to stretch on and on. After the first main lap along the circuit the run was deviated into inner parts of circuit. The inner parts were not good. The roads were muddy with patches of water – something you never expect them in a F1-circuit. Those of us who were running on the edges/borders of the road had to take most of the brunt for our antics. We had to jump, run wide, slowdown to avoid wet muddy patches or logged water.

I started to feel signs of tiredness when I crossed 6 miles. I felt I was slowing down. Till then I was taking small easy steps and at a decent rate. But after this point I started to slow down. I tried to get back some paces but it only made the matter worse. So I thought let me changed the way I am running and see how it works. So I started taking longer steps but at the same rate at which I was running at that point. It was in a way to make it look like I am not putting any extra effort (to my mind that is) and it worked :-). I started to gain bit of speed and momentum.  I knew without this change in momentum it was all downhill for me because I had started running this run at my best pace and not optimal place and hence my stamina will only decrease (and not increase) with time/distance.

I managed to run continuously even though I was seeing lot of folks taking breaks for loo, water and tying shoe laces. I was tempted to follow suit but afraid about my rhythm. I feared that I might not be able to run once I stop for anything. This fear kept on pushing me and I got past 10 miles – my border beyond which it was an unknown territory for me (remember, my maximum distance was 10 miles). In theory every step after this distance was a new feat and something I can be proud of. However I knew I had to complete the whole distance before using the word ‘Feat/Achievement’.

This unknown territory also got my mind repeating the chant of ‘Oh! this is new.. you might not be able to make it’ every now and then. This very thought was justifying my reduction in pace which had started few meters past 10 miles. The only thing I concentrated on was not to stop. I kept on going without stop. But by then I was running as fast as an old man on a speed walk at Lalbagh. So naturally every tom,dick and harry started to get past me and with ease. Believe me it was not a good feeling. At some point 8 min/mile folks comfortably got past me and my every effort to follow them failed.

I tried everything to increase the pace. Firstly, I tried to take the longer step approach (which I had tried successfully earlier) but this time I could not sustain it for more than few steps. Just when I was clueless a hot lady got past me. She was wearing this beautiful blue and black body hugging outfit and a nice bottom to complement the outfit. I took chasing her down as a motivation to increase my pace. Surely this should spur things up but reality had other plans. She slowly got further and further away from me and I was slowly loosing sight of her (even though her dress and attributes helped me to track her down even from great distance). Every time she looked further and further away from me and each time I used to tell myself ‘This is the time to accelerate! This is the time..Come on!’ but legs never listened.

When blue babe became too far for my specs to focus another slim yellow babe passed me. I tried another go at chasing her this time. Guess what? same result – she just ran further away from me in short time. Just when I thought I had enough of these chases the salt to the wound was still waiting to come. I had this very old man, may be in his 60s got past me with ease. Now surely this should help me put the record straight as who has more stamina (look at my plight, I had to compete on my stamina with a 60+ grand pa, sorry grand pa). Sadly it did not work either. Grand Pa just left me deserted. I thought of shouting ‘Grand Pa’ .. wait! but did not ..

 Finally, after I put in more slow yards, after allowing most the folks to get past me, I saw the finish line at a distance. This was good enough to spur me on (yes, really). I started putting longer steps at first. After couple of yards longer became longer and faster. I beat couple of folks who had just got past me. There was this big man who had also accelerated and moving fast. I now started running side by side to him. By this time I was some 100 meters from the finish line. I was able to hear the cheer, shouts and ‘Come ons!’ and it pegged me up further. I put my best yards and I think I got past the big man to the finish lane.

I was completely exhausted by the time I crossed the finish line. all were given a plastic bag containing a shirt, medal, water and bananna. I slowly went out of the circuit. I sat down at a place for a while ate the bananna, drank the water. I felt better. I corrected my stuff from the counter and went towards my bus. I got on to one of the seats and wanted to sleep badly. It so happened that the next seat was occupied by the same lady I met during the onword journey. I had no idea of my timing but she did. she said she did it around 1h 44m which was really good. I was content that I completed the run. After all how many get this chance and do it?

I am still waiting for my official timing, somthing nice to know. I will update it once I get it.

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