This was my fourth time walking a half marathon. Yes, you read it right. Walking, not running. All smokers, pay heed. I can’t run because of the havoc smoking played with my feet. I smoked for 22 years and quit 7 years ago. Just before I quit smoking, I couldn’t walk for 10 minutes, before having to stop. This time, I completed the half marathon in 3 hours 55 minutes. This is a huge improvement. My plan for the next year is to do it in less than three hours.
Smokers, please learn from my example and quit smoking.
The bonus this time was that the half marathon started right in my backyard, from Bandra reclamation. I and Mohan reached the holding area at 6.00 AM, just fifteen minutes before the official start. The place was hugely crowded. Everywhere you saw, there were people eager to begin. There were people of all ages, shapes and sizes. Off course the young boys and girls dominated the scene. All of them were very excited. It was very interesting eavesdropping on there conversations.
Some of people were very confident, well trained and experienced. I could hear them talking about their targets, there strategies and their hopes. You could easily spot the first timers. They were nervous. I could hear their aspirations, their doubts and their uncertainties. The small crowd of about 8000 people really represented the humanity this morning.
My own target this time was to complete the distance in less than four hours. However, I hadn’t been able to train this time at all. The longest walk I had done in last two months was about 10 km. I was still feeling pretty confident. My overall fitness level has improved in last one year. Also I was going to use the chiwalking technique that I have been reading about and practicing. I had done the 10 km walk using the technique and found it to be pretty efficient. At the end of 10 km walk, I felt as if I could walk another 10 km.
The race started at sharp 6.15 AM. The mayor of Mumbai, Shradhdha Jadhav was there to see the half marathon off. There was so much crowd that it took us five minutes to reach the start line. So I actually crossed the start line a little after 6.20.
I was very excided because this was the first time I would get to walk on the Bandra-Worli Sea link. Since I was walking and I was carrying my mobile, I took a lot of photographs. It was really exciting to see one of the greatest engineering monument created by Indian engineers.
Watching the sun rise behind the Mumbai skyline from the sealink was really exciting.
The seven km mark was almost at the end of the sealink. I thought that I was walking very slowly. However, when I reached the 7 km mark and looked at the watch, I had reached there in just 74 minutes. I was very elated and felt confident that I could reach my target of four hours.
I caught up with Mohan at 9.5 km on the worli sea face. At around 10 km mark, the elite runners of the full marathon came from the opposite side. They had already done a little more than 12 km and the lead car was showing a timing of 37 minutes! So whereas I was taking about 11 minutes per km, they were doing the same distance is just 3 minutes!!
I had been drinking water and the energy drink. With the chill in the morning and so much water inside me, I had to look for a bathroom. Sadly, the number of toilets were too few and too crowded. Finaly, near Haliali (13 km), I went off course to a Sulabh Shauchalay and relieved myself, in the process losing almost 7 minutes. On top of that, I had lost my tempo and it took me some more time to pick it up again. All in all, I think this episode cost me about 10 minutes.
After Hajiali the route is inclined upwards and going up requires even more effort. The residents in the area were out in large number and offering sweets, biscuits, water and soft drinks to the participants. It was very sweet to watch young kids standing in the middle of the road, eagerly wanting to help the runners. In fact, I took a couple of extra sweets, just to please the kids who were offering them.
At Babulnath was the 16 km marker and I had spent 2 hours 50 minutes. My left calf now started to tell me that it needed rest. Around the same place, there were volunteers standing with the painkiller sprays. I got my calf generously sprayed and continued.
At 18 km, I came across the dream run guys coming from the opposite direction. I have always loved watching the dream run. It’s full of energy and youth. The Radio Mirchi was playing at full volume. There were live bands playing, and at every opportunity, the people would break into a dance. I changed my gait and danced for a while as I was walking. That brought a few chuckles from the onlookers.
Around the 19km marker, the elite athletes crossed me from behind on the verge of completing their full marathon. My feet were really hurting. I still kept pushing me. I had slowed down. And at last, the finish line was just half a km away. That gave me new strength. And now I was crossing the finish line, 3 hours and 55 minutes after I started.
My left calf was really in a mess. I went to the medical tent and got an icepack. Mohan was waiting for me. He finished in about 3 hours 39 minutes. We collected our medals and refreshments. After that caught the train and reached home by 12.30.
As I am writing this, I am almost fully recovered. All in all a great day.