Monday, July 21, 2008

O Chennai! , my Chennai !

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up.
It knows that it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve.
It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a gazelle
when the sun comes up you'd better be running.

(But, unless you're a runner, you won't understand.)

Saturday, where did to go ?
Last weekend I'd been to Chennai to take part in my first ECR (East-Coast-Road) run, which was the 7th edition from Chennai runners. So I took the Lal Bagh Express that starts at 6.30AM from Bangalore and reached by noon to Chennai Central. Small trivia on Lal Bagh Express: Seems like some Union minister, years ago wanted to see his daughter who was studying medicine at CMC Vellore and wanted to reach by 9ish in the morning and the timing till date has remained the same and fortunately there are lot of takers for this service. Even the return starts from Chennai at around 3PM so that he could get back to Bangalore by 6PM. Interesting, ain't it (Thanks Bharath for the info). Let me quickly jump to Sunday as we will consider that Saturday didn't exist at all. Thanks to Shumit for offering me a couch at his place and to Sandy and Arun for rides back and forth. Basically the whole of Saturday was spent in traveling and in Madras Gymkhana.


(The one with my arms stretched : Pic Courtesy:

I was up by 3:15AM and just as I buzzed Shumit around quarter to 4, Sandy called up Shumit and said he'd be there in 10 minutes. Dressed up in a jiffy and in no time we were there waiting for them on Taylor's road. The one good thing that I noticed is that the traffic signals working all throughout the day at major junctions and people actually follow. Surprising by any Indian standards and for a person like me who comes from Bangalore it was actually rude (pun). Even the hoardings have gone giving us to view the landscape better. By 4.30 we were there and the place where the run starts was teeming with people with reflector caps, shoes and caps. Lot of activity and some quick announcements were made as we were asked to run within the yellow line (shoulder) facing the traffic. Caught up with some runners from Bangalore (KP Suresh) and Hyderabad (Rajesh Vetcha). Met with KK and others from Chennai Runners. I'll be running the Hyderabad Hi Tech marathon as well (undecided over the distance, but 30KM for sure). Exactly at 5.10AM the 7th ECR run started from the resort for people who were aiming 30KM target distance.

The Chimney and boiler effect

(There I go crawling : Pic Courtesy:

As we started to run, we were filing in groups of two each and within five minutes it was beginning to boil. Humidity was just too much. For an alien from Bangalore this was just too much to beat the balls out of me. Just imagine within 15 minutes into run I was drenched, which typically is the case when I do a 15K in Bangalore. Also my dinner didn't digest well and I was burping all throughout and was sure that I'd just puke out. Slowly as I completed 5KMs it was as if all the forces in the universe were colluding against me. It was as if I was put in a mini chimney and I had no place to escape. I generally don't drink till 10KMs and by 7.5KM I had to and tried this energy drink "100 plus". It was more like a sweetened soda and by next couple of sips my dinner was getting churned in. So by 10th KM I was slowly getting rid off the heaviness in my stomach but I was also slowly beginning to lose some pace. Every runner who passed by me had words of encouragement. There was this nasty feeling of wanting to give up. I had done this last time when I was running with Bhasker and Ashok at the Bellandur run and I was sulking in guilt the entire day. It would have been self humiliating if I had taken a detour here.

Fight Balu, fight

Then reminded me of few lines from Biswa's orkut "about me" post, guess must have taken from the movie "Fight Club". (Biswa later corrected me: Simon and Garfunkel's The Boxer)

In the clearing stands the boxer, and a fighter by his trade.
And he carries a reminder of every glove that laid him down...
or cut him till he cried out in his anger and his shame
"I am leaving! I am leaving" but the fighter still remains.

I wasn't going to cut short so I decided I'll make it to the 15KM so that during my return I'll have to anyway go back irrespective of I had to walk or crawl. Now I decided to walk and probably I was the lone runner. From 15-20KMs it was mostly walk and crawl and and occasionally running as I slowly started caving into the heat and wondered if I could always blame it on the nature (Yeah, global warming was not far off. The politician way of thinking).

The Sarvanan factor

Just as I was thinking how I would go about the next 12KM, a runner passed by me and I saw him stretching at the 15KM mark. I caught with him at the 20KM mark where Karthik Vijaykumar and others were cheering us up. I met Saravanan here and I had taken three full hours for 20KMs. Then I filled in my reserves and moved along with Sarvanan and I had nothing to compete against. I must appreciate the support system and the organization from the volunteers. I'll come to it later again.

So Sarvanan and I started at a snail's pace and the sun started to shine hard now. So this was the time I started to talk to Sarvanan almost about everything and mostly about my massive Tamilnadu temple tour that I did along with my parents. Then Sarvanan narrated few things about his experiences with running, weight reduction, family and others. With my Hyderabadi Tamil I must have sounded a language corrupt but we kept pushing each other and our strategy was simple, lets do 4-1. Run for four minutes and walk for a minute and we were building in strength as we started setting pace. Thanks to Arun who was constantly monitoring us and was shadowing us to see if we were doing good. As Sarvanan and I started to set pace we finished the last 10KM in 1 hour and 10 minutes. I was expecting a photo-finish at the finish line but found none there. We had taken 4 hours and 10 minutes to finish this. Surely great camaraderie from Sarvanan and it was humbling for me to run in this run. It was great running with you Saravanan. Do join us at RFL runs whenever you are in Bangalore (also anyone from Chennai runners).

The support structure and the volunteers

I did finish my race and could have been the last person to do so, but it couldn't have been possible without the efforts of volunteers and the support staff. You guys stole the actual thunder. There were water points at 2.5KM all along. Initially was disappointed not see electrals but I guess "100 plus" is a great substitute. The cheers that we runners got at each and every water-stop was all the more encouraging. At some remote stages (esp. 10-15-10KM mark) it was nice to see you guys shadowing us from your vehicles and giving us those words of encouragement (Tiger and co). I felt as a great cyclist who was being monitored by his team manager in "Tour De France", nonetheless I was elated and pushed myself for that bit more. It was about mind playing over the self and I had to beat it. The arrangements were akin to the Auroville Marathon and it was as great as it was. This post is dedicated to you guys, "O Captain! My Captain!".

Also Thanks to many fellow runners for their encouragement as they passed by. I was cursing the humidity and the good weather at Bangalore, but thanks to this Chennai run as it will set things in right perspective to me before I take up my next big race at coastal regions.

Many Firsts
It was my longest ever both in time and distance. 30KM in 4 hours and 10 minutes. Of course my first run with Chennai runners and first ECR run too.

The End
I'd forgotten my bag, as I placed it in some other runner's car. Thanks to Sandy for tracing it out and holding (all the junk in that) onto it for me.

Shumit, it was great staying at your place. The lunch was sumptuous as he hosted me at this place called "Rasam" in Purusvakkam. This is right within the Krishna Sweets restaurant. Veg delicacies from Chettinad and Kungunad (Coimbatore) are their specialty here. Thanks to Aunti for her dosas for the night and listening through my gibberish in the evening.

So August 16th will be my first big hometown run at Hyderabad. But Chennai, I'll be back soon to better my timing in the next ECR run. Chennai beckoning !

"In running, it doesn't matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say 'I have finished.' There is a lot of satisfaction in that."

That summarizes me completely. Until then folks, keep miling !


RK said...

Man! You run like a m***** ****er!

Mahesh Reddy said...

Great feat Balu. Seems u have got the runners high!!

Celebrating Life...

Anonymous said...

Annayyaaaaaaaaaa Niiiice post and run. BTW do post a video of you running. I want to see your running form and any tips and pointers on how one must physically feel while running. I think my injury last time was due to overuse and bad form.(I know all the head straight, no leaning crap. video would be great to actually see ya in action). BTW did you check out dark knight like i told you to.

Ravishankar Haranath said...

Cool buddy!!... great news;-) Keep it up.

Siva said...

Much as I wanted to do the ECR run, I missed out. Good to know you had a great time. Next time the ECR is scheduled, hopefully at least one before the GiveLife let's take on Chennai together.
Congrats on sticking to the race and completing 30K!

Balu said...

thanks everyone.. that makes me all the more determined to do a 42K at Hyderabad this August...

Princess Fiona said...

nice post...detailed without being tooo boring...:P congratulations on ur many firsts...glad u enjoyed chennai and wat it has to offer... :)

KV said...

Congratz ra! I hope this is first of many more successful 30k runs!

Balu said...

Thanks again folks and probably this weekend I will be doing another 30+ KM :-) and hopefully it must be easy as it is going to be here in Bangalore