Thursday, 9 January 2014

Ultra Special

It has been what - 10 days now? Something like that. But I still want to talk about it. Race reports are generally logged in a maximum of 2 days after the event. So sue me. I ran what is called the 'Shahid Ultra' on 29 Dec. It's an 'Invitation Only' event and involves running from Chennai to Mahabalipuram.

Seriously. This is a distance that we are generally lazy to drive - all the Mumbai having washed out of our bloodstream, we think that 3 kms is the maximum limit in terms of places to go to. We also claim that our house is the center of the city so I guess we are just crazy.

The run starts under the cover of darkness at 3:30 am in Alwarpet. I woke up the earliest I have ever woken up in my entire life to make it to the place on time (I was a few minutes late, I admit). I was kinda looking to pee but that was not possible. For me. KP managed to though, so I warn residents of that area about this, albeit several days late.

I was surprised to see how awake and jolly everyone was. I thought I would be grumpy but I was also pretty awake and happy. The awesome thing was that some folks had shown up to volunteer for us - carrying water and bananas and any of our stuff we might need enroute, in their cars. They were awake and jolly so why not the runners?

We started off - 20 of us or so - at a gentle pace. KP, Hari and I planned to do a 4:1 Run Walk for as long as possible - maybe 3 hours. Surprisingly some others joined us in our routine as well. So we were a good big bunch of 6-8 runners walking every 4 minutes. Jokes and teasing of course, all along. Loud conversations as usual.

So then 3 hours rolled around. Our super hydration volunteers were driving around and we found them every time we needed a drink or a bite to eat. We all had our fuel belts strapped on but rarely used them! Then 4 hours rolled around. We were making steady progress. 36 kms I think by then.

It felt great to get to a Full Marathon distance, in such a happy state. I was loving every minute of it and felt ready for whatever may be ahead. The sun came up but it was not very fierce, thankfully. We were on ECR so some of the traffic was a bit scary, but having run this route before (past two years), I felt confident about dealing with it.

Neville and Peter joined us at some stage - they were clearly in much better state than any of us in our gang, but somehow decided to chill and hang with us. Which was fine. I was still feeling strong. Breath was superb, I was even talking happily to everyone, and only some parts of my legs were complaining, slightly.

At 46 kms or so, we encountered the child and husband. Who were driving down to Mahabalipuram to meet up with us (and bring us back home :-)). That was a great boost to my energy. We had decided to scale down to a 3:1 run walk scheme and then a 2:1 - which was not very nice actually.

We reached 50kms and realised we still have 1.5kms to go to reach the hotel. Nev suggested we give up the walking and just run. I don't know how I found the strength to agree, but I did. Of course the rest of them were casual about it so I acted cool as well. We finished together in 5:56 and felt quite enthusiastic at the end of it all!

Meanwhile the rest of the folks who had run 28kms were milling around. The ones that had finished 50km ahead of us were showering. And everyone was super happy as I gingerly negotiated stairs and went to shower. Of course after Vipareeta Karni. Where a whole bunch of Chennai Runners put their legs up on trees and allow gravity to work its magic.

This is my third time participating in this event. The first year I ran 28kms. And since last year I upgraded myself to this 'Ultra marathon' - I spend the whole year looking forward to it; with Mumbai Marathon just round the corner, I make sure to take this one gently in the run walk mode though. I was aiming to finish in under 6 hours and am real glad that worked out.

I know it sounds crazy to run to Mahabalipuram from here, and there are elements that have to be considered in terms of safety - traffic, the unrelenting sun, and the possibility that you may be alone sometimes - but I am so very ecstatic that I ran this again this year. Of course, I wasn't alone for even a millisecond thanks to the gang. Really, its the company that makes it all super fun, jokes flying fast and furious! Ultra Fun.

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