After some hesitation I registered for the HM at Auroville 2012 just before the closing date in early January.
I normally do not travel out of the Bangalore area to run a half marathon - however did not want to miss the wonderful Auroville experience. I am glad I participated- my fourth Auroville marathon and the last event of the season 2011-12 was real special – apart from thoroughly enjoying the route, ambience , comraderie of fellow runners and enthusiastic support of the organizers and volunteers this year’s event was a ‘family affair’. While my two brothers , Mahesh and Chandru, and myself participated in the event in 2011 (I did the FM while my brothers did the Half) this year the 3 of us and Mahesh’s wife Lakshmi all ran the Half marathon.
I left Domlur in Satish's car along with his wife Vani around 10:30am on Saturday 11th Feb. We were joined by Ashok enroute who was planning to run his first FM. After a lunch break at A2B and a tea break in Tiruvanamalai we reached the visitor's center at Auroville around 5:45PM. As expected the place was buzzing with runners. Mahesh,Lakshmi and Chandru came soon thereafter and we had a bit of a photo session.
The bib collection barely took a minute. Though we missed the lively session of ‘Barefoot’ Ted , the interaction with runners – mostly from Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad – before and at the pasta dinner was thoroughly enjoyable. After dinner we reached our hotel Surguru around 9:15PM after buying some bananas on the way. I went to sleep at 10:15PM after discussing our pacing strategy for the HM with Mahesh and reading a few pages of 'Born to run'. Unlike in the case of Hyderabad 2011 and SCMM 2012 I was not nervous at all. This was because I was not targeting an agressive time goal. I woke up at 4:15am while Chandru was already up and about. We left the hotel in Mahesh's car at 5:25am and reached the Auroville visitor's center parking lot by 5:45am. It was still quite dark - this year there were tubelights along the way from the parking lot to the start point instead of lanterns. After using the wash room we made our way to the starting point.
|Mahesh and Lakshmi at the visitors center before heading to start point|
Mahesh and myself positioned ourselves near the 10KM/hour speed point . Segregation of runners based on their target speed or pace was a welcome innovation at this year’s race specially with growing participation in the event. There were over 800 HM runners out of a total of over 2000 runners across all events. My goal was to pace Mahesh to try and help him beat his PB of 2:13 that he achieved a few years ago. All his recent HMs have been in about 2:19 or so.
It seemed more humid than I expected as we took off at 6:15am at under 6 minutes per Km pace. The route was brand new taking into account the higher participation as well as the havoc Cyclone Thane had caused in Dec 2011. HM runners this year were to run two loops of 10.15Km each while the FM runners did 3 looks of about 13.8K each.
Mahesh and myself stuck together and hit the 10Km mark on target in 61 minutes. Except for one stretch the route – almost 100% trail - was quite broad for multiple runners to run together. It was mostly flat – just one gradient of any significance. The aid stations were well spaced out and stocked and the volunteers at these stations were as supportive and encouraging as ever. The route was better marked then last year (I missed a turn during the FM last year – I learnt that a couple of HM runners lost their way this year too) and the drum beats from ‘Swaram’ added to the unique environment. The only flaw was the incorrect calibration of the route with both the HM and FM runners running more than the required distance. It was sad to see fallen trees and broken branches along the way reminding us of the impact of the cyclone a few weeks earlier. Mahesh slowed down quite a bit after the 13Km mark and started to do run/walk more frequently. I coaxed him on till 18Km trying to keep the average pace below 6:10 per Km but realized that sub 2:10 was not going to happen. At around 18.5Km when Mahesh felt a bit giddy and slowed down considerably I decided to leave Mahesh to complete the run at his comfort pace and sprinted ahead to finish in a time of just under 2:15. My first two Kms of the race and the last two Kms were the fastest. Though the finish time was much slower than my PB of 1:44 at Mysore in October 2011 I felt quite stressed with my left glutes and calf at the end of the race. This is the only race that I stop and take pictures in – took nearly a dozen of them during the race this year. The quaint hand crafted doll medal that all finishers got was really cool. Mahesh finished a couple of minutes after me in 2:17 followed by Chandru and then Lakshmi. Though Mahesh was a bit disappointed it was a good performance considering we ran about 400m extra - most garmins showed 21.5Km for the half.
|Mahesh is in action|
|Mahesh is in action|
|Lakshmi sprinting to the finish line|
|Udaya and Giri in action|
We hung around mingling with other runners while having breakfast and taking pictures. Out of the 11 runners who started training in November 2011 using the 'Run Less,Run Faster' program from FIRST 6 particiapted in the event. Of these six met their timing goals - others did not due to either injury or because of not having a great race day. However, uniformly they all enjoyed the structured training program and are likely to be continuing with the same in future also. We returned to our hotel rooms by 11:15am resolving to come back again next year! And this is pretty much true of everyone who has ever run at Auroville – I don’t know of any runner who did not enjoy the experience and did not want to come back again and again to ‘Run for the Joy of Running’ as the last event of the long distance season. On my part I need to take some time off from running and work on strengthening my glutes and calves.