The Wipro Chennai Marathon got postponed from 13th December 2015 to 31st January 2016 due to the devastation of the floods. I had signed up to be a 2:15 HM pacer to use this as a training run for SCMM 2016 and enjoy the experience of an event reputed to be well organised by friends from Chennai runners group. I was a little unsure about participation when the event got postponed to 2 weeks after SCMM 2016. However, decided not to miss this opportunity to run in an event in Chennai after a long gap of 13 years - having done my first Full marathon there in January 2003.
And did not regret the decision a bit - thoroughly enjoyed the experience of a very well organised event despite it being a very hectic weekend. Felt quite nostalgic during the run as parts of the route (OMR Road, Marina beach)overlapped with that of my first full marathon in Chennai.
On Saturday 30th Jan morning I was at the CPT ground in Tarmani around 11:15am for the pacers meet and bib collection. After meeting fellow pacers as well as other runners and a quick briefing from the organising team members(Praveen and Praveen) and some group photos I left around 1PM or so.
|The HM pacers from BHUKMP|
|Pacers with P&P|
My brother Mahesh, with whom I was staying in Ayanavaram had to be at the start area by 3 am on Sunday to manage the baggage counter. Though I managed to catch some sleep between 930 PM and 130am as we left home around 220am I felt it was a little too much sacrifice of sleep for a HM. Like any race the buzz and energy at the start point made one forgot such small inconveniences. At a little past 3 am there were already hundreds of runners - both full and half marathoners and the pacer balloons were being inflated. The FM runners were flagged off at 4am by Ram Viswanathan,a co-founder of Chennai Runners, after a warm up session. Soon after that, the HM pacers pinned their pacing balloons. While in the starting area and as the countdown began the pacing wrist bands I had with me were in demand and got exhausted. Fellow 2:15 pacers Shahul , Sid and myself decided that Shahul will lead with myself in the middle and Sid in the rear of the pack of runners targeting 2:15.
The strategy was to run at a slightly faster than the 5:38/Km pace to get to the half way mark in about 56 minutes and the 17K point in about 1:35 and then encourage the runners to push as hard as they could to the finish depending on their energy levels. I started the race with Rajesh Vetcha of Hyderabad Runners and a few others who were targeting a 2:15 finish. While Shahul mostly stayed ahead , Sid and I alternated positions as we went along. I had forgotten to carry my Garmin to Chennai and borrowed my brother's device for the race. While I checked that the device displayed the current pace and average pace in its data fields I forgot to check whether it was set for a lighted lap count display and was also unaware off the fast pace alert.The alert kept going off every few seconds as soon as I started running and to my dismay the lap count display did not come on. This meant I could not see either my current pace or average pace on the device for most of the race as it was dark till we were past the 17K mark. Nevertheless, I managed to stay around the target pace and got to the half way mark in just under 57 minutes. The weather was quite pleasant, the aid stations well spaced, the traffic control was good and the route was mostly flat except for the Adayar flyover. Till the turn around point of 13K I had several runners with me including one from Isha Vidhya running in a dhoti and kurta. Between about 14K and 18K I lost quite a few of the runners despite my egging them on. With daylight breaking through there were only a handful of runners with me including a couple of French runners as we climbed the Adayar flyover on the return. At this point Shahul stayed behind to try and sweep a few more runners. I , along with a small bunch of runners crossed the finish line in the chip time of 1:58:43 just under the goal of 1:59. Sid and I finished pretty much together and Shahul followed 20 seconds later. Keeping them both in sight enabled me to stick to my goal pace without the Garmin's help. It was gratifying to have several runners come over and thank us for helping them meet or nearly meet their goal. I thoroughly enjoyed a very well organised race. Two things could have been slightly better a) Could not sight many Km markers along the way - they could have been more prominently placed b) In the Marina beach stretch leading up to the turn around point the water stations should have been on both sides to avoid chances of runners in the two directions bumping into each other.
|minutes after the finish|
After catching up with many runners in the CPT grounds including old time Chennai runner Hari, thoroughly enjoying the hot breakfast from Adayar Ananda Bhavan and hanging out with my brother and an ex-colleague for sometime I made my way to the main road to take a cab back home around 945am. At that time I noticed that the traffic in full flow, the hot weather and the service roads clogged with hundreds of 10K runners made it very challenging for the slower(5:30 to 6hr) FM runners to navigate the home stretch to the finish line.
Reached home at 11am - it took a while to get a cab and move out of the area due to traffic congestion. After a sumptuous lunch I took the train back to Bangalore tired but very happy and satisfied with a wonderful run experience - my 3rd HM event in the 2015-16 season (after KTM and SPBM) !!