Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Hum hai Hyderabad ke Nawaab!!!

What is it that makes a great run? Is it getting a podium finish? Is it getting a PB? Is it getting a fantastic t-shirt? Is it the travel and the great time that we have with our running buddies? Is it some or all of the above? Different strokes for different folks. Right?

For me a great run or a great race would be where I finish strong and come out smiling. When I have something left in my tank to sprint the last 100 to 200 mts. 

My main motive to register for the Hyd half was to be able to register for the Mumbai Marathon as I did not have any timed half marathons timing link of the past year which I require to register for the Mumbai marathon. 

On race day, Ashok and me reached the People's Plaza on Necklace Road much earlier and found parking in the Imax parking lot. Since we were very early Ashok wanted to listen to some songs on the car music system and we sat there for sometime listening much to the amusement of some other runners who were in the parking lot as well. We then walked in to the start area and searched for RHers. The Hussain Sagar lake is a beautiful sight to behold as the sun had not yet risen as yet and it was dark. There is abeautiful Buddha Statue right in the middle of the lake which was lit by some green and white colour lights. The loud music and the electrifying atmosphere was enough to give an adrenaline rush and a heady feeling right before the start. 

We found Kaiwan and Dilshad and after exchanging hugs we started searching for other RHers whom we were supposed to meet at the baggage counter. They were all busy clicking groufies and selfies and we joined in to click many more groufies. I was glad to meet the boisterous HSR crowd, Rama, Priya, Usha, Hitesh and others. Again I was so glad that Dilshad would be running with me as we had run Mumbai Half together way back in 2014 and done fantastic timing. Dilshad had told me that she would help me to get my time for Mumbai Marathon registration and boy! was I glad for that!! I knew that if I just keep her in sight and stick with her I would be able to do it. Thank you Dilsh for being there with me throughout.

The MC on the stage was introducing the pacers and Dilshad and me were wondering whether we should take the 2.45 bus or do it on our own. We decided to try and stick with them and see how things go. The crowd was very boisterous and the lady on the mike did not have to do much to pep up the crowd. The loud cheering and clapping for no reason, the hugs, the high fives and the music and the noise was enough to pump us all up. She asked all the move to the holding area, but our group continued with their photo sessions. They will put high profile models and movie stars to shame with their posing and their pouting. I wanted to shout to them in Hyderabadi Urdu "Hai!! yeh potta pottiyan pozaan marne ich aaye hai Hyderabad ku?". In the meantime the sun rose to a glorious orange on the lake and it was a beautiful sight to behold. I was reminded of sunrises in Mumbai. 

Finally some of us saner ones put our foot down and urged them to get moving and we finally reached the start area. We were supposed to be in the E or F corals, but there were not many beyond the C and we stayed at C holding area. The speedsters moved to A or B.

It was a really good time to be there because we saw all the marathoners pass by us at that time. They had done 9k or 10k around the Hussain Sagar lake by then and would be going into the city from here on. We saw Siddhesh Hanumantappa speed past us and shouted out his name. It was really inspiring to see them breeze past us so strong, pumping fist in the air and hooting. Each of them got huge rounds of applause from all of us and no one bothered about the announcer's announcements. And before we knew it the race had started and we all gave each other final high fives and hugs and started. Since it was really crowded, we had to walk to the starting mat and it was a good 6 minutes by the time Dilshad and me crossed the mat and heard the continuous beep which signaled the start for us.

The AHM is one of the best organised races in India and is definitely comparable to SCMM in terms of aid station support, crowd support and attention to details paid by the organisers. Each aid station is managed by very courteous and friendly college students and are well stocked with biscuits, bananas, water and electral. This time around, I had packed our Namma Bengaluru weather in my bag and taken it along with me. So it was a beautiful 23 deg C at the start of the race and there was a cloud cover which kept the sun at bay and the humidity was very manageable. There has been good rain the previous night and the roads were still wet and I took all these as good signs and a way in which the universe was telling me that today is my day and that I am going to have a great race. 

Dilsh and I started slow and bam!! right at the 400mts mark comes the Flyover 1: Khairatabad flyover. We spotted the three 2.45 pacers and decided to stick with them. There was a lady who we thought looked too serious (no gender bias here). So we picked a guy who was loudly cheering and pepping the runners. The third pacer was behind us. We kept to this formation throughout the run. We were going real slow, the initial 2 kms and Dilsh struck up a conversation with our chosen pacer and told him that we are aiming to finish within 2.45 and he was very encouraging.

The Hyderabad city is like a bowl, the Hussain Sagar lake being the lowest point in the city and the city going upwards from that central point on, in all directions. So the city is full of Jublilee Hills, Banjara Hills, Kachigudas and so many more gudas, Panchagutta and so many more guttas and Flyovers. In my opinion, Hyderabad must be the flyover capital of India or even of the world. Just when you think you have safely crossed one flyover comes another. But the roads are wide and tree lined. They are all six laned or eight laned roads. They must have tarred the road specially for the Marathon as there wasn't a single pothole on any of the roads and also the city was exceptionally clean without any garbage. Khudos! to Hyderabadis for this!.

The route was lined with people in many places cheering us on. There were school children, army personnel, citizens and runners lined up shouting 'All The Best' right on top of their voices. There was music, folk artistes performing, bands and singers at regular intervals. Even Airtel had its own stage and singers performing at a couple of places. There was a particular lady who was standing right on top of a very tough uphill shouting out 'you can do it'. I even told her that she had chosen the right spot to cheer us on and thanked her for it. But then again i wonder whether she was able to understand what I told her with all my panting. She might have got the gist of it or the spirit of it. The college students at the aid stations were ever attentive and used to rush to us with water, electral, pain spray or bananas and biscuits. We made sure that we drank water and electral at every aid station and also took our salt pills at regular and pre-determined times.

The previous time when we had run in Hyderabad in 2014, the Metro was under construction. But this time the construction work has been completed in many places.  Once we crossed the Khairatabad flyover it was a few ups and downs, but mostly flat up to the 4k mark where we took a U-turn at Somajiguda junction and entered the Panjagutta flyover. This was a 1k long flyover and from here we enter the toughest stretch. We have to cross Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills with lots of uphills from 5k point to almost 10k point. Also, this is the most colourful part of the city with shops and restaurants on both the sides. These and the regular aid stations and the spectators cheering on kept us entertained and I found that I was running all the hills right up to the 8k point from where I started struggling at the hills but made up for the time lost by the downhills. Also, I silently thanked Chandra's Sunday killer workouts for enabling me to run so many of the uphills effortlessly. we sing 'maar daala Chandraaaaaa maar daala' to thank her all the time :) ;)

Somewhere here, at around the 7.5k mark we even crossed a major traffic junction where the traffic had been stopped on all directions. In 2014, our Rowdy gang group must have passed this point at a much later time because by the time we passed it we had seen the drivers fighting and abusing the traffic cops and a lady and a guy in a red Maruthi car had forcibly entered through the barricade. But this time around I saw that the volume of traffic pile up was still low and the tempers had not flared as yet when we passed it. The cops did a really good job of maintaining traffic and also around this point even they were cheering us loudly and calling out 'all the best maam' which made running the uphills a little better.

We then passed Madhapur and Hi tech city where we could see the completed Metro work. This section from 10k to 14k was also flat with some gradual uphill from 14k. This is the new Hyderabad. It is the IT hub of Telangana state and we could see many modern buildings that housed the IT industry with modern architecture, glass and concrete. We could see the Cybercity building Around this time Dilshad saw that I was struggling the hills and she told me to drink electral and take the second salt pill. We had done about 15.5 k in 2 hrs and I was pleased with our progress. I also ate a couple of biscuits at an aid station and felt that it gave me some much needed sugar kick. So, from them on I started eating a couple of biscuits and piece of banana at each aid station which I feel helped me a lot to keep up my energy levels.

A note on the green-ness of the event - while they used reusable plates and spoon to serve breakfast, the usage of plastic water bottles was huge in the stadium. throughout the route they used the usual disposable plastic coated paper cups. The volunteers were constantly picking up the trash and cleaning the aid station areas very quickly. They did a commendable job in keeping the place squeaky clean. When we took an auto rickshaw from the Gacchibowli stadium to IMAX parking after the race, we drove on the very same roads and they had been cleaned up by then and there was no sign that such a huge event had taken place. But despite all this it is very alarming to see the amount of waste generated. Could the organisers think of purchasing about 10,000 steel tumblers and reuse them or even rent them out later and earn through it. Could the organisers think of encouraging the runners to carry their water bottles and refill them at various points. These are serious issues that event organisers have to ponder upon for making future events more eco friendly.

There were also many downhills and outright flats which made this my best section where I was able to make up for any lost time by maintaining a steady pace. After this came the killer flyover no 3, the Gachhibowli flyover. It raises its monstrous head at the 19k mark by which time you are spent and  ready to die. I walked up this entire flyover. Dilsh was throwing concerned looks at me and I was trying to give her a weak but brave smile. The encouraging sign was that we were well within our time and also the pacers were within our sight. The third pacer was shouting out encouragement at us and pepping the runners. When we tried to walk on one of the uphill, he asked us to not walk but run up to a particular sign board at the turn around and then walk from there which was a clever move by him because after that board it was downhill. I mentally thanked him for knowing his city and the race route so well and also knowing the mentality of runners so well. 

From the 20k point onwards it was gradual uphills and flats. I was again walking most of the uphills but tried to do a fast walk here as I knew that the finish line was well within reach and also in good time.  This portion of the gradual uphill is very mentally draining and almost all the runners around us were walking. Once we came to the 500 mts mark, I started running. I entered the Gacchbowli stadium gate and picked up pace. I found Dilshad there and we both held hands and started running really fast. It was such a good feeling because everyone around us was walking and we were the only ones running. I was reminded of all the Tuesday tempo runs and the Wednesday workouts that we are made to do. It's because of these sessions that even after 20.5 kms we had it in us to sprint. 

After running about 100 mts holding hands, we had to part ways as there were some walkers blocking our path and I had to traverse around them to take the right turn and run adjacent to the stadium wall. Then it is a left turn to enter the stadium. I thought that the finish would be seen as soon as we enter the stadium but it was a good 100 to 150 mts later. But I was surprised to see that I was still running strong and crossed the finish line running. It was a very satisfying moment as I walked to the lady giving out the medals and she put a medal around my neck. It had been 18 months since my last official half marathon, my last one being Auroville HM 2015 and it was a really good feeling to finally be able to do one.

Later we met Kaiwan. he had completed his 21k and collected his medal and gone back to do another 4k as he had to do 25k on that day according to his training. But he finished 25k right behind us!!!! When we told him about how tough the hills and the flyovers were he said "what hills? what flyovers?? There are none!! It's not as tough as you all make it out to be". We did not have any energy left in us to hit him. I could visualise the next day's newspaper with the headline "a male runner attacked and hit by two other exhausted and delirious women runners at the Airtel Hyderabad Marathon". But I did not have the energy to act upon it and make it a reality. :) 

The HSR gang was at it again. Posaan maar maar ke picturaan letey. Kaiku ine aisi baataan kartey? 

After stretching I told the gang that I would go back to the gate to wait for Ashok. He came back fully exhausted and with cramps in his feet. But he was also able to finish. Then he gave some lectures to the organisers about ow bad the breakfast was and also advised them to give biryani for breakfast from next year onwards.

I thank the day that Anu dragged me to join RH and I thank all the coaches of RH, ever smiling and patient Physios and Chandra's strengthening sessions. The buddies of Cubbon Queens and our buddy group WTF Where's The finish which is full of absolute crack pots with the most popular and sweetest coach of RH - Nanda at the helm. Srini P's and Srini V's timely valuable advice. My family and friends.

Next what? Mumbai ka daud!!!!!