It was as much a landmark event for Bangalore as it was for me; the Lipton Bangalore Marathon was the first time the city (and I) woke up to an event where participants cover 42kms on foot. Corporates put up banners & water booths and cops stop irate commuters on prominent roads.
I got to writing this report because this marathon is cherished deep in my heart. Yet, this is the only one that hasn’t been frozen via a post on my blog. This is the 10th anniversary of the marathon and a perfect excuse to pen this down.
How it all started for me?
I get this question very often. The gym coach at BEL gym, Mathews always insisted on one round of warm up around the BEL ground before a workout. This practice stayed with me while I was at IIML. As a tribute to the beautiful campus @ L, a batch-mate and I decided to run 10 rounds of the 2.6km loop around campus in March 2005. We flew the final round with our shirts off and shouting hysterically.
This done, when I returned to Bangalore, mild publicity about Bangalore’s first marathon didn’t miss me. Having done the 25k already, the half marathon was no challenge. I signed up for the 42km, full marathon. Yes! That is how we scaled up to a full marathon back then.
A week or so before the marathon, I ran from home to my pal, Salil’s place in electronics city. Armed with a bottle of water & a pack of glucose I know I had taken all morning to reach his house. That was the all the training that I did to run my maiden marathon!
I don’t have much recollection of the Expo, bib collection or any other pre-race brouhaha. RFL was doing spreading the word back then too. But unlike the stalls in the Expo of these days, A1 simply handed out pamphlets while he was himself running the marathon. I remember thinking “who drives all the way from Hebbal to Ulsoor to run 10k”.
It was a 6am start, about 200 odd runners for the full and the half marathon, a handful of runners from KAA. The run was well organized for a first time event – traffic was blocked for about 3 hours or so, water stations looked good and around for about the same time. The course was a no brainer – run from Kanteerava stadium > RajBhavan road > up Sankey road > Hebbal flyover > ring road towards whitefield > ‘U’ turn at the beginning of Banaswadi flyover and back! Basically long, straight stretches with no cover whatsoever. In peak Bangalore summer in May, when you run till noon, it’s like running on a pan.
But it was neither the heat, nor the lack of support (didn’t know there was supposed to be one), nor the long uphills or the bad traffic management that got to you. It was the distance!
I was running with a knee support (do you ask why? Haven’t you read this or this?). When I passed Hebbal, 10km point, my dad was there to see me. My knee started to hurt as I ran over the flyover. Hebbal was the U-turn for the half marathoners. Once you went past that, you were qualified as the guy who had chosen to suffer.
The ring road stretch was never ending – no tree cover, the sun was beating down and after a point, I think we had trucks for company on one side of the road (not totally sure). But just the sight of a 2k long uphill did the trick for me. Even before the U turn, I was asking runners who were returning “how much further?” and I had started to run-walk by then.
After the U turn, I caught up with a member of the state rowing team and I thought I should just stick along. But he had his girlfriend offer him a ride even before we hit Hebbal on the return (which he declined). He simply refused to carry on after Mekhri circle.
I must have taken about 4 – 4.5 hours to complete 30k till Hebbal. A team of 4 from Dell (the co-sponsor) ran in sadhu costume, and managed to stay with the beard, wig and the costume for the entire 42km. I ran past one of these ‘Sadhus’ at the Hebbal flyover. My ‘rowing friend’ finally called it a day at Mekhri circle. The “do not cross” tapes to keep the traffic out were well breached by now. I recollect making my way up to what was remaining of a water stop near Raj Bhavan. The volunteer who was waiting for his ride to the stadium had packed up and reluctantly pointed out the route to me.
As I entered the Kanteerava stadium, only picking up the medal and certificate was on my mind. There was a volunteer who saw my plight and led me up some stairs so I could pick up my medal. Getting down the stairs ranked high up on the most difficult things I had done in my life.