Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Marathon - in pictures and words

The first thoughts after the half marathon

As I mentioned in my earlier post , I was training to run the beautiful SF half marathon. Here's how it went:

The build up to the race

I was feeling quite well after I ran 11 miles comfortably at Crissy fields (which was preceded by two 9 and 10 mile runs), and it did not seem to be a big issue to run the 13 as such. Of course, there were 2 major issues. The first being that the race started at an insane 6:02 am, which meant, reaching SF by 5:00, which meant leaving South bay at 3:45, which meant leaving home at 3:15, in short waking up at 2 )

For a nocturnal animal like me, sleeping early was going to be a pain, but luckily I slept at 10 pm. Before that, Mahesh and Arpan came home and we went over my checklist, getting everything ready, so on and so forth :)Everyone's mantra: Make sure you enjoy the race

Me and Arpan the night before the race

The morning

I had a sound sleep for close to 4 hours, and woke up at 2 am. With all preparations in place, got ready, had a little pain in the left leg (which had been a nagging issue), foam rolled a little and got ready for Arpan. Arpan came a little late as I stood outside in the cold updating my f/b status (Boy , am I addicted to that) and we soon got into the sunnyvale caltrain station .

Got into the bus, chatted with Coach Raman, tried to sleep, eat something- too many thoughts.The bus had a restroom too-prob good for runners to avoid the port-a-potty lines [Every SF marathon starts with the first instruction as -get to the race and stand in a port-a-potty line] . My interesting observation was that the toilet in the bus had no flush, no lock, no light, but yes - it had a mirror . People were even more amused by how I observed that of all things

Got down at the drop point- Figured out it was an awesome decision to take the shuttle, it drops you right at the start point. Met a few Asha runners- with similar sentiments, a little bit of fear, a nervousness, last minute things. I figured out that most people were not in the mood for too much stretching. I found Rohit, who was as enthusiastic as me to do a warmup and stretches (I had severe issues once when I ran without stretching). We decided to go for a warmup run - and I did not realise that Rohit's idea of the run was a pretty long one. Came back , did our warm ups (which in hindsight were very useful). The excitement continued till our wave was finally announced.

The start of the marathon. Just about dawn. Awesome time . (photo courtesy Rupanshu)

I lined up with Arpan , Sumedha and Parag (I am not sure how me and Rohit somehow did not end up together) . As soon as the wave went off, I started running with Arpan and Sumedha. The start is something to be careful about, you have to take care to not trip or fall else thousands of people are going to run you over in the race. Kept running, but realised they were too fast for me. I remembered the coaches advice - to run slow during the first 2 miles . I let these guys go ahead, but realised I was without company.

Slowly, I started running, enjoying the beautiful SF coastline. First target- finish 5 miles and get to the Golden Gate Bridge. I went along at about 12 minutes a mile. I was seeing some people running with me , but no Asha folks. Was feeling very bored. As I approached the Golden Gate Bridge, I found a runner from AID. We talked for a bit, she was running a little slower than I was - but we were both in for some well needed company, the race was getting pretty dull otherwise.

The Golden Gate Bridge is visible from very early on in the race- and as you slowly move towards it, the excitement increased. We kept running and soon reached the Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge Stretch

This was the most amazing part of the race. As we started running, suddenly, the feeling of tiredness and pain seemed low. This was what I had dreamt off 3 months back, this is why I had signed up for the first half at an unearthly hour . The Golden Gate Bridge means a lot to every resident of the valley- and it was a true pleasure running over it.I met Coach Bharath on the way, but he asked me to run faster since he was running the full.Eventually though, I stopped for taking a photo and saw him way ahead of me .

Some more photos along the Golden Gate Bridge

To add to my happiness , I got an sms from Himani- that they were on their way. The bridge was beautiful, I got my iphone out and decided to take as many pictures as I could. It was nice and cool, till my iphone realized that handling 3 applications of Camera, Ipod and the running app was getting too much for it, and it crashed. Crashed pretty bad. It was a tedious thing to stop in the middle of the Golden Gate bridge and try like an idiot to restart your phone .

But then, something struck me. Might sound filmi, but I realised that the app, the camera, the music, was nothing compared to the beauty of this place and the experience of the race. It somehow reminded me of "Zindagi na milegi Dobara" and I decided to shut it down, squeeze it in and just enjoy the beauty. It was heavenly, awesome! I was again down to running alone since my friend had ITB issues and stopped abruptly.

The last few miles

All through the marathon,I have had this psychological thing. Once you cross the halfway mark, it all seems fine. I have had this in the 2 mile run , 3 mile run, right down till the 10 mile run. After crossing the GGB, you knew that you were done with more than 50% of the race and it was just a matter of time now.

The other interesting part is that through the Golden Gate Bridge, with runners running in 2 directions, I was finally able to see some known faces from Asha [ it felt awesome, Team Asha rocks!] . We kept on egging each other, with "almost there" and (Coach Raman special) "Looking Good" . I was running exactly as per my expected time, and maybe a little faster, so I decided to take it a little easy. Did a run-walk for about half a mile.

I saw Balu and Chakri along the way, as they shouted "Hey, it's Harshit " click click! and I posed for some nice snaps. Thanks guys! - it was awesome to see a known face after a while and someone actually shouting for you . Both of you guys rock!

I lost my running companion somewhere, she was running like a hare, stop at times, and then run fast, and I was like a tortoise, running slowly now with a lot of rolling hills. Met some more runners on the way including Vikram (my Baylands AM mentor), who was running with Nupur .

Vikram slowed down a little with Nupur for some stretches, and asked me to go ahead. Soon I hit my 11 mile marker and now I exactly knew what I had to do. It was a less crowded SF street with runners a little more tired and a little less enthusiastic, so I restarted my phone , and called Himani and the other folks that I was expected to come down the finish line soon. I decided not to ask her who all had come, the suspense and excitement were keeping me going .I decided to continue walking till I hit the 12 miler, so that I could finish the race in full strength. It is interesting that amongst all the excitement, you still want to look strong when your friends and on lookers are seeing you. Decided to walk till mile 12.

Hit the 12 miler, it was a little uphill so I continued walking for a bit. Started running , I don't know why, but I felt emotional, had moist eyes. It was maybe the culmination of the dream to run the half-marathon, the happiness of actually raising money for kids, the belief in myself that I could do this, or just the pleasure of being with yourself, or the anticipation that soon friends would see you and cheer for you.

Very soon, could soon spot Sneha and Ritika - who had both run this race last year. Before I knew, I could see Chetan, Himani, Jigi, Nimish,Kanu all coming and running with me, with Kanu instructing me to "go slow" for non-marathoners :). It was such a sweet experience. I carried on to the finish line and maybe missed the idiotic electronic bib tracker which meant my timing was screwed up.But who cares ? I know I finished the race in good time and thats all that mattered.

I went over to collect my medal- and seeing it was so awesome!

Akki came out of nowhere with his DSLR and took very cool photos. It is great when people are like "Mera bhi ek photo Harshit ke saath" -I was enjoying the momentary celebrity status . Some friends called , spoke to them, updated facebook, took more pictures.

The cheering squad (most of them). Thanks for coming by guys!

We had a lovely time together after which they left for home.I met Wako , it was awesome to see her, given that she had been one of the people who had constantly motivated me throughout the season. Soon, I found Vikas, Akash, Divya and we headed to catch a shuttle to the Asha Tent.

We reached the Asha tent to meet our fellow runners/ coaches / mentors and some great food. Imagine getting paneer , parathas, gulab jamun, Raita and Samosas . It was freaking awesome! Thanks to all the people who made it possible (Asha volunteers are awesome. I can name a few, but I am sure there were a lot more who were involved)

Chatted with Coaches,runners before we headed out to Shivam's place for a relaxing session ahead :).Thanks to all the wonderful coaches, volunteers, all friends who cheered and supported me , Mahesh Palekar for being a driving force through the marathon. It's been an awesome one.

Baylands PM group met on the Monday after the race - most of us just enjoyed the feeling while season 2 runners did their stretching and strengthening and then used their help to click so many nice photos . Can you also believe that just the people in this picture must have raised about 40,000$ to 50,000$ this year alone ? (numbers might be approximate)

Both Baylands groups on a potluck party after the race

More coming soon ! Oh btw, if you wish to donate here's the link!