#7 HM The Great Delhi Half Marathon

18th October 2015

“I hoped running will get easier and easier. But it’s not at all as I expected. The finish time is about the same. As the number of runners grows in an event, I feel weaker.

The same happened today. Half marathon in Delhi. In fact, half marathon in Dwarka. Dwarka, a neighborhood of New Delhi. When I enrolled in this event, I expected a different landscape. Probably that’s why it’s good to start a race at 5 30 AM. If the scenery it’s sad, you don’t see it that much. Or you see it in the second half. If you are like me, not fast enough to finish a half marathon before the dawn.

But, before the race, there’s always a trip. With small adventures, problems, thoughts, hopes and worries for the following day, and something that you probably forgot to pack (not this time).

From Chandigarh to Dwarka it took us about 5 hours. Traffic jams everywhere, and it took us more than one hour since we entered Delhi to reach our destination. We left at 7 30 AM. I wanted to be sure I get in time to pick up my race number, and I was aware of the potential traffic in New Delhi.

It took a while to find the location, but we managed to get there just in time. Apparently it’s difficult to find anything around here, even with the GPS. Even finding the hotel was quite a quest, but probably “hotel” it’s an overstatement. It was a guest house. One of the cheapest. I got scared at first when the air conditioning and shower didn’t seem to work, but I had to insist. There was no hot water available, but, on a 34 °C  (93.2ºF), what’s the use for hot water anyway?

For dinner, I was looking forward to having some pasta. We found a restaurant called “Drink n’Dine.” DND sounded a like a good acronym for a place to have dinner at, but the name was slightly misleading. Only Indian food. No pasta. I had my all time favorite Indian dish, paneer, and some fries.

Since I recently become a vegetarian, it’s easier to choose. There’s no variety in menus if you cut the meat off the list. After dinner, I added some figs and almonds.

There was plenty of time for digestion to do its thing. I added some coffee just to be sure. But nothing. Not in the evening, not in the morning. And I woke up at 4 AM for one more coffee. I wanted to be sure that I would feed the sharks before the start.

4 50 AM. I spent 10 minutes on the toilet seat and nothing. The start was at 5 30 AM, so I had to leave soon.

2 minutes before the start “inspiration” hit me. I was staring at the eco-toilets on the other side of the road, while I was talking with a former officer in the army, who was curious to find out a thing or two about Romania.

It was a challenging race. Throughout the course, I didn’t see any toilets. My pace varied from 4:56 to 6:32 min/km, on a flat track. Whenever I was about to go faster, “something” was holding me back. I tried to focus on something else. Enjoying the landscape was out of the discussion since it was mostly industrial, construction sites, and residential.

At first, it was still dark outside. The runners ahead were barely visible. From time to time, a car would pass and throw some light in the scene. The dust in the air, the runners packed on the side of the road, the flashlights, the multiple huge moving shadows, it was a hallucinating view.

The traffic wasn’t blocked, but at every crossroad, there were volunteers stopping the cars until the runners passed. The volunteers were very useful. Besides the crossroads, at every 2.5km, there were water points. Unfortunately, I couldn’t drink any water. I had a bigger problem than thirst.

21km of running. Without drinking water, or sprinting. I made the mistake to sprint in a crossroad. I wanted to clear the way for the trucks to pass, but I was close to clear something else. I immediately slowed down, and my stomach calmed down as well.

After a while, I realize that the sun was up. But it wasn’t that visible yet. I checked the ski to see where it is. When I found it, it was above the horizon. A red sun. Its light was not strong enough to pass through the dust and pollution particles in the air.

There was a loop marking the half of the course. I started counting. There were 30-40 runners ahead. It wasn’t bad at all. I survived half of the half marathon so far, and I was ranking in the top half. Running slow with a constant pace was paying off.

On the last quarter, I was losing ground. Or the runners behind me were moving faster as the finish line was getting closer. I joined a Chinese runner for about 1km. I envied him. He had a mask. It was hot now, and breathing the polluted air while running was difficult. We shared some thoughts and then he started to fall behind.

Before the start, I announced the driver that it won’t take more than 2 hours to finish the half marathon. I was right. I crossed the finish line in 1:56:04. I took the medal, the diploma, two selfies, water, one banana, and went straight to the hotel. I had a critical meeting with my toilet seat.”

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