This was the inaugural edition of the Chandigarh Marathon. The event was announced in mid 2009 by Chandigarh Administration, on rather the department of tourism to promote the city of Chandigarh, so, I did not have too high hopes for the event, since wherever the government tends to be involved with organization of sports events for the masses, mediocracy comes to the fore. However, in the meanwhile Chandigarh Administration tied up with Running and Living Infotainment, a group which has already created a reputation of delivering well organized running events.
The Day Before
Ramesh, a running friend from Gurgaon, and I reached Chandigarh a day before, and checked into our hotel not too far from the starting point. My train was delayed and I could reach only by 11pm, and hurriedly ordered a sandwich as my dinner, the lightest I ever had before a marathon. The target for this race was to finish in about 4.30, and improve upon my personal best of 4.38. I decided to do this run all running, a change from the run/walk strategies I had been following for my last 4 marathons. This meant that I will be running consistently at about 6:20/KM.
Race Morning and Start
Got up at 5.10 on the morning of the run, and another first, did not eat anything. I guess I had a lot of faith in the route being well supplied with drinks and eatables! Was still dark when we reached the starting line. Since there were only about 100 runners supposed to start at the 42K, there was as expected, no real crowd. Met a few more folks from Delhi Runners – Gaurav, Asha, Shailendra and Kamal Deep. The run was flagged off at 6.30 by a legend of Indian running, the Flying Sikh, Milkha Singh.
The Early Kilometers
I started running with Ramesh, primarily because I wanted to have some company since with so few runners, it really becomes tough running alone with no one in sight for kilometers at end. This is where things got crazy. Ramesh was running at a pace of about 5:30/KM, and I was following him at a pace which was more like my 10K pace. By about 7KM, I realized I would not be able to sustain this much longer, and settled into a 6/KM, which was feeling heavenly after the fast start. The route was a double loop, which started at the Rock Gardens, and had a great view of the Sukhna Lake on the way back. The first loop was good, occasional bands playing along, school children lined up at spots for cheering.
The Second Loop
As I started my second loop, a deluge of runners swarmed all over me, the 5K run had just begun! And I was unlucky to cross their paths just as they started. I managed to continue along, keeping to the sides. The water stops were well stocked all through, with plenty of Gatorade as well, and that kept me going. But I guess, the distance between stops was quite significant towards the end. The faster pace and the distance was taking toll on me, and by the time I was through with 32K, it was hurting. However, with the experience of a few marathons behind me, the body gets used to taking this beating.
The last two KM were the toughest, and I had to resort to some walking too, but managed to finish strongly in an official time of 4:09:55. The finish area was totally chaotic, with the 5K runners all over the place which made the simple task of finding the finish mat a nightmare! Organizers should do something about this going ahead. The medal distribution was also a mess with no identified point for same, and I could not find anybody to hand me the medal, but I did not mind, as I was already over the top with a great run. Ramesh had finished his run in 3:56, his PB.
Time Recording and Route Distance
For the record, the race timing was handled by Timing Planet, who use RFID sensor based technology instead of the standard Championchip. They had messed up big time at the recently held Bangalore Marathon, but they have put up the results for this event within a week, so maybe they are learning the trade. There is a suspicion among the runners I talked to that the route was short by anything between a KM to two for the 42K. I would not mind adding up to 10 minutes to my officially recorded time. But that is state of affairs in all the races in India except the Delhi and Mumbai Marathons, so I am not really complaining. However, I have come to realize that getting the race course certified by an IAAF measurer is not that a costly affair, and the running community here deserves it.