As part of training for the Comrades Marathon, Don Oliver’s plans advise running 3 ultras and 2 standard marathons in the last 3 months leading up to the event. The ultras range at around 50-60KM. The 50K Golden Jubilee Ultra at IIT Kanpur gave me an opportunity to run the first of those ultras, a bit earlier than the schedule. This was my first attempt at any distance beyond the 42K.
The event, though essentially for IIT Kanpur Alumni and family members, was extended to members of our group, the Delhi Runners, quite graciously by the organizers. I reached Kanpur a day before the race day (Feb 21st). There were a few folks I new from Delhi. Myself and Ramesh came together, met Asha and Veeramani too, quite an enthusiastic bunch this. BIB number collection was a straightforward affair and got a souvenir T-shirt for the event as well.
Nothing special. Running a few marathons has taken out the pre-race jitters, mostly. It is just a chore which has to be attended to, getting all the race-day stuff lined up and ready to get into, the night before. The medical tape for foot and chest, the vaseline for other sensitive areas, some cash, a couple of GU gels for the later kilometers. I probably need just 10 minutes from getting up in the morning to moving out for the run.
The Race: Laps 1-2
The run was organized within the IIT Kanpur campus. It was a loop course of 10KM to be repeated 5 times, and with a finish area on a track inside a stadium (a first for me). There were runners who were also doing the 42K, 21K, and smaller distances. The run was supposed to start at 6:00 am, but got delayed by about 25 minutes waiting for folks to assemble.
The IIT Kanpur campus is a pretty relaxed place, a lot of tree cover on most of the roads, well laid out roads. The weather was into the last stages of the winter season and still with a chill in the air. I planned to run this event at a consistent pace of around 6:30/KM. The first two laps were right on cue, done in about 2:10. Started feeling a dull pain in my left calf at around 15KM which forced me to go a bit slow. This increased to a peak by around 20KM, and gradually subsided to a comfortable level by 25KM.
The Race: Laps 3-5
The 3rd lap was particularly slow. I met Ramesh who was in considerable pain with his ankle, and ran with him for about 5KM. Moved ahead in the 4th lap and tried to push the pace into the 6-6:15/KM range for part of this lap. Was running with a few IIT Kanpur students for small parts of my run, and it was interesting to talk to them. The 5th lap was a bit tough, and the average pace here was probably down to 6:45/KM.
It was a great feeling entering the stadium after the final lap. We were required to run a lap on the track before finishing, and the crowd at the finish line was quite vocal and supportive. I finished strongly, in a time of 5:32. We waited for about 2 hours before the director of the institute came in to give certificate of merits to the top 10 finishers. I was delighted to find out that I was 9th overall in the 50K. The race was won by a probably 60+ IITK Alumni from Delhi, who had overtaken me right at the beginning of my 4th lap (when he was starting his 5th). Super runner! He probably finished in around 4 hours.
So, overall a great training run for Comrades. I felt quite good after the run, feeling probably better than after most of my marathons. The recovery post the run has been quite good too, so, all the training seems to be building up well for me. From now on, its a marathon or more every alternate weekend, and since there are no more races to be run this season till Comrades, it would be a tough task to do all those long distances by myself. I am working on a plan on how to take care of this, including doing the marathon distances at Nehru park, Chanakyapuri in Delhi, and the 50K+ distances out of town, Nainital being one of the likely target locations.
50K done… and as fellow Comrades aspirant Shahid put it: 39K more to go!