A full month earlier than scheduled, theoretically totally under-prepared, but buoyed up my the companionship of my fab running girls, I ran my first ever half marathon this morning.
And if you ever doubted the existence of a runner’s high…well, trust me, it exists.
Let me give you the back story (and yes, I’ll be brief, for all of you non-runners out there, yawning away in boredom already…)
I started running a year ago, part of a 10 week programme aimed at getting women on their feet and running, and we went from Couch to 6km, as our group name implies, running the Great Delhi Run last year.
Most of us have continued running, and these young women (damn it, EVERYONE is young these days) have become very dear and special, since they are always so fabulously encouraging and, well, they all totally get this running-bug-thing, since they have all been equally bitten.
I had signed up, rather apprehensively, for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, and have been training towards that date.
And then last week, out of the blue, with a little “jugaad” from one of my running girls, Shweta, I signed up, very late, for a half marathon this morning. It was the name that first attracted me “Delhi Heritage Half Marathon” and the route was fabulous – from New to Old Delhi, via some of the city’s most gorgeous monuments. Organised and run by Coach Ravinder, who couldn’t have been more gracious as he allowed one dotty OAP entry just 3 days before the event.
We started at Qutb Minar in the pre-dawn dark, ran past Safdarjung’s Tomb and the Lodhi Gardens, on past Purana Qila, Raj Ghat, Lal Qila, and into the noise and chaos of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi, where we got our medals, hugged each other to death and then retired to have a massive breakfast.
Super super super fun.
How on earth do you describe the feeling of accomplishing a half marathon?
Since I entered this race on the spur of the moment, just 3 days before, I hadn’t had time to get nervous as such, but I think what I expected from my first ever HM was a combination of nerves-bordering-on-panic, with a healthy dollop of total and utter exhaustion.
But it wasn’t like that at all.
It was a happy, joyous and (dare I say it?) an altogether easier experience than I could possibly have imagined.
We set off in the dark, running along Delhi’s dark and often pot-holey roads (not helped by the street lights suddenly going off for no apparent reason) and I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to run along what are normally crazily busy roads.
Take the AIIMS underpass for example. How often do you see it virtually traffic free? And how often can you safely do this? Make a complete and utter fool of yourself dancing in the dark?
In my defence, I had just spotted the totally fabulous mother-and-daughter combo of Sonea and Kshagun, who were our very own support team.. As Sonea drove slowly along the entire 21.08 km route, her pretty teenage daughter Kshagun either leaned out/leaped out of the car and took photos of us all.
So, yes, I was happy and I showed it!
Having never done anything like this before, and only a few 10k races, I had no idea just how important the support of friends would be. At this dancing stage of the race (5km) I wasn’t flagging at all, but it was just such a joy to see the 2 of them, waving and cheering as I ran sweatily past.
This scene was to be repeated (but without the awkward dance moves) for the next 16km, bless them.
There was no time to stop and gaze at the monuments we ran past, obviously, but it was a great concept, linking them all in this way.
Traffic police were out in force, and I thought we had Delhi pretty much to ourselves until we got to Purana Qila (Old Fort) where there were hundreds upon hundreds (which were then, actually, clearly thousands of people), making their way to Pragati Maidan, all dressed in white T shirts and dark blue baseball caps. All very orderly, as they got down from fleets of buses, and walked along the roads, with their own marshalls to guide them. What made me smile was that the logo on their Ts said “Run for Oneness”. As they all walked.
There were moments of kindness as I ran.
A young man gave me his water bottle, when the water station had run dry. (Met up with him later at the finishing line.)
A lady told me very firmly to straighten up, and open up my lungs, as I was (apparently) hunched over, and that I would run better as a result. (Also met up with her later at the finishing line.)
We ran under signs, over a bridge, under a flyover, under bridges, and over a footbridge, with funny slanty-angled-steps, which were surprisingly difficult to run on…
As well as the monuments there were other amazing sights. Barefoot Jain nuns for example in Old Delhi:
And a man busy increasing the already post-Diwali grey polluted air :
Gotta love running in India.
As I got to the 15km point, with “only” 6 km left to the finish line, I realised that 6km was where all this started.
10 months ago, when we ran 6km, it was a massive accomplishment. And here I was saying “only” 6 left.
To mark the moment I switched from my running play list on my phone, to my “ultra” running playlist. which is the best of all the uplifting, thumping music I like.
Which meant that as I ran along past Lal Qila, “Jai Ho” was blasting out, and yes – it was a truly great feeling and I know I had a daft smile on my face because Kshagun captured it. (Hey, didn’t you read the title of this blog post? Happy hormones…)
This road sign was a huge morale booster :
And then suddenly, expectedly I was there.
The finishing line.
21.08 fabulous kilometres. With Sonea, Kshagun and Sonam waving and yelling and cheering.
We waited for everyone from our group to arrive, and then went for breakfast, which was copious and very happy:
Outside the restaurant where we ate, there was the most humungous bull you ever did see :
One last daft sign sighting (below), and then onto the metro we all piled – hot, sweaty, and proudly showing off our medals.
A truly epic day, made even more epic-er because of a group of amazing young women.
Khsagun, Sonam, Sonea, Samiksha, Katha, Shweta and Anita – you all made my day.
And this is what we accomplished: