Hyderabad Marathon is quite literally a beast of a marathon. Though it is a city marathon in Hyderabad which is almost a metropolitan city of India with its IT companies, nice roads, cosmopolitan population, etc. it is still a very tough marathon. The toughness of the Hyderabad Marathon lies in its unending inclines that dot almost the entire route for a full marathon.
The full marathon started at 5.00 a.m. near the Hussain Sagar Lake and for the first 9 kilometres the route winded around the picturesque lake. The humidity levels were very high in the early morning and with very poor visibility (the street lights were off at various places). The runners were running in dark, dank, deserted roads for the first 9 kms. The route returns to the starting point by which time the half marathoners were getting ready for their start at 6.00 a.m.
The first of the inclines started at little after 9 kms and it was a pretty decent incline. I was running quite strong at this stage having gone ahead of the 4.30 hour bus. I must say i became irritated with the pacers shouting “5 kms gone, 37 to go” and so on at every km. Why let everybody know you have to run for another 35+ kms. The kilometres markers were prominently displayed by the organizers at every kilometre and it was clearly visible to all. So there was no need to shout the passing of each kilometre. Damn!!
By the time we hit the first flyover, the half marathoners had joined us and from a few runners, it became almost like a flood of runners on the road. The infectious spirit of runners spread like wildfire to all the runners. By this time, it became apparent that there was no crowd support, no music, no band at all being played along the route. Marathon running is a sport just like any other so the participants need cheering from the crowds just like in any other sport. Crowd support lifts their spirit tremendously and gives them a positive energy to tackle the tough portions of the race. Imagine a cricket or a football match being played to an empty gallery – after sometime the players’ energy goes down and their spirits start sagging. Mumbai Marathon has tremendous crowd support when the Mumbaikars come out in droves to support the runners even at unearthly hours that the event takes place. Vasai Virar Marathon which took place on October 14th, last year was the best event i have run so far which had the maximum crowd mobilisation. The organisers need to include some residential areas in the route so that the people staying indoors on a Sunday morning are spurred to come out and support the participants. The Hyderabad Marathon route passed mainly through commercial and business district which is closed on a Sunday morning so it was desultory and boring to run in such places.
However by 14th kilometre my spirits had sagged so much that i thought of quitting the race and finishing at half marathon. I was sure that i could easily run the half marathon. DNF (Did Not Finish) thoughts started coming to my brain. Negative thoughts started permeating the mind. But then i thought i had a 5 hour window to be on my feet, so forget about pacing, racing, strategy et al. Why not just remain on my feet and take it further from the 5 hour window. I was sure that i would have completed at least 35 kilometres by then and with only 7 odd kilometres to go, i was confident of finishing.
The half marathoners were with us until the 27th kilometre which helped a lot, because of the multitude of runners in that distance which was throwing off positive energy to all. At around this time, i ran into Gauri Jayaram a good friend who has recently written a book about her life. About 27.5 kilometres we turn left to tackle the remaining 15 kilometres and suddenly from a multitude of runners you have only a few runners on the route. Gauri Jayaram wished me well at the turn off point for half marathoners which worked wonders for my flagging spirit.
The route continued with its undulating inclines all the way through. At 31 kilometres i ran into Ashish Shah who promptly sprang out of nowhere to click a picture of mine a la titanic style.
From here onwards the route leaves the city and enters a semi village but unfortunately the landscape was desultory. At around 35 kilometres, the route enters the Hyderabad University campus which had some greenery around and resembled much like our own IIT Mumbai campus.
The Hyderabad Runners had organised water and medical stations at every 2 kilometres and at each water station, Gatorade was also available besides some eats like bananas, biscuits etc. The volunteers at each of these stations were very helpful and kind and also cheerful in spirit. Also there were stray volunteers on the road and on bicycle gently enquiring after struggling runners. It was nice gesture on their part. For my part, i had decided to experiment with dates and so was having one date every 5 kilometres right from the start. I had two extra pouches of Gatorade which i used at 25th and 35th kilometres respectively.
At around 40 kilometres we leave the University campus and return to another long road which culminated in the entry to the Gadchibowli stadium, a state of the art stadium in Hyderabad, for the final 1.25 kms. By this time i was sure of finishing around 5.30 hours. I had thought i would come around 5.15 hours so the final finishing was not very much off my target. If i had not lingered at each water station to pour water on my neck, and taken so many walking breaks, probably i could have staved off another 10 minutes from my final finishing time which was 5.34.40 hours.
So from a possible DNF early on I somehow managed to finish this beast of a marathon, my 5th ever full marathon. When i was fighting the demons while running i had determined that i will never ever run a full marathon again. Now i am eyeing another full marathon soon!! That is Life, that is Running!!