Pre-amble: The Bangalore 10k has been one of my favorite races and one that I have now run three years in a row. There are three key factors that make it my favorite
a) It happens in Bangalore, which is one of my favorite cities with awesome weather even in May-June when the race is held
b) The distance is just right for an amateur distance runner like myself to justify the cost and effort of making the trip to Bangalore
c) It is the most professionally managed runs in India among the “big 3” Indian races (SCMM, ADHM and World10k). This is surprising since Procam International organizes all three races yet, in my opinion, World10k > SCMM > ADHM.
Race Prep and Goals: When it comes to running, I would classify myself as a serious amateur. I had run 2 Half-Marathons and 2 10-k races before this. 2011 was not a very good year from a running perspective so I was looking to make amends. I set myself two goals at the beginning of the year:
Goal 1: To run a 10k race in sub-1 hour.
Goal 2: To run a Half-Marathon in sub-2 hours.
In the 18-19 weeks leading upto this race, I trained harder relative to anything that I had done before. I also started reading up on a ton of literature, online blogs, running books, etc. Special thanks are due in those early days of rejuvenating my running journey to runnersforlife.com forums, mcmillanrunning.com, dailymile.com, fitocracy.com and Haruki Murakami (whose book “What I talk about when I talk about running” made me see running as a metaphor for life and made it much more meaningful). In short, I ran 397 miles in this period averaging about 20 miles per week. I followed the Furman Institute’s FIRST 10k training plan (used it for the key runs every week and added some endurance runs in between). I was quite satisfied with my training on three counts:
1) My running muscles had become much stronger and the shin and knee pains that I experienced in the early part of my training were gone
2) I had gained speed and was finishing my fast training runs in the 1:02-1:03 range. Given the extra adrenaline from the race, I felt I had a realistic shot at a sub-1 hour 10k
3) I had managed to read up a lot of literature available online about running. While there is a lot of noise disguised as advice, I felt more confident and informed about what I was doing
Before the Race (D-1 to D-day): My running partner (Sandeep Pal aka Pal) and I landed a day early in Bangalore to collect our running bibs, timing chip and goodie bags. This time the run expo was held a week before the race. So instead of being greeted by lots of stalls showcasing fitness paraphernalia, there was just the bare-bone structure of the Procam folks handing out bibs, etc. Still the whole process was very efficient and we were done in 10 minutes flat. We spent the rest of the day chilling out; carefully avoiding eating any heavy stuff and checking on race day weather forecasts.
As we woke up at 6 am and got ready, it was quite pleasant and cloudy. I even tweeted that this was going to be a great day to race with quite a few PRs in the making. I think my tweet pissed off some weather god! We left home at 6:45 am since we were unsure of the car parking process. We reached UB City (the place designated for parking for runners) at 7:10 am. There was a queue of vehicles but once again, the mall security was doing a good job. We parked and walked to the holding area, which was about 3-4 mins away. As usual, there was a whole lot of nervous energy with people stretching, chattering away or queuing to go to the loo.
This year, there were three running corrals with separate holding areas – sub 1 hour, 1 hour to 1:15 and >1:15 corral. Given our 1:16 finish last year; we were in the slowest corral. As we entered the stadium into our corral, we were amazed to see the humungous number of people who were running this year. Unfortunately, most of the crowd was in our holding area. We loosened up, took a couple of pre-race pictures and settled to see the elite men finish their run inside the stadium – the graceful East Africans running like gazelles to finish in sub-29 minutes.
The elite women’s race was kicked off next at 7:55 am. Almost immediately post that, the sub 1-hour corral’s gates were opened followed by the other two corrals. In under a minute, the synthetic track was covered with a sea of runners elbowing and stepping on each other’s shoes to get ahead.
We re-iterated our pacing strategy to each other as we jogged to the start point. Given the huge number of people ahead of us, it was 8:02:xx by the time I pressed ‘START’ on my Garmin!
Km 1 to Km 3: Right at the start-point, I faced the biggest obstacle of the race: about 3000 people ahead of us all trying to get out of the stadium. I had to walk for about 200m and then was only able to speed up to a slow jog post that. We completed the first km in 7:30, which was a bit of a shock. Anyhow, I realized we could not do anything about it so we upped the speed a little and completed the second km in 6:33. It had become quite sunny by now and all hopes of running in cool weather were dashed. I felt an odd sensation on my lower back and legs like a mild electric pulse running down my lower body – at that point, my only worry was that this does not transform into something like a cramp. Thankfully this feeling (whatever it was) did not return. We stepped on the pedal a little more in the third km and finished it in 6:21. I remember telling Pal to maintain this pace till 5-k and then make a dash for it.
Km 4 to Km 5: The 4th km was mostly mild downhill after which you took a U-turn and then did a mild uphill on the 5th km. I consciously slowed myself from going all out on the downhill. We finished the 4th km in 6:19. The uphill was not very challenging and I focused on driving my elbows back hard and maintaining a good posture. We did that km (the second slowest for the race) in 6:47 and had wound up with a 5-k time of 33:2x. This was at least 60-90 seconds off expectations and was largely due to the slow start in the first km.
Km 6 to Km 7: I was quite impressed by the signage and motivation in the form of music, cheer girls and people holding placards for runners this year. A Nike signage placed just after the 5th km read, “From here on, there is no turning back”. Right on! My thoughts on starting the 6th km were to run negative splits. The 6th km was conquered without much difficulty in 6:22. I still felt strong and just wanted to get to km 7 feeling the same way before making a dash for the finish line. There was a mild slope getting onto the Vidhan Soudha road but the road was well shaded which helped in maintaining pace. I usually hydrate at mile 4 (~6.4km mark) in my training runs and had similar plans for the race since there was a water stop at 6.5 km. However, given how strong I was feeling, I didn’t want to lose momentum and ran past the water station. Immediately, my mind started playing tricks – I wondered what would happen if I felt thirsty later on. Meanwhile, the 7th km was completed in 6:17.
Km 8 to Finish: My legs automatically picked up pace – we were on the beautifully open Vidhan Soudha road and it was very sunny. As we sped down the road, I saw another water station coming up and this time, I quickly accepted a bottle from a volunteer and gulped down 3-4 mouthfuls. The hydration seemed to work and we pressed on harder. We completed the 8th km in 6:07. From here on, we were inside Cubbon Park, the terrain was a gentle downhill slope and it was shaded in most parts. In short, it was perfectly setup for running fast. Both of us pressed on as hard as we could. At this point, I saw a group of people holding placards, which had really interesting, motivational stuff written on them. One guy held a placard that read, “Don’t even think about stopping!” I gave him a thumbs-up as I passed him and felt a surge of energy just then. We finished the 9th km in 5:51. As I passed the milestone, I told myself to treat the last km like a speed interval and finish it as fast as I could go. As Pal picked up a bottle of water at the 9 km station (he had not hydrated so far), I decided to pick one myself. I took a gulp, emptied the remaining bottle on my head to cool myself and ran on. As we circled the final roundabout leading to the finish line, I could feel the exhaustion coming on. My Garmin beeped for the 10th km right then which was completed in 5:37. However, there was still about 100m left and we sprinted across the finish line. My Garmin read 1:04:19. The official clock was at 9:06:1x. It was not close to my goal but it was still a PR by almost 9 minutes!
Post Race: We made our way from the finish point towards the holding area. I asked one of the runners for directions to the medal and refreshment counters. We went inside the indoor stadium where runners were sitting around with the refreshments and flaunting their medals exchanging timings and race stories. We joined a short queue to pick up our medals. A beaming volunteer shook hands, gave me the finisher medal and the refreshment bag. As I turned I saw the queue had become ridiculously long – last year, when we had finished in 1:16, we were caught in a similar queue. So we quietly gloated on this “minor victory” and came out of the stadium for a couple of post run pictures, found our way to the parking and were on our way back as the Majja Run was underway.
All said and done, I thoroughly enjoyed the TCS World 10k 2012. It was my best race thus far – one that was very enjoyable to prepare for and race. We finished 1848 and 1849th out of 7000 finishers. More importantly, it has also left behind useful lessons that will hopefully help me in becoming a stronger runner. Steve Jobs said, “The journey is the reward”. I think the TCS World 10k 2012 was a very fulfilling milestone in this long journey.
P.S. Thanks are due to Pal for being my running partner and buddy – you have no idea how awesome it is to have you to run with! Also to my life partner, Anu, for being the ‘wind’ beneath my wings and keeping me constantly motivated – look forward to running some races with you in the near future.