Early 2020, some of us were about to run the last races of the season, while most of us were done with them. It was the time of the year when normally one would start looking ahead, assess goals, analyse achievements, and plan further to build on them. Hardly anything got done as we got embroiled in this cloud of uncertainty which went on to define everything we have done in the last 10 months. With restrictions around everything, racing events went out of the window. This not only turned out to be a mood dampener, but one also started feeling demotivated and disinterested. Somewhere in the middle of it all, the virtual events came to our rescue, but before they could establish as something substantial to look up to, a whole barrage of them went on to dilute the intensity further.
In such times, finding the purpose to come out each morning and train wasn’t easy. But then along came the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, or ADHM as we know of. To most Delhiites, it’s a special event. We have all built various fond memories around it. For me, it remains to be special for many reasons, one of them being that this was my first-ever half marathon event. I started my running journey with ADHM in 2011, and 2020 became even more special as this was to be my 10th successive participation. To further add to it, this edition was to be my 50th half marathon event as well. With so much build-up, all we needed was a good race.
As the day approached, we as a group started planning the race. Getting the basics right, planned a route, marked the hydration points, time schedule, and of course, a whole lot of people decided to just come to support and cheer. With many of us in our RunXtreme group, having trained together, wanted to achieve a Sub 1:45, and what could be better than this mega run to do so. We went about planning the same, and with 5 racers, and 3 pacers, we had a job in hand. We decided to start at the same time as the elites were to on the same day, to add a bit of excitement. With expectations and anxieties building up, the entire group was charged up for the big day. To keep things simple, we planned a loop of 3.35km, which meant little over 6 loops would see us home. And we also knew running in the loop would mean seeing our cheering crowd more often which was the best thing to keep our adrenaline gushing.
We gathered before the break of the dawn and started with basic drills. Last check at hydration and nutrition, we went about doing our warm-up. As the time approached, those butterflies within started fluttering. I had the charge of carrying the beacon, and the other two pacers were advised to float around and check on anyone in the group who begins to bail out. As the time approached, we got to the start line and set off for our goals with excitement and caution in equal measure. First loop was just about getting the rhythm right, and as we crossed our bunch of cheering crowd, our confidence started soaring. Second loop everyone started finding their zone, and the group of 8 started running in 4 pairs with a fractional distance among us. Synchronized foot taps were sheer music as we moved on to loop 3 and 4. The gap in the pairs was increasing a few shades, but we were all still well within the clear sight of the goal.
Last two loops were going to be the toughest, as the finish line was in sight, the energy levels were dipping a bit. The pacers were doing a good job, holding a steady pace, with me leading in front and the other two making sure no one’s left behind. Breathing was getting heavier as we crossed the hydration point for the last loop. The crowd there started cheering each one’s name and that just got us the spring we needed for the last push. As we moved ahead, it was important to stay focused and not give up towards the end. Pacers were constantly talking and motivating the racers, and guiding them to stay motivated and not give up. As we crossed the 20K mark, the pairs have been split further, though we were still sure of taking them across within our target time. The last kilometre was all about cheering and pushing as we closed in. I had kept a minute margin at the lead and the last one in the pack was running at the edge of time. Keeping a close watch on my Garmin, it was 1:43:23 as I crossed the distance, and Arnav along with Ramon followed behind in at 1:43:54. Next one to cross was Kailash and by 1:44:35 and then we had the whole bunch come through just in nick of time.
These 21.1K were exhilarating to say the least, an experience like none other, running together in a pack we finishing together on a high. This ADHM was special in so many ways and running together the way we did, making it even more memorable. True spirit of togetherness, the bonhomie shared, and with a whole lot of other runners being there to support and cheer us. This run was everything that running is all about.