Amateur or pro, slow or fast, regular or not, serious or wannabe – you don’t miss out on the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon if you are a runner from NCR. So even though my right ankle was far from healed, post my 50K at the Bhatti trail, I couldn’t imagine giving ADHM a miss. I hadn’t trained for 3 weeks, even then! The entire runners’ community in Gurgaon was in a state of frenzy – sub 2 targets, training plans, mileage doing the rounds on Whatsapp and FB. When out for a long run on weekends, the numbers I saw training on the road during those weeks was unprecedented. The excitement was infectious. Even the ugly grope stories I’d heard couldn’t deter me.
As is the case with all my runs, my objective was to enjoy the experience, finish without killing myself over a couple of minutes and make friends on the way. I reached Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium well before the gun start. Since I didn’t have any previous HM completion certificates (the ones from the Philippines weren’t considered), I was allowed in the Open category, which had the maximum runners in it. Basically anybody who felt like paying and showing up that morning was in that category. Probably a setback for some who train hard, but frankly I didn’t mind it so much. In fact here the energy was electrifying and the loud jokes doing the rounds was very Dilli. In all some 15,000 excited runners, with adrenaline gushing and raring to go for those 21.1 kilometers – it was just awesome!
The legendary runner, Milkha Singh, flagged off the run. It was an honor running past him while he waved at us. (As I think of it – Farhan Akhtar would have been quite nice too!). As I had been rightly warned by some ADHM veterans, the initial 3-4 K was tough simply because there was no place to run. It seemed like there was a new category of first timers – folks who were literally running for the first time! So they’d stop dead in front of me after some 500 meters or a kilometer, while I struggled to set my pace with these abrupt road blockers. Worse still, some were stopping to answer phone calls (Really? Who talks on the phone and runs a HM??) causing the runner behind to trip and fall. While it was frustrating to think that I’d be running 21.1K like a soccer match – the dhols, dance performances and DJ stations did start to lift my mood. And then the sight of these elite runners flying by set me back on track. I picked up speed and tried to distance myself from the ‘phony’ runners.
After a while my ankle started hurting. To distract myself I struck a conversation with someone who was running at my pace. Our chat led to talking about Devil’s Circuit. I told him what a fake of a run it was, and he told me he works for the DC team…it was tough running with my foot in the mouth!! Over the course of next 50 mins, we really hit it off as we talked more. Eventually, I ran ahead promising to give DC a serious thought.
After completing 14K, I started noticing some familiar faces from the Gurgaon runners’ fraternity, giving me the strength to run along. I also came across a group of runners chanting “Jai Mata Di”, and a particularly impressive girl, DJ’ing some kickass music near India Gate.
The last 7K was uneventful and I had to really push myself to keep going. It was a huge relief when I turned the final corner and saw the finish line ahead. As I crossed it, I completed my run in 2:09. I ran further still to grab my snack, finishers medal and stretched my limbs as I caught up with a lot of friends.
I had enjoyed my run, finished in decent time and made a friend along the way – I felt great! What helped was the fact that the run was along some of the most beautiful stretches of Luyten’s Delhi, was well marked, with plenty of aid stations, porta-potty and police support. I’m certain I will give in to the ADHM fuss every year.
A little cherry on the cake (excuse the baker) was when my Whatsapp started buzzing early next morning with friends telling me that my picture was in The Times of India along with the ADHM article. Quite a bonus that was!