Friday, December 19, 2014

Destination Half Marathons: My (Slightly) Unfortunate New Hobby

I have a new pastime, but I’m not sure how happy I am about it.  Let me explain. So for some reason every time I see a half marathon advertised in a destination in India I’ve not travelled to, I immediately feel compelled to register for it. I’m not exactly sure what it is, I guess the thought of running 21km through a foreign city seems adventurous, exotic and something which makes me sound much cooler than I really am. 

The “slightly unfortunate” bit comes in as there are certainly pros and cons to travelling to a destination to run a marathon. Some of the pros include, getting the opportunity to run through many of the landmarks of a particular city, the admiration on the faces of the hotel staff when you share that you have come to their city to run 21km and feeling connected to the people of the city while giving high fives along the run.  The cons include not being able to stay out late, eat the city’s best junk food or drink too much any of the nights leading up to the run, having to figure out someone who can drive you to the starting point at 5:00am and realizing that if the car doesn’t come and you miss the race then the whole trip loses much of its value and finally that terrible feeling you get when you hit 15km and no longer know why the hell you decided to run this stupid marathon.

I’d say the 4th con is a big one, big enough to possibly prevent me from being so free with my fingers as they unconsciously enter my credit card information on each and every destination half marathon site. It’s just that there is so much build up before then run: buying the plane tickets, booking the hotels, months of training (or thinking about training), telling all my friends that I’m running a half marathon, figuring out where to pick up my bib, uploading the obligatory bib photo onto Facebook and then reading all the positive comments, eating healthy, drinking tons of water, waking up at 4am on the marathon day to get to the starting area on time and then pushing my way to the front of the pack to avoid getting trampled. Yes, there is a lot of buildup, and then I start running and its somewhat anticlimactic.  

I typically start questioning myself around the 7th kilometer and even begin to contemplate stopping.  By the 13th kilometer I’m quite certain that I’ll start walking by the 15th kilometer. Then I actually start walking by the 18th kilometer only to start running again 2 seconds later when the first supporter or fellow runner says, “Don’t walk, keep going.” Then I finally finish with a massive smile on my face.  But I must admit, the thoughts going through my head from kilometer 7 to kilometer 18 are not pretty, motivational or inspirational, at all. They are negative enough to turn even an Iron Man champion into a couch potato.

A few months ago, the Cochin ½ marathon was advertised and, of course, I quickly registered and booked tickets from Delhi to Cochin.  I won’t go into all the details but I will say that it was quite an adventure where I certainly experienced all of the pros and cons described above to the fullest extent.

Because this post is getting long, I list out my 5 favorite parts of the 2nd Annual Cochin Marathon in no particular order:
  • Watching thousands of Keralites dance themselves into a frizzy for 30 minutes before the start of the race – have never seen this much energy being spent by anyone about to run 21km – involved many rounds of the Lungi Dance
  • Watching the over-eager Keralites get into a full on sprint right when the run started and then slowing down to turtle's pace by the 3rd kilometer
  • Experiencing the support of the locals along the way, they didn’t really cheer or high five anyone, but their presence was quite comforting
  • Finishing in 2 hours flat – the exact time I set for myself
  • Experiencing the best 90 minute full blown walk on body Ayurvedic massage in Varkala Beach after the run 

I write this with still a bit of soreness in my body from the run which I know that when it goes away, my over-optimism and quick to type fingers will already be booking my place in the next random Indian destination half marathon which I’ll remain excited and assured about until the dreaded 7th kilometer.

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