Double road race! For a runner, these words sounded as tempting as a double fudge sundae. I had heard about this concept from Bob Anderson-founder of the Runners’ world magazine when I met him at Stanford campus. “It’s a race which is divided into 2 halves”, he said. “You run one distance, take a break for a certain period of time and then run the second half of the distance again. The challenging aspect is the part where you need to prepare your mind to run again after a break. Both timings will be added and that would sum up your timing of the total distance run.”
Bob had conducted double road races all over the world and was looking to do one in India. There were several distances ranging from 8 k (5+3 k),15 k (10+5 k) to 20 k (15+5 k). I decided to do the double 8k which was being held at San Francisco close to the iconic Golden gate bridge. There was also an individual distance of a 5 k and 3 k available and I decided to drag another person along as she was keen to do a 5 k and take baby steps towards running.
Bib pick up: The bib collection took place on the same day between 6:30- 7:30 am near the start point which was at Chrissy Field in San Francisco. It was a 40 minute ride from Stanford. We reached the location at around 7:10 am. A chill gust of wind greeted us as we got out of the car. Treated to a generous spread of lush green grass, the view of the Golden gate which was partially covered with mist, the morning couldn’t have been more beautiful. Small tents were placed on the field where the bibs were being handed over.
Bob was there at one of the counters and greeted me with a warm smile. “All set?” he asked. I nodded and returned his smile. We collected our goody bags, pinned our bibs and placed the bags in a counter where volunteers kept a hawk eye on our belongings till we finished the race. The 5 k run was scheduled for 8 am and we soon gathered near the start line.
The route revelation: At the count of 3, we were off. It was partly on the trail and partly on the road. The path was surrounded by greenery on either side. There was a lake on the right and I looked at the still body of water. It appeared so calm and serene, almost like a sheet of grey placed amidst the green patch of land. The pathway curved right, giving way to the roads. Volunteers were stationed at the 1.5 km mark and it was heartwarming to see 3 little girls sweetly holding out glasses of water. Giving them a pat on the back, I continued running around the field and got a glimpse of the golden gate bridge. After a while I spotted some ducks standing on the fields and basking in the blissful weather. I glanced at them in a fascinated manner as the entire lot made a pretty sight on the green carpet with their webbed feet and elongated beaks. It was cloudy and the overcast sky had set in a mystical sort of gloom on the entire city of san Francisco. Coming across another turning and curve, the route brought us back to the trail. Volunteers stood at different points guiding us in a flawless manner. I soon crossed the finish line, completing my 5 k in 27 minutes.
The break: This was the first time where I was not handed over the medal after crossing the finish line as I had another leg of the race to be completed. I walked around the field and did some cool down stretches. There was a 45 minute break for those running the double road distance while the 5 k runners received their medals. I spotted Bob and went over to him. He was in conversation with some elite runners and introduced me to them. I was awed by their humility and friendliness. Despite their accolades and achievements, they were warm and appreciative about others’ efforts towards running-a trait that I admire in people.
The second leg: It was time for the second leg which was the 3 k. Now the distance by itself was not daunting. However, the fact of having to run after a break created a sense of lethargy especially since I had given it all in the initial 5 k run. A lot of people whom I knew found it tough to run once the rhythm was broken. I wondered how I would fare considering that my legs were still tired. I decided to focus on the beauty of the route which was again a mix of trail and road. I ran by the lake and took a different turn this time, passing through the tufts of grass soaked in the morning dew. After a slight turn, I found myself on the road, going around the field where I took a U turn and entered the trail zone again. My legs were pounding by this time and I felt like sprawling on the grass. I decided to run the last km with my heart and crossed the finish line in 15 minutes. I looked in disbelief when I saw that I had fared better in the second leg of the race. The beautiful medal was handed over and I eagerly grabbed it just like a child grabbing a candy bar.
There was a lucky draw happening and winners were gifted with a free DVD of Bob’s journey as a runner. I was thrilled to be amidst the lucky few. I thanked Bob for a novel experience and an opportunity to run through a beautiful route. It may just be a 3k on paper but it certainly wasn’t easy running post a break when all you wanted to do was just laze around after your first run and bask in the glory of having put your best foot forward.
An interesting concept undoubtedly and I looked forward to doing a few more of such double road races during my one year tenure in the bay area. Bob was hoping conduct one of these in India and I certainly hope it reaches the Indian roads.
After the customary pose with the medal and the Indian flag, I rode back home happily reminiscing the run. It had been equivalent to having a double sundae only this time the calories were burnt instead of being piled on!