Doing a 21 km event within a span of just 2 weeks seemed a little overwhelming considering the fact, we were not ultra-marathoners. However we decided to make it an exception for The Wipro Chennai Marathon this time. Earlier scheduled on December 13th 2015, we signed up for it with great gusto, having had a good experience in the 2014 edition. This gave us a good 4 weeks to recover before the much hyped Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon which was slated to be on January 17th 2016.
However as the saying goes’ Man proposes, God disposes’ things didn’t exactly go as per schedule as nature decided to lash out its fury causing a deluge. The torrential flooding left the city handicapped which of course propelled the organisers to postpone the event with all due sensitivities, given the grave situation.
Having been a part of the city in the past, we felt miserable on seeing the appalling conditions that it was subjected to. Feeling crippled and helpless, all we could do is manage a meagre contribution and offer our heartfelt prayers. The city soon limped back to normalcy and the new date allotted was Jan 31st 2016, exactly 2 weeks after SCMM.
The Mumbai marathon went by in a jiffy and we had barely recovered from the run. However we were determined to run another 21 km in Chennai as a mark of our solidarity, considering what the city had been through. This was one of those rare occasions where my heart ruled over my head as TWCM 2014 was my first half marathon 8 months after my delivery and instrumental in restoring my confidence as a runner. So in a way, I was indebted to this event.
We were given a warm welcome by the Chennai Runners during the bib collection as we introduced ourselves as a part of the Mumbai Road runners. After a friendly chat, we headed home to catch our forty winks, considering the fact that we had to be up at 3:00 am as our race started at 4:30 am.
The holding area was bustling with people wearing blue (this edition’s colour T shirt which was a part of the goody bag along with a Gatorade bottle), green and multiple colours, doing their warm ups sincerely. One would have expected the weather Gods to play it cool, considering it was still winter, technically speaking, unless one moved over to the southern hemisphere. However Chennai conditions took the tag of giving a ‘warm’ welcome a bit too seriously as the humidity slowly began to seep in. The race flagged off and the weather showed no signs of relenting, leaving us to huff and puff as we ran along the roads of South Chennai.
The water stations were adequately placed as the enthusiastic volunteers came towards us handing cups of water and Gatorade which we gulped down as a soother to our parched throats and muttered a breathless ‘thanks’. The route saw us through the Madhya Kailash temple, Tidel Park, the Adyar flyover, Santhome church before we reached the famous Marina Beach. Now this was the beautiful part of the race as we ran along the world’s second largest beach. Last year, we had managed to catch the beautiful glimpse of sunrise. But this year the mighty Bay of Bengal eluded us by submerging in the twilight zone. The cool and gentle breeze at this stretch provided some relief to the oppressive conditions that we were subjected to earlier. We turned at the 12 km mark and prepared ourselves to get to the finish line without feeling like a lame and burnt out duck.
Now this is where the 2:10 pacers came in handy. We somehow found ourselves in the company of these jovial and sturdy chaps holding the balloons like an arm candy. It was sort of a friendly one up-manship game here, where we tried to run ahead of these pacers thinking that even if we lost steam, we would still be around this time zone.
We ran past Santhome church again where we offered a silent prayer, crossed the Adyar Bridge and by this time our energy levels were depleted. As we stopped in our tracks, a fellow runner tapped us and encouraged us to go on which set off those strides again. Up the flyover we went, scrambled down and after a short distance we saw that ‘just 1 km to go’ sign. Gathering all our energy from the reserve, we set off like race horses sprinting that last km till we crossed the finish line just behind our balloon men.
“Good running”, they said as we nodded with a faint smile and a thumbs up. If the humidity levels deterred our spirts, the medals and the sumptuous South Indian breakfast comprising of Kesari, Vada, Pongal, Idlis managed to bring back the smiles on to our faces. We left the grounds on a high note after thanking the 2:10 pacers, relief written all over our faces of having braved the infamous Chennai humidity.
A big thanks to Chennai Runners for their undying spirit of bringing back the city from the deluge and conducting the event successfully, volunteers, photographers and the traffic police who often have a thankless job. It may not be a place to attain your personal best, given the humid conditions. Yet the undying, enthusiastic and contagious spirit is what propels us to go back to the next edition.