My first 10k experience

I have never been much of a runner in my life. I was a gymnast back in my early teens, and a cricketer. But never a runner. The only race I had ever run in my life was back in 2015, during my civil services training. It was a 5 km cross-country, and I was so out of shape that it took me 57 minutes to finish it.

Running is something I took up fairly recently, mostly to balance my weight training, but I now enjoy it so much that it has replaced strength training as my primary workout activity. I am preparing for the IDBI Mumbai Half Marathon, which will take place on the 20th of August. Meanwhile, this 10 km race was something I came to know of purely through chance. It was organized today by Decathlon in Surat, my home town, as part of their one year anniversary celebrations.

Since I took up running in June, I HAVE run 10 km during my practice some 2-3 times. Usually halting, taking breaks, dragged down by the atrocious humidity of New Delhi. And I my fastest 10 km so far (with several breaks, none timed!) has been just under 64 minutes.

So this was a really good challenge for me, and a way to measure where I really stood my half marathon preparation-wise. I forced my parents to get registered for the 5 km race.

The race was scheduled to begin at 6:00 AM and we were expected to report at 5:30. The venue was at least 7-8 km away from my place, so we'd decided to wake up by 4, and get ready and leave by 5:15. Previous night, I'd fallen asleep watching Sir Alec Guinness' excellent Smiley's People, around 11:30. Bad move when you need to be up by 4. But my sleep kept getting interrupted relentlessly for some reason, and I woke up at least 2-3 times after 2:30. So when I finally awoke at 4, I was slightly sleep-deprived. Strike one. For pre-race meal, I had two bananas and some water around 4:30. I packed by race bag and we reached the venue at around 5:40.

There was some sort of Zumba arranged by the organizers as part of their warm-up program, and it was a lot of fun to watch my parents (both in late 50s) try their hand at it, never before having done it in their lives.

The 10k was flagged off first, and I was in the very first row. As I awaited the signal, my only prayer was, "Please God. NO stomach cramps." Almost every long distance run of mine has been plagued by stomach cramps at some point, and usually these have been bad enough to make me stop running at least for a few minutes. I was also determined to run slowly at least for the first few kilometers so I could pick up speed when I needed to, later in the race.

But as the referee flagged us off, I instantly forgot everything, and ran. I had no idea how hard or fast I was running, because I wasn't looking at my Nike+ Run Club app. I was going by feeling, trying to run a pace that was not as easy as 6'30" per km, nor so hard I could not sustain it beyond a point. As we took a turn in the route, I glanced at my app, and to my complete, utter astonishment it said I was running at a pace of 4'20" per km! I was shocked because I knew this was an unsustainable pace for me, and I hand't even crossed the 1k mark yet. So I slowed down, and was immediately overtaken by several runners. However, I had decided that this race was NOT about competing with other runners, even though that's literally what races are. I had the time of 64 minutes inside my head (my previous 10 k best) and I wanted to beat it.

Thankfully, the weather was beautiful, with an overcast sky and a light drizzle, which made running rather delightful. I crossed the 1k mark around 4'50" and knew I was doing this right. I kept going at a steady, slightly uncomfortable pace, and the next 3 kilometers passed uneventfully. I had no music, but I was quite happy looking at scenic, open fields and greenery as I ran.

However, around the 4.5 km mark, disaster struck. I had severe stomach cramps, perhaps because I'd been running way faster than my training speed. It was painful, and every step was a battle between my body, desperately begging me to stop, and my mind, refusing outright. At some point after the 5 km mark, I had to halt. I drank some water, careful not to gulp it down, but sip slowly, and started walking, hoping the cramps would go away. But no sooner had I walked a few meters, that I was overtaken by a fit, bearded gent in his late 40s, who clapped my back and said, "Come on, keep going!"

I mumbled something about stomach cramps, but it sounded lame even to myself, so I decided to keep pushing myself. Soon enough I reached the halfway mark, and my body started to forget that it was in pain. This is the point where I overtook the bearded gent, who had stopped for a water break. I have no real recollection of how the next 3-4 km passed, except I was willing myself to never stop. Walk, if you must, for a few seconds at most, but never stop, I kept telling myself.

Around the 8 km mark, I had a vague feeling someone was running besides me, and when I turned to see who it was, I found the round, familiar, warm face of my father smiling at me. I loved that. It summoned from within my energy I didn't know I had. I waved at him and kept going. Right after that, I dared to look at the watch. It had been a little over 46 minutes, and I had completed 8 km! That had never happened before! A sub-1 hour 10 k looked very realistic now. I kept going and going, determined to finish the race around the 58th minute mark.

As I passed the 9 km mark, and with it the last water station, the finish line loomed in sight. I could see the gigantic Decathlon building at a distance, beckoning me. I picked up speed and overtook several 5 km racers. I don't remember who or what was around me, only that I needed to finish this now. I remember almost sprinting the last 100 meters. At least it felt like I was sprinting.

As I crossed the finish line amidst clapping spectators, I glanced down at my Nike+ app. 55 minutes. I allowed myself a smile, and saw that that wasn't the only personal best I had achieved. Fastest 1k - 4'53". Fastest 5k - 27'42". Apart from slightly sore legs, I felt absolutely all right.



Running grew on me initially because it was a great way to deal with work stress and bad office days. But I like it for so much more now. Mostly because every single time I put on those shoes and go for a run, I invariably return a little better version of myself.


Comments

  1. Hi Harit,
    It is a very well written blog. I read every words that you have penned down. I want to congratulate twice, first for compeleting your first ever 10k run and secondly for being the first participant to register for First edition of Fun Run. Also, when I saw 3 entries coming in from shelat family I was happy and surprised as I never thought my event could be a family run as well. So thank you for that too.
    Wish you all the very best for IDBI Mumbai half marathon.
    Hope to see you more in our events .
    Cheers.
    Mehul Adajaniya
    Brand Circus Events.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mehul! It is so graceful of you to actually read the blog and reply ! I am very glad. And yes, my parents were in the 5k as well. We were the first three to get registered. I am in the civil services and I work in Delhi, though my hometown is Surat. I flew down that weekend just for the race, and I must say, I was not disappointed! All the best to you for future events, and congratulations once again on the successful Fun Run!

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