It had been a really long time since my last run, nearly 8 months ago. I was out of shape.
So, we decided to register for the 10K at Auroville Marathon as an incentive to get back to running shape, and, boy, did it work. In the last one month, I had become fairly regular at weekday runs, it took a long time to shake off the laziness that had set in the last 8 months. I was back doing 6km weekday runs.
Finally, it was time to do the 10K yesterday. And I did well.
The worst part of any run is the wait before it starts, it's just so unsettling. You can look at each others' faces and almost read "Just start the goddamn run!"
There were surprisingly less number of people for the 10K, about 100 people or so. Comparatively, there were 400+ people for the half marathon (21K)!
The run started. As usual, seeing people run past you really gets to you. I had to be conscious about not burning too much fuel at the start, so I kept myself under check.
As per expectations, the trail was really beautiful, straight into the forest.
I started off listening to Raghu Dixit's "Yello Jhinugiruva" song from "Just Math Mathalli" movie (Side note: I was kicking myself because I had to miss their MahaShivratri night performance because I had to travel to Auroville). That song set the pace for me. Soon, I was listening to "Going out of my mind" by Fatboy Slim and other awesome songs in my running playlists.
Another entertaining factor was the names of the places in/around Auroville such as "Transformation" (see below) and our favorite sign said - left goes to "Surrender", right goes to "Vikas" :)
Around the 3 km mark, I started settling down into a pace, through the patches of uphill and patches of heavy sunlight amidst the countless trees.
The one thing that kept me going steady was RunKeeper. RunKeeper's voice would tell me, every 5 min, on how much distance and time I had covered and what was my average pace so far. This was an amazing motivator for me. Every time I started feeling slow, the every-5-min voice would kick in and tell me whether I'm doing well or not, and I would increase my pace automatically. The best advantage it gave me was that it was mentally preparing me on how much more distance I have to cover.
I also remembered some old tricks I used to use - like consciously having longer strides to cover more distance. Another trick was to alternatively run fast and slow every kilometre, this helps keep it fun as well as increases the average speed.
It was around the 8km mark, that I started experiencing fatigue. RunKeeper was telling me that I was maintaining 7 min 30 secs per km, and I made a quick calculation that I'm just 15 min away from the finish line. I said to myself "Forget the fatigue, the finish line is so close." And I started running faster - that would've never happened without RunKeeper.
Towards the finish line, a new friend I had made in this trip, Ajay, goaded me in the last 300m, and made me both happy and nervous.
At the finish line, the Auroville volunteers did a nice touch - they immediately put a medal on you for finishing. That makes you feel so good!
I was smiling at the end of the run, because I had maintained an average pace of 7 min 24 sec per km - I had run 10 km in 1 hr 14 min. This timing is nowhere close to the other runners, but I had improved my timing from an average pace of 7 min 45 sec in the past few weeks (that too over a longer distance, remember that the difference in average pace adds up for every kilometre), so I was happy. More importantly, I had a strong run and did only 1-2 stops or walking. That was critically important to me, so I was most happy about that.
After a full marathon, 3 half marathons, a 10K and a duathlon, I'm back struggling to do a 10K. I guess that's what "muscle memory" is all about - if you're not regular, your muscles forget what they're capable of. It always reminds me of a quote:
"Running is the greatest metaphor for life." -- Oprah Winfrey
The secret to a good run is:
I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart. -- Mike Fanelli
I had a wonderful trip and a good run, all thanks to my running partner and my new friends at the Runners High club.
Side note: I've heard that the latest mass trend in Bangalore is cycling, but I think I'll stick to running because:
"I always loved running - it was something you could do by yourself and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs." -- Jesse Owens
If you really want to exercise, please don't wait to buy a 25,000 rupees cycle (I have seen so many people in this thought process). All you need for running is just yourself and a pair of good shoes. And then off you go!
 Although I have cycled to work, for > 3 years (since 2006), and no longer cycle because my current workplace is too far. So does that make me ahead of the trend? ;-)