I ran the Pune Marathon 09 (10 kms category) and finished in 1 hour 26 minutes which was more or less as per my expectation. I think I could have shaved off 5-10 minutes from the time, but with few distance markers along the way, I couldn’t pace my run properly so left my final acceleration for too late in the run.
Anyway, while I have been tweeting about the marathon @harshadoak, thought it better to blog about my experience participating & running the marathon. The marathon I believe is a great idea and something that everyone in the city should join in. It’s fun & healthy and I surely benefited, not only from the marathon run but more from my training runs over the past month. I have shed a couple of kilos & also feel much more athletic than before. I underwent an ACL knee surgery 2 years back, so being able to run 10 kms feels especially liberating & empowering.
Having said that, the marathon today is not in good shape. I am sure many honest people had put in a lot of work for the marathon to work, so I will desist from tagging the entire marathon with an adjective, as I know that can be quite demoralizing in case one of these people run into my post. I will instead list my experiences & you can decide.
The Pune Marathon 09 site is http://www.marathonpune.com/but if you search Google, you will be pointed to the 08 site as the first result. It seems they are creating a new domain every year. The site has minimal information. The history of the marathon on the site, is especially amusing as most of it is taken up by accolades for a politician and has little marathon history.
The forms were made available only a few days before the run. Forms submissions were accepted only about a week before the run. To add to that, for certain categories you could only submit on certain days. To make matters even worse, their was only one collection center for a city of over 3 million. I had fortunately carried a print of the form to the center, but there were others being turned away saying that forms would be distributed only at a certain time in the evening. As Indians we have an amazing capacity to tolerate, so these people that were being turned back, instead of demanding the form right away, quietly went home. Moral of story – every attempt was made to discourage or stop people from participating in the marathon.
Markers & First Aid
My entry card said that there would be first aid stations at every kilometer. What I found was that let alone first aid stations there weren’t even markers for every kilometer. This was especially bad for runners as you couldn’t time your kilometer and ensure that you were not going too fast or too slow . I found markers only for kilometers 2, 5, 7 & 10. As for first aid / water stations , some had run out of stock well before I got there, there was one that was hidden away behind a stage that had been put up by a local politician.
As with cricket matches and other public events, the police were again seen only in clusters, chatting away and watching the runners. I had to take a minor halt to disturb one such police cluster, to report that some goons were teasing female runners and pelting stones just about 300 meters away from them. I hope some action was taken.
It was obvious that the traffic police had not been sensitized to the marathon. At junctions, the police were asking runners to speed up so that they could let cross traffic through. I am sure competitive runners would have been very upset with this. By the time I passed Wadia college and reached Jehangir Hospital, the police had decided that they had enough of the running and so had opened the road to traffic. So I and100s of other runners had to run over the pavement.
From what I saw, there was minimal citizen participation in the main events, I do not know about the Aids Charity run. Most participants in the 10 kms run were from colleges, schools or the services, where a boss, commander or a principal kind of forced them to run. There were some marathon regulars, but overall very few citizen participants like myself. I have already stated how the marathon actively discouraged participation. To add to it, it was disappointing that neither was there any social awareness nor any significant promotion of the activity. Marathons in most developed cities and even Mumbai & Delhi for that matter are the coolest thing happening in the city at the time. In Pune, I doubt how many know that the Marathon was held today.
On reaching the 10 kms mark, I looked for the organizers to record my finish and get the official time. I was told that only the first 5 are recorded and nothing after that. No records are being kept and all will be issued a certificate again at only 1 place in Pune, in the afternoon. So the fact is that the organizers have no clue of how many runners finished the race, average time etc, all very interesting and useful statistics. Looking at how little data was being collected, I am wondering if an RTI query would come up with startling facts about the run. I wonder what the real numbers are, are even 5% ordinary citizens?
Once I was done with my run, I looked around if there was any transport arrangement. There was none obvious. So I went over to the organizer and he said that there were some buses at Nehru Stadium, which was very far from where I was. I checked if any public transport buses were making any special halts, none. I looked around for rickshaws but all were taken. I then spent some time at a bus stop, but the buses wont stop as apparently they were already packed. I suppose the PMT or PMPL would be claiming that they had increased buses to the area. The fact is that I could not get any bus or rickshaw for over 30 minutes. Finally, I called home for a pick up.
From website, to functions, to promos, to stages & banners en route, the marathon seemed like a forum for political sycophancy. For local leaders to announce their undying love, admiration, support & whatever for the big shot politicians running the show. Quite disgusting. I think the whole exercise is currently more political than sporting. Organizers from various sports organizations that owe their existence to the politicians, seem to participate as a kind of repayment of debt. Few seem to care about the marathon being a true sporting venture that brings the city together for a good cause.
Runner Tips For 2010
- Do not try to keep pace with the crowd. Kids & runners with no intent of finishing the race, run like crazy in the first 2 kilometers or so. They will burn you out and you might have to quit in less than 5 kms. Plan your pace & time in advance and make a conscious effort to slow down. Despite doing this, I still ended up going at about 7 min 30 sec per km instead of the 8 min 30 sec per km I was targeting for the first 3 km.
- Stay relaxed, enjoy the run and the route.
- If exhausted, mix walk breaks into your run.
- Running with strangers might be a bad idea, as they often get chatty and you can’t just run away from them.
- Run in light clothes. For Indian conditions, you better not carry a jacket or sweater even if it’s cold at the start. Within minutes you will be sweating and the jacket will become an irritant.
- Warm up & Stretching- Hardly anyone in a public marathon takes the trouble to warm up. You must stretch & warmup if you wish to complete the marathon comfortably & injury free
- Do not rely on marathon support services (specific to pune marathon). If possible carry some biscuits & water in a waist belt.
- Make arrangements for your pickup post marathon.
Despite many negatives, the Pune marathon still stays overall positive. A citizens’ marathon is just that brilliant an idea. I hope the marathon is someday out of political hands and run by real sportsmen and enthusiasts.