I am sharing the Auroville Post Race report from two perspectives..that of an athletic runner and that of a recreational runner.
I did everything wrong from this perspective. I had peak trained for the ADHM and got a PB of 2:27 ( now don't sneer..that is as fast as I can get :-)). After that I coasted along for GRM. I actually detrained for the SCMM to be able to run comfortably at a slower pace as a pacer.
After Jan 16th I did not train at all for the AVHM. For the first week I relaxed and rested...and who wouldn't. In the week of 23rd I went on a 3 day trip to Puttaparthi with my sisters family from Oz. Then a quick trip to Pune rounded off that week. In the week of 30th my sister's family was here and with all kinds of social and dining commitments, who has time to get up early and run?
In the week leading to the race here is a day wise account.
- On 4th/5th, Sat / Sun I went to Surat. I got the awareness that I was not training at all for the AVHM next weekend and even though I had slept at 12 midnight set the alarm for 4:30am and ran about 11 kms on the treadmill..A first in so many years and I do not consider that a run at all.
- Monday 6th / 7th Tuesday late night dining at Pune with Barefoot Ted, Anand Anantharaman, Raj Vadgama, Bhupendrasingh Rajput, Raghu and Vivek. Next day morning was a 5 km run in University grounds. Hardly a run at all.
- Wed 8th to 10th.. Chennai for a marriage with late nights and indiscriminate eating. On that Friday night I slept for hardly 3-4 hours.
- Sat 11th went to sleep at 9 pm and got a 'all the best' call from a well wisher at 10.30 pm.
The reason I am saying all this in detail is because you, dear reader, should know what NOT to do in the week before the race weekend :-)
I got up at 4:30 am and headed for the race. I did a mental calculation and having done 2:27 in another era in Nov 2011 at the ADHM decided to shoot for 2:45 knowing that a trail run will set you back by that much. I set my virtual partner for the pace and headed off. I had a twisted ankle in the first 4 kms or so. I carefully ran / limped for the next 2-3 kms not wanted to push things and become a DNF. At km 7 I was feeling OK and decided to pick up my pace. I looked at my virtual partner and was dismayed to note that I had picked up a 10 minute deficit limping along. I knew that was going to be a challenge to catch up in the next 14 kms..but I said that nevertheless I will give it my best shot.
I picked up pace and started going into my anaerobic zone...the dreaded thing that I knew I should not go into. By km 16 or so I was fatigued. My scar tissue on my right glutes was aching and maintaining a fluid gait was a challenge. For the first time I got my calves aching...I was afraid that I might experience my first cramps..having never had one before. I kept stopping and stretching all along.
Another notable thing happened during the run. By km 14 my Garmin was an extra km long. With exhaustion having set in, the maths was getting to be too befuddling. At km 16 I just decided to give up trying to rework my Garmin pace with the race organizers distances. I decided to give it my best shot, sans virtual partner and plough ahead.
The last two kms were a walk. I could not pick up and run even when I was encouraged to do so by the so very ' pleasant ' residents of Auroville. I finished my run and noted that the time was around 3:05 or lesser. I forgot to stop my Garmin and the came back and took a photo of the timing clock. The distance read as 22+ kms
After the run, I was feeling quite woozy. Short of holding on to something / someone, I was afraid I might fall. I stretched. I drank electral and water. Then some carb loading of Pongal / Vadai put some energy into me. Even after that I was walking around dazed. I then got a dryfuit ladoo so that the sugar might act faster. Never before had I felt this way.
After some shopping ( Valentine weekend / Wife :-)) we headed back to the hotel. Had a shower and joined Sunil, Srivatsan, Surya and Sudha for lunch at Satsanga. By then we had developed a fondness for the letter 'S'. No prizes for guessing that we had Spinach Rice :-))
But by then I had fever. My eyes were burning. I had the fan put off. I was sporadically shivering. My urine was hot. I finished lunch, got myself some Brufen and slept in the car on the way back to Chennai. A coffee later at the airport, I was fine.
So the take aways from a training POV:
- No training
- No sleep
- No carb loading / hydration
- With 15 minutes extra for the trail and another 15 minutes or so for the 5% detraining that happens for every week you do not train, I think 3:05 was the realistic best I could have pushed myself.
In the week leading to the race I had such a pleasurable ' run ' up. The two days at the Surat Masonic meeting that was so satisfying. Great meals too :-). At Pune we had dinner with some the running greats...I was in exalted company. And the next day morning run was pleasant. The breath was condensing as we started. And meeting all the Pune runners was nice. The University is a great place to run and a first for me. During the rest of the week I thoroughly enjoyed the wedding. Even though I was controlled in my diet, meeting so many relatives is such a pleasant time to have. And who doesn't love a big fat South Indian wedding :-)
Usha joined me on Saturday and we stayed at an excellent place. A heritage home converted into a fine boutique hotel. We loved , loved the place.
The run itself was through amazing greenery. Wish I could run through such a route everyday of my life. And such nice residents too. It was sheer Nirvana. The Mumbai runners led by Srivatsan did an impromptu collection for the Cyclone damage fund and handed it over to the Race director who was so thrilled. Such a nice gesture on our part, even if I may say so :-) At the shopping complex I picked up some Spirulina and Stevia while Usha picked up dresses for herself, her friend and our sons. More plastic was burned than running shoes :-)
The run was well organized and has a community feel to it. After the run we got the nice finishing 'medals'..so cute. We had so many running friends there...many whom I knew from before and many who came up and introduced themselves, being friends on FB and now in person. Everyone..and I mean everyone...had such a pleasant time.
WE enjoyed it and will go back next year too.
SO..which perspective did you like? What kind of a runner do you want to be?
Cheers and thanks everyone for staying till the end.
The online photo album is at
Hey Venkat - I was a recreational runner this time and loved it :) I was in training, enough to run competitively but had committed to give my wife company for her entire run. Registered for the HM instead of the FM as a result of this. I knew that i could relax during the run. However, during the course of the run - say from the 5th km or so, i was surprised to see that my Garmin was showing me ahead by 500 metres or so - shocking when only such a short distance had elapsed. I was explaining to Vidya that maybe it was because of my "back and forth"ing. When we started i was hoping that i would help my wife to do her PB but clearly with it being a diferent surface, her lack of training and the increase in distance, i quickly shelved all plans of a PB. We decided to enjoy ourselves which we did. Cheering other runners, clicking photographs, soaking in the ambience etc etc. I was not surprised when we crossed the finish line in 3:15 hrs or so.
I think each runner must have maybe 1event where he/she can be a recreational runner - a run where one can relax and not worry about the timings. Preferably it should be an exotic place - like Auroville. Makes it easier to relax :) Even then, i would prefer to be in training yet run easy rather than being forced to run easy because of lack of training.
For me, it was a different world indeed - i am not being snobbish here. I met many runners who were running their first HM. When one is pushing competitively, one does not get to converse much with fellow runners :) I met a lady who was doing her first HM and she was determinedly trying to run as much as possible. I was mighty thrilled when i saw her cross the finish line maybe 10 minutes after us. I also could run along with a 60 year old grandmother as she finished her 7th HM. She was not much in training but was determined enough to finish. As she finished, she said she was 60 but felt like she was 100 years old :) I have never run along with Anand Anantharaman in a race before which i experienced this time :) I could stop and ask fellow runners if they were feeling all right and maybe give them some unsolicited advice. All in all, a wonderful experience indeed. The sum of the parts was much more fun than a whole "competitive running" experience :)
Seen from the perspective of a runner who likes to run hard, i was liking the route indeed. Clearly, the surface is much smoother and easier to run on as compared to the Ultra or Kaveri Trail. There are a few spots where one has to walk or run in single file but i think one can aspire for a PB if they train well. I would really enjoy running here next year and maybe i will register for the half to keep the fun element intact :)
The post run lunch at Satsanga was fun. The food was good but the company was much better :)
And yes, the spirit of the Mumbai running community was amazing as they spontaneously contributed money for the relief measures. Some of us then went to meet the race director to hand it over. Clearly, the gesture was much appreciated because it was spontaneous and was done out of genuine concern for those affected by the recent cyclone.
Thanks Venkat for a nice account which is again educative like so many of your other postings!!
Great writeup, Venkat!
Couldn't make it myself, but sure enjoyed reading your engrossing and peculiar(in a good way!) take on the entire experience at AVM, awesome :)
As a recreational runner (and nothing but a recreational runner), I can't but help object to the way you rushed through the recreational runner perspective :)
Starting out in total darkness with light from runners' headlamps bobbing back and forth was a new and exhilarating experience. And as light broke out, running through those trails crisscrossing through the forest upped the seductive appeal of Auroville. At no point was tree cover more than ten minutes away. At times during a conversation with a fellow runner, the trail would narrow down, only to open up a few minutes later for us to resume our conversation from where we left off. Ever so often, you would cross the cattletrap and slip into someone's backyard and make a quick getaway - all part of the route, mind you.
And how can one forget the eager Aurovilleans, who turned out with their families to cheer the runners. A kindly couple even offered to cool me down, and then proceeded to empty the whole bucket of water on my head. The lady went a step further and massaged my head while she poured the water. Overwhelmed with gratitude, I asked for an encore. With such distractions, you cannot blame me for my 5:24 finish!
And then there was this lady at the aid station who kept shouting, "YES, YOU CAN!" At the end of 35km, those three simple words were so welcome! And I mustered up enough energy to shout back, "YES, I WILL!"
A word about the aid stations here. Just having bananas and oranges raised the bar. And the tireless volunteers were always so earnest!
To sum it all up, I shall fondly remember the Auroville marathon in your words, VenkatP - high on fun quotient. And fulfilling in all ways.