This Sunday 18 May rather than enjoying a lie in I was up at 4.30am getting ready to take my place on the start line with 11,000 other people in the TCS Bangalore Open 10K race which started at a sleep depriving 6.20 am.
It was a beautiful morning and while I’ve done quite a few half marathons and other shorter runs over the years for whatever reason I have never done a 10k before so I was excited as I enjoyed the drive in through the crowds. I was all kitted out and I’d had my high energy breakfast and was ready to go.
Going back a few months to April when I signed up I was trawling the internet and looking to get involved in more events in Bangalore and to make the most of my short time living here (9 months with work). The race seemed perfect so I decided to sign up.
Now I should say while I do love India in so many ways there are still several things that I still struggle with even after a few months and a couple that reared their head here; the maddening level of bureaucracy involved in the simplest of tasks and the suffocating yet inefficient organisation and security at public events.
To take each in turn – to even sign up online in the first place I had to fill in pages of forms with name, nationality, address, date of birth, emergency contact details, address again and then set up an account and provide a scanned copy of an identification document and a recent picture. I’ve signed up in the UK with just my name and address before…
Next, to be able to provide a predicted time I had to input a load more details and provide a timing certificate or confirmation. As I didn’t have this to hand due to form fatigue I foolishly skipped this step (more on this later). Once I had received confirmation of my payment and several other e-mails confirming I had a place (woo!) another e-mail popped up in my inbox saying that if I wanted to purchase an event t-shirt, which I did, I could do so through another 3rd party site, which involved another round of form filling and excessive amount of e-mails.
Finally, I then had to go the Banaglore Expo to collect my bib and timing chip, this turned out to be nothing more than an attempt to sell the competitors trainers, running gear and medical insurance. Even so I managed to dodge all the salesmen and got to the right booth where I was allowed to provide all my details all over again, show my passport and, finally, pick up my number and so I was ready.
In my previous post I’ve talked about how I’m trying to avoid flitting between different events and goals and the modifications to training that that requires and this 10k certainly fits into that category, however as I had already paid and I figured I could run it without too much specialist training I had decided to still go for it. I therefore didn’t add a great deal more miles to the current limited running within my program and relied on my base fitness and my regular 5 a side football games to get me through.
Because of this and because I suspected that it wouldn’t be the quickest race conditions (25’+ heat!) I’d decided not to worry about splits or even wear my watch and to just run and enjoy it. This decision was confirmed when I ended up watching then end of the admittedly exciting Arsenal- Hull FA cup final that meant I didn’t go to sleep until gone midnight (4 ½ hours ahead here!).
So it came round to the morning of the race and I arrived in good time ready to drop my baggage off and find my category. I located the drop point and negotiated the myriad of queues that had developed, seemingly at random, and received a cardboard token to collect my bag later, which caused a temporary problem as I and no pockets which I felt I ingeniously solved by keeping it in my shoe, and went to find my gate.
This where my problems developed as previously mentioned I hadn’t entered a time so I was in the “F” category which was the last group for the slowest runners and those who didn’t have times to submit, or like me hadn’t bothered. The reason that this was a problem was that this group seemed to dwarf all of the others combined significantly and everyone was shoved in one large section together.
This is where the fun really started as having gone through another security check I found myself in our “pen” which was a wet and packed steeply terraced section of the stadium (The lower stand on the left in the below picture). With more people arriving every second there was no chance to find space to do a proper warm up, even on the spot, as I was more concerned with not being pushed down the stairs by the new arrivals. So as I awkwardly went through a few halfhearted actions I glanced around at my fellow competitors.
I’m trying not to be too negative here but the way people were dressed was not encouraging for a quick pace. The choices of outfit were often inappropriate to the point of being dangerous. While many people were running barefoot, something which I wouldn’t be brave enough to do and was actually quite envious of and would like to try it at some point, the more worrying choices were people wearing jeans and dress shoes in what were quite difficult and wet conditions.
With team and corporate shirts much in evidence we waited and helped with the obligatory ten second count down and the race had begun! When the first two categories who were already on the track had almost made it across the line the marshals began running round opening the gates to the other sections including ours and we all poured out onto the track to make our way round to the start at a quick walk/slow jog.
Unfortunately this continued as we sedately passed the start line, waved to Carl Lewis (Legend) and the TV cameras and continued up the first 200m before the course began to widen and we could finally break into a run.
For a sizeable majority of the participants however this was maintained for all of about 300m before they returned to walking. While the pessimist in me wonders whether people should be do a 10k if they are walking before the 1km banner I have to think anything that gets people moving has to be a positive, especially with India facing the same obesity problems we do in the UK.
What does annoy me though is when people do this without thinking of anyone else. Abruptly coming to a stop with no warning makes it quite likely I’m going to run into the back of you, especially as the route was crowded and even more so if you decide the best moment to come to a virtual stop is on a tight hairpin bend or immediately after picking up a drink, and this could actually result in accidents and injuries.
The course organisers also could have improved the flow of runners with a bit of last minute improvements. We had torrential rain the night before and several areas of the route were still covered in water from a light smattering up to a few inches. While I appreciate there is not a lot they could do about Bangalore’s drainage issues a couple of marshals with brooms could have improved the situation dramatically. Every time we reached standing water a bottleneck developed as the runners attempted to avoid getting wet, creating a number of backlogs and an absolute stop at one point. In general everyone took this in good spirits and the mood was happily upbeat with great support from the surprisingly large number of hardy souls who had come out in support early on a Sunday morning.
While the water situation was annoying what was more concerning was when we had to stop to allow an ambulance past! While emergencies obviously happen and have to take priority, this didn’t really convey the level of planning that I would have hoped for!
As much as it annoys me to say by the 6km marker I had almost given up getting a time anywhere near what I had hoped (pre-race target in the 50-53 minute range) and I think I slacked off a bit, which was partly why I ended up with a final time of 58 minutes.
Not wearing my watch was another huge mistake as I got into a rhythm that in hindsight was far too slow, but without my watch I had no way to gauge as I am terrible at maintaining the right pace. I then managed to compound this problem even further because I hadn’t checked the route map properly prior to the race, so I was under the impression that we finished in the stadium where we started, as there were large countdown signs from “400m to go” down to 100m. Turns out these were for one of the other events running that day so as I turned a corner I had the finish line 10m in front of me and I didn’t have a chance to use my reserves in a final sprint.
So on me is making sure that I read the route properly and make sure that I always wear my watch! I also need to get better at just focusing on doing as well as I can regardless of the circumstances.
To avoid this turning into a full on rant, something I was trying to avoid, I’m going to try and focus on the positives:
- Completed my first 10k so it was a personal best and gives me a time to beat.
- The atmosphere was great and everyone was having loads of fun.
- Got out early on a Sunday morning and had a good run.
- Including all the events that ran 20,000 people were up early on a Sunday getting involved in exercise which is pretty awesome.
- Got to run in a new city and in another athletics stadium which was cool.
- Have a medal and a new running top which you can never have enough off!
So overall, despite this post turning into a bit of a moan I actually really did enjoy it and as I said it was great to be up and running at that time in the morning and the atmosphere was brilliant. It’s a shame but with a bit more planning on the timing categories, (perhaps sub dividing F on predicted times?) and the route it could have been even better.
To be honest it has meant that I really want to run another 10k to see what I could do without the challenges and me sabotaging myself, but in order to stick to my new goals I’m going to leave signing up to one on hold for now and leave it as a potential future target.
So it’s back to the gym this week for me.