Bengaluru Half Marathon- India

By: Bukelwa Nzimande

Many of the changes that came with moving to Bangalore left me completely demotivated when it comes to running.  My list of course rests on a decorated bed of a thousand excuses and utter laziness. Two months in and trying to nip these in the bud I decided to sign-up for a big race this side, and to my luck the Shiram Property Bengaluru Marathon, one of the biggest race events in the city, was on the cards.

When I signed up, I had just over a month to train for a half marathon, which was okay because 21km is familiar ground, and the last time I ran a half marathon I did “great”, even with a head cold. So I knew I would smash it. Well let’s say I thought I would smash it.

Leading up to race day, I had only managed to put in about 6 lousy runs, all comfortably under 10km, two of which had left me feeling like death. I had also managed to work up a foot injury 2 weeks leading up to the day, because my ambition was in the clouds and I wanted to fast-track my training. The delusion of thinking I was as fit as I last remember together with the pressure from my electronic handcuff (this is what I call my running watch these days) made me do it. No no no, not stupidity.

On race day, surrounded by thousands of people, for the very first time I stood at the start line of an official race outside my own country, filled with anticipation and a familiar sense I always get at the start of a big running event- unity. I also felt the most relaxed, expecting no more than just living through the full spirit of the race. I knew I was out of shape and was bagging on former glories to gracefully carry me through- No I actually fully knew this at the end of the race and was well humbled.

The gun went off and we set out. The first 5km were bliss and adrenaline. Reckless adrenaline because at 6km I already knew that I was doing a bad job at pacing myself, and was already suffering at the hands of the unforgiving humidity of Bangalore.  In that moment two of my colleagues (Jeremy and barefoot running Kishore) dashed past me looking strong and in seconds disappeared into the horizon. Seeing them go encouraged me to keep going, but I knew I had to slow down and completely forget the numbers on my watch and run at a comfortable pace. I felt like I was fighting two battles: forcing myself to listen to my body and not my tomtom, and fighting the urge of wanting to check my slipping pace.  I resorted to my usual crazy strategies of counting to 20 and backwards to 15, up to 50 and down to 30 and so forth.  Spelling people’s names as they passed…. oh and a lot passed me.

Punctuated by festivities, drumming, cheering and song, I managed to keep this up well past the 16km mark, before…my foot (Yes, the one that I had rested and treated like a queen) was like “sorry Kelwa I think I’ve had enough”. In my mind I was like “no sweet thing please don’t do this to me now, we are doing reasonably okay and we can finish this”. I continued through the growing pain of my retaliating foot and mental torture. In all fairness I didn’t need to put myself through anything.  I could have stopped and jumped into an ambulance…but this didn’t cross my mind at any point.  Does it ever?  I wanted to finish and finish I did…happy and in pain. My pictures tell this story so well.  I couldn’t even fake it for the cam fam.

Annette, my sweet running mate was waiting for me at the finish line. We were stoked as ever to have run and finished a race in India, which for me is also a record breaker sneaking into my record books as my slowest 21km time. But I was okay with that because outside of the injury, I absolutely enjoyed being part of the running family here. The foot did not stop me from joining the Bollywood-style jol that a significant number of people stayed for after indulging in a full hot breakfast.

Additionally, the event was extremely organised, from the registration, expo and race-pack collection to marshals and traffic control. There was also not a single water sachet in sight, none in the storm drainage channels, none in the bushes. Nothing but runners and clean roads behind and before. This meant that every water station functioned like clockwork from, rinsing tumblers, refilling them and lining them up in no time, the entire duration of the race. The volunteers and helpers are always amazing!

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