Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2017 Race Report (1:26 time)

I ran the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) 2017 in a time of 1:26:17, a PB (personal best) by 2 minutes.

During the final stretch.

After running this fabulous and extremely well organized race for 3 consecutive years in 13, 14 and 15, I took a break last year but missed it a lot. So, it was a great to to back this year and do justice to this fast course with a good 2 minute PB.

Coming into this race, there was a lot of needless talk and discussion among runners and others alike about the pollution levels in Delhi, a lot of it whipped up by the media, because of course, the media has nothing better to do. It was impossible to stay away from such discussions and news stories and updates, but I was so focused on my training and doing well at ADHM that all this talk simply did not register with me. I was very clear that unless the organizers themselves cancelled the event, the race was ON for me. And as expected, it turned out to be no big deal, not worse than the usual pollution levels.

Training had been going pretty well after my Ironman 70.3 World Championships in September, and I was hopeful to eke out a small PB (previous PB was 1:28 at ADHM 15). After a certain performance level, even a marginal improvement gets more and more difficult, so even a few seconds PB would have made justice to this course, though I would not have been satisfied. So I am pretty happy with a a 2 minute improvement.

The day started with a bit of a hiccup. Our entire Team Motiv8 along with many other runners were left stranded for almost half an hour at a Metro station. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the train arrived. I waved at the engine coach just to make sure the train stops :). The driver lookout at me out of the corner of his eye, not too amused. The entire platform heaved a collective sigh of relief and loaded themselves into the coaches. Finally, we arrived at the start venue at Jawaharlal Nehru (JLN) Stadium with not a minute to spare. A final visit to the porta-potty, checking in the post-run bag, and lining up in our respective corrals.

I edged slowly towards the front of my corral A and soon found myself among scrawny athletic looking runners, unmistakably from the army, railways or some such young professional athletic team. I overheard the following interesting conservation there…

Runner A: “What are you going to do today”.

Runner B: “I am pacing today”.

Runner A: “What time?”

Runner B (non-chalanatly) : “1:17-1:18”.

Runner A: “So slow? How come?”

Runner B: “I raced just last week in 1:08 so taking it easy today”.

OK, then!…

All the previous times, the air at the start had been quite chilly, but this time, it was not too cold. It was pleasant. However, for a run, these were ideal conditions. Our wave was flagged off at 6:55 sharp. The plan was to hover around 4:03-4:05 pace for most of the race. Depending on whether the majority of splits were more towards 4:03 or more towards 4:05 (or slower!), I would have a gotten 1:25:xx or 1:26:xx. I started out conservatively around 4:10 for the 1st 1K and as the starting crowd of runners thinned out, slowly honed in on the target pace. I was not forcing 4:03s but just running by feel, focusing and trying hard not to redline and go over the edge. A few splits came 4:01, some 4:03, some 4:05, and a few were a bit slower too around 4:08.

Though the effort felt physically manageable, the mental focus required to constantly listen to body feedback and prevent myself from running too fast and blowing up was getting harder and harder. In fact, there was a 2km section from 14K-18K which I do not remember whatsoever. As the 18K marker approached, my mind was still on 16th K and was expecting to see the 16K marker. I simply could not believe my eyes. I checked my Garmin twice just to make sure. It showed 17.9x both times :).  I was thrilled! That was 2K “less” I was going to have to run! Now, only 3.1K more to go, I could manage to sustain that! With a renewed vigor and energy, I marched on.

It was definitely getting harder and harder, but I managed to hang on. I wanted to hammer it for the last 1-2K but it simply did not happen. The best I could do was maintain the pace. As I made the final turn towards the finish line, with 200m to go (and a small ramp) I finally kicked it into high gear and finished strong and fast for a final time of 1:26:17.

I most certainly ran faster than 4:05 – my Garmin always tracks less distance than actual, which is evident from the total distance (21.11K) I am shown as running. All previous runs are around 21.2K; its natural to run 100-200m extra over the half marathon distance.

All the salient features of this marathon were present – a fabulous start and finish venue (JLN stadium), fantastic organisation from Procam including a not-so-fantastic icky post-run hot snack (but that’s forgiven given the great rest of the organization), getting to run on Rajpath and past India Gate, the infamous cobbled section encountered in the first and last km, running on which feel so uncomfortable, especially in the 21st K.

There were some new things this year – a large horde of monkeys (yes, monkeys in New Delhi!). One large monkey charged at a runner, luckily I managed to run past without attracting their attention. It also seems Rahul Gandhi was watching the marathon from some vantage point near India Gate. Also, Shashi Tharoor was apparently inconvenienced for a few minutes because his car was stopped because of some “cattle” running on the road. Anyway…

The entire Team Motiv8 had a fabulous day with everybody recording their PBs.

Team Motiv8 after the race.

I will be back next year to break 1:25!

-Atul Godbole




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