ADHM-2012 was my first half marathon during which I came to know about concept of bus as well as pacing. For those who are still not aware about these let me give you a brief introduction:
A pacer is normally an experienced runner who commits to finish a particular race within a stipulated time while motivating other runners to do the same. So runners who are aiming to finish within that time can join the pacer and this pack of runners running together is known as bus. Just like a normal bus- runners join and leave the bus at different intervals during a race. The driver of the bus (pacer) is given some identification so that runners can spot him/her easily. In my case, it was a flag mentioning ’2:45′ bus.
Now the next question is
Why did I choose to pace when I could have bettered my own record?
I was struggling since July from achilles tendon injury and thus was not sure if I should go for ADHM with full throttle. I got an offer to pace the 2:15 bus but I rejected that as I was thinking of improving my own timing in this superb cold weather. On 1 Dec I did an easy long 2 hr+ run in which I completed 22.5 km in 125 minutes. It was my longest run after the injury and i started having pain near ankle. I got the signal that I should avoid stretching my body at this point of time and thus opted for pacing. By that time 2:15 pacing slot was filled and the only option before me was to pace for 2:45 finish time. So I opted for becoming a 2:45 pace.
Deciding the pacing strategy
I had never tried running at this speed before so I was unsure if it is going to be a run-walk or will I be able to run continuously to achieve this finish time. Continuous travelling and busy schedule due to my job related assignments after 3rd Dec left me clueless regarding my pacing strategy. On 9th Dec, I tried running at an average speed of 7:40 minutes /sec and discovered that it is a pretty decent speed at which I can run continuously. So I decided to run continuously at this pace and adjust the spare 3 minutes for breaks. I did 2 more runs to get a feel of this pace and gained confidence.
Race Day and the execution of plans
With a huge crowd in the holding area, it is always difficult to catch hold of appropriate pacers. Most of the runners who approached me in the holding area were first time runners. Majority of them entered the race even without preparation. There were some experienced runners also who were out of practice for some time. Gun time for the race was 7:40 am and I left the start line at around 8:00 am so that runners from behind can join me. With ‘bhag milkha’ song being played in the stadium and great athlete Milkha Singh ji flagging off the race, there was phenomenal energy in the atmosphere. I felt like I should run like a lion chasing a gazelle but somehow restrained myself. After some time I realized that i am running at a faster pace so slowed down a bit. Since it was beginning of the race and other runners were very fresh so they were able to run with me without any issue. When I slowed down a bit, there were few who overtook the bus to join it at a later stage while there were few who kept on running with me. There were many who asked me about the flag and pacing. There were many who were using me as a reference. There were some funny comments also depicting this. One of the runners said- “I am trying so hard to keep myself ahead of you- why do you keep coming again and again?” There were fewer persons who were running with me while there were many using me as a reference for 2:45 finish. There was a first time runner running with me right from the beginning whose maximum distance before this race was 11 km, I was happy to congratulate him after he passed 11k mark. Near 15k some of them were feeling that their legs were getting heavier so I took a short break and guided them for doing a couple of stretches. Few of them were not able to keep themselves with the bus while others joined in. After 17k I started shouting and encouraged runners to pick up speed. At around 19k mark I asked runners in my bus to speed up as I decided to slow down and encourage others to stop walking and start running and finish the line as quickly as possible. I kept on shouting and encouraging runner till 21 km point.
There was a huge jam near finish line. Although there were separate lanes for great Delhi run participants and half marathon finishers but many of the great Delhi run participants crashed their lanes and entered the other side choking way for half marathon finishers. Even at the finish line runners had stopped to get themselves clicked rather than making efforts for minimizing their timings. My sincere request to such runners is to avoid doing this in future so that people who are serious about their finish timing do not suffer.
I finished with a timing of 2:45:33 (33 more than expected). Splits for the race are depicted in the picture.
For a person who had started running just one year ago in the same event, pacing was something that was unimaginable a few days ago. It was an amazing experience undoubtedly to help other runners to better their timing/serve as a reference for finishing faster.
God, I pray to thee to make us all – ‘Citius Altius Fortius‘.