Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) is one of the most prestigious races in Delhi. Top athletes from all over the world take part in it. I was taking part in this for the first time. It is strange, anyone in NCR who is even moderately active runs ADHM every year. Well, I did register for this race in 2016 and 2017, but somehow couldn’t take part. That made me even more determined to do well in this race.
I’ve never been a runner. In fact, till June 2016, max distance I ran was 7km (Great Delhi Run). I’ve slowly worked on building my speed and endurance. As Triathlon is my sports of choice, there is no option but to improve in running. Since last one year, I’ve been training using MAF/HR based approach. That topic in itself is big enough to warrant a separate post. But main points - a) Slow running, get more aerobically fit, and b) Low Carb, High Fat, to burn fat as fuel.
For ADHM, I started focussed training from Aug ‘18, under the guidance of my coach Kaustubh Radkar. The program was simple - Good base building with MAF principle, with one-speed work per week. My previous best in HM was 2 hours 26min (Amritsar, Feb ’18), and I wanted to improve significantly from that time.
The training went good in August and September. But then, what is a journey without a twist or two. Few weeks before the race, I caught a nasty viral and was bed ridden for a week. That gave a setback in the training. And, once I recovered, I was silly enough to donate blood. Now, don’t get me wrong - blood donation is a noble endeavor, and I’ve been doing this regularly for years now. But doing this close to the event, and especially when the body has not recovered caused a sharp drop in my aerobic capacity. I read about this later - when we donate blood, Red Blood Cells are reduced in the body. These cells are responsible for transporting oxygen in the body. So, it directly impacts running fitness, and it takes 3-4 weeks to come to a normal level. Damn!
Anyway, it was too late to repent. We discussed and re-adjusted our training focus - most of it was slow long distance running. Trust the process!
Race Countdown & Strategy
Taper started a week before the race, with mileage decreased, and last 2 days were no workout. I strictly followed the taper, and nicely did overeating :-D
The evening before the race, Kaustubh and I had a chat on the race strategy. I was thinking of pushing for a sub-2 finish. But he advised not to push, as I had not trained for this during my workouts. So, we agreed that I’ll take the first 5km at 6-6:15 pace, and then either hold it or slow accelerate based on how I feel.
The night before, I went through my pre-race checklist. Laid down everything, so no morning panic.
The race was to start at 5 am. So, I got up at 3 am, freshened up, made a 2 eggs omelet, dressed up and left. I decided not to take the car to avoid parking chaos. ADHM is a big race, with 350,000 participants. It was going to be crowded.
I reached the venue at 4:15 am, met brother there. He is a fantastic runner but had been dormant for 2 years. Still, ADHM is ADHM - this is a race which is to be run! I was in section C, slowly started moving towards the race start gate. The crowd was massive! Soon, the race gate came into sight. I re-checked my Garmin to ensure it is on and latched to the GPS. At exact 5:04, I crossed the start mat.
Start to 5km: The atmosphere on the race line was electrifying. 35,000 people were running, and it showed! I slowly made my way in between crowd. My first km was slowest - 6:30. Weather was nice, the ill-fame Delhi Pollution was subdued. It was a strange feel - to run in the dark with so many people around. Next few kms followed quickly, with a pace of 6:18, 6:20, 5:54, 6:00. HR was a very steady 147bpm, and I was glad to see that. Km 5 to km 15 : By now, I had settled down on a nice rhythm - Cadence was a steady 166, HR was also steady. Post 5km, as the crowd thinned, I focused on slow acceleration. My next 10 km went 6:05, 5:59, 6:15, 5:47, 5:46, 5:49,5:50,5:36,5:45, 5:39. I finished 15km in the exact target of 1:30. Cadence slowly moved up to 169bpm. HR at end of 15km was 159bpm, which was fantastic.
Km 15 to Km 21.1: This was the time for calculation - last 6km to go, and 30min remaining for sub 2. Theoretically, it was in my reach, but it would have required acceleration beyond what I had done in the training. So I took the call of not going it this time but just enjoy a nice strong finish. I slowly accelerated, and last 6km came in 34min (5:34, 5:45, 5:33, 5:35, 5:21, 5:26). Close to finish line, I saw another runner going strong. I greeted him, only to discover he was my college mate - Bikram! What are the chances!! I sprinted on seeing the finish line.
Final Time: 2:04:11. Pace: 5:51mn/km. Average HR: 154, Av Cadence: 169
I was feeling so strong, hardly any fatigue and HR very quickly came down to sub 100bpm. Loved this race!
- MAF training works!!!
- Race organization was just ok, even disappointing for such a big race. Volunteers at aid stations were half sleepy, and not proactive in handling out nutrition quickly. I expected better than this from such a popular A-race.