Check out our times and running schedule on this brilliant site designed by Tapan – MADVISION
UPDATE : I have finally put up the map of the route as well and have coloured the various sectors as per their difficulty. I hope this is useful to others running this next year.
Its now been quite a few days since I last updated the blog. I definitely have had the time to do so, just been a bit lazy cos there is just so much to write! A couple of important events/runs have happened during my hiatus and whilst my practice runs had not given me much hope, both the runs have gone off better than expected! So, let’s go back a few days in time to where I left off with the 2nd entry.
After the 10 Km Powai Run on the 5th of Jan, next one up looked quite daunting. It was a trail run over the unpaved red soil roads of Matheran, India’s most environment friendly, pollution-free hill station (no vehicles are allowed here) This of course means that there are numerous horses and the omnipresent red soil kicked up by their hooves! So much so, that the leaves of the trees by the main paths are permanently caked in a thick layer of red.
A few photos of Matheran
Initially, we were quite unsure on whether we should take the plunge and register for it. The tough terrain – a few number of steep uphill sectors interspersed with long stretches of continually inclined grades, all along unpaved roads that had stones and rocks strewn about, was initimidating to newbies like us. Yet, we decided to take the plunge, and I am very glad we did it – its been the most enjoyable (and toughest) run we have had yet.
Fast forward to Jan 10th night – we caught the last train from CST to Karjat and got off at Neral at around 2 am. Walked off briskly to the hotel closest to the station (Hotel Rahi) booked in the cheapest room and in the company of a couple of mosquitoes and one cockroach, sat down to have homemade grub asap and then doze off.
Curious point here -> all hotels at Neral and Matheran have an unusual timing. You can check-in after 10 am at whatever time, but the check-out time is 9 am!! Pretty early and even more so for us, who went off to sleep at 3 am only to wake up at 7, get showered, have breakfast and rush to check-out and head up to Matheran.
We reached Matheran at 9:45 (it takes about 20-30 minutes from Neral) and first checked into the MTDC Hotel that is near the entry point at Dasturi Naka, which was where the race would flag off – thus maximising the time we could get to sleep. 😀
The race flag off was about 10 feet away from our room, so that was one job well done! We then moved off to the market to reconnoiter the route we would be running the nest day and also head off to the Library where the bib and t-shirts were being distributed.
As we moved along up the incline just a few 100 metres from the start line, it became obvious that we were in for a gruelling time. 15 minutes of walking later, we were grinning at each other, wondering why we signed up for this! Finally after about 20 minutes of walking up, we reached the market and the library. The bib distribution had been delayed, so we decided to stroll around till Charlotte Lake and double back up to the market. A few pics of Charlotte Lake below…
After lunch we returned to the Library and picked up the bibs from the group of extremely friendly and enthusiastic organisers – Mr. Paresh Pimpale and Mr. Shyam Lata – experienced runners themselves! They explained the route to us and informed us that we had 175 runners in total tomorrow divided among the 10 km and the 10 mile run. Seeing the small field of dedicated runners, I was absolutely sure that I would end up last 😀
The route led out from the market and this bit made us feel more relaxed since it was about a kilometre downhill and then came up to Pande Road which was yet another gradient upto the Polo Ground! We would have to do 1/3rd of the Polo Ground and then return the way we had come. Whilst the first 5 kms seemed quite daunting, the second 5 kms did look good and gave us hope that if we survived the first half hour, we would do it.
Long walk back to the hotel room, checking out the trail and making a mental note to be careful while coming downhill and not get our ankle twisted on a loose rock! Had a quick supper and went off to sleep early.
Woke up at 5 am on race day, all pepped up. Matheran market was 2.5 kms away and anyway there was no tea or coffee stall open this early in winter! The earliest one was at 7:30 am that too at a canteen close to our room.
Matheran Tip : Make sure you carry a mug that can boil water so that you can make yourself tea or coffee in the morning!
Guzzled loads of water, had salted peanuts, did the trip to the washroom to clean our stomachs and we were ready by 7 am. The 10 milers began running by 7:45 am while our turn came at 8:00 am on a cool morning. (surprisingly it was not as chilly as we expected it to be)
As is the norm, we began from the back of the field (it always feels better psychologically, to overtake rather than get overtaken!) Our training up the Kanheri slope came in use as we maintained a constant pace up the slope – ensuring we took small steps to propel ourselves up. We finally crested the demonic starting slope making decent time and finally eased out as the flat stretch of the market came in sight.
Tapan sped up while I was not yet confident of my ability, and thus kept up a slow pace to make sure I conserved my energy. In hindsight, I should have pushed ahead but well, that’s something now marked in my mental notebook for next year 🙂
After the market was the slight downward incline that allowed us stretch our legs a bit before the next daunting incline of Pande Road. I forgot to mention that when I had begun down the long slope after the Library, the leading African runner came loping across from the opposite side with complete nonchalance! Quite incredible the sheer grace and speed at which these natural runners run, makes the marathon look easy! They are truly super human. The leader did go on to finish the run in an incredible time of 31 minutes!
Back onto my run, and as I struggled up the slope to the Polo Ground, I met Tapan coming down (he had just done the Polo ground turn and was on his way back) I pushed on, did the turn around (which was approximately the half way point) and then gathered myself afresh for the second half which I was looking forward to.
As I began down the slope of Pande Road, I was still circumspect since I have always been pretty clumsy and was deathly afraid of twisting my knee or ankle! I then came along into the market and while running the flat stretch, I estimated that since I only had about 2-2.5 kms remaining with most of it downhill, I could charge ahead. It felt brilliant to finally power up and gallop across, a truly exhilarating feeling as I raced faster than the trotting horses with my feet feeling great against the soft red sand that was acting as a superb cushion. I was unaware how many guys I overtook but I felt just brilliant and absolutely energised!
I had to control myself as the next stretch involved a downward slope but as always I was uncertain of my flat feet and had to slow down. After that I came across a 100 metre section of a mild slope up, after which was the section I had been looking forward to – the demonic incline that I had hated so much and would be my best friend on the way back 🙂
I stretched my legs and began pumping down but as I turned to the right on the final slope section, I could see many loose stones, some pried loose by the runners who had gone by and I slowed down a bit fearing the worst. Unfortunately just as the slope was ending, I did indeed trip (yep that’s me!) but luckily, having been prepared for myself to fall over, I did not hurt myself too badly. Lost about 10 seconds, dusted myself off and began the final push up the incline to the finish line.
I eventually ended up with 1 hr 8 minutes while Tapan did it in 59 minutes 59 seconds which was incredible! What was even more incredible was that our estimates of the previous night were almost spot on! I had estimated myself finishing in 1 hr 10 mins while I had thought Tapan would finish in 1 hr (he finished in 59 mins 59 seconds which was just 1 second off!! BEAT THAT!) I could have probably done 1 hr 6 minutes but well this was still way better than I expected.
It felt brilliant to be awarded the medal at the end of the race – this is one medal I will cherish! What felt even better was that I was definitely not the last to cross the finish line and had done reasonably well. When the results came out, we realised that Tapan stood 15th while I stood 26th! This was way beyond what I hoped and I can safely say that my first Trail Run was the most satisfying run so far 🙂
My next blog entry will be about the next run we did – the biggest marathon in Asia – the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, fondly referred to as SCMM. This was a totally opposite run to the Trail Run – it is run on smooth tarmac roads through the most picturesque parts of Mumbai.
In the next blog post I will write about that experience, followed by a comparison and analysis between all our runs and what we have learned from them.
Thanks for reading! 😀