Alright, so, honestly, I am always torn in the decision making of registering for the Vasai Virar Marathon. There have been issues in the last years’ races where water support in the last few kms for the full marathon, with sun shining down brightly overhead, and the hot asphalt of the road radiating heat, was non-existent.
Also, there’s an option to do the half marathon in the race that would still allow you to enjoy the beauty of the route, without the suffering of running much longer without any support! But then there’s peer pressure – how come you not do this run man? It’s the last one before TMM to test your waters! And coach’s admonition to run this as a practice long-run (to try out and refine your race strategy) and not race it!
So, with trepedition I registered on the last day of November (the registration remained open till 2nd Dec, for the race on 9th Dec, which is interesting!). And what a great decision it was!
When the alarm rings at 3 am, the first feeling is always that of cursing! 🤦🏻♂️Why did I register for this!!?? I could have run the same distance in the vicinity of my home at a more convenient hour! But then, there was peer pressure… and ‘good morning’ and ‘best wishes’ messages had been trickling in over night and in the morning too. The messages kept us updated of the status of the special train to Virar (which reaches Virar 1.5 hours before the marathon flag-off time! But there is not really another option since the regular scheduled trains reach too close to the start time to give you any comfort).
We boarded the special train, and met up with the gang and took some customary snaps.
Once we reached Virar, we boarded the waiting mini-buses and reached the holding area. We did the last minute gear check and then lied down on the floor for a quick nap! 20 mins before flag off did some stretches and proceeded towards the start line.
The run was beautiful to say the least! The weather was perfect, and crowd support the best (much better than TMM in many aspects…in fact, there was not a stretch of the route that did not have crowd support!). This event being organized by the municipal corporation, they are able to rope in kids from their schools to support and cheer along the route…that means, we had rows of kids on both sides waving at you, high-fiving you, and wishing you luck! So much fun gliding through such crowds with both your hands outstretched!
The weather – it was pure Pune weather, with the vibrancy of Mumbai. The best combination!
Also, there’s a point in the race when you can see all the half marathon participants coming from the opposite side. It is a good fun keeping an eye on them to look out for known faces and shout out to them! Breaks the monotony and agony of running alone!
Aniket and I had decided to run together and paced ourselves every 10 kms. The first 30 kms were done in sub 6:00 pace and we were on track for a great finish. And then the cramps started (which the coach later told was due to us going too fast in the first half of the race). The avg. pace for the last 11 kms was closer to 7:00 and there wasn’t a body part that wasn’t cramping up! Inspite of that, we could do a sprint in the last few 100 meters to get a nice photo-finish!
Overall an excellent race with best crowd support. None of the horror stories of the last years – no water support in the last 7-8 kms, the timing mats being would up before the 6:00 hours were over thus resulting on the slower marathoners ending with a DNF, etc. – played out! And the peppy music throughout the race route – some Bollywood, some Marathi numbers, and some Despacito and Shape of You – made the run a run to remember! And high-diving school kids enroute would be a lasting memory of this run!