Volunteering for a Half Marathon

Few things are as uplifting and inspiring as witnessing runners of all types – the kids and the young, and the so called old, fit and those who didn’t look fit, those with a flowing and flying gait and  men and women run. During my many races I have admired the volunteers who help us with water and directions and I have marveled about what it would mean to volunteer myself. I imagined that it would be a wonderful experience.

My previous opportunity to volunteer for a running event came last November when I was asked to be a pacer for Half Marathon in Pune’s popular race Pune Running Beyond myself PRBM 2017 edition. Unfortunately, a foot injury meant that I could not only not run but also I couldn’t set a foot anywhere near the route. I had to sit it out and could not go even to congratulate our Anyone Can Run! group’s runners. Following my recovery, I have been running well for several months. Another opportunity of volunteering came.

A Half Marathon and 10K, 5K, and 3K runs known as Last Sunday of the Month (LSOM) as were organized today by Pune Running Group. Today’s  run was by Kothrud Deccan area runners in aid of autistic children. The LSOMs are quite popular and attract over a thousand runners. Our group decided to help out as volunteers. Some of us got water station duty, some to handle traffic. I was part of the group at managing traffic at the busy Karishma junction slightly off Karve Road.

Within  few minutes  of flag off at 0500 AM, a small group of runners came and blurred past our junction about 1.5 Km from starting line.  The traffic was negligible, so we could watch their gazelle like stride and clap.

Other runners followed. Soon runners started coming from both ends and the traffic was building up. All five of us at the junction were fully engaged in a battle of wits with the marauding road warriors who wanted to cut across the runners’ stream. We were trying to find safe gaps for letting the vehicles pass through.  Many motorists and bikers stopped willingly. Some argued ‘why don’t you stop the runners, I am getting late’ .  Some just drove through  ignoring our calls, fortunately we could stop the runners keeping them out of harm’s way.  Some admired and asked us what’s the name of the race. One of them, driving a car, told us  that we were doing it wrong ( traffic management) at the same time ignoring our signs and cutting through. Ironically the young (and supposedly foolish) mostly stopped willingly and the old ( and supposedly wise) broke through. The tempo drivers and those with big fat numbers came menacingly close to us. But the worst were the so called educate elite, who on a Sunday morning were in a tearing hurry to get somewhere.

I was super excited about volunteering.  I usually sleep well the night before my races, but in this case, I got up a couple times before the 3 AM alarm just to check time. But actually doing it was very tiring, less due to physical efforts of standing for four hours, and more due to the taxing job of stopping people from doing something. I had to turn my back to the runners and face the traffic while standing bang in the middle of the road to block it. I missed many of our Anyone Can Run! group runners failing to cheer them. I missed clapping and shouting for runners. I would have to liked to run a little with some of them, particularly those who looked tired. I would have liked to race a bit with kids.

I felt good that I did something that was crucial for runners but I did not feel good while doing it. I felt famished and hungrier than I feel after my Half Marathon runs.

Life is like that, we have to do what it takes to make a positive difference.  The LSOM organizers did a fine job judging by reactions of the runners.  So it was all for good.

May be, I would have been better off if I had put in a run of about 5 Km from my home to the LSOM venue. As if to make up for that, I went off for an evening run  along the busy Ganeshkhind road and Senapati Bapat road.  It felt good.

As the evening turns into night, I am happy that I volunteered and I ran.



Running without a Garmin

I have been running since late 2011 with a Garmin Forerunner 305 on my wrist and a heart rate monitor strapped around my chest.  My Garmin proved to be trusty accessory come rain or a blazing sun. Barring some hiccups with the heart rate readings, which I solved by cleaning the sensor areas on the strap and also tightening the strap by a few knots. Why the ‘elastic’ of the strap should become useless, is another matter.

My Garmin told me how much I ran and how fast I did that. It showed my average and maximum heart rates. During races I could consult it to find how much more distance I had to cover. I could also compile some trivia like my running kilometers far exceeded my tweets and brag about it, all thanks to my Garmin.

Then, it happened. Since October 2014, the Garmin battery started showing signs of old age. By November, it could barely last for a Half Marathon run of almost 3 hours (Boy, I am slow) . My running too had hit plateau, which the Garmin would unflatteringly show run after run.  I started avoiding the jaded Garmin because it couldn’t last for even an hour now. I did a few practice runs without any straps. I was constantly guessing my heart rate and distance covered and speed.  I could manage distance and speed through known landmarks on the route and time taken. I gave up bothering about heart rate and just observed my breathing and effort level. It was still a lot a guesswork.

Then came the race day of December 21. This was the first HM I would do without a Garmin. Me and my fellow runner took 38 Min for first 5 Km and after that we didn’t realize much but we knew were running faster, much faster. At around 12 KM we saw a pacer flag waving, I thought it must be a 2:45 pacer. But  we soon overtook it and found that it was a 2:30 pacer! I couldn’t believe this because my best HM time until the was 2:41. I ended the HM in 2:31, my personal best! (The 2:30 pacer finished behind me)

My Garmin is still under ‘repairs’. So my practice runs are without it. I think not having Garmin eliminated distraction of looking at it -mentally calculating required speed and distance, and thinking about heart rate. This is a seemingly minor distraction. But it out of the way, I am now more aware of my muscles, breathing, effort and even things along the route. This helped me to relax and it seems that body takes over in deciding how fast it should go and whether it needs to use different muscles.  If the idea behind running is just to run and nothing else, a Garmin is superfluous.

In the meanwhile my tweets have surged ahead of my kilometers. My first attempt to replace its battery (needs surgical skills)  has failed. But who cares, when I am running, I am just running. I shall deal with a repaired Garmin when it is.


I didn’t realize this when I began on last Sunday to run the The Great Shivaji Half Marathon.

My first kilometer of the HM was in fact the 3000th KM since I started logging my runs on Garmin in Nov 2011.

I learned this today when I uploaded my logs on dailymile.com

Thank you my running and non running but cheering friends and race volunteers and Danny Dreyer of chirunning.com

Not bad na?

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