11 Mar

Giving It Welly In Delhi

Delhi Half

Indian-based Stuart Angus writes about his experience at Delhi Half Marathon last year. Running in 80% humidity and passing Bollywood stars, the race was unlike any British event…

Having taken up running seven or eight years ago as a way to try and stop the advance of middle age spread and generally getting fitter, I usually like to enter a couple of events a year. Not in the hope of competing at the front but as a way of providing focus and incentive for training.

I had done a couple of marathons as part of a relay team as well as a couple of New Years Day triathlons and some 10k fun runs. Whilst working in Delhi, I saw the preparations for Delhi Half Marathon and decided to give it a go. The race was held in September where temperatures reach the mid 30s with high humidity so it would be a challenge. I had tried a run earlier in the year when the temperature in Delhi exceeded 40 degrees just to see what it was like. That's an experiment unlikely to be repeated. When all sensible people were indoors in air conditioned comfort I sort of managed about 5k, still it was an excuse to re-hydrate with a couple of ice cold Kingfishers (after a suitable intake of water of course).

The half marathon course is essentially flat and takes you up and down the wide tree-lined boulevards of New Delhi, up the Raj Path and onto Connaught Place, the centre of New Delhi before retunring to the stadium.  As you crossed the timing line on the overseas start there was a small stand full of Bollywood and cricket A-listers acting as honorary starters/cheerleaders. For those not familiar with Indian celebrity culture it was the equivalent of Cruise/Kidman/De Niro/Beckham etc starting London Marathon. A huge crowd of runners gathered in front of the stand, creating a bit of a jam, as people high-fived and took pictures on their mobiles with the stars (the Indians hate to be parted from their phones so most seemed to be running with them).

Stuart Angus with medal

There were plenty of shade/water stands, misting points, energy stations, bands playing and loads of spectators. Initially the temperature was fine and foolishly I threw away the cap I was wearing as I thought it would not be needed. One of the best bits was running from India Gate (memorial to the Indian war dead) all the way up the ceremonial and historical Raj Path to the parliament building from the 7 - 9 kilometre mark.

I passed 10k in just under the hour so was running on schedule but the sun was now out and the temperature and humidity climbing. The route from 12-16k took us back down the Raj Path and that's when the mistake of not having a hat became apparent. The Raj Path is wide open with no shade and with the sun beating down the temperature was now well over 30 and 80% humidity so my pace slowed. After about 16k I had to stop and visit just about every water, misting and cold sponge station, so my target of 2 hours went out the window. Once back into the trees for the final 3k it was better and I finished in 2.13.

Again at the stadium the finish was superbly organised with drinks, energy bars, finishing packs and massage stations all available. The bands were still playing and with loads of families picnicking there was a really good party atmosphere. Highly recommended if anyone is in the area when it’s being run.