Posted by: cochinblogger | December 14, 2014

The Spice Coast Marathon 2014

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For a long time, my only physical exercise was the evening walk from the office to the bus stop, and when I began working from home, I needed to substitute that walk with some other activity. I live downtown, and walking on a busy street is not pleasant. My office walk, on the other hand, was in a quiet neighborhood. I finally hit on the idea of a short run before my morning bath, inside the house. I don’t have a treadmill; instead, I ran from the end of my room to my father’s study table in his room, and then back and forth in pendulum fashion. Twenty minutes of this became a daily routine, and it was accompanied by a feeling of well-being that propelled me through the day.

This time last year, a half-marathon was organized in Cochin, and the starting point was five minutes from my place. I joined the 7 km fun run, and had to slow down to a walk less than halfway to the finish (see The Kochi International Half-Marathon 2013). It was a humbling experience, and I realized that I would have to step up my efforts if I wanted to do better next year. My goal became to finish this 7 km run next year.

I slowly increased the duration of my in-house run until I found myself comfortably running an hour practically every day. Some days I would stretch it out further, and once or twice I ran three hours without ill effects.

Then came this announcement, a few months ago, of a run called the Spice Coast Marathon organized by a running club, Soles of Cochin — but only marathon (42 km) and half-marathon (21 km). I pleaded with them to include a 10K (10 km), which I knew was within my reach. They said no, their resources were limited, and if they included a 10K, lots more would join. So, I registered anyway for the half-marathon, and decided to run for the experience, and stop whenever I felt uncomfortable. I loved the infectious excitement of the race, the heady atmosphere, the frenetic energy. I found it bracing. I would carry my camera and take as many photos as I could. I would have something to show for my efforts even if I failed to finish. Photographer-runner, I said to myself.

Then came the announcement of the same run I had done last year, scheduled for three weeks after the Spice Coast run, and this time the organizers had included a 10K. I was happy. I registered for the 10K, reasoning that I would likely not finish the Spice Coast half-marathon, but then I could look forward to the consolation of finishing the 10K.

On the appointed day of the Spice Coast half-marathon, November 16, I awoke at 3:30 am and was out of the door and in the taxi by 4, reaching the starting point, the Port Trust grounds at Willingdon Island well before the 5 am start time. Runners milled near the starting point, some limbering up, some chatting in small groups, some sitting down and resting, and some like me gawking at the spectacle. I ate some bananas I’d carried from home and drank water to see me through my run. Soon, the countdown began, and we were off (the three photos below were taken just before the start).

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This run had a couple of special attractions for me. One, the route snaked its way through the heritage parts of Cochin: Willingdon Island, the bridge to Mattancherry, Fort Kochi, and back. It was a thrill to run past the heritage regions of Cochin, past the Chinese fishing nets and the old churches and temples and mosques, the ancient godowns and decrepit buildings.The route hugged the coast, so the bay was continually within view. I clasped my pedometer in my right hand like a good luck charm and ran, glancing at it occasionally to read the distance covered and the running time, which is how I ran inside the house.

At some point, the pedometer told me I’d crossed the one hour mark. Thirteen minutes later, I’d reached the halfway mark and swung around for the return to the starting point. However, there were no signs along the route indicating the remaining distance, which was a distinct handicap. I hope they fix this next year. Once past the one-hour mark, I was in unknown territory, as I’d run longer than an hour just on a handful of times. However, egging myself on with the thought I had run even three hours once, I kept at it. As it happened, I finished the Spice Coast half-marathon fairly comfortably. The 21 kilometers had taken me about two-and-a-half hours. I was ecstatic that I had finished, which I hadn’t expected to. As soon as I crossed the finishing line, someone came up to me and hung the medal around my neck.

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However, at some point during the run, I had injured my left toenail. Luckily, I realized this only after I’d finished, else I’d have had to drop out. I’m not bloody-minded enough to keep running with an injured toenail, even if the pain allowed me to. I limped to the breakfast pavilion, ate heartily, and then made my way to the medical tent. The bed under the nail was injured, and the nail was becoming black. They put a dressing, after which, left shoe in my hand, I hobbled to the after-race snake show, walking on the heel of my left foot. I then ordered a taxi and went home.

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The next few days were terrible; walking was very painful. The muscles were sore, but the injured toe was what hurt most. The dressing was changed twice at a nearby clinic over the next few days. A week later, I could walk normally.

I was surprised by the injury, because there had been no hint of it during my regular indoor runs. But then I can never hit my full stride indoors, and that combined with the 2.5 hour run duration must have caused my foot to swell even more than usual, compressing the toe. I needed more wiggle room in there, which only a bigger shoe will provide. My right foot was fine (no injury), which was what led me to the cause of my injury. My left foot is bigger than my right foot (which was a club foot at birth, straightened out with special boots and physical therapy thanks to my mom’s efforts). I buy shoes that fit my left foot, but they’re too big for my right foot. That explained why my left foot was injured but not my right foot; the right foot had wiggle room, whereas the left did not. I became convinced of this a couple of days after the run, and lost no time in ordering the next bigger size, size 12, of the same shoes, which fortunately was available online at a generous discount. So I will wear a size 12 shoe on my left foot and size 11 on my right foot.

Looking back, the good things about the race were the attractive name, the interesting route, the friendly and helpful volunteers, the variety of drinks and fruit at the stands along the route, the sumptuous breakfast after the run, the race photos, the finishing line videos. Also, I loved the ethnic Kerala touches: the after-race neera (sweet toddy) drink and the unique finisher’s medal made of coir. The cons? Just one, as I’ve already mentioned: the lack of distance signage along the route. Oh, one more: the medical team packed up and left well before all the runners made it back. I did get medical attention, but I wonder about the marathon runners. Thank you, Soles of Cochin, for taking the time out from your running schedule to organize such a memorable run, without any big name sponsorship support.

Naturally, I had to skip the 10K, which was held a few days ago. And a few days ago, I resumed my in-house runs, barefoot, pedometer in hand. I can’t wear running shoes yet; I’ll have to wait until my nail falls off, after which a new nail will gradually take its place. The nail is black now and not securely attached. It’ll drop off in time, and a new nail will grow. But I have to be careful not to knock it anywhere, not to get it stepped on, etc. I can wear shoes if they’re not tight, but I dare not run in shoes yet.

I’m going to keep that nail as a memento when it falls off. In truth, that black nail is my real medal, not the one they hung around my neck. 🙂

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  1. Really enjoyed your post. Good for you. Quite an achievement. Never associated you with running.Hope your toe is better.The close up photo looks quite gruesome!!I had recently come across a blogger–a Mallu–who mainly does book reviews and also runs. Here is the link WINNOWED: Running

    |   | |   | |   |   |   |   |   | | WINNOWED: RunningFlat, Flat Feet I am almost flat-footed, always have been. I remember enthusiastically participating in every running race at school and coming last in each and eve… | | | | View on | Preview by Yahoo | | | |   |

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