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Vizag Half - Count Your Claps, Not Your Steps

The event, organized on 16th October 2022, began with an initial stretch of zoo from highway gate to beach gate. Expectations were high to spot at least some of the animals residing in the enclosures that fall by the side of the main road of zoo. But, none of them – spotted deer, bison, sambhar etc. – were eager to show up to see the column of enthusiastic runners passing their enclosures. Perhaps they are not interested to wake up so early and see the same animals that they see every day!

Situated in Seethakonda Reserve Forest in an area of 625 acres in Visakhapatnam, Indira Gandhi Zoological Park is home for 843 types of animals and 123 species of butterflies. Making the zoo stretch, a part of the total course is a welcome move and a memory to cherish for the runners.

The tag line, ‘One with nature and run with nature’, given to the event by the organizers, reveals the trail running mind set of Vizag Trail Runners Association (VTRA). And the lure of adopting a couple of spotted deer by VTRA, with the left over funds, added sheen to the event, making it a special race worth participating in.

The Vizag Half was flagged off by the curator of zoo. The zoo authorities were careful enough to fix the starting point outside the highway gate and restricting the runners to main road only, inside the zoo. The animals were protected from unwanted disturbance, as running was not allowed around the enclosures. The zoo stretch gives a feel of wild with lush green surroundings and ups and downs on the way. Though the elevations seemed to be deceptively mild, the calf muscles gave a clear alert, especially on the way back.

Immediately after crossing the zoo segment and hitting the beach road, the sudden appearance of sea was overshadowed by a breath taking spectacle – a range of hills never seen before were lining the horizon, giving the sea an appearance of a massive reservoir! Only on second look, the grey mountains revealed their true nature as clouds, proving that the earth is round after all!

My previous and first HM during Vizag Bay Marathon 2022 was a really painful experience, where I had to limp back to finish the event just in time. After some rest followed by lengthy physio therapy sessions advised by orthopaedist and after completing a couple of 10K events, I mustered the courage to participate in a HM here again. So, I was determined not to stretch more and stuck to nasal breathing only throughout the course.

The run took winds into its sails from the location of Sri Bhulokamma temple at the start of beach segment. Serene Sagar nagar beach, imposing structure of ISCKON temple and the majestic Rushikonda over saw the onward run, up to the 7.5/13.5 km point. By this point, the all too familiar feeling of mild despair was about to pounce up on. Had the track been a loop, one will never come face to face with faster runners after the start. But, the run route is an out and back type. An average participant like me has to cope with the experience of facing the elite runners scorching the track on their way back to finish line. The purpose of participating in such an event becomes blur for a fleeting moment.

So, I clapped to appreciate the runners, who were returning back, before my u turn. Every clapping subdued the thoughts of giving up and gave me extra energy. Also, I clapped to encourage the runners on their way to midpoint, while I was on my way back. Every cheering lighted up the faces of the co-runners and might have brought a spring into their steps.

It is during the home run only, the rising sun justifies the pains of getting up and ready during predawn hours for the event. Thoroughness of execution in a no nonsense way - the hall mark of VTRA - was evident throughout the event. Hydration points, pacers, cycling marshals – it went on

like a clock work. Breakfast after the event was a welcome break from the food provided in many such marathon events. Bakery items usually suck out all the left out wetness in the mouth and will be stuck in the throat after such a run! But, the conventional breakfast of unlimited idlis and vadas was a real feast and apt for the occasion.

An injury free completion of half marathon with a humble timing of 2:33, brought back the much needed self-confidence to look forward to future runs. And counting the claps instead of minding my steps really helped.

M K Chakravarthy

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