Sheer respect to all those who showed up at the start line
The Malnad Ultra trail was a brutal teacher. What is the point of running if you have not learnt something from it? This one teaches you more about yourself than anything else especially when conditions different from what you are used to!
I feel the race starts even before the start line and ends long after the finish line.
Bangalore to Birur
Its always to good to arrive early and feel rested before the race. Many took the 6:00am Shatabdi from Bangalore to Birur. Once at Birur, we took a rickshaw to Preeti Canteen, about 1k away from the station, to have our breakfast – piping hot idlis, vada and benne dose downed with some hot coffee!
The accommodation arranged by Active Holidays ranged from good to shabby, yet we all paid the same or similar per-night-per-person charges. Felt like a bit of cross-subsidy at work here but don’t have enough information.
Pre-Race Dinner trek
The shuttle bus picked runners on time for dinner and the last leg to the dinner place, a short hike, served as a good warm-up for next day and a sample of what would in store for us on the trail run.
With over 400 runners the population of Balavara must have spiked up. Almost all runners were ready to leave at 4:30am but due to some chaotic logistics, we ended up at the start-line (Lalbaug) about 30 to 40 minutes late. The Race directors took an on the spot decision to allow all 80k and 110k cut-offs to be based on chip time as opposed to absolute time allowing some of the runners time for breakfast and warm up.
The gun went off at 6:30am for the 80 and 110k runners. The largest group, 50k runners, 173 in all, started at 7:00am. I ran the 50k
I ran the 50k in 2016 and chose to do the same in 2017 to see if I could run a better time. My plan for the race was simple: Stay focused and avoid tripping, run where/when possible and power walk where running sucks. Power walking and ability to run downhills was key to crossing the finish line. I finished my 50k in a time better than what I did in 2016 and am looking forward to doing Malnad 2018. Considering the wet terrain this year, I was pleased with the outcome.
Of the 173 runners that participated in the 50k, 106 finished, and 67 did not finish in the required cut-off time of 9 hours. It was hard to see some of them finishing after nine hours and not receiving a medal at the same time there were others who crossed the finish line with less than a minute to spare! The first two to
finish the 50k were Kieren D’Souza and Sandeep and I believe the first 3 finishers broke 2016 course record under tougher conditions.If 50k was tough, I can only imagine how grueling the 80 and 110k must have been. Two of my fellow runners Hari Shankar and J P Gowda came 3rd and 6th respectively in 80k category and the gutsy Shilpa Gowda was 1st among women in the 110k category.
What was so tough about Malnad 2017?
2016 was relatively was easier considering the dry terrain and cooler temperatures. With late monsoons, the trail was very different. Many spots were slippery, and unless one was confident of running one ended up walking and losing time. I was happy to run in an ALTRA Lone Peak, which supported me well both in terms of cushion and a firm grip on the terrain.
The route wasn’t much different but the distance markers overstated by about 2km. Anand did warn us during the dinner talk, that the distance markers would be a bit off as they used Mahindra Jeeps (Mr. Anand Mahindra hope your listening – your odometers suck)
As I said earlier, the race continues beyond the finish line and one is reminded of the trail every time you come down the bus/train of a flight of steps – its kind of muscle ringtone!
Personally, for me, this was a good outing and there is a lot of strength work I need to do to get better
Wishing all participants a speedy recovery.
Last but not the least kudos to the Anand and his team of volunteers, photographers, for organising an event of this magnitude under a lot of constraints. Thanks also to all the locals including some wonderful kids cheering us.