Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dehradun Mini-Marathon

In a very last-minute decision, I registered to participate in a "mini-marathon" (aka 10k) race in Dehradun on Sunday. I was among eleven Woodstock students and staff who made the trip down the mountain before sunrise.

I don't consider myself a runner. I haven't run in a race since middle school and haven't run more than 3 miles at a time. A 10k is just over 6 miles (though, due to everyone's good times, we think it might have been a little shorter).

I wish I had been able to document the entire experience, because it was pretty hilarious. There were hundreds of participants, including the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, a few military academies, and the Oil and Natural Gas Commission. My first clue as to the lack of both foreigners and women was finding the bathroom. They literally assembled some corrugated roofing sheets into a sort of cubicle. No roof, no door, no separation for men and women, and in plain view of all the registration tables. Next clue was when we became the center of attention for basically everything. Out of the hundreds of people there, I was chosen/forced to speak into the emcee's mic on two separate occasions. The best thing he announced all day was that Woodstock was a "healthy smattering of international flavor." In other words, we were the only white people/foreigners. I've never been photographed and videotaped so much in my life, which is quite a statement considering being a tall blonde in India for almost two years. (Although, it is my own fault for wearing shorts that highlight my incredibly white legs.)

Most of the men were in uniform. And they were everywhere.
Photo cred: Shubhra

Imagine if you will, a race that includes the following:
-cows, who have a knack for blocking streets
-no blocked-off streets, hence the need to dodge rickshaws, public carriers, bikes, cars, and pedestrians
-clouds of dust everywhere (street sweepers apparently do their work in the mornings)
-clouds of bleach powder (in attempt to sanitize the store fronts?)
-a 60-year old woman racing in a sari and carrying her purse
-large dumpsters on fire and emitting toxic fumes
-men running barefoot or, more impressively, in flip-flops
-plastic water bottles literally covering the ground, despite the organization's attempt for it to be a "green race"
-packs of dogs chasing runners
-race officials who continually tell you to run on the opposite side of the street, which means crossing traffic, dodging cows, and inhaling unnecessary amounts of exhaust
-being inundated by Indian men on all sides. They would run into me, yell "Good! Good!", and try to shake or high-five my hand while running. My friend Kate had her water bottle stolen out of her hand by one of the men while running!
-and, of course, piles of poo

Considering this, I'd say I did pretty well with only having one close encounter with a rickshaw. Also, one of my favorite moments was when I was approaching a pack of young girls (stragglers from the under 18 race). They were sort of jogging/running and were stopped by a photographer and videographer. I didn't think much of it until all the girls looked back at me and nodded. Hmmm. Turns out, the media guys must have told them to wait until I caught up to them. As soon as I was passing, they all started running with me and the cameras started rolling. I can just imagine the footage of an extremely tall white girl running with local school girls...

Successful Woodstock runners!
We held this pose for much longer than necessary; the media couldn't get enough of this international flavor.
Photo cred: Garhwal Post (Mussorie's local paper)

Here's a video I found online of the road that we ran. It is Dehradun's main street. There wasn't quite this much traffic, but there was still a lot.

October 20th, 4 p.m. from streetview on Vimeo.

Another highlight of the event was that the top 10 finishers in each category received cash prizes! Seeing that the ratio of men to women was approximately 50:1, I had a pretty good chance of qualifying. I'm proud to say that not only have I run my first race, but I also came in 7th. (The top 5 women runners were all serious runners. Numbers 6-10 were taken by Woodstock women!). I won 2500Rs/ (about $50!). Considering our registration and transportation was free, and I received a free breakfast, free t-shirt, and cash...I'd say it was a morning well spent!

I love the generous use of the word "only" in Indian English. Here is a perfect example. Note: this kid is receiving about $150.
Photo cred: Garhwal Post

Pretty excited to have won an award!
Photo cred: Shubhra


Nicole Suzanne Farley said...

Nan, I giggled my way through this whole post! I can only imagine... :)

Al said...

Best post ever! Nice job Nan! I'm muy proud of you.