Tuesday, May 9, 2017

May 6, 2017 - The 4th Charge of the British History Half Marathon

Today's run was sponsored by Isaac, Adam, Brianne, Scott, Justin, Jacinta, Nathan and the other AES Runners! Thanks so much for continuing to help fund the Ty Taylor Memorial Campship Endowment. We're getting so close to fully funding the endowment, I appreciate your help! Soon, YMCA Camp Miller will be able to send a deserving camper to camp for free every year in honor of an amazing man.

It's not easy to write a sentence that can fully introduce the importance of my running group. Over the years, the AES Runners have challenged me, supported me, indulged me and more. They've trained me up for my first half marathon, my first marathon and more. They've (almost) always said yes to my crazy ideas for runs. And they've pushed me to create a monster - The British History Half Marathon. And they've consistently opened up their wallets to donate to my causes. This year alone, AES Runners past and present have donated over $600. Amazing.

The British Half Marathon was born in 2014, from a desire to do a long training run on new territory. It occurred to me that a point-to-point run could take us pretty far from home. A 13 mile line on a Google Map brought me to the Coronation Memorial and the BHHM quickly started taking shape.

You can read all about that inaugural version here. It's also referenced pretty heavily here. For various reasons, 2015 and 2016 never got write ups. Here's a quick look at last year's event.

If you're paying attention, you can see it all. A bus, over 20 runners, historical monuments, note cards with "fun facts." It's all there. The only photo missing is the one from the end. The one showing my stitches. I'll come back to that.

Here's a video of this year's event.

The British History Half Marathon has grown into something special around here. The preparation begins early, with runners of all abilities training and me writing emails. An excerpt:

Depending on your side of history, Mangal Pandey either bravely became the first martyr of Indian independence or foolishly presented himself as a bhang and opium-induced traitor and mutineer as he attacked Lieutenant Baugh, Adjutant of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry and later, Sergeant-Major Hewson with musket blasts and talwar blows.  
Either way, he turned his musket upon himself and discharged a round into his own chest. It wasn't enough to kill him though, and he was hanged without recourse. 
On 6 May 1857, the 34th was was disbanded "with disgrace" for failing to perform their duty in restraining a mutinous soldier and their officer. It's widely regarded as the start of the Indian Rebellion. Or, depending again on your side of the story: the Sepoy Mutiny, the Indian Mutiny, the Great Rebellion, the Revolt of 1857, the Indian Insurrection, or India's First War of Independence.
Almost 100 years later, on 6 May 1954 Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister, CH, CBE, became the first human being to break the sub-four minute mile. 
An auspicious day then, it would seem, for the Fourth Annual British History Half Marathon.
Save the date 6 May 2017, history buffs and runners. More information will be coming soon.

Early bird registration begins today.

Rao Bahadur Jason Coleman, Receiver of 17 Gun Salutes, HEIC, Event Organizer

You see, indulgence. And support. This is what the AES Runners have allowed me to become. A fake running event organizer and armchair historian. But mostly, a writer of silly emails. Another excerpt:

InclusivenessThere will be at least 19 of us running! While not the largest fake running event that I have ever organized, it's still a big group! Please be mindful of the fact that there are many different people with different paces and abilities on the road. More than anything, everyone wants to participate. This is a slow-paced race with lots of built in stops. 
Water, First-Aid, Emergency TransportationAs we will be running through a city of almost 20 million inhabitants, we are never far from any of these things. That said, there is no official support. Make sure to bring a phone, camera, battery pack, water, money, energy gels or anything else that you might need to be on the road for 2 1/2- 3 hours.
Indeed the 4th charge was an inclusive and participatory event. 20 runners showed up at 5:45am to collect my ridiculous home-made bibs, Indian Tricolor wristbands and board the bus to the Coronation Memorial. The fact that the runners were now a captive audience allowed me to read some notecards and set the scene for today's run. The Mutiny of 1875, or the beginning of the War for Indian Independence. See the 2014 post for more details on the history, today I'll concentrate on the run. 

As always, our arrival at the Coronation Memorial attracted the attention of North Delhi's early birds. More surprising to me though, was the sheer number of people out and about at 6am. The park was full of people! And statues of old, dead British guys. Among them was King George. Another note card from me (think elaborate descriptions of Durbars) and we were off and running. For the 2017 edition, there were several veteran runners. Memories of years past were flowing as quickly as the water from my Camel Back the year it exploded at the beginning of our run.

The first two miles of the run are not pretty. There's a strip of junked out cars, some olfactory delights and once, a steam roller that was laying fresh blacktop that we had to dodge. The first real point of interest beyond the Memorial is Delhi University. Sneaking through the gates ("Entry Restricted"), there was talk of monkey attacks (looking at you Alexa) and a quick stop to pose with Gandhi (because, India).

The first scheduled stop occurs at the Flagstaff Tower. This windowless castellated tower was the hideout of the few surviving British once the mutineers tore through town. I grabbed this pic from my elevated vantage point. I love it and everyone in it. They inspire me.

They also allow me to read them notecards, so it was a quick summary and an quote from everyone's favorite British-Delhi-Historian, William Darlymple and we were off again. But not for long. I quickly spied a group of men doing laughing yoga and insisted we join in. It was simply wonderful. It was not the first time I've spied these hysterical yogis doing their thing on a run, but it was the first time I've joined in. I've been emboldened by my impending departure and want to catalogue as many memories as possible. Today would definitely allow me to do just that.

Next stop was an Ashoka pillar from the 3rd century BC. At this pillar, I turned over my docent role to Laura, an actual history teacher. She regaled the group with enthralling history and I made a joke about erection.

Continuing on toward the Mutiny Memorial, memories of years past began to creep in. Like the first year when we cajoled the guard to let us in. And the second, when we knew he would. And the third. It was like visiting an old friend. Here the history took a decidedly revisionist bent as the cards examined the very nature of history. Who's story is it to tell? Can it ever be told accurately? Had we really already run five miles?

The next section has historically been where my "half-marathon" gains notoriety and extra miles. This year, I was bound and determined to not get lost or add too much extra milage, so I kept tight track of our turns. By now though, the route was feeling pretty familiar.

Stops at an old city gate, a powder magazine and The Red Fort were the locations of the first goodbyes. Among the great things about city running is the ability to jump in an autorickshaw at any point and rest tired muscles and cruise home (reasonably) comfortably. The signage advertising a magician at The Red Fort was a source of much revelry and we were off again.

Our revelry was soon squelched when we passed what could only be understood as a dead body. Questions and curiosity sobered us all as a brave runner went back to check it out. After what seemed like an eternity, there was a twitch and a rise of the chest, assuring him enough that there was life left in that body, but how much and toward what future was uncertain. The next mile was a quiet one.

By now we had run almost nine miles, so a break for drinks and mental decompression was quickly organized. At a busy intersection in the alleys of Old Delhi, our drink stop allowed for a lot of gawking. And almost got us run over by motorbikes and chicken trucks. Oh, and don't forget the van full of goat heads.

From Old Delhi, the route almost runs out of Mutiny material.There's a mile long section in the hot sun over an overpass (re-included in this year's run due to last year's inability to cross the train tracks any other way, adding an extra mile). There's a stretch of the Janpath and things start to look familiar. It's our Delhi, the Delhi of India Gate runs, the Kessel Run and countless other pounded pavements from countless runs with the group.

The last (almost) scheduled stop comes at the Secretariat, center of operations for the Indian government. Although it was not created when the events of 1857 took place, I like to stop to look at the quote written over the entrance:
“Liberty will not descend to a people. A people must raise themselves to liberty. It is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed.”
In seeming fully disrespect for the people of the country that they had violently overtaken, the British inscribed this scolding. However, it turned out that the people of India would get the last word. Not only did the overthrow the Raj and declare independence, but they left the inscription so we can still read it today.

The last last stop on the BHHM was added this year. It was a stop to commemorate the spot where I ran into a pole last year and almost broke my nose.
I stumbled for three steps, tried to keep running and continued staring at my GPS. Feeling like I had been punched by a prizefighter, my only thought was, “Get the group back home.” Then a more rational idea emerged. “You just ran into an iron street sign. Look up and take a moment to assess.”

Despite my efforts to plan a memorable day of running and learning, The Third Annual British History Half Marathon had taken a distinct change of course. What had started as a successful edition of a run that takes colleagues and parents on a guided history tour of one of the world’s most dynamic cities had turned into a dizzy, bloody mess. “Stitches?” I asked.

“Stitches,” came the reply. On my way to the hospital, I reflected on our running group.
I wrote those words as the introduction to my recruiting profile last year as my family made the difficult decision to leave Delhi. We've been here for nine years and it's been amazing. Our running group has been a major part of my life and I'm going to miss everyone in it beyond belief.

Thanks friends.

Distance: 14.2 miles? 15.2 miles? Certainly not 13.1 miles.
Duration: 2:44:33? 3 hours?

My GPS Stopped half way, so I have two workouts for this run, and the stats are off.

1 comment:

  1. 14.1 miles with 2:12:56 stoppage time. The only data missing are the number of bloody mary's at brunch after. BTW, you can tell you have been in India a long while when you speak of events in Old Delhi in such a casual way! Huzzah!