Sunday, May 3, 2009

Two legs, soggy shoes and a green trail...

The May Day race is a 25-mile relay race, run annually in early May. The primary teams competing are the mathematics departments of Rutgers and Princeton University. Begun in 1976 as the "Mathematicians May Day Relay", the name was changed in 1997 to the "Fred Almgren Memorial Relay Race," honoring one of the event's most active participants, Fred Almgren. A trophy, with the winners' names engraved, is located in the lounge of Fine Hall at Princeton University...

Check out Team ASHA results...

The day dawned with little hope in the damp air and more dew in the dark clouds. The faithful weather service announced a non-stop drizzle, and our sources said that no May Day Race has seen an overcast sky since past 10 years. But the ASHA team had 'hope' against hope and we set off to the beat of pitter-patter and swooshing wipers. Dropping our harbinger Prashant off at the Landing Lane, we shot off to the Spillway with Google Maps as our guide.

I joined the second-leg runners waiting for that traditional clap from our precursors. With the raging Raritan waters on one side and the dark spooky canal on the other, there was not much to do except warm up a bit. The clocked ticked away after 10 am, and soon the runners showed up on the horizon. A clap, a two, a third and I spotted a familiar sweaty red face in the distance. The cheers prepped me up and I set off at a comfy pace with the stopwatch in my hand.

Distance covered: 3.7 miles
Time: 10-30 am
Rank: 5

I whizzed past a black figure in front and crossed over a stony bund, with the creaky gravel scratching with the chirps and occasional rain patter. I soon realized that I hadnt had water for past 2 hours and suddenly my throat parched with desire. I gave up on my nose, and took deep gushes of breath with my mouth trying not to overdo the rhythm. The landscape changed around, with tall architectures popping once a while and cars racing past the canal. Soon the gravel gave way to slushy muddy trail that splashed with every fall of my feet. After some intricate designs that adorned my shoes, I was glad to see a crowd cheering in the distance. A stitch had built up in the meantime and I was in half mind to trickle down to a walk, but the cheers nudged me ahead. A figure overtook me and I took my time to clap Chitra near the NJ Water Supply Authority. Swathi picked up my remnants and sweeped me up to the car to offer generous doses of water.

Distance covered: 7.8 miles
Time: 11-03 am
Rank: 5

We sped up to the East Millstone on Amwell Road to drop Rashmeet and pick up Chitra. A few phone calls down, we left Rashmeet to herself and hit a nearby gas station of a quick refill and a quicker re-pee. We were about to hit the gas pedal, when an amused Chitra called us up to narrate a huge miscalculation. By the look of it, Rashmeet had naively set off in the wrong direction and had a fast runner let loose behind her to talk sense into her. The clock was ticking away and we made some quick decisions. Not wanting Deb to run two legs at a stretch, my replenished self set off to cover another 2.1 mile patch under dripping trees and a gravelly path.

Distance covered: 11.2 miles
Time: 11-45 am
Rank: 11

My insides ached with pleasure with the rush of fresh air in my lungs and it seemed so natural now. At every spasm, I reminded myself that I had just covered a mile and one more lies ahead. But the path ended too soon, and I bumped into Deb at the Blackwell Mill's crossing.

Distance covered: 13.3 miles
Time: 12-00 pm
Rank: 11

A gatorade laden Deb set off for the next leg and I awaited my merry Asha carsevaks. They found me and zoomed to the next stop with the pinks, whites and greens masking the window. There we stood under two giant colorful umbrellas for Deb to come and deliver the clap to Amit. The enthusiasm was low now with winning teams clearly in sight and after 10 whole runners, a tired Deb arrived with gusto and set Amit off at Griggstown Locks.

Distance covered: 17.5 miles
Time: 12-33 pm
Rank: 11

I couldnt believe how soggy I was, and shivering to death, all in the hope of a hot sumptous barbeque waiting at the finish line. The rain had no intention of pausing and Amit had no intention of stopping. Our wait with Ankit at the next leg was cut short by a smiling Amit signing in to tell us that he had outrun a guy. More than Amit's arrival,we were in awe of an 80 year old runner from the Math Dept coming in with a bigger smile in leaf green boxers and setting off his runner. Ankit began his final run towards the finish line from Kingston Locks and our steel grey and red blurs sped off to receive him.

Distance covered: 21.9 miles
Time: 1-11 pm
Rank: 10

We entered Princeton and were mesmerized by its grandeur. Beautiful tall architectures spawned the streets with spring blooms adorning them. I could see familiar sights and sounds, for I had been to the Princeton University before. Our guides failed us and eventually we had a long pause at Alexander Road to decide where the finish line was. Swathi got an organizer on call and went to pick up Ankit who had completed the race with no resounding cheers in the background.

Distance covered: 25.1 miles
Time: 1-46 pm
Rank: 10

Samreen and me followed her endlessly to find the picnic area with the never say die attitude and blazing hope that food will find its way to our stomachs. But fate had us on a hold today, for there was no food left at the 'Butler' Ave. Few quick leftovers were grabbed and we turned around to make for our dear University where food was abundant for the hungry travellers.

The wet clothes, the pricking blisters on feet, the muddy expensive shoes, a beautiful green trail and pure air rushing through the insides... What more could one ask for, i wonder...


Siddhesh said...

Running for 25+ miles, man u r too good.

S.Wagh said...

aye baba... relay race hoti.. me 6.3 palalo... but hoping to run 26 mile full marathon in philadelphia this nov...