Monday, February 24, 2020

Mumbai Marathon 2020

For those of you who started reading this blog at least a decade ago, it is very likely you would have come across one of my posts on running. And the common thread between most of those posts, especially the ones on my full marathons in Mumbai (of which there have been over a dozen since 2005), was that I had one thing or the other going wrong till this year.

2020 was a welcome relief from all those painful memories and even more painful recounting that followed in the days, weeks and months (and in all honesty, years!) that followed each such race.

2020 was also the first time I ended up at the starting line with a rather flexible goal, mostly due to what I had put into my training - no intervals or tempos (since I have been unable to get commensurate sleep due to father duties in the last year or more). In fact, almost all the hard runs I had put in, came in the company of my running buddy, Vipul in whose company I did all my long runs at a challenging pace at Agara lake. I also had such a hard run at Goa in Nov 2019, that I knew anything better than that (~3:49) would be welcome at Mumbai. So I would be happy with a 3;30, not very unhappy with a 3:45 (which is faster than 3:49) and delighted if a 3:20 happened, esp since I found out that the race start was 5:15 am (literally a day before the race, when someone who collected my bib). I started rather conservatively, since I knew I had blown up in the past b/w 26-34km as the temp rose. In particular, I had been overtaken by a really good runner (woman) at about the 29km mark (U turn just off Worli Sea-Face), on more than one occasion in the past 3 years.

As a result, I wasn't too fussed with some pre-race events - one being my getting stuck in cluster f* jam near Kurla thanks to road closures and another being a late dinner, not to forget that my poor roommate for the night before had a violent cold he was recovering from.

I also made one change to my prep, thanks to a donation of a box of Maurten gels from one of my trainees in the US, also a friend. I even tried it in practice but I had tanked on my training long runs due to other causes. While I liked the gels, I wasn't sure whether the rest of my training was in line.

When the HM mark went by uneventfully, I was mostly waiting for the tanking to happen. However at around the 25km mark, I realized that I had hit a faster split than any of the prev 5 kms. Suddenly I realized that something special was possible. From there till the 34km mark, I was hoping for 6 min/km splits and doing well under 5 min/km. From there till the 38km mark, I was calculating what my finish time would be if I ran 7-8 min/km as in prev years and getting happy that I would get under 3:45 even if it did. At around the 38km mark, I caught a lucky break.

The leading woman runner (she did finish 1st amongst amateur women) came up behind me with a motorcycle escort. I realized that I stood to benefit if I could somehow just keep up with her and also just ahead (so that she didn't get impeded) while the motorcycle cleared the way. Thus, unlike much faster finishers ahead of me, who suffered due to the large nos of runners from other events, walking along Marine Drive, I had a free passage all the way to the finish. It wasn't a painless one though as fatigue had begun setting into my legs. But my spirit didn't flag for once.

I finished in 3:16:13, my second fastest marathon in India till date. Thanks to the weather, the organizers' decision to start early and Preity Rai (the top woman runner amongst amateurs), I had a memorable day.

The run was also memorable due to my decision to run in some excellent training shoes from Puma (Speed Sutamina which weigh 310g for UK size 9, in case you were keen to know), which weigh more than typical racing shoes which weigh about 200g. But the decision was predicated on work reasons, more than running, which is surprisingly not item no 1 in my life at this point.

(A couple of things prevented this post from going out at least 2 weeks ago - one is the aforementioned work reasons and another is a tragedy in the life of some running buddies, which I didn't want to divert attention from, by going on about my running).

I don't think I have ever got more from my running with such limited input. I am quite delighted with it. 

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