I finished among the top 50 in India's premier marathon (48th actually but a top 50 finish nevertheless!). The story of my running life is a bit of a fairy tale – an average runner who put in the miles, got good at running, managed to have loads of fun along the way and finally reaped the benefits of those long hours spent on the road. But unlike fairy tales my story does not have an ending, just good days and a few not-so-good ones. The 42.2k run at the Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon-2012 was one of those very good days.
My entire strategy revolved around sticking with Kothandapani, a 54 year old veteran runner from Bangalore, for the entire course of the run and completing the race in 3 hrs and 30 mins. Pani Sir is ex-air force and the sort of person you would see and say “Boy, I wish I were half as fit as he is when I hit 50”. I arrived a bit late at the start point and ended up at the start point with very little warm-up. At the 500m mark, I caught up with Pani Sir who was running with his usual running partner, Bobby Thomas from Bangalore. The three of us maintained a steady pace with Bobby and Pani Sir keeping an eye one their GPS Watches to ensure that we are on track for a 3:30 finish.
It was my first run in Mumbai and I was pleasantly surprised at the support of local people who were handing out home prepared lime juices and biscuits to marathoners – not something you see in other cities in India. My strategy for the run was to use Gu Gels and water for hydration. I carried five gel packs with me and planned to use one every 45 mins. At the 10k mark, we were running comfortably and I used my first gel pack. At the 15k mark, we started running across the beautiful sea link bridge. At the 16k mark, Bobby told us that the pace was too much for him and slowed down. Truthfully the pace was a bit too much for me as well, but I held on with Pani Sir and took to counting my strides – a useless exercise but it helped focus and cut down external factors.
We hit the half marathon point (21.1k) in 1:42 mins. I have learnt that whatever my pace at the beginning, I always slowed down at the end of the race so saving a couple of minutes in the first half of the race seemed fine. At this rate we were all set to finish well within our target time of 3:30. But the marathon is an unpredictable beast – there are always decisions to make and things do go wrong.
At around the 29k mark, both of us had slowed down by at least 10 seconds/km. At the 36k mark, we had to run up a steep 50m road and slowed by around a min. My thoughts running up that hilly road – “What have I gotten myself into”. At the 38k mark, we were running with the Half Marathoners, rather I was running in pain and most of them were walking, shouting and having fun. Weaving around the slower half-marathoners and avoiding outstretched arms of the volunteers was even more taxing. I gave up pretensions of running and began walking. Bad decision, a pain shot up from my heels to my knees and I returned to running. At the 40k mark it got tougher and I kept repeating to myself something my friend Steve told me during one of our runs together – “There will come a point in the race when you think you are down and out, that’s when you gotta commit”.
I finished the marathon in 3 hours 38 minutes and 52 seconds, around half an hour faster than my previous best. At the end of the run I felt no “runners high”, only the overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and a bit of joy at having completed the course. I felt gutted physically which means I gave the run my best effort. Felt even more gutted when we were made to wade through a 10 min long queue like cattle to reach the refreshment/medal counter and found no medical station in sight at Azad Maidan to ice my tired legs. Clearly pain comes first, the joy later.
|At the end point with other runners from Hyderabad Running club.|
For amateur marathoners, the open-category marathon result is an interesting study- link. Guys like Anik/Pramod who did the first 15k in around 58 mins ended up in 13th and 15th rank respectively while Gary, Steven and Gerald who did 15k in around 1:03 ended up with better positions. Clearly folks who had the better strategy won out at the end of the day, not necessarily the fastest or the strongest.
The elation of my good finish time is yet to sink in. One of those good days indeed. But lessons need to learnt even in a victory – I have realized that it was the lack of sufficient strength of core section that took its toll during the second phase of the run, so I am still a work in progress. At the beginning of the running season, my goal was to run a sub-4 hour full marathon and with that accomplished, new goals beckon. I generally do not use quotes in my blog, but this one by Vince Lombardi, I could not resist –
"If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive, and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done."
P.S: you still here? Oh good. You have reached the end. Thank you for a patient read! Now that you have indicated that you have plenty of time to spare, you might as well read the first part of my story at SCMM 2012 which is mostly about pre-race day preparations and the city of Mumbai - here.