Tuesday, January 17, 2012

SCMM 2012 - A taste of Mumbai

    My preparation for the Mecca of Indian long distance running – The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, started three months ago. Interval training, Hill Runs, tempo runs, long runs, slow runs – I had done them all. I secretly hoped to finish the marathon (for the uninitiated it’s 42 long kms) in 3:30(3 hours and 30 mins) and improve on my previous best of 4:07 by around 37 mins! Ambitious to say the least... So as to not pile more pressure on myself, I parroted 3:45 as my supposed target to everybody who asked.

     A week before the marathon, I ran my usual weekend run with folks from the Hyderabad Runners club at the Nagole Forest Trail. The guy with who I was running that morning, Steve Kaplan, said something that ultimately proved immensely helpful for me during the Mumbai Marathon – “There will come a point in the race when you think you are down and out, that’s when you should commit”. Then for emphasis sake he reiterated, “You gotta commit man”. Sound advice that. Though an obstinate muttonhead at times, I, without exception, respect and listen to guys who complete marathons well within 3 hours.

    I had been invited to a pasta lunch by GQIndia Magazine on account of being an over-enthusiastic follower of Ashok Nath’s marathon training program they publish – here (Recommended for anybody who wants to run a marathon). My train to Mumbai was more than an hour late and I turned up at Indigo Deli dressed like a trainwreck to a party whose sponsor generally publishes magazines on how to dress fashionably in high society.

     I chatted with Ashok about my training and he asked me why my training schedule had no cross training (cycling, swimming, Yoga etc.). “Principle of specificity”, I explained like a professor explaining a finer point to student. Meaning if you want to get good at something, do it more often. You cannot become a good runner by cycling every day. His reply to this is something I’ll remember for a very long time. He said, “What if I can promise you a 3 hour marathon finish at the cost of muscular imbalance that would result in you limping for the rest of your life? Professional runners might agree to this since it is a question of livelihood for them, but I think as an amateur runner you should focus on developing an overall physique”. Trust me he was pretty convincing. I’m now ready to switch sides and do a bit of cross training.

At Pasta Party hosted by GQIndia at Colaba Deli
    Ashok also threw in a bit of wisdom for race day. He asked me to soak my legs in salted water for around half an hour and then apply Volini spray on my legs before I go to bed and then apply volini again the next morning before the race. Though skeptical, I tried this out and can confirm that it was definitely helpful. As an amateur marathoner, I am at a stage wherein I’d try anything to cut down a couple of minutes! But be aware that doing this numbs pain during the marathon. But once its effects wear off and if you have overreached yourself during the run, be rest assured that it will hurt. Pain is good at times because it gives you an indication of the limits of your body.

    I asked Ashok his thoughts on my plan to train for a triathlon after Mumbai Marathon. He asked me if I thought I had reached my goals in running and found out the level at which I plateau – i.e. the timing at which improving finish time becomes very difficult. I had not. Yet to decide whether I should continue focus only on running or begin training for a triathlon.

    I headed to the World Trade Center in Cuffe Link to pick up my bib and goodie bag which was mostly filled with medicine for lactating women and items whose expiry date can be counted in hours. I was disappointed to find that my assigned start point was staging Section – D, the last section allotted for Full Marathoners. Tried talking to the organizers to accommodate me in Section - A but I guess they had enough on their plates and asked me to live with it in a not-so-nice manner.

    At the WTC, I met Nitin Jain, my friend from Bangalore who had planned and booked rooms for our stay at Hotel Sealord near CST Railway Station. We took a taxi to our hotel and when our taxi driver pulled over; he gave us a scrutinizing smile and announced “Hmm. Hotel Dreamland” Our hotel seemed to be right beside “Hotel Dreamland” which by look on the face of the taxi driver I could clearly understand was a shady sort of place. “Hum toh yahan daudne aye hain”, I said answering his unasked question.  We are here to run. He drove off with a smile still unconvinced while we headed into our hotel- Sealord that is.

    We soon headed out to dinner at Leopold Café where we ran into its local celebrity – Shantaram, a convict from Australia who penned his experiences living in the slums of Mumbai, raked in millions thereafter and had no more reason to live in a Mumbai slum. Ok I admit there’s a bit more to the story than that.

    We came back to our hotel and I headed out to find a medical shop to buy Volini Spray. Someone suggested a shortcut and I ended up right in the midst of a Mumbai Slum. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. The filth, squalor and poverty of the place was in sharp contrast to what I had seen a few mins ago at Colaba. This is the way I end up remembering Mumbai – a city which is just as much about the struggles and aspirations of the have-nots as it is about the extravaganza of the well off.  Somehow I did not want to dwell on Mumbai's idiosyncrasies at that point in time; I had a marathon to run the next day.

...continued - here


Vishy said...

Very interesting read, Bharat! Delivered in a matter of factly and racy style, like your running.

Bharath said...

Thanks Vishy.
This is indeed high praise coming from a person who writes as well as you do...

rakesh said...

Good read. I don't know if you remember or if you came for Mumbai and Goa Industrial visit.. but we stayed in the same hotel :P