Monday, 18 January 2010

Mumbai Marathon 2010: Race Report

... And that number once made will be with me for the rest of my life. Maybe it should go on my tombstone. After all, two sets of numbers designating birth and death dates say little about a person. It is the in-between that matters. The number I am making now is pure. It will define the limits of my animal nature -- it will be the measure of my imagination, achieved by gut and spirit. It can't be bought, traded or achieved through leverage. All other honors are paltry in comparison.
-- Bernd Heinrich, "Why We Run"

Figure 1: Mumbai Marathon 2010 Timings

Yes, I finished it! It was a tough race, but I enjoyed every bit of it. It was my first full marathon and I ran it according to plan. My goals were as follows:

  • Finish -- Pass
  • Finish in 4 hr 40 min -- Fail
Although I ran for a 4 hr 40 min finish, I'm more than happy with my result of 4 hr 50 min -- off by 10 minutes.

On race day, I woke up at 4 AM; got ready and reached the holding area at 6:20 AM. The temperature forecast for the day was 32 C, but the real feel, I was told, would be around 39 C due to the humidity. While nearing the start line itself, I had started to sweat. The past 3 days I was in Mumbai it wasn't this hot. Taking that into account, I was pretty sure that I had to go with the 6:40/KM pace or maybe slower.

The race for the open category was flagged off sharp at 6:45 AM -- which you could see from the clock on the majestic gothic facade of CST. The starting 5 K was pretty uneventful, the pack of runners was going forward comfortably. When the inclines at Peddar Road came, at around the 7 KM mark, I slowed down, but was able to overcome them comfortably. It was at this point that the half marathon leaders crossed us -- the half marathon runners were running in the opposite direction; their start-point was Bandra and end-point CST.

Following Peddar road we reached the stretch along side Haji Ali. The sun had just started coming out, and its faint rays streamed through some gaps between buildings. More half marathon runners crossed us, amongst them was Gul Panag.

At around the 12 KM mark or so, a pack of elite male runners -- all from Africa -- crossed us. The elite runners had started 1 hour later than us.

Everything was going well till the 20 KM mark. The real test started after that -- when the sun started coming out. The first place where the sun really started to make its mark was near Bandra fire brigade. There was no cover, but there was crowd cheering us on. There were slum children who stood at the sides, asking for high-fives -- which I duly gave. The road from Bandra Fire Brigade lead us to the much awaited highlight of the race -- the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

During the race, I had made a policy of carrying two bottles always with me. One bottle would be plain water -- which I would sip or pour on myself -- the other was electrolyte. At the starting of the sea-link, both my water bottles had run out. Fortunately there were some people (Note: People, not race-volunteers) who were giving out electrolyte solutions. I grabbed one and ran. A few paces on, there was a water-stop from where I picked up a water bottle. And thank god I did!

The sea-link is a magnificent, imposing, majestic structure. It's huge, it's long and it's beautiful. When you run on it, towards your left you can see the entire Mumbai skyline. When you look down, you see fish trawlers and sparkling water. Ahead of you, there is the endless engineering marvel.

Unfortunately the sea-link ended up being a killer for most people.

The entire stretch from there to the end of the sea-link, around 4 KM or more, didn't have a single water-point. And imagine this was at a point when we were past the half-way mark and the sun was bearing all its energy on us. It was no surprise that from the very beginning of the sea-link, I started seeing people cramping, stretching, walking. Fortunately, I didn't.

The sea link ended somewhere near the 28 KM mark. The heat was still relentless. A helpful temperature gauge told me that it was somewhere near 31 C -- at least the weather forecast was right. The stretch of road from the end of the sea link, till Haji Ali was mostly without cover. It was not only physically exhausting but also a psychological damper. I took multiple walk breaks between the 30 - 35 KM mark.

The crowd was really helpful at this point. Cheering us, giving us water, feeding us fruits and biscuits. I'm so grateful to all those people who came out and helped us crazy runners.

Nearing the 35 KM mark, came the dreaded incline of Peddar road. But interestingly, I didn't really feel too bad. Peddar road was one stretch which had shade and I guess I was energized by eating all those oranges. I walked-jogged the first incline, but ran the whole of the second. I was really feeling good at this point.

That was until I reached the starting of Chowpatty beach. I was running comfortably in the shade provided by the buildings, when I hit a turn and lo behold in front of me was a near endless road bathed in the sun. A deep psychological blow. I muttered an expletive and strode on. It was getting really hard at this point -- the mind repeatedly asking me to start walking; to take a break. I had to fool myself telling me to run till the next signal and when I would hit that to run some more, and then some more.

Multiple milestones went by. People on both sides saying that it's only a little more. 3 KM to go, 2 KM to go and then finally 1 KM to go. That final 1 KM was the longest. 600 meters left and I see the finish line.

I had always dreamt of a sprint finish. I was physically exhausted. Both my head and feet were on fire -- something which I had only experienced in Delhi before, while playing basketball in peak summers. But I managed to dig something from deep within and increased my pace. Garmin read 4:00/KM (~ 15 KM/H).

I crossed the finish line.

Pain in the purest form is what you experience at the end of a marathon. Tim Noakes, of Lore or Running fame, says that it's just below child-birth. I was feeling all of that. At that moment I just wanted to get out of the heat.

When I didn't see any of my running buddies at the finish line, I just rushed into some shade. My logical brain wasn't working; it was all animal instinct taking over (you know, the Limbic System).  I was in need of water and food. I was more or less in a daze -- there was a guy munching something and I asked him for food. That kind-hearted soul offered me part of his sandwich. Sandwich-guy if you are reading this, if you ever come to Bangalore I owe you a treat. Following that I went into CST station and ended up finishing 4 bottles of flavoured milk, 1 500 ml slice. It took me around an hour or so to regain normalcy.

And being true to Mumbai, I took the local train back home.

Looking back it took me around an year and half to train and run my first full marathon. It would not have been possible without the support of my family and friends (includes my running circle, school and college circle, and work circle -- not taking names for the fear of missing someone) and most importantly all Mumbaikars!

P.S: Rakesh, I forgive you.


Rake said...