More about me as a runner

2017 Target Events

  • 15th Jan - Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon - 3:49:54
  • 12th Feb - Auroville Marathon HM - 1:46:28
  • 29th April - Western Pacific Marathon
  • 15th October - Bangalore marathon - tentative

Blog Archive

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hats off to the spirit of Mumbai!

The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon is by far the best organized road race in India and this year was no different. There were a few changes from the previous years:
- the timing chip in the past was given for a refundable deposit while this time a one time payment of Rs 200/- was collected and the chip was given for keeps
- it was clearly communicated that timing certificate would not be given at the end of the race – only participation certificate will be given- standing in long queues to return the timing chip and/or collect the timing certificate has been a pain point frustrating full marathon runners the last few years
- finally, (slower) Full marathon runners were to start at 6:45am along with the Half Marathon runners – almost an hour earlier than the start time of the previous years

As usual, I flew to Mumbai on Friday 16th January. On the Spice Jet flight I had the pleasant company of Mukesh Singh – an amazing runner who runs Full marathons and Ultra Marathons without too much training. I stayed at my relative’s place in Govandi near Chembur as I have been doing the past 5 years. This year Deepak Mhasvade stayed with me at the same place – he arrived from Bangalore by train on Saturday afternoon. I landed up at the Expo in WTC around 12:15 on 17th morning. Of course, I bumped into a lot of familiar runners from Bangalore . After collecting the bib, timing chip and goody bag(full of various products from Nivea!) went for the pasta lunch at Flamboyante in WTC itself. The runners from Bangalore have been getting together for a pasta lunch at Moshe's in Mumbai on the Saturday before the run for the last couple of years. There was more room at Flamboyante compared to Moshe’s but the service here was very slow and the portions small for a bunch of voracious runners. Nevertheless, it was great fun to interact with 25 plus runners all chatting about doing their Half or Full marathon the next day.

I retired for the day at 930PM or so but I did not sleep too well – that’s not unusual the night before an event and does not really matter as long as one is able to relax and stretch one’s legs. I had my usual 3 banans before leaving home on Sunday morning. Deepak and I took a train from Chembur station at about 10 past 5 and were at VT station by 5:45 or so. VT station and the vicinity is abuzz with hyper activity on the morning of the marathon and right from there the atmosphere is great. In fact, one sees quite a few runners in the train ride itself. At VT we co-incidentally met Vijay Ramakrishnan our old RFL friend from Pune and the three of us made our way into Azad Maidan – the pre-holding area for the FM and HM. At the maidan, which was fast filling up with the runners and their supporters, we met dozens of runners from Bangalore.

At about 6:35am the runners moved into the actual holding area on the way to the starting point of the race. Since we were starting along with the HM runners the area was really crowded. When the gate opened I along with a few other RFL runners began to walk towards the start area. However, we soon realized that the race had perhaps began and started to jog. I felt the start of the race was a bit chaotic. There was no clear indication of the race start and by the time I reached the starting point the race was about 2 and a half minutes old and I had run nearly 200 metres – I had started my Garmin soon after I started to jog before reaching the starting line. With several thousands of runners taking off on their run and lots more cheering along the way on both sides of the road with all kinds of music it was a wonderful feeling. I ran most of the race alone though I encountered a lot of familiar runners along the way(including a few Mumbai runners like MS Suresh and Dan Zico) or coming in the opposite direction. As always, I chatted with a lot of runners along the way - many of them were unaware of Runners For Life till I explained to them about it. Hopefully a few of them will sign up to the site soon. Around the 16/17K mark I encountered a large number of spectators clapping and cheering me on calling out my bib number(440). I told several groups that it was this spirit of Mumbai that made runners like me come from Bangalore to Mumbai every year and enjoy the run and I really meant that. I was greatly surprised when I came to the same area on the return leg on the other side of the road one of these groups pointed out to me and started shouting ‘there comes the Bangalorean’ – wow – imagine how this spurred me on. The support of the crowds which is prevalent almost along the entire route makes Mumbai a fantastic experience - as good as that in the World marathon majors, based on my experience at London in 2007. Children holding out their hands for high-fives, volunteers enthusiastically offering water, spectators offering fruit juices and fruits – the spirit of Mumbai is truly amazing and pumps up my adrenalin quite a bit! As always there was adequate water and great traffic control – at least for the first 5 hours of the race(I did hear hat some aid stations ran out of water later on). I made it a point to thank the Mumbai police staff and the race volunteers whenever I could – I think its very important to acknowledge the role they play in making the race an enjoyable experience for the runners. At about the 18Km mark I was overtaken by this posse of African runners – running at a tremendous pace. Its amazing how they are able to sustain the pace. Seeking some inspiration my pace went up a notch but ofcourse not for too long. I reached the 21Km mark in just under 2 hours and the 35Km mark in 3 hours 30minutes crossing Milind Soman (The Marathon Man) and a few other RFL runners around this time. At this point I was confident of achieving my target of sub 4:30 fairly comfortably. The last 7 Kms in Mumbai is very tough –well its not easy in any marathon. However in Mumbai it gets warmer, the crowd support thins down in between and one sees other runners sporadically. My ankles began to hurt a bit and my average pace started to steadily drop from 5:50 per Km. My goal was to keep the average pace under 6 minutes per Km to finish around 4:15. I managed to keep pushing aided by my PowerBar energy bar and sips of water. When I finally turned off Marine drive towards Churchgate station after about 4 hours of running I felt quite drained out and had to dig deep to sustain the pace. I managed to just about do that and ended with a sprint through the last few metres and felt great at the finish. My Garmin showed 4:13 and a distance of 42.68Km!! Clearly the early start, despite a bit a of chaos at the start of the race, had helped. Except for a blister in the large toe of my left leg(this being the first FM with the new pair of Addidas Supernova) and a slightly stiff upper back there was no unusual ache or pain. And four days after the run now I am fully recovered and looking forward to a slow 10-12Km run this weekend!

I am happy to have been part of all 6 editions of the Mumbai marathon to date – I did Half marathons in 2004 and 2005. I hope to continue do the 'annual pilgrimage' to Mumbai as long as is possible physically, mentally and economically. Following is a summary of my runs in Mumbai over the last 6 years. The HM in 2004 was my first long run after the injury I suffered post my first Full marathon in Jan 2003. I ran that after just 2 weeks of training in which the longest distance I did was 15 Kms. The first event was held in February when Mumbai is warmer than it is in January –so for multiple reasons this run turned out to be tough. My first FM in Mumbai in 2006 was a killer as the heat, humidity and the Peddar road flyover on the return leg completely sapped my energy. Kudos to runners who normally don’t train in Mumbai and are able to do sub 4:30 FM there in their first attempt !– and RFL has many such runners.

  1. 2004: HM 2:19:40 Age Place 100

  2. 2005: HM 2:11:32 Age Place 175

  3. 2006: FM 4:42:28 Age Place 14 Overall place among men 145

  4. 2007: FM 4:37:16 Age Place 13 Overall place among men 148

  5. 2008: FM 4:31:09 Age Place 17 Overall place among men 163

  6. 2009: FM 4:13: 16 Age Place 6 Overall place among men TBD

(there must be a better way of presenting the above?)

Overall I am pleased with my timing this year and the improvement over 2008 - if only I can keep up this rate of improvement a sub 4 at Mumbai in a couple of years may still be achievable! Well, I guess I need to do my first ever sub 4 (in better climate) before thinking of one at Mumbai! All the RFL runners did well with several of them – Ashok, Kumar, Hari, Ravi etc clocking sub 4 hour finishes. And Rishikesh and Amrita did back to back sub 4:30 marathons seven days apart! To check timings of the winners as well as a few celebrity runners look at a fellow marathon runner and blogger Tanvir's post here.

After hogging Pav Bhaji at Mumbai VT's iconic Cannon with Vijay, Deepak and I made our way back to Chembur – tired but satisfied. Click here to see the rest of my photos taken by during the race.

One thing that continues to bother me(and fellow marathon runners) is when the media says 40,000 runners ran the marathon on Mumbai. No distance other than 42.195Kms should be called a marathon. Period.Yes, it is great that tens of thousands of runners come out early on a Sunday morning commuting long distances to participate in the event. However, less than 10% of these participate in the Full marathon. Even in the 5Km IT City run in the Bangalore midnight marathon I heard one of the runners telling someone over the phone that he was busy running a marathon!

I had a fantastic evening catching up with BITS classmates(many of whom I had not seen/met for 30 years) at Pritams in Dadar before heading to Kurla station for the train back to Bangalore. Thanx Babuji for enthusiastically organizing the evening and all the others – Punky, Ashok, Badri, Vaish, Peter and Suresh – it was wonderful meeting you all!

Deepak and I were on the same train back to Bangalore on 18th night. We met Chandra – another RFL runner- on the platform at Kurla station. We ended up with some wonderful company during the 24 hours journey – Pavitra – a runner and trekker who works at TCS, Sunand who runs an outbound adventure company called iquest , the Mote brothers - Deepak and Sanant, and Prakash fom Infosys. Apart from Prakash, all the others were returning after running in Mumbai. We had a fantastic time talking running, trekking, cycling, swimming and playing several rounds of the ‘God’ game before reaching Bangalore on 19th night!.


Tanvir Kazmi said...

I was waiting for this post of yours for a long time, and it was really worth the wait! Congrats on a great performance. I am truly inspired by you, really! This was my 2nd Mumbai... but hopefully, I will become an annual 'pilgrim' too. Btw: I was one of those who called out to you (from the other side of the road though... you were fast :) wearing a yellow shirt. I doubt you would have known me then. Looking forward to coming to Bangalore in Nov for the ultra.

Vishal said...


Your run inspires me as much as your words and your commitment to Dream A Dream. You are truly a role model Bhasker. I will forever be grateful that I know someone like you.


Rahul Verma said...

Great post, keep up with the good work.

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Tanvir Kazmi said...

BTW, I just checked that you were 5th in your category, congrats!

itsme said...

good post, I have been readi9ng your posts , excellent job,

Bhasker Sharma said...

Thanx a bunch!