It is now two weeks since my 25h and fastest ever Full marathon finish in India at SCMM 2010 on 17th January – with a hectic schedule in the weeks following the race including travel to the Mformation NJ office there has been a never-before delay in posting details of my race experience.
It is quite usual for runners to get tense during the week leading up to a big event and the week prior to SCMM 2010 was no different for me. I did my customary 9K and 6K runs on Tuesday and Thursday respectively. I felt a bit of a niggle in my left hamstring since Monday – though nothing serious it did cause me to worry. I resorted to salt water gargling as a precautionary measure. However I felt quite fine by the end of the week and left for Bangalore airport on 15th afternoon taking a Volvo bus from my office as prepared as I could be – a bit nervous but quite excited and expecting to run a good race.My Spicejet flight to Mumbai was delayed by over an hour . Did not see many runners at the airport – the only person I met at the time of boarding was Ananth - planning to do his first Mumbai FM.
For the 7th straight year I took a bus from Govandi to WTC on 16th morning after a reasonably good night’s sleep(Good sleep on the Friday night before the race on Sunday is very important –it is invariably difficult to sleep well the night before the race!). The traffic on Mumbai’s streets seemed very slow that morning and it was almost 1230 by the time I reached WTC. My brother Mahesh had already reached and collected his bib. The process of bib collection was very quick. Plus this time the timing chip was compulsory for all FM/HM runners(of course the cost was included in the registration)– so there was no separate form to fill to get the chip. Met quite a few runners from Bangalore at the expo . Had a brief chat with Dr. Ashish Roy who was running his 100th marathon and A1 and A2 at the RFL stall. Mahesh and I decided to save time by having lunch at Flamboyante in WTC itself while most other RFL runners went to Moshe’s in Colaba. We were joined by Sridhar and his colleague Ajay. After lunch I went back to the expo and bumped into a few more runner friends including MS Suresh (an ex-colleague from 15 years ago) and Vijay Ramakrishnan – an RFL runner who now lives in Pune. I got back to Govandi at about 530 probably an hour and a half later than what I had planned.
Slept reasonably well Saturday night waking up just after 4am a few minutes before the alarm was set to go. Took the 5:18am train from Chembur station reaching VT by 6am . Met Bhupesh, a Mumbaikar, who was running his first Full Marathon. The train and the VT station were much less crowded compared to previous years due to the Half Marathon start point being at Bandra instead of VST. I kind of missed the buzz at VT station. Met Mahesh at the station. We walked down to Azad maidan and reached the holding area by 6:15 or so. Again the maidan was much less crowded compared to the previous years as it had only Full Marathon runners. Met with a lot of fellow runners from Bangalore while stretching. This time there was a separate holding area for ‘veteran’ runners. Met Dan Zico and a few other runners there. The gate opened a few minutes before 6:45. I managed to get to the front of the crowd – which was quite low.Contrary to press reports it did not look like there were 3000+ full marathon runners at the starting line even discounting for the fact that a few hundred would have started at 7:45am.
I crossed the start line in less than 20 seconds from the start of the race compared to several minutes last year. I ran with Prasad and Ananth(in the picture on the left) for the first few Kms. Soon Nitin also joined us. Priyankar was running a steady pace a few hundred Kms ahead of us. We got a bit of cheering and clapping from the crowds – as we had the company of celebrity runner Milind Soman for some distance doing his second FM. I covered the first 10Kms on target in 55 minutes and managed to sustain a 5:35 per Km pace till well after 20Km or so. We hit a wave of HM runners around the 19Km mark as we approached the exit of the sea link. In fact, the route became quite chaotic with a lot of the slower HM runners coming in the way despite best efforts of the volunteers to separate out the HM and FM runners. This was quite irritating and I am sure several of us FM runners lost a few seconds here. In the stretch on the way to Bandra the African runners zipped past us. Around this time I caught up with Dharam – much sooner this year than in the past. By the time Nitin and I reached the Bandra it became quite warm. As we entered the sea link we grabbed a bottle of water as Rajesh Vetcha who was running HM this year had warned us that there would be now water on the sealink. The sealink stretch was very tough – no shade, very few runners. The lack of breeze made it even more difficult. Personally, I thought the whole sealink thing was a bit hyped up. By the time we exited the sealink stretch I was quite dehydrated and desperately looking for water. Nitin slowed down at this point while I almost caught up with Priyankar. Maybe I missed a water point but I did not see any water till at least 3 Kms after the sealink stretch – running the 24Km to 32Km stretch with very little water was very difficult and definitely impacted a lot of runners including myself. The pace started to drop though I hit the 30Km mark in under 2:50. Then came the lonely last 10Km stretch – Peddar road flyover, Chowpatty and the marine drive on the way back. Priyankar seemed to be pushing along quite strongly. At this point I had to dig very deep both mentally and physically to try and hit my goal of a sub 4:05. Once I managed to cross the 37Km mark just after 3:30 I felt reasonably comfortable about a sub 4:05 and even started getting visions of a sub 4. Around this time Milind’s running buddy Colin and I ran met up again. Colin was targeting a sub 4 in his first FM. I started to fade at this time and found it extremely tough to sustain my pace. There also seemed to be fewer water stops this year in the last stretch of the race. I wanted to pick up pace in the last 1500m as we turned towards Churchgate station but was just not able to do so. With great effort I finished with my Garmin 305 showing 4:01:42 – I think I forgot to stop it for a few seconds after I finished. Colin finished a few seconds before me with a good sprint in the last few hundred meters while Priyankar finished strongly a couple of minutes earlier. I was quite thrilled to learn that my chip timing was 4:00:56 though a bit disappointed at missing the 4 hour mark by less than a minute. Detailed timings are available here. Click here for the official photos. I felt nauseous after I stopped running and had to sit down as soon as I finished – did not have the energy and motivation to walk into Azad maidan. At this time sighting Rajesh Vetcha was a godsend. He managed to get me an orange from some unknown runner passing by – I felt much much better once I had some of that. I think I lost much more salt during this run and the one usual power bar that I consumed during the run was not sufficient for me. To sustain higher pace I need to look at drinking electral or some sports drink – something I have avoided thus far.
Nevertheless, I was very satisfied with finishing in my fastest ever time in India in my silver jubilee(25th) FM+ finish. This was also my second fastest FM finish. Of course, the number of faster runners in India is increasing every year as I finished 10th in my agea category this year while last year I was 5th with a finish time of 4:13. I was so focused on the target time during this event that I did not talk too much with other fellow runners – usually I talk much more. Also, I did not waste any energy thanking the volunteers or the cops. The crowd support along the roads seemed much lower this eyar compared to the past. So I would say that I did not enjoy the race as much as I have in the past but I think that is the way it goes. Either I stay focused on a target time goal or enjoy all aspects of the run. I plan to do the latter at Auroville on Feb 14th. The organization was disappointing this year. Apart from the fiasco of lack of water on the sealink and thereafter the Kms markers also seemed to be messed up in the second half. I don’t understand why there cannot be clear markers every Km for the FM runners specifically stating what the distance is depending on whether it is the 1st or 2nd loop.
Maybe because I pushed myself more than ever before the recovery also seemed to be slower this year. My hamstrings were sore and stiff for 3-4 days after the race. It made me wonder once again how some people can run full marathons on consecutive days!!