I did manage my PB in my 29th Full Marathon at SCMM 2012 on 15th January. However, finishing in a time of 3:48:57 four minutes slower than my target time was a big disappointment. Considering the early 5:40am start, pleasant weather by Mumbai standards, no glitches in the race organisation during the run, the fact that I reached the 35Km mark around 3:06 without too much stress on my glutes and calf muscles and that I did not have to take a leak break during the run I should have pushed a bit harder the last 5Kms for a better finish time! Of course, one can rationalise with ifs and buts - and though weaving through the slow HM runners rather walkers on Marine drive on the return leg did impact my rhythm a bit I think I lost the battle more mentally than physically. Given that this was just my 2nd FM race of the season(I do not race at the Bangalore Ultra) and I had trained hard for a sub 3:45 I missed a good opportunity to acheive that.
As has been my usual routine I reached Mumbai on Friday 13th Jan night. I reached WTC for the bib collection on Saturday morning 1130am. At the gate I bumped into a number of runners coming out after picking their bibs - doc Rajat Chauhan, BHUKMP'ers Rishi,Nari, Vasu, Chandra etc and then Sunil Chainani. Met several more in the bib collection queue - Naina Lal, Asha Arora, Madhumita, BB Patil, Prakhar etc. The bib collection process was smooth - though due to the change in schedule we outstation runners did not get to see the expo this year. After collecting the bib I joined Dharam and Sanjay for a pasta lunch at Moshe's before returning to Govandi by 4PM. Dharam was not running his own race and agreed to pace me for a 3:45 finish. He and I discussed our pacing strategy for the race over lunch - 21K in 1:48/1:49, 30K in 2:35 and 35K in 3:03 or so.
Saturday evening was spent with the usual pre-race jitters and nerves. After a noodles dinner around 830pm I went sleep at 10pm. As usual I woke up just before my alarm rang at 3:10am. The security in the front gate was able to send in an auto at 4am. I caught the 4:17am local train at Chembur to reach VT station at 4:55am. I had 3 small bananas before leaving home and a 4rth one and a few almonds enroute to VT on the train. Met Latha Narayan and Bhasker Desai there heading towards the start point. After using the rest room and greasing my legs with Vaselin I entered azad maidan at 5:10am. As expected it was buzzing with the energy of runners getting ready to start the FM. Met lots of familar runners. Checked in my bag, streteched a bit, took one last leak and headed to the start area at 5:25am. At 5:35am the gate opened and while runners were supposed to line up as per assigned enclosures(something new at SCMM this year) the volunteers were unable to enforce this. I was assigned enclosure A and managed to get to the front of the pack.
The race was flagged off at 5:40am and I took off a bit fast completing the first Km in 5:02. Dharam, Neera and I started together - Dharam kept warning me that we had started too fast. We settled into a rhythm of average pace of between 5:05 and 5:15 per Km. A stray dog ran a bit ahead of us at this pace attracting the attention of the spectators. I felt that in the first half of the race the crowd support was thinner compared to the past years - perhaps due to the earlier start. This time when we reached the sea link at the 15th Km the sun had not come out. We crossed a huge swathe of HM runners in the other lane. We ran quite steadily and reached the 21K mark pretty much on target in 1:49. We saw Milind Soman a little ahead of us. At this point in time Dharam took off leaving Neera and me behind. Neera and I continued pretty much together till the Peddar road flyover at the 35th Km going past Milind. We slowed down considerably at the flyover and at this point Neera fell a little bit behind. Between 36K and 37K I managed to pull ahead of Dharam and saw Sid a bit ahead of me. This is where the slower HM runners/walkers took over the entire road impacting my momentum. I realised that 3:45 was definitely not going to happen and was targeting 3:47. Around the 39th Km I caught up with Sid. However, just as he did at Mysore half marathon in Oct 2011 Sid got inspired by seeing me next to me and pushed ahead with renewed energy. This is where I lost the battle mentally. While the legs were tired the left glutes and calf did not bother me much - so I am not sure why I could not push harder. I did feel a bit giddy though - possibly because I did not consume my usual energy bar. The couple of cups of gatorade seems to have been inadequate. I managed the last Km in 5:42 to get across the finish line a few seconds behind Sid(having started the race late Sid actually had a timing 1.5 minutes faster than me) quite exhausted. For some unknown reason there are no official pictures of mine this year from Marathon-photos. The photos below after the finish are thanks to Madhumita.
A number of my friends did their PB this year - many of them doing sub 4 and also shaving tens of minutes of their previous best. Of course, the whole field seems to have got faster - the weather and the route would have helped apart from better training ofcourse. I finished 78th overall out of 1442 finishers with an age category place of 20. See here for some interesting statistics on this year's run. This year's event was pretty much well organised - except for the chaos to get inside Azad maidan after the finish. There was one narrow entrance and too many tired runners trying to get in. There were more pacers this year - see http://tanvirkazmi.com/ for a detailed write-up of a 5:30 pacer.