The next 6 days leading up to my eighth Full marathon at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon on 20th January(10th run at SCMM including the Half-Marathons in 2004 and 2005) is going to be quite tense - as is usual before a critical race where one has a time target. All the training is done and now during the taper period one needs to be careful both physically and mentally. The reduced quantity and intensity of cardio exercise coupled with similar intake of food could result in some increase in weight. And the mind starts taking over with 'phantom' aches and pains. SCMM is the largest road running event in India with over a 1000 full marathon participants and a very large number of half marathon and dream IT runners. It is also reasonably well organised. (Unfortunately it has never been perfect when taking into account the handling of FM runners in the finish area - usually there has been a deficiency in one aspect or another). I was pretty much in the same state last year also. From a 4:42:28 finish in my first FM in SCMM 2006 to the 3:48:57 in 2011 I have been successful in improving my timing in every SCMM and have also achieved a PB at Mumbai the last two years. This year I would be very happy to hit as close to 3:38 as possible. I certainly would like to beat the 3:39:57 that I achieved at MHRM in October 2012 and would be extremely thrilled if I achieve close to 3:36. This is the third Full Marathon that I have trained using the 'Run Less,Run Faster' program from FIRST. I started the training on 20th November from week 8 of the 16 weeks training program. Initially I started with a target of 3:38:03 at average of 5:11 per Km and then switched to a target of 3:35:51 at an average pace of 5:07 per Km when I found that I was doing all my 3 weekly workouts quite comfortably. The training runs have all gone off well despite some amount of personal travel - I ran in Hyderabad, Sankarnagar and Hampi in December. I feel confident of achieving 3:38 - however a lot depends on everything going well on race day.
I am as yet unsure about the race strategy to adapt this year. That is, whether to aim for almost even splits or try and do a fast first half and sustain a good pace till 35Km. This is the usual dilemma before every race with a time target. Given the way my pace my pace drops in the last few Kms in Mumbai due to the weather/Peddar road flyover/strolling HM runners , I am most likely considering at a pace of under 5:05 per Km for the first half to get to the mid-way point between 1:45:30 and 1:47. And sustain the pace to reach 35Km between 2:58 and 3 hours. Then depending on how one is feeling push as hard as possible for the last 7.2Km. At MHRM in October 2012 I reached the half-way point in 1:48:27 and 35Km in about 3:01 . However the last 7.2 Kms took over 38 minutes. So as always the last 7 to 10 Kms will be the key. I certainly feel fitter compared to October. Of course, despite all the hard training of last several weeks a lot depends on the next few days and the race day itself. One needs to get to the starting line y adequately rested both mentally and physically. This means very little running and cycling the next six days(I will do one easy 9K on Tuesday and another easy 7K on Thursday this week with 30 minutes light cycling on Monday and Wednesday and nothing after Thursday) and reasonable amount of sleep every day with no undue tensions at work. On the race day itself there is a major dependency on the weather being favourable. One is hoping it will be at least as good as it was last year. The race start is again at 5:40am - the weather forecast as of now says it will be 21 Celsius at 6am going up to 25 by 10am! Finally to have a near perfect race one is praying there would be no issues with the stomach on race day , no occurrence of cramps or aches in the left glutes/calves or the shoelaces don't come off(as every second will matter!). I may even avoid taking a leak during the race. I will carry a couple of Gu gels with me - one for about 15Km and the other for the 25Km mark. In races where I have a stringent time target I avoid talking much to runners and try and stay focused on my pace - of course at Mumbai there will be many familiar runner friends several of them targeting similar pace which will help. Any time faster than my PB of 3:39:57 would be my first priority - not hitting that would be a disappointment. Will know in less than a week from now!!
The route looks the same as that of last year. Here's wishing all friends running SCMM 2013 a peaceful week and a fantastic race!!