Tata Mumbai Marathon 2018: half marathon(Sunday, 21st January 2018 )

Photos credits : Meeta Meher/ Shashank Parkar/Prashant Patankar

Tata Mumbai Marathon 18: half marathon: running kumbh mela in motion from start point till the end (Sunday, 21st January 2018 )

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For Mumbai runners, TMM (previously known as SCMM: Standard chartered Mumbai Marathon: really a long name which after years of practise became SCMM) remains the mother of all marathons.

Over the years more and more races are organised as running fever is spreading much faster in recent years. One of the prime reason is due to involvement of corporate India. Many of the CEOs, Owners, and Directors are into serious running. This inspires a lot many members of corporate India to take running as a recreational sport. Many join for health reason and many join as sycophancy (for once it may be good) always works is India. Do what your boss believes in. If boss is into golf, you get into golf( even if it stretches your budget to some extent ) , If boss is into trekking ,start saying “I love the hills“ and if the boss is into running ,change your lingo with words like complex carbs,FT sessions. It’s exactly similar to “If Boss sits till late: I must sit till late (even if I come very early in the morning)

Once corporate bigwigs come into running, the corporate money flows. This huge money makes Mother of Mumbai marathon the biggest Juggernaut India can offer to the running world.

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Big money brings in big names, big show, excellent management (yes all the might is making the justice to the sheer size of the event but not necessarily to the innovation levels)

Yes Mumbai marathon comes with it’s own brute power, any other race within Mumbai , when tries to show “ME TOO “ambitions….”it is pushed away and shown its position next to MITHI River.

Logically every city can also have only one big race.

For us running on Bandra sea link till town side is much awaited annual pilgrimage. Throughout the year worli sea link is open only to vehicles ( minus two wheelers ) . Pedestrians or tourists are strict NO-NO. Rather you are not supposed to stop as Mumbai police has fear of people jumping off and committing suicide. Mumbai Marathon is the only time when you can rule the roads.

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For almost all serious runners from Mumbai it is a more important date than 15th august/26th January/Parliament /State legislative assembly election dates and all related duties and activities. Those dates are manageable ones. One can plan holidays (and skip your duty towards state and nation) but Mumbai Marathon? Global commitments can be re-adjusted for this date.

Mainly this is a serious race. As the race days come nearer the atmosphere becomes very competitive. The same set of runners who run the beautiful Vasai Virar Marathon (in December ) with full comaredirere, behave highly competitive. The message is very clear. It is the battlefield and you are on your own.

Minimum target is PB.( personal best )

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Many of the first time full marathoner even smartly practise (with utmost secrecy and sincerity ) over 3 to 6 months in a very clandestine manner and give their friends a great surprise with excellent timings on the race day.

Everything is fair in love and run!!

Post weight loss challenge I am really feeling very light. I have lost more than 4 kg. I will be running Mumbai Marathon 2018 lighter as compared to 2017.

Biggest advantage of 16 weeks of weight loss practise is extra awareness towards food.

Week before the race day, I remain alert on: what am I eating.?

3 days I am out for industrial meetings. Day has to start at 5 am and by the time I sleep it is 10 pm.

Twice I am able to take home cooked food. Once I remain on fruits during the working hours.

Once I am able to go to gym (not advised) and once for small run.

I am cut off from Main BNPgr whatsapp group and as I am not on Facebook , I remain cut off from a lot of ongoing discussions /suggestions on Dos and Don’t’s regarding race.

People do all kind of exercises to remain super charged up.

There are various talks by experts at various forums. There is the great expo where in runners come and do networking ( and maybe try to gauge each other’s preparedness ). Race route is visited and checked . Sessions of race visualisation are conducted. Runners from all over world and from various nooks and corners of India travel to be there on the D-Day.

BY choice I am out of all this. (later I do go through net so that I can write this blog with some inputs )

I start having 3 plus litres of water (rather this became a practise due to 16 weeks of weight loss commitment) Wednesday onwards I have enerzal and electral powder on alternate days. (during tour also I am able to have this )

When on Friday I am late from industrial tour and not able to sleep in time , I still sleep beyond 7 hours and get up late on Saturday.

Saturday I have good carbs in the afternoon, but have only soup in the night.

For me any race is enjoyable when tummy conditions are perfect.

Usually this subject is not discussed much during the pre race discussions, but I do not like burps, gas, heavy tummy due to undigested food.

By Saturday late evening I am sure that my load post digestion is well taken care of and my Sunday morning visit to loo will be more or less a mandatory visit, I sleep by 8.45. Difficult to sleep so early, but Osho comes to my rescue. Osho’s talks not only makes my running easy , many times his talks ( especially his voice ) become kind of lullaby.

We ( me and Sheila ) are up by 2.30 am.

Last evening Sheila had posted on BNPGR main group “ we are planning to take the 3:58 slow local train to mahalakshmi ( reaching time 4:58 )

Prashant Patankar had responded “ don’t plan just take it, I will join”

We want to leave our house by 3.35 am so as to reach Borivali station well in time .

We know that we must have sufficient buffer to take care of all the madness at worli dairy before you cross the start line.

Post UTS application of railways and paperless ticket for sub urban trains, waiting in early morning at ticket window is a story of past.

Even the self printing vending machines are not reliable. When you need them the most, they are usually not working.

{caution : following is irrelevant chatter, you may skip : Technology and the big gap :Today our country is starkly divided between one more social divide of new kind : divide based on ease of using modern tech tools for daily use . This is creating a new kind of of haves and have nots.

This is beyond money ,cast or social hierarchy.

It is a divide between tech savvy people and those who are IT use illiterate.

Everything is turning online and everything is complicated. Every online registration is very different and most of the times complicated and test your patience. One must do multiple attempt for first registration. Government own websites/apps are the most amazing. Most of the tax payment is now compulsorily online and in real time (refunds are still very slow and still many times with 3 month validity cheques )

This has generated a new class of middleman and service providers who are actual interface between you and technology.}

We are well in time. There is no 3.58 train, but we have two options 3.50 and 3.59.

On foot over bridge we are still in process of decision making, shall we still stick to the train which is as near to 3.58(going back on our commitment in the group ) or we take 3.50??( so reach at worli well in time )

Prashant waves from the platform, but he is wearing a headband and I am not able to recognise from the distance. When he screams my name I am able to recognise him. We in typical long distance shouting communication decide to take 3.50 train.

The coach remains the same: after the 1st class coach towards churchgate.

At kandivali ,Jagdish and Nandy join along with a lot many runners.

This is one of the safe train for full and half marathoners, so we have 80 % of coach full of runners by the time we cross goregaon.

We even have a good numbers of runners at dadar (those who must decided to change over rather opting for central suburbs)

Over the years leaders and veterans of BNPGR group have lost interest in group travelling, group masti pre and post run.

Post Uber and Ola “let’s go in comfort” is in thing.

People want pick up from their doorstep and have the wish to get dropped as near as the hold-up area.

It becomes little funny when the same people talk about “How running is becoming costly day by day.”

Jagdish is quite vocal on the issue of train vs pre-booked cab.

“with train you are assured of reaching, road journey can be unpredictable with metro work and traffic mishap. For train you have to walk, climb stairs…you keep your body active. In car you are sitting in one position for more than 30 minutes to an hour. In train you can stretch your legs, can even do dynamic stretches “

“all the best “ is the most used dialogue during our journey . Full marathoners alight at dadar to change over.

Mahalaxmi station is receiving max commuters in early morning hours who climb the steps and get into BEST buses . It is a free complimentary ride to the last block point before worli dairy walk ( buses are the only vehicles allowed till the last point, all private and other vehicles are stopped much before )Outside mahalaxmi station traffic is quite chaotic. There are couple of volunteers guiding runners to get into the bus.

Vasai Virar over the years have better volunteers and bus shuttle service.

Bus takes it’s own time due to traffic and mainly due to all the cabs stopping erratically (to drop runners) and taking turns on the roads which have narrowed down due to various construction activity.

The runners move towards worli dairy.

The biggest hurdle before Mumbai Marathon is compulsory visit to Loo for natural call. You have almost 1 and half litre of water /electoral/enerzal by the time you leave your house and reach the venue. All you need is place to lighten your kidneys ( few brave hearts who have wrongly loaded their tummies are desperate for UNREALIST targets in this early morning rush hours )

Female runners have to suffer the most.

There are few options and queues are long.

Each female will need minimum 10 minutes to even 20 minutes by the time she has “oh wow , what a relief feeling.” Male runners have to become shameless and use free , open to sky , group exercising of emptying their kidneys to Arabian sea ( interesting there also once has to wait for his chance )

I remain lucky twice and throughout the run I don’t have to use any facility on route.

I, Prashant, Jagdish and Nandy finish our warm up and dynamic stretching exercises.

I remind them “Hey this is Mumbai marathon : everybody is on his own…”

They leave towards hold up area on this clue as I have to wait for Sheila .

I greet Surekha and Avni Shah during my wait and “ all the best “ wishes are exchanged.

Sheila does her own dynamic stretching as I wait . We still have time . This time apart from security check , they have added scanner to check the code printed on BIB.

Inside it is elbow to elbow crowd . All are trying to squeeze the hold- up zone which is already squeezed to last square inch.

Again there are barricades so the whole crowd gets squeezed to the bottle neck again to come in to slightly bigger area.

This happens twice. Ahead there are two turns which makes the whole movement squashed to very few lanes. So total 4 squeeze in –squeeze out exercises.

This becomes bit of claustrophobic as I look upwards and try to breath in more air.

“ Why we can’t understand human safety’’-is a recurring thought.

A classic situation which can easily create fatal stampede !!

All our places of worship, overcrowded station periodically become sad scene. A single scream and we Indians love to start a stampede.

Person next to me talks about New York marathon. We even discuss other international marathons like Edinburgh marathon. Most of the races have more than one hold up area . This helps in separating different pace groups and introduces safety in much smarter way.

The hold up area and initial run route for different categories is physically separated.

Fast runners are road A (or hold up area near road A ). Slow runners are on road B (or hold up area near road B ) The race starts at differed time slot. Road A and Road B finally lead and merge on Road C which is where common route starts .

Even when the crowd in most of the international marathon is less than Mumbai marathon numbers, they are more worried and obsessed with human safety.

May be one big mishap will bring in safety features in Indian marathon scene.

Space deprived, Oxygen deprived crowd finally comes to the main worli seaface road.

Soon we are doing what we all have come to do- “RUNNING “

The mood soon takes upward graph as first breeze hits you as you move on Iconic worli-bandra sealink.

There is a dark patch as you start on bandra sea link. One needs to be careful .Last year one lady runner had tripped at this stretched.

We start our early practise of zig zag runs . As we are running together it is quite difficult to get adjacent moving spots.

The large display signs are displaying the same old signs

“speed limits” “no pedestrians “

Why can’t we be innovative? Why can’t traffic police/sea link authority/the organisers use this readily available sign boards to greet the runners or run some interesting stuff on history of Mumbai marathons or about the city itself.

Surprisingly this time standees/banners are missing…no advertisement of other brands. Looks like it is only TATA show.

Our run towards Bandra ends with a U turn just before the toll plaza.

The U turn makes the width very congested. This is the spot where we see good number of policemen on duty as well as cheering the runners.

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Road width is dug up very badly. If you are not aware there are good chances to trip.

The return run is now in relatively hot zone. Water zone and O’juice (equivalent brand ) are on this stretch.

The road is full of litter. Water bottles are thrown here and there. If this was not enough, dozens of straws (used for electoral drink ) are thrown everywhere. Little ahead on left side is the annual ceremony of mass urination.

Swachh Bharat has gone for a big toss.

We runners can be so unconcerned!!!

The exit from sea link stretch is narrow as we merge with worli sea face road. Soon we meet the first bunch of Mumbai volunteers who are there so early to cheer the runners.

Public support to Mumbai marathon was never huge. You cannot compare this to vasai virar.

Yes there are a few zones like Worli sea link road , Haji ali circle,full pedar road,Babul nath area where you find some cheering by Mumbaikars.

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Post vasai virar I have started pouring water on my calves during the run. I have my own theory of evaporation and latent heat required for the same. I want to believe that cold water on calves helps some kind of cooling and chances of cramps are better managed.

Sheila and me are still running together.

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Last year around this stretch I had decided to go ahead and try negative split. Sheila is running strong. She has followed BNPgr’s 21.1 km plan regularly posted by Punit, quite sincerely.

As we approach worli dairy, more full marathoners are now coming from opposite side. Soon we see Punit, Sanjay R.

Here our mutual acknowledgement is for few seconds only. Unlike Vasai virar we do not cross the lines and greet/hug each other. After all this is Mumbai Marathon, one is supposed to be concentrating on her/his race. No distractions of any kind!

It seems we have missed fast runners from BNPgr family.

I am really running light. NO pouch, no cell phone ……All I have is a slim sony walkman. Osho is giving me company, but intermittently I switch off my walkman to imbibe the marathon spirit.

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We are now running on long haji ali curve. The breeze is good. Some natural rejuvenation before you hit the Peddar road.

Over the years Peddar road has become some kind of mini legend for new runners who are attempting Mumbai marathon. Killer incline. Long uphill run after 12 plus km ( for half marathoners )

People seriously run on this stretch before the actual marathon. Different visualisation techniques are carried out within runner community to conquer Peddar road stretch.

There are more walkers than runners. Most of the runners have decided their long break here.

As always I have no option but to run on wrong side. I am now running on full marathon side, just adjacent to road divider.

Sheila is still trying to run on normal road surrounded by walkers. This can be tough hurdle race. Trying to find your way, zig zag run on so called killer hill.

I am startled as Meeta screams my name. She is also on the left side of road on full marathon track.

“Oh our BNPGR supported water station must be on left side of half marathon track “I am still wondering ( and still running ) . Meeta is all ready to shoot me with her camera. She takes position and starts clicking. Soon I see other volunteers from Bnpgr Sree Naresh, Ila, Nirmala ,Ajita …….

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Volunteering for Mumbai marathon needs a different kind of dedication. This is the race where in every runner is self centric. Selfish may be a little harsh, but yes everyone wants to do better. Genuinely you are on your own. Few of the genuinely selfish runner even hurt the feeling of good friends as they guide misguide them so that others do not fair better. Difference of 4 seconds can also upset the PB freak (personal best )

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So not running and volunteering for Mumbai Marathon is a big sacrifice. Seeing Meeta not running and volunteering instead is a big surprise to me. (of course there are volunteers who are there due to other reasons. Not qualified for the race or had last minute injury )

We try to greet each other as we are running. Sheila soon joins. I express my desire to run faster. She has improved a lot and if she continues her regular sincere efforts, she may do much better than me.{ For me regular structured practise is kind of luxury. Weekdays are meant for travelling. My attempts to use Gym at different hotels during travel also periodically fail as by the time I reach back it’s quite late and there is little physical or mental resolve to hit the gym.

I have carried running shoes at many places only to bring back without using them as there is no morning slot available for even small run (need to rush to cover some distance)

On tour the priority is always to stretch your day, your meetings so that there is some quality in the interactions. Travelling across India does not allow you to have luxury to plan one more visit to the same place in near future…}

We have almost run 14 km together, I am trying for negative split for remaining run. Is it a good strategy? Or it cannot be termed as any strategy. Runners spend good amount of time and money for Mumbai marathon.

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I change my gears and increase my pace even for camps corner flyover. Yes I take or rather grab couple of oranges, salt and jiggery from enthusiastic volunteers and run faster. Beyond the two inclines ( peddar road and camps corner ) the downward gradient is full of runners and many of them are now running. I do not find enough space to run so once again switch over to full marathon side and run till babulnath turn. The road is now narrow . Unlike last year I do not find the small group of singers (with one guitarist) at the corner of Wilson college. I take a long turn to avoid runners. Now we are on queen’s necklace beautiful stretch. 17 km to 18 km stretch is a psychological barrier stretch for most of the runners.

Every runner has her/his own phobia. “Oh here I had developed cramps last year/previous years”. One has to cross the bad mile to conquer the inner turmoil. I have my own history of cramps on 17 plus zone. Only way to shrug off the negative thoughts is to increase the pace slightly. I increase the pace and find more and more runner walking around me. There are two water spray zones. Out of around 4 zones on the route, two were not functioning properly. I skip one and take one. I have spectacles, so once you pass through the spray zone, you make your spectacles wet and see the moisture slowly getting evaporated, leading to time pass

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On right side dream runners are moving with all their razzmatazz. Social messages, save the world, save the environment, save the girls child are recurring themes.

This time I do not see many live bands or stages. Have they wound up?? What am I thinking? is the next thought. Why am I concerned? Just run, of course I cannot tell myself to enjoy the run. You just cannot enjoy , unless you take the remaining distance as hurdle race. Full marine drive stretch till a signal before flora fountain ( hutatma chowk ) the half marathon route is almost barricaded. First there is a natural road divider and then there is this continuous ribbon/rope which separates out one more lane. This is essential for full marathoner returning. (elite and otherwise ?? )

So we are squeezed. Shanky is volunteering as photographer. He is on the other side of the crowd and even though he has screamed out my name, he is not able shoot me. In any case he is there for his chosen ones, but I decide to ask him for Mumbai marathon mood photos for this very write up later. Post churchgate road is narrower, ahead there are metro constructions. This time we are not allowed to hit the flora fountain chowk. We take the detour around old VSNL building . Now there comes the crossing. The half and full marathoners cross the dream runners( walkers with fancy get ups and earth saving themes )

Volunteers are trying their best to manage the chaos. Somehow I cross the crossing without losing much of my pace. We are now running in lanes which after right turn and then left turn and then right will lead us to main D .N road. I am running with my full intensity . I am recalling Dan sir’s dialogue “The last loop you will run at your full marathon pace “What is my full marathon pace? Definitely not this!!! I am running really fast…may be trying for sub five pace ??( one km in every five minutes ) yep this is crazy. I am zig-zagging through, requesting (maybe shouting ) the casual runners to give me way. I can either trip and fall or one adverse jerk here and there will give me cramps.

I can feel myself grasping for breath. This has never happened before. I never have problem with my breathing or stamina. It is always cramps which have let me down, and may be fear of having cramps must have prevented me to push at this kind of pace. I decide to slow down my pace, but by this time I am on D.N road. Oh , now I can see the digital clock and the finish line. I even see the magnificent CST/VT building on right. This gives me the adrenaline push and I run with full force. I am now on finishing mat.

I am beyond the finishing line without any cramps or any bad luck or mishap. Later when I see my pace on my garmin, it says last km pace as :

This time the organiser’s have given towels to all the runners. A kind of pleasant surprise. Mumbai marathon is one of the costliest running race. It is also one of the biggest with huge corporate money pumped in, but it never gives freebies ( actually cannot be called as freebies, in marathon lingo “ goodies”)

So every year more runners try to join at costlier entry rates with same complaint “exorbitant and no goodie bag “

I keep walking towards the entry of azad maidan.Road is full of runner groups, waiting for fellow group member.

As I enter the azad maidan I am virtually in to volini medical recovery zone. Yes there are no ice/ice packs , only volunteers fully equipped with volini sprays. The product is on live usage as to prove efficiency and is everywhere. There are runners lying on the floor. One has to be very careful. It’s like the general ward of some government hospital.

I need some space, the air is getting claustrophobic. I decide to move towards relatively empty space. I am not carrying any mobile . I need to call up Sheila. As I move towards Tata ‘s own zone ( where BNPgr members had decided to meet post run )

On my right side there is a small queue. Tata motors have put up their car on display with added attraction “click your photo with your own timing” (on digital clock )

I join the line. My initial confusion is soon cleared. No, they do not have direct link with runners finish time as per TMM. Runners have to tell their time based on their own GPS watch/gadget, the same will be filled into a laptop which is connected to digital screen.

One volunteer is taking pics of you posing “done and dusted kind of expression “with clock in background .

Most of the time volunteer is using mobile phones of runners .

A good initiative, but not very efficiently being executed. The main coordinator is trying humour as the tool .( later the queue really becomes very long and each runner has to wait for more than 30 minute for her/his turn )

I request the person behind me to lend his phone so I can call Sheila. He reluctantly gives his phone. It’s obviously locked, so we exchange the typical looks, me a kind of requester and he not very happy to do so.

The music and the so called humour soliloquy is in full blast. I am trying to convey my location to Sheila. In the chaos I am screaming, but doesn’t help much. What works is the very music. Sheila realises that I am near the Tata motor’s display zone as this is the only zone playing loud music.

Soon Sheila joins me. Even though my great helper knows that I have used his mobile to call my wife, who joins the queue (In a way out of turn ) he is not very happy. Soon we get our pics clicked.

Once done I try to crack some joke on typical husband wife relationship, he gives me those hopeless looks which convey “oh just go“ I get the clue.

We move towards the Tata main zone and start our post run stretching exercises. It’s sunny and nice.

Soon we have fellow BNPgr runners joining in. Deven, Prashant, Ashokji, Jagdish, Bimalji

As usual the enthu is with new members. Old BNPgr friends have formed their own groups and now do not have any great urge to gather maximum and have group photo moments. Prashant inspires us to have different poses

and we have our own masti.

Post photo session we try to excuse ourselves as we have a daughter waiting. Soon most of the runners decide to joins us. We pass by the khau galli.( street food lane ) Post weight loss 12 plus 4 weeks, the food stuff of khau galli does not disturb the foodie in me .

We take fast local and reach home.

The end…………………………………………………………..

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