This had to be a different Marathon for me. The signs were all there to see. For starters, this time we had no difficulty in locating our hotel in Ballard Estate despite Google Map showing it wrongly.
The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2017 of 15th January brought me back to the city of my childhood and early rebellious days- gulli cricket, of IIT Powai hostel days, of journeys by crowded local trains and of roaming around Fort, Colaba, Marin Drive, Dadar’s Chabildas School for experimental theater.
The Saturday of 14th was spent in collecting race bib (Race Kit), holed up in a our hotel, and gingerly strolling around in the area. Gingerly because, last year me, my friend, and my son had tired ourselves silly by walking for hours looking for our hotel and buying fruit in Crawford Market.
I was rewarded by the site of a beautifully bedecked VT (Now CST) station during the stroll on race day eve.
On the 15th, we started the race on at 24 deg and 80+ % humidity. Now all my practice was in Pune in freezing 12 deg and dry weather of November and December. I knew it was going to be tough. But getting to run in Fort, on Marine Drive and Pedar Road all cleared exclusively for us runners more than compensated me.
Live bands were playing on side walks and enthusiastic early risers of Mumbai were there to cheer us. I tipped my running cap at them.
They -the pacers of Marathon – kept saying that only once in a year you a get chance to run on the Bandra Sealink. I reached the sealink climb at 17th KM mark in good time and in good shape. Another good sign and time for a selfie with my runner friend.Last year, the Elite Runners -who start hours later than us slow runners – had overtaken us at this point. This year no sign of them yet. This confirmed the good sign. My smartphone’s Strava app had crashed at 10 KM but such experiential signs are way better than the numerical ones.
The run through the roads of Mahim was lined with people who cheered and kids who stuck out their hands at us. I responded to as many kids as possible.
But Km #30 to #35 tested my resolve. The stretch of Worli seaface upto Haji Ali bored me.
No pain but it didn’t feel good. Time for you mind to start messing up with you. ‘Why are you running if you are bored?’ ‘Walk like many others’. Time also to ignore it. Then came the Peddar road climb when I could overcome my frustration and get back in a groove. The challenge of running up the long climb did me good. It felt good that I was among very few who were running there. Practicing in Pune -where you can’t avoid the steep climbs of Symbiosis, Chandani Chowk and many other less steep ones of University Road, Prabhat Road and those inside the University campus -helped me. One shouldn’t avoid them.
Peddar road descent to Marine Drive brought the first cramp in my calf. There were two more cramps. The last one was within 300 meters of the finish line. On all occasions, I felt immobilized but I fell back on my experience that cramps are best handled by making the affected muscles go through full range of movements. But they were scary. Mind you, I was well hydrated, electrolyted and fueled. These things happen despite all precautions. It is a lesson that comes to us now and then that each run is different and your body and mind are different at each time. They need to be respected as they are.
By this time my calculations showed that I could still finish under 6 hours even if I had walked the remaining 7 Kms. But walking was impossible. Running was easier! The return leg of Marine Drive passed. I didn’t notice passing the the Ambassador Hotel, Brabourne Stadium and the Tea Board Lounge, so focused I was on reaching the finish line. I had sensed that I would finish under 6 hours and decided to run well. I overcame the third cramp within 300 meters of the finish line. My timing 5:48.
While I waited for my friend at the finish line, I had time for another selfie 🙂
Now a time of 5:48 is nothing to boast about when the race was won by Sibbu of Tanzania in 2:09 and several in my age group 60-65 finished it in under 5 hours. But I was happy because in the previous Marathon I needed 6:25. Actually,I would have been happy with anything under 6 hours. For someone who started running at the age of 56, running a second Marathon under 6 hours wasn’t bad at all.
So needed to pat myself after all 🙂
A taxi driver had asked us about the prize money after he learned that we were spending our money and time just for running. He was a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t get any. Last year, an elderly Gujarati lady had asked me why we were running.
I could stand for an hour after all those 42.2 Kms of Marathon running and I could forget sleeping until well after we had our celebration. The recovery over next days was good and there was hardly any niggle. All good signs.
In morning after the race day, I strolled leisurely around the GPO near CST taking in the race experience and thanking my stars for affording this luxury.
Runners find it difficult to explain why they run such insane distances. But when the kids line up to give you hi-fives you know that you may be a confirmed lunatic but you are having a good time like them.