It’s that time of the year when India’s best Tata Mumbai Marathon takes place and runners from all across the world converge to the financial capital of India. It’s also the culmination of their months of running training and hoping for their best performance..with the only likely spoiler being humid Mumbai weather in the back of the mind!

Well! i too landed in Mumbai after months of training and moving from places of extreme cold to normal cold and then to Mumbais surprising pleasant weather on the night of 17 Jan 20….and i saw Mumbaikers wearing sweaters & jackets!!…that was a blessing for me as i was again fearing humid conditions. Long and tiring journey demanded that i should take a good rest that night however that wasn’t going to be the case and i woke up next day at my usual waking up time of 0530h after a troubling night and sleep of just few hours!

That day was spent on collecting bib from a senior of mine who had reached Mumbai few days back and his wife Mrs Angela Pant was getting acclimatised with the weather and route as she was attempting her first 42k this year. I met the couple and was really impressed by her determination and level of preparation in spite of being a full time mother of two daughters and a four leg member in the family. Just a year back only she had started serious running and attempted her maiden 21km. We discussed some running tips and decided the place and time for next days RV for reaching starting point.

Thereafter i started off to meet an old school mate of mine in Juhu whom i hadn’t met since school days!!..and it was worth the journey across the other end of the city. Being childhood friends i took the liberty of putting her in a bit of an uncomfortable situation by requesting to only make pasta for me!!…well! she had no other choice but to serve me that only but she also managed to force her own hospitality designs by ending with an extremely tasty and sumptuous gajar ka halwa and who could resist that….and so i took good size serving…twice!!

Next in the days agenda was meeting old course mates from training days of Pune. In the evening went to the picturesque US Club and met my great bum-chums of Navy…recollected good old training days of Pune, sleepless nights of walking in the jungles with good loads on back, rolling in concrete and sharing those laughter, sleeping in classes after gruelling morning drill and PT, trying to eat 5/6 slices of bread in one go and just so many other exciting adventures. Among these course mates, two of them were trying 42k and 21k for the best time.

We wished luck to each other and broke off early at 08:30 pm hoping to get some good rest before next days run with good old friends!

It’s 19th Jan 2020 – alarm goes off at 02:30am and i am up after just 3 hours of sleep, walk to the other room to wake up a junior of mine who was also running today, had some lemon water, ate a banana, bread with jam and did routine things to get ready for the D-day. I was ready by 03:45 but having that nagging thought that maybe my stomach is still not fully clear and i should go again!!…well! thats one of the biggest fear we all runners have when waking up too early for our long runs especially on the day of such important event.
We all met our RV point, hopped on to a single vehicle and reached CST and wow!!!..what a sight it was!! many..i mean so many runners in all different and colourful dresses and shoes, walking up to the holding area with so much excitement, discussing their running and hydration strategies, tying up signals for going fast or slow, checking their gear for all the essentials required during the run and just about doing every check possible that is done before the launch of a satellite into deep unknown space! The energy is so contagious that you get goose bumps and are so refreshed and ready for the next few long and testing hours.

Run started at exactly 05:15am.I was in A corol and had the good luck of seeing and running with some of the best runners for the initial few hundred meters as i realised that its ok and advisable to run at my own pre-defined pace and not to become Kipchoge initially only otherwise by 5km only i will start walking! I controlled myself and reduced pace to my comfortable pace and heart rate level. My aim for this run was applying few techniques of Chi running like crown up, elbows behind and controlled heart rate and try to see if i can finish the run between 04:15-04:25 hours. At around 13 kms i met a senior of mine who was aiming for a timing of under 5 hours but at that time was running at a pace of under 6 min to a km which was unusually high for him. I told him so and requested him to check his heart rate which was also unusually high. Well! he continued to run at that pace as he was by that time focussing on his pre-defined cadence. I tried to run with him for few meters but decided that he was running fast for my set pace and let him go ahead….every runner has a strategy and he should stick with that plan and mine was to stick to my HR and comfortable pace of under 6 min. I reached the Worli sea link and it’s always so beautiful to see it just before the sun rise, there were so many runners taking a break there and clicking selfies and requesting others to take snaps from all possible angles…i also clicked a selfie, it’s so irresistible with Mumbais morning sky line in the background!
21k completed just after sea link and thereafter i noticed the difference between prepared and not-so prepared runners with their posture and pace! I tried to maintain my heart rate and pace and had decided that will try to increase the pace only after 34/35km mark and that too if i feel that my body has the reserves to do it. However controlling once excitement and pace becomes difficult at times in such an electrifying atmosphere and i realised its effect when i noticed my heart rate at 165 at 30km mark. I walked for few meters, got it down, ran but it was again back at 165 so i walked again and a little bit more this time and started only once it dropped below 145.

The distance to the much fearful Peddar road climb was done smoothly and i decided to climb it by using chi running technique of upswing arm like giving a upper cut, did that one km in 6:25km in a minute and thereafter could feel that my body has enough energy and form for the last 5 kms at a much better and faster pace. I again did a recheck of my form, checked my heart rate and headed off towards the finish line. This entire stretch was full of Mumbaikers who were all out for support in terms of loud cheering, cool sponges, ice packs,water, fresh juices, oranges, biscuits, chocolates etc and they just added up to my excitement of finishing strong. I completed the run in 4:15 hours, my personal best and felt great.

By Avdhesh Kumar

Certified ChiRunning Instructor