Mumbai Half Marathon 2014 – A Must-Do for any true Bombayite

In January 2014, I finished the Mumbai Half Marathon, which I think is the best half marathon route to run in India. Of the 21km route, almost 14kms are along the Arabian sea- on the Bandra-Worli sea link, the Worli sea-face, and Marine Drive. Additionally, for a true Bombayite, the sea route, along with landmarks like Nehru Planetarium, Mahalakshmi Race Course, Haji Ali, Peddar Road, Churchgate station, Victoria Terminus (V.T., now C.S.T.) station etc. bring back a flood of memories. It is a very well organized run, with enough provisions of water, energy drinks, glucose biscuits, orange slices etc. I took a long time (3 hours) to finish the route, but every minute was well worth it. It also gives me a good chance to better my personal record next year. Did I say next year? Of course- you do this route once, and you will want to keep going back to it every year!

Mumbai Half Marathon 2014- I did it
At the finish line


A more detailed report of the run follows.

After a long hiatus, I got back to some serious running in 2013. Having completed the TCS World 10K run in May 2013, I was looking for a more challenging course. I had heard a lot about the Mumbai Half Marathon, and was thinking of doing it for the last few years. I was finally feeling in good shape for a half marathon, and therefore signed up in September, as soon as the registrations opened up.

Then started a long training season, with my gym instructor, S, assigning weekly workouts, with long runs starting from 5K to 18K. I felt quite comfortable with the training until early November. After that, with a couple of trips, as well as lots of guests to entertain at home in December, I messed up my training schedule. Additionally, I fell ill in January for almost a week, and was feeling rather weak until a couple of days before the run. I was wondering whether I should cancel the trip. But giving up without trying is very uncharacteristic of me, so I decided I’ll run as much as I can and walk the rest of the course. Plus, I really wanted to experience running on this beautiful route.

So with a lot of nervousness, I got up early in the morning on 19th Jan. N’s dad dropped me at the starting point in Bandra, about 45 minutes before the race. Not heeding my friend’s advice of getting there an hour before start costed me a lot. By the time I got there, it looked like all of Mumbai had descended on Bandra. In fact, the lines were so long at the entrance, as well as for the porta-potties that I got to the start line just as the race was being flagged off.

John Abraham flagged off the run, and this whole mass of ten thousand participants started streaming onto the Bandra-Worli sea link. It was the most beautiful sight I had seen in Bombay. We ran in the moonlight on the sea link- a stretch which is never open to pedestrians. The sea breeze was very refreshing and I had covered the 5.5km on the sea link at a good steady pace, moderated by the sea of people I was running with. We saw the break of dawn just as we were finishing the last stretch of the sea link.

We then came to the 4km internal loop in Worli, which according to T was a fun part, with onlookers cheering you on. Although that was true, it was also very boring to run in between tall buildings, with no sight of the sea. I guess the 5km on the sea-link had already spoiled me. Eventually, this internal loop turned out to be surprisingly slow for me. After the loop ended, I picked up my pace as soon as I saw the Worli sea face looming ahead. I ran the 4km stretch to Haji Ali in no time, after passing by Nehru planetarium and the race course.

Then came the most difficult stretch of the run. Anyone who has been to Peddar Road can immediately visualize the huge slope that is a killer even when one is walking. Imagine the plight of a runner who faces the slope after a 14km run. I knew this was going to be my weakest spot; so I gave up running and started walking up the slope. The folks handing out orange slices, water and energy drinks brought a good smile to my face at that point. Finally when I hit the downslope, I picked up the pace to make up for the lost time, until I got to Marine Drive.

By the time I reached Marine Drive, the sun was up (though thankfully blocked for the most part by buildings on the left), and it was getting hot. It was quite difficult for me to maintain pace at that point. There were a bunch of radio stations playing some good music, and I ended up half-running, half-walking that stretch. Finally when I got to Churchgate station, I knew this was the last stretch, and tried to run as much as I could.

In the event, I was happy that I managed to complete the half marathon without any issues. I was happy to see my parents as well as N’s dad and aunt at the finish line. And happier to see my mom finally acknowledging that I could run this distance without getting knocked off. In fact, at the end, I had enough strength left in me to walk another 2km till the car parking area.

Overall, an awesome run- one which I will continue going back to, year after year, as long as I can!

Support SaiG for his Fund Raising for LLS

A very good friend of mine, SaiG, is training with Team in Training with the goal of running the Seattle marathon in June 2009. In addition, his goal is to raise $3900 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This is a cause that is extremely dear to my heart. Even today, when I hear of someone training with TNT and raising funds for LLS, it strikes a deep chord.

Please support SaiG in his missionto help fund research on leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and hodgkin’s disease, and to help support the patients of these diseases. Together, let’s help fund and find cures for these terrible diseases..

Back In Action

I ran on the treadmill today after a long time- almost a year. It felt great to be back on track. Although my timing has deteriorated significantly, my stamina has not. I was able to run/walk a total of 3 miles in just under 45 mins. My goal is to get it down to 36 mins by the end of the summer. A stretch goal is to get it down to 33 mins. And maybe get to 6 miles as well. Hopefully this is the start of a good running routine for me back here in India.

I realized that one of the reasons I could get back to my running form after such a long break, is my long standing inclination to do any exercise (whether swimming or running) in a slow and steady manner, with a focus on endurance. Even today if I go swimming, I am sure I will be able to swim 1000m with at most 4-5 short breaks. On the other hand, I am terrible at sprints- running or swimming. There’s just no way I will be able to beat 10 min miles for even a 3 mile run.

Irrespective of my timing, I am just glad that I have gotten back into the running routine again.

Support Randy in his Gladiator Run in Rome

It will be two years this May, since the day I signed up for Team In Training‘s marathon training program. There were plenty of reasons I signed up that day for the TNT program. The primary one being- The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society‘s mission to fund research on leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, with the aim of curing these terrible diseases.

One point that I have not yet mentioned in this blog was the fact that I had actually trained for the marathon in honor of that one special person, who was unfortunately diagnosed of leukemia a few years back. I was shattered when I first heard this news. She had to undergo some very tough chemotherapy sessions last year, and has been doing fine since then. Here’s wishing from the bottom of my heart that she stays healthy for the longest of times.

To this day, whenever I see someone training with TNT and running for the leukemia and lymphoma cause, I tend to re-live in my heart, every moment of my marathon run, as well as my marathon training experience. I especially feel for the honorees, in particular that special honoree, in whose honor I had trained and run the marathon.

When I came in this morning, I saw an email from Randy about his Gladiator run. It brought back a lot of memories and emotions from my marathon days. Coincidentally, today I happened to wear my marathon finisher’s medal (necklace from Tiffany’s) for the first time since I came to India.

Please support Randy in his mission to complete the Rome marathon and to raise funds for TNT and The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. He is running for a very noble cause; I hope I will get another chance to do the same.

Nike Women’s Marathon 2006: My First Full-Marathon Experience

On a wonderful Sunday morning in October, in the beautiful city of San Francisco, I finished my first ever marathon run. The marathon was as much a test of my physical strength, as it was a test of my mental resolve. It was by no means easy; but I managed to hang in there, and to complete what I had set out to do, 5 months ago.

Along with 15000 other participants, less than 1% of which were men, I started my run at 7AM in the morning, from Union Square. The air was heavy with excitement and anticipation at the prospect of running the 26.2 (or 13.1) miles. The elite runners had already taken off at 6:40AM. As the gun went off at 7AM, we were started off in batches. I was in the 3rd batch, and got to the start line about 8 minutes after the first set of runners took off.

Like most others, I started off at a very easy pace- about a minute or so slower than my regular pace. We had been advised by our coaches to start easy and pick up the pace as we feel comfortable. This gave me the opportunity to observe what the crowd was upto. A lot of people had “I am running for…” banners on the t-shirts, in support of the honorees for whom they were running this marathon. All of us on the Peninsula Team of TNT were also wearing a note with pictures and names of the 5 honorees of our team. There were a few people with “It’s my birthday today” banners on their t-shirts, and people were wishing them as they ran by.

In about 3-4 miles, I had eased into a steady pace. I was now taking short 1 minute walking breaks after running at a good pace for about 6 minutes. From Union Square, we ran towards Embarcadero along Post, Montgomery and Washington. After hitting Embarcadero, we took a left and kept going along the bay, past Fisherman’s Wharf and Fort Mason, towards the Presidio. As we ran up a small hill, we got an amazing view of the Golden Gate bridge. The sun was shining down on the bridge, and there was fog beneath the bridge. It almost looked like the bridge was hanging in mid-air, supported only by clouds. It was a very pretty sight, and many runners took out their cameras at that point. I really missed not having a camera with me at that time.

We then ran along Marina Blvd, where I ran into TJ, our TNT team manager- one of the most encouraging and enthusiastic persons I have ever met. She did a great job of cheering me on. After we passed Crissy Field, we hit our first major uphill on the route. It was just about 6 miles into the marathon, and I was feeling quite fresh at that point. I decided to run up the hill at a slightly slower pace than normal. I managed to do that fine enough, with a couple of short walking breaks, and I was quite pleased with myself. The downhill that followed was even more fun, and I managed to conquer it in no time. Then came the next uphill, and I did fine on this one too. The final big downhill, near the Cliff House was very pretty- we were running down towards the sea, and then along the Great Highway.

The route then went through the Golden Gate park, where we reached our half way mark. I was quite happy with my pace- just about a minute slower than my regular pace- which I though was good, considering that I had already done the two major hills on the route. And I felt I had enough energy to run the second half of the marathon. I thought it was time I picked up my pace a bit. But then I ran into a hurdle. After mile 15, my quadriceps started hurting a lot. My confidence, which had held strong until now, started withering with every step that I took. I was sure I will be able to run another 3 miles with that pain. But another 11 miles! I started getting scared at the prospect of not finishing the marathon.

I then started walking for more time than the usual 1 minute recovery. I was analyzing what went wrong and realized that my over-enthusiasm in tackling the hills in the first half of the marathon might now be adversely affecting me. But I was quite sure I was prepared for the hills, and I was frustrated with my quads for giving up on me. I then decided to ignore the pain in the quads, and started a run-walk routine in the ratio 4:1, to give my quads enough time to recover. By then it was almost mile 18, and we were out of Golden Gate park, and had also done most of the Great Highway. We now had to encircle Lake Merced, before heading back down the Great Highway towards the finish line at Golden Gate park.

My quads had finally decided to cooperate, and I was now feeling fine. Then another roadblock came along, which took me even more by surprise. This time, it was my foot that started getting a burning feeling. Every step I took felt as if I was running barefoot on hot coal. This was something that I had not yet experienced on any of my long runs. I had always thought that my ankle was my weakest link. My knees and calf muscles also gave me some trouble once in a while. But this was something new. It would have been okay if I had to go just another mile or two. But another 6 miles seemed like another marathon to go.

I knew it was a complete mind game at this point. I just had to tolerate the pain and keep running. So I started a 2:1 running routine. I was running for 2 minutes and walking for 1 minute. Not the best of paces, but it kept me going. At this point, there were just two phrases occupying my mind. Coach Terry, our head coach always says: “Focus on finishing strong.” And coach Mary had concluded the pre-race party with the advice: “Relentless forward motion.” That was all I could think of. In the 6 hours and 17 minutes and 30 seconds that I was running the marathon, I did not ever stop. I was either walking or running all the time. I drank water and gatorade while walking and filled my water bottle while walking. I knew my destination, and I kept going. And it was not just me. All around me, I saw the determination in everyone’s eyes, inspite of the physical pain.

Between miles 22 and 23, apart from my feet, all other muscles started aching as well. To my surprise, I got quite emotional at that point. The agony of every step caused me to review the 5 months of training in my mind. In addition, I was touched at the thought of the tremendous encouragement and support of the entire TNT group, including the coaches, the mentors, the captains, as well as that of friends and family- in particular, Niket. And most importantly the thought of the honorees, the fund raising, and the cause, which were the primary reason I was doing the marathon, was quite moving. I was quite overwhelmed with all these thoughts, and had tears in my eyes as I ran that mile. I knew at this point that I would complete the marathon.

In the last three miles, I tried to maintain my 2:1 ratio, but even that started proving difficult, and I ended up walking more and more. This is when the TNT and spectator support came in extremely handy. People whom I had never seen before, and probably will never see again in my life, were cheering me on. They called out my name (I had written it on my tshirt) and showered words of encouragement. The Peninsula team TNT mentors, captains and coaches were excellent in their support. Throughout the course, they had stood by the side of the road and cheered the team members on. In addition, during the last few miles, some of them even ran with me for a few miles.

When I started my last mile, I knew I wanted to finish strong. I therefore decided that come what may, I am going to run the entire mile. Then I ran into Jocelyn, a captain on our team. Throughout the season, during our long runs, she would to mention to the coaches that whenever I see her (or any other TNT volunteer) on the course, I gave a big smile to them. This time, all I could manage was a very tiny smile; I was just too tired, and wanted to get done. She then asked me whether I would like some company, and started running with me. I was so glad to see the support. When I had just about 0.5 miles to go, our head coach, Terry joined me in my run for about a minute and congratulated me on making it to the finish. I took a couple of very short walking breaks during the last mile. But once I saw the finish line in the distance, I wanted to cross it soon, and kept running. Jocelyn asked me whether anyone was at the finish line to cheer me in, and I said yes, my husband will be around.

I was concentrating on running, when suddenly Jocelyn asked me what my husband looks like. I was surprised at the question. I looked towards the side of the road, to see Niket with a camera in his hand, ready to take a picture. I gave the best smile I could! Then Niket started running with me, and Jocelyn decided to go back and cheer other team members in.

At the finish line, Niket wanted to cross it with me, but the officials pulled him out. So I crossed the finish line, exactly 6 hours, 17 minutes and 30 seconds after I had crossed the start line. I received a beautiful Tiffany and Co.’s finishers necklace, as well as the Nike Women’s Marathon 2006 finishers tshirt. I am very happy that I completed the marathon. It was a tough and challenging experience- one that I will cherish throughout life.

Nike Women’s Marathon 2006: I Did It!

On a beautiful Sunday, on 22nd October 2006, I finished my first marathon. I ran (and walked) all of the whopping distance of 26.2 miles. I completed the run in 6:17:30. That’s a very long time to keep running/walking, and I could very well feel it in my sore muscles. But the muscles are also evidence of the challenges I faced and managed to overcome in the race. I will put up a much more detailed post about the marathon later. But I am very happy to say that I am a “marathon finisher” now. I even received a beautiful Tiffany and Co. Finisher Necklace, as well as a Nike Women’s Marathon Finisher’s t-shirt.

Weeks Seventeen, Eighteen and Nineteen: Taper

After the 20 mile run, we officially entered the taper phase of the marathon training. This phase meant that we were to run not more than 4-6 miles on our buddy runs and the on-your-own runs. Recovery was much longer this time, as the 20 mile run on the hilly roads in San Francisco did take its toll on us. But the taper gave us a good chance to recover and regain strength for the final run this weekend.

During the taper, we had one organized long run of 12 miles on the Sawyer Camp trail. Everyone in the group took the run lightly, as it was “just 12 miles”, compared to the 20 mile run that we did two weeks prior to that. However, during the run, when everyone started getting tired, we realized that 12 miles is not that less of a distance! But it does seem more of a fun distance, than the full marathon, which seems much more rigorous.

Overall, the taper has been good on the body, and I am now getting set for the final run this Sunday.

Week Sixteen: 20 mile run in San Francisco

I am very happy to report that I completed an extremely beautiful and extremely challenging 20 mile run in San Francisco this Saturday (23rd Sept).

My mentor had organized carpools for the run, and thankfully I did not have to drive all the way to San Francisco. Driving to SF was not a problem; driving back after a tiring 20 mile run, definitely would have been tough. On the way to SF, I had asked my mentor what she thought of the difficulty of this run, compared to the previous one. She said this one should be simpler as the route is not as hilly as Woodside. Well, she was miles away from the truth.

We ran miles 1-11 of the final Nike Women’s Marathon course, in both directions. The course itself is really beautiful, taking us through the beautiful parts of San Francisco. We started off at the Presidio, around mile 5.5 of the final course. First we ran until mile 1 of the course along Marina Blvd and Embarcadero. We turned back at the Ferry bldg and ran back to the starting point. By this time we had done 9 miles of the route, and I was still feeling fresh and energetic.

Then came the second loop on the course, which was much more challenging. This time, we ran in the other direction on Marina Blvd, towards Golden Gate bridge, and then up Lincoln Blvd, and then a couple of other roads, before hitting the Great Highway. We first ran up a big uphill, which was manageable as it was between miles 10 and 11 on this particular route, when I was not as tired. Apart from that, we had two big downhills, and one simple enough uphill. All the time that I was running down the two hills, I was thinking- I have to run up those hills on the way back!

The way back was therefore the killer part of the route. We had already run 14.5 miles, and the first stretch we had to tackle was the huge uphill on the Great Highway, towards the Cliff House and a bit further towards Lincoln park. It was just too difficult to run up that one, and I decided to walk that one out. After hitting the top of the hill, I ran downhill without any problems. Then came the second big uphill, and again I walked up that one. I was thinking- I am just so tired, how am I ever going to finish this run? But once I saw the top of the hill, I was just so happy, that I finished the last 1.5 miles of the route with a well-paced run. All my team-mates cheered me in at the finish line, and all three coaches personally came up to me and congratulated me on the run. They were doing that to everyone, so no big deal; but it did feel nice to be personally congratulated by them.

The two uphill walks resulted in degrading my time a lot, and I was quite disappointed with myself. As I was stretching out, I remarked about that to one of the coaches, and she reminded me that fortunately we don’t have to run back up the two hills on the final course. That was such a relief!

Between this run and the run at Lake Merced, we have now covered most of the final Nike course. I am sure I can handle it just fine. With the four months of training so far, and as long as I manage to stay injury-free for the next four weeks, I am now quite confident about finishing the marathon. I am very much looking forward to the event day…

Week Fifteen

This was a relatively relaxed week. I ran 5 miles on the treadmill, after work, on Thursday (buddy run day). I was planning to run with Rohit and a bunch of others at the Sawyer Camp trail on Sunday. However, I still had a lot of unpacking to do, and therefore decided to run earlier. I ended up running 6 miles on the same trail, but on Saturday. This is a really beautiful trail, and I am sure I will go back and run on the trail even after I am done with the training. It is a flat trail and has quite a lot of tree cover, at least in the early parts of the trail. The best part is that these days, a 6 mile run seems so easy to do!

Now I am nervously awaiting tomorrow’s long run- the 20 mile run. This is the longest run of the season, and the last big one before the final event. As I had mentioned earlier, this is a preview of the final course, and promises to be a fun, challenging run.