Sunday, 2 February 2014

SCMM 2014: Veni Vidi Vici

Date: Jan 19, 2014                      Time: 5:00 AM                    Place: Azad Maidan, Mumbai

Waiting for this morning since a year. Just said to a friend "pet mein gudgudi ho rahi hai"(to be english friendly it means feeling butterflies in stomach). Yeah, this is my state. Anxious, excited, to be true little scared too. Waiting with friends for the gates to open, trying to locate some known faces.

While the gates get open, let me take you guys in flashback. I love coming to Mumbai and why not, SCMM is like Mecca for runners. And one of the predominant reason for this tag 'Mecca' is its people, the way they show their love and affection for people coming here and running those miles. But things were not so rosy on training front last year. Infact by september i was sure of skipping ADHM & SCMM altogether. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, registered for SCMM on Sept 26. It was an impulsive decision, but once done i knew that its going to be fun(read tough) training for SCMM as time was at premium(WAQT, race against time).

I put my best foot forward (yeah literally, infact both J). ADHM went nicely. Trained hard with max mileage in december, in the hostile Delhi weather. Increased mileage, overworking muscles, in a short time is a perfect recipe for shin splints. As a result no running in final two weeks of the showdown. And what all went through my mind in those two weeks, runners will relate to. Why i am even telling this? Well, just to give a picture of what it takes and what it really means for most of us, to stand few meters away from the start line on a sunday morning, ready to run some 42Kms. And that's just not me, here with me is a sea of maniacs, men women in colorful attires, some with grey hairs, everyone having just one desire.

As far as my goal for today's run, yes i was training for sub 4, but all those plans vaporised with that shin pain 2 weeks back. I have managed my heart to accept that even a 4:30 time will be ok, lesser-the-better. I will run as per my feeling, no pushing for any target at all. And suddenly what i see, there is a 4 Hr bus (strange, there was no 4 Hr bus on the event site). My heart rekindled with that sub 4 desire and i gave in(a decision which should be called too optimist, but when you desire something so badly, your heart keeps looking for ways to fulfil it overruling what mind orders). I told myself, lets be with the 4 Hr bus as long as the legs can. So thats the start line, picture courtesy Aayush (please do not sue me for copyright infringement)

Time 5:40 AM, the start time, heart rate went bit higher(good that i am not wearing a heart-rate monitor, else nearby runners must have thought that i started from pedder road). And the run started, but i could not catch the 4 Hr bus from the very first meter and the gap kept on increasing slowly and slowly and by KM4 i could not see the 4 Hr bus flag anymore. I consoled myself and kept to a comfortable pace. By now i got better of my nerves and it was business as usual for my legs. All this while my watch was very assuring to me. Infact i was doing exactly as i planned to do a sub 4 in my training earlier and that too without actually going for it.

The Indian Navy band at chowpatty was  a great booster. A barefoot runner overtook me, and i cheered him for running so nicely, that too barefoot. He reciprocated, the girl running with him said "He is a superman". Caught with another runner, came to know that he is also from Delhi and more of a cyclist. One of our gang member has done a lot of TASHNI things in  cycling world last year, so i asked to have more familiarity "you might be knowing Lovey" and "yes" came the answer. And with in a second another "yes" came to my ears and it was from Lovey himself(shaitaan ka naam lo, shaitaan haazir). I cheered Lovey and left this guy in his company to move forward.   
At KM8, the very first elevation. A guy with grey hairs was running great. We cheered each other. He uttered to the runners around him "just lean forward and run easy". Oh yes, i increased my angle by five degrees J. Now a tall guy was trying to overtake me. I think its the habit of every runner, whenever someone tries to overtake us, we get little faster and try to match his/her pace. I cheered him and he overtook me after thanking me. I caught him again and pointed out "hey, i am still with you". We got in the conversation mode (He is Satya, from Mumbai, working in a construction company which has constructed Bandra-Worli sea link, was a finance person there etc etc etc). Infact this chatter went on for next 20 Kms. Elevation conquered and soon we were sailing down the pedder road. What a speed we gained there. I asked Satya, how we must be feeling while returning back and running up the same thing at 35K. We both laughed at the thought and kept the speed up. I was feeling great, my legs were in mood and both of us were matching each others step.
Half marathoners were coming from the other side. Satya and myself, kept chatting and motivating fellow runners. Met RashmiM around 13K. She was running superbly and cheered us back. A runner with "Ronaldo" printed at the back of his t-shirt was constantly running ahead of us from quite sometime. I asked Satya "lets catch Ronaldo" and he was game. We caught Ronaldo, cheered him and moved on.

Km 16, and we are running on sea link. It was a heavenly weather and a breathtaking sight. On my left was moon, high up in the sky. On my right, Sun was trying to come out of its shell behind some tall buildings and yes, sea was beneath us. Running on this stretch is awesome. Although there was a good head wind, a noticeable elevation but i was running with ease. No hint of shin pain till now. Satya was explaining few details of sea-link to me. The barefoot runner of KM4 and the girl were in sight. Satya and myself overtook the superman. That's Satya and myself. Effect of running on sea-link is quite obvious on our faces.

21K was done in exactly 1:59:16. Very consistent with my sub 4 plan. But i am still not thinking about it. Its happening, and happening very much as i planned. My next target was to do 32K in 3 Hrs. Soon i caught up another runner wearing Tech-mahindra t-shirt and instantly struck a conversation. He is Manish, from Pune, running with some of his office mates etc. After enquiring all the info from this new mate, i introduced him to Satya and now Satya, Manish and myself are cruising nicely. Mumbai is all up now. People from all walks of life were outside their homes cheering us. Kids were stretching their hands to do a high-five.

Suddenly Satya roared "Ganpati bappa morya" and Shree Siddhivinayak were in front of us. We took his blessings and moved on. Manish dropped behind, Satya and myself were going great. Now we were looking more for the inside edges of the curves (every extra meter counts J). I dont know for whatever reasons, i find the route between 27K till 32K very uninspiring and monotonous. Its also the point when your body start feeling the inevitables. I could sense a bit of effort in Satya's voice while chatting with him. After running some 20K together Satya dropped back somewhere around 28K. I was all alone waging the battle.
To be true i can not say that i was running with ease now. Slowly i had to pull my marshalls out, one by one. Around 29K met SanjayJ. Cheered his spirits loudly and went on. Sun was out, trying to make a difference but nothing much to worry about. Saw the 4 Hr bus on the other side of the road. It must be  some 1500 meters ahead. Took the u-turn after 29. Fellow runners were more on run-walk mode. Few others were limping and looking faded. Even my loud cheering was not making much difference to them. The overall changed parameters made me realised that things are getting tough now.
31K, cheered and waved at my friend and gang member SandeepA on the other side. He was running great, ahead of 4:30 bus. My mind was negotiating hard with my heart, who was giving a kit-kat break signal. I kept the momentum and crossed 32k in 3:0:35. So i had around an hour for the remaining 10.2K. No, i can not afford to think that far when the dreaded pedder road elevation still remains. Next target is 37K mark in next 30 minutes. I sponged my face, poured some water on my neck (taking clue from my lost running mate Satya). I was missing him or more precisely i was really in need of someone running at my pace.

A couple of girls with "unstoppables" printed on the back of their t-shirts were walking. I cheered "hey unstoppables, come on". They also replied back with a nice smile "we are not stopping we are walking". Anyway walking was not an option for me. 35K done, I knew that now is the time that will make the difference. Pedder road elevation is in front, mumbaikars were on the sides. I chose the mumbaikars and ignored the elevation. Have given enough respect to this road in my last 2 FMs. Suddenly remembered a line from my DM friend VishwanathanJ's blog, "there is no elevation if you focus on one step at a time". I tried to think so, but this Gyaan was not a help for me J.

Two girls from medical camp were holding relispray. Although my leg muscles were not complaining loudly, still i accepted the long deferred wish of my heart, before i present him the pedder-road-trauma. Took a 5 second break to get my legs sprayed. Their smile and spray both worked, if not physically then definitely mentally. 

Kept running on the inside edge of the road, although sunny and lonely but my legs were happy running few meters less. Can not afford to annoy them at this point. Found another lonely runner who was also using his distance optimisation skills to the maximum. I badly wanted to talk to someone since Satya left, just to ignore my inner voices. He is Sandeep from Amdavad and running his maiden FM after running a 1:42 ADHM. He knew VishwasB and PiyushS and even told me that Vishwas did an ultra a day before. It brought a smile on his face when i told him that his name matches with one of my gang member. Sandeep kept pace for a KM and then fell back.
And came the steepest part of the pedder road and its a ritual to walk over it. I tried to egged on some who were following the ritual by saying "just lean forward and run easy", same Gyaan that i got at KM8. Many followed with smile except one. This guy gave me a tough look and said "come on" as if challenging me and started sprinting up. I shouted "easy man, pairon ki lag jayegi", but he stopped only at the top and started walking. I went up to him at my pace and said "mate i was just trying to motivate, you are running great". I can easily relate to him, but anyway, i moved forward.

A lady in grey hairs was cheering at the top of her voice and motivating the fallen spirits of the runners. So much, that will shame the most ferocious cheerleader of IPL or for that matter any other PL J. Kids were doing over time with water bottles, candies, biscuits, chocos, oranges, frooti and the list is endless. I made it a point to say thankyou to most of them whether i took anything or not. If the elevation was an issue than the heart-warming support of the mumbaikars is a big plus of this stretch. It wont be wrong if i say that a runner gets maximum cheers and support on this stretch.
I was absorbing every bit of all these happenings and kept moving easy and steady.  A girl was looking in some pain. When i tried to cheer her, she said she is having pain in lower leg. I asked her to stretch, walk and run easy. Dont know how much it helped her, but yes she was stretching. On the downhill of the last elevation met couple of guys, smiling and running. Saw any fellow runner actually running after a long time, that too with a broad smile. Had a brief conversation with them. Asked their names and some other questions too, but sorry do not remember the answers. Shows my mental condition too at that point of time J. I reciprocated their smile with a wider one, encouraged them and moved on.
37K came and not in a bad time. It was 3:30:25 in my watch. Approximately 30 minutes for remaining 5.2K for a sub 4. For the first time during the run Sub 4 looked realistic. I said to myself that i do not want to defer this for another year. I called all my army to give its maximum, now. Things were getting tense and excited like a T20 match. I again splitted the target and this time it was 40K in 3:48:00. Majority of my fellow runners were walking, few limping and some were even stretching. And once in a while few champs were even overtaking me. I took my motivation from these few and said to myself "just 5K man" and visualised the 5K stretch of my training route; looked doable. Now my focus was more on my run. My motivational exchanges with my fellow runners changed to anonymous cheering "come on friends".
40K nailed in 3:47:37. My calculation intensive head went into overdrive. Straight away my next target was to see the "1000 meters to go" board in 3:54:00. I was breathing hard, but it does not matter now. Overtaking each and everyone, whatever was coming in my way. My cheering converted more into shouting "come on friends, run hard, last few Kms". 1000 meters to go, time in my watch was 3:53:53. Now i was super confident that sub 4 is mine. Only thing which can stop me now was a collapse, total collapse, which can not be ruled out practically. I eased down a bit, told myself i want sub 4, not important that by how much i beat it.

I went on with ease and confidence in my stride. Someone crossed the road resulting me to put brakes and obviously i roared back(do not make a runner stop in his last Km else he will bite you like a mad dog J). 500, 200, 100 and the finish line in sight. I collected everything i had in me and went into sprint mode. With palms straight, fingers pointing towards the finish line and teeths closed tightly, i went past the finish line. My watch stopped at 3:59:21 and i knew official timing will be a second less not more. Just vented out the heat inside me with a loud "yesss" and returned to my civic senses the next second. That yesss made a head to turn around, but who cares.

I went to medical camp to get a enerzal pack. Saw a familiar face with grey hairs. I remember this guy overtaking me in ADHM and today also. I congratulated him and asked his whereabouts. He is Rajesh Wadhwa from Delhi, a veteran runner. Naa, i am not ashamed. With promise to meet again, i came out. Stretched my muscles, met SanjayJ and RashmiM and proceeded to the medal area. Met Satya, my running mate till 28. The happiness on his face told me everything. We hugged each other and exchanged our numbers with a promise that we will meet next year too. Met my gang, all did fantastic. Infact more or less everybody did their PB. Thats my gang(two members missing), feeling proud and happy.
I came here in 2012, saw the pedder road more closely in 2013 and this year it belongs to me. Returning back to Delhi, soul and sole both at rest. Got message from Satya in the evening:
"Hi, This is Satya Tripathi. Thanks again for the pace. May pls store. Rgds"
Running is special, it lets you know so many people. People who feel happy in your achievement and when you are down, they pick you up too, quite different from the outside(read self-centric) world.

Another wait starts ................................................................................... Date: Jan 18, 2015


  1. Wow! I felt like actually running the race while reading your blog. Your finish reminded me of my Mawana-2013 half marathon finish :) Wish you a perennial injury free running season. Keep running and keep documenting.

  2. Super Run Hemant! Great narrative ! Could revisit the entire route with you again.

  3. fantastic hemant, Many congratulations and your track record is awsome, getting better day by day. all the very best.. keep running and inspiring.

  4. very good written. write one more for this year