Monday, 15 January 2018

SCMM 2017: A run after 3 years

Date: Jan 15, 2017                  Time: 05:30 AM                Place: Holding Area, Azad Maidan, Mumbai
After three years, nothing much has changed, everything looks so familiar. Men and women in colorful attires, full of energy. Some of them clicking pre-race pictures, some are doing warm-up exercises, some are chit-chatting with friends and few lazy ones like me are just relishing the moments, waiting for the gun. Let’s travel into the flashback while the gate gets opened. Exactly five years back (January 15, 2012), same day, same time, same place, ran my first full marathon. Was so much smitten by the city, its people and the experience of running on this beautiful route, that I instantly promised to return every year. And I did keep my promise for next two years, but could not in last two years (the running KEEDA went bit silent after the amazing 2014 run). Following are the past SCMM timings:
SCMM 2012:   04:50:50
SCMM 2013:   04:30:08
SCMM 2014:   03:59:19

Started training for SCMM 2017 since April 2016 with sub-4 target. Training was like kabhi chal kabhi ruk (to be English friendly I mean not consistent) and by October lost all the steam whatsoever. With zero training in November and forgetful December, sub-4 evaporated and sub-5 took its place. Still I think will just try to beat my SCMM 2012 effort.

In my earlier visits, I used to reach Mumbai on Saturday morning, collect the bib from the expo in the noon, and be in the hotel for rest of the day to prepare my legs battle ready for next morning. This time I came here with my Mom (more precisely as a tourist) a day before. Visited most of the places which one should on Friday and Saturday. In all, did most of the things that a runner should not do before a FM. Returned late on Saturday after the sight-seeing, had my shave (should look good in marathon pics) and went to bed at around 12 with alarm set for 3:50. And now, here I am in the holding area, after having my bath, couple of bananas and plenty of water. Forgot to add, also released excess bladder pressure just before entering the holding area, I am in peace now.

The start line clock struck 05:40 and slowly the whole mass started moving forward. I said to myself “run easy, just enjoy this run”. As my leg landed on the start line I turned on my stop-watch and began my journey. It is still dark and thousands of legs are running with me under the yellow street lights. I am feeling relaxed, no pressure of any target. I always feel some butterflies in the first couple of kms, but not today. So relaxed that I completed KM1 in 7:13, bit slow isn’t? I kept going easy, by KM5 my t-shirt is soaked with sweat. It is bit humid too. Tried to catch 4:45 bus, but neither I increased my pace nor the bus got slowed down.

Indian Navy band at Chowpatty, KM4, is always a turn-on for my legs, but this time their effect lasted only for a km and I am back to easy mode. Feeling some bladder pressure too. Just for the records, I have never taken a biological break during a run, ever. Well, records are meant to be broken. For the time being I kept on, many times brain sends wrong signals too. Saw two guys running together ahead of me wearing t-shirt with "Mentor" printed on their back (for the uninitiated, Mentor/Cadence/Synopsys play in the same professional domain as i am in). The competitive one inside me wanted to say hello while over-taking them, but their legs were better trained for the day.

My throat is feeling thirsty. Took an energy drink at KM7, also the first elevation. Looks like the world is too small. Here is another runner wearing a "Cadence" t-shirt. I ran past him and said "Good morning from Synopsys. You are running great" and he smiled back and said "You too". They are giving good competition to our tool but not here.  Did I said running a marathon teaches you to be humble, naaaah. On a serious note, I was in Cadence before joining Synopsys some six years back. And that was the time when I fell in love with running. There is a great running culture there and every time some 100+ runners participate in SCMM from Cadence. Let’s see when we can match that figure. Anyway, enough of thanks-giving and did you notice, I am a humble soul.  

At last at KM 9, accepted the long suppressed call and the record is broken. No pressure, legs were warmed-up, dawn is breaking and Hazi-ali (a must visit place in Mumbai) is in sight, my legs increased the pace. Sea on the left and another sea of half marathon runners coming from the opposite direction on the right lane. Picture perfect environment to run. Slowly I am getting into my usual running flow, breathing easy, cheering my fellow runners and feeling more and more energetic. Around Km10, patted a guy and cheered him up. He responded with a smile and kept pace with me. We struck a conversation. He is Gaurav, a PhD fellow from Ahmedabad. This is his first SCMM but has run few FMs earlier. And the chit chat goes on and on. Together we dissected each other’s personal and professional life.

KM13 and we reached Bandra-Worli sea link. Just one word, Beautiful. Although there is a long gradual elevation but both of us were going great, talking and cheering the runners around us. Many responded anonymously, few cheered back with my name (my name is printed on the back of my t-shirt) and few battered souls who did not responded were busy in that mind-body fight. Way to go before I get involved in such fight, I am still fresh. Km17, I am running strong. Few more cheers, this time a doctor responded loudly with my name. He is Dr. Gunjan, an anesthesiologist from Max hospital New Delhi. Running a marathon is amazing. 42.195K is a good distance to make few new friends. Three in the pack.

Half way mark reached in good time, 2:18:25 said the watch. Mumbaikars, the police, all are clapping and cheering for us from the roadside. Kids are stretching their hands long enough to give a high five. At Km24, group of people (not the organizers) were distributing oranges with salts, water bottles etc to the runners. I had few pieces with salt, need to maintain the balance. KM25, Siddhi Vinayak Temple, bowed to the Lord Ganesha, asking for power in legs. Lord must have smiled. Slowly the energy reserves are getting depleted, Gaurav is breathing little heavy. Gunjan has gone ahead I guess. Legs needs some coaxing to keep them running. Suddenly a bike came from behind, asking us to run on the sides. The Elites are coming. You can just admire and stare in awe the way they run. They came and then Gone with the wind, we are left behind.

Km 28, caught Gunjan again. Overtook the 5Hr bus. Gaurav promised to give me company till 31. Sun was out, not very harsh still good enough to make his presence felt. Gunjan was telling how he was training for sub-4 target but then got injured in November. Suddenly remembered that the state of my legs is entering my brain and I have stopped cheering my fellow runners. I instantly cheered loudly. Km 31 and Gaurav already abandoned me.  But seriously, very thankful to Gaurav, we ran around 21K together. My legs also needed some break. Good thing is that my calves are fine, no cramps, just that knees do not want to run anymore. Saw some beautiful girls spraying Volini on runners legs. Requested them to spray my knees. Walked few meters before resuming my run.

Every Km is becoming longer. On top of it, the most treacherous part of the route (32-37) has begun. Only thing that save the runners here is the awesome crowd support. Kids are distributing water bottles, biscuits. People are standing out of their houses distributing oranges, bananas and what not. A small boy is offering chocolates, picked one ‘Perk’ and thanked him. Mmm, eating one after a long-long time. Km 35, dreaded Pedder road.  A steep incline, I literally walked over it and so did a girl with curly hairs ahead of me. She walked and then resumed running after reaching the top. I focused my eyes on her (had to focus on something other than my legs, nice excuse isn’t). She was in line of sight till 37. Right now target is not the finish line, but the next km mark. Did run-walk till 39 and then collected all my inner power to run till the end, just don't want to beat the time of 04:50:50. Cheered mindlessly, kept playing with my mind, but it was getting tough. Had to tell myself that I have finished the distance many times before. 1000 meters to go, no more mind games, just increased my pace. Waived at the cameras, increased my stride and landed strong on finishing mat while turning off the timer, it read 04:50:20. Just managed not to cross the limit of 04:50:50. 

Mission accomplished, feeling proud and satisfied. The guy at the medal counter placed the finisher medal round my neck. It's bit heavy this time or probably my neck has become bit tender.

Following is my report card of this marathon:

Bib Number
Hemant Aggarwal
1677 / 4680 Finishers
Category Rank
274 / 753 Finishers
Gender Rank
1570 / 4301 Finishers
Split@3 Km
00:20:25 Avg. Pace 06:48, Avg. Speed 8.82 Kmph
Gender Rank : 3218 / 4301 Finishers , Category Rank : 558 / 753 Finishers
Split@13.2 Km
01:28:00 Avg. Pace 06:40, Avg. Speed 9 Kmph
Gender Rank : 2758 / 4301 Finishers , Category Rank : 477 / 753 Finishers
Split@21.1 Km
02:18:31 Avg. Pace 06:34, Avg. Speed 9.14 Kmph
Gender Rank : 2236 / 4301 Finishers , Category Rank : 394 / 753 Finishers
Split@28.2 Km
03:07:17 Avg. Pace 06:38, Avg. Speed 9.03 Kmph
Gender Rank : 1982 / 4301 Finishers , Category Rank : 348 / 753 Finishers
Split@29.7 Km
03:16:40 Avg. Pace 06:37, Avg. Speed 9.06 Kmph
Gender Rank : 1884 / 4301 Finishers , Category Rank : 330 / 753 Finishers
Net Time
04:50:17 Average Pace 06:53, Average Speed 8.72 kmph

See you guys next year.

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