Signing Up For The Race
It was 15th August 2010, and I had just completed the swim a mile contest for the first time at the Calcutta Swimming Club. I find it necessary to put a target to fitness activities, or else each workout becomes unstructured, and you drift away with your mood swings. This pretty much applies to how we live each day of our life – we should be heading somewhere. Keeping a goal also gives you a reason to try to improving other aspects of your lifestyle like eating healthy.
Since college days, I had read about the marathon, it’s popularity with middle aged crowd in the West, and how 18 weeks was sufficient time for an active person to train for the 42.2km race. The idea of completing a marathon was in my bucket list, and this seemed like a good time to try for it. My brother Jayant Saboo would be getting married in Goa on the 26th, and my friend Kavita Jhunjhunwala would be organizing an excellent conference – Click Asia Summit 2011 – in Mumbai between the race and the wedding. The dates were looking perfect, and I decided to hit three birds with one stone 🙂
My friend Nandita Gangwal had successfully completed the Mumbai Marathon in 2010, and she convinced me that it was not really as impossible as it sounds.
One of the primary reasons for running this marathon was to make my family and friends aware of the importance of keeping fit. Results are pouring in faster than I thought they would. I am happy to share that one of my brothers, Natwar Bagri, responded to my casual suggestion to him to train for the Mumbai Marathon, as his fitness level was good, and the training could take him to the next level. Given his hectic travel schedule, he went beyond his comfort zone, and finished the race with me. Congrats Natwar – we are all proud of you!
If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. The support received from my family and friends is the reason why I could finish the race successfully. Addlife provided the correct environment to train in, sheltered from elements of the city. By the way, how do you judge if you have completed the race successfully? It’s pretty much like asking the question – have you lived your life successfully? I feel that if you have run your best race possible, and have no regrets – then you have run your race successfully. What matters in the end is not the cards life deals you, it’s how you play them. Running on race day is very different, and very difficult compared to a training run. You cannot postpone the run if you are not feeling well, or getting injured. On race day – it’s either now, or never.
When you pause for a few days during the marathon training, 42.2km seems like an impossible and unachievable distance. I had to pause my training for the whole month of October due to travel and subsequent ill-health. The never ending encouragement from all those around me kept me going at such points.
My brother Amit Lahoti had gone our of his way to print my name on the white singlet I would be running in. You did a fine job, as at least forty bystanders of the race encouraged me by first name!
Arriving In Mumbai
Natwar, his wife Vandana, and myself arrived in Mumbai on Friday, and we had the privilege of being carbo-loaded for the race by none other than the Ramesh Damani of Dalal Street himself. He was very happy for us, and shared his experiences of how he had run the marathon 2 years ago. This name has always been lucky for me. In Kolkata, my father-in-law is also Ramesh Damani 🙂
On Saturday, we visited the Race Expo to collect our running bib number, and bagful of goodies from the sponsors. I was very lucky to have bought the book “Dare To Run” by Amit Sheth at the stall for the Comrades Marathon. This is one of the best books I have read, and I recommend this to all, including those who have not bought their first pair of running shoes. I was hoping to meet my college friend Saurabh Katiyar here, but we could not. I was enthrilled to learn he had completed his race on Sunday successfully. The icing on the cake was the surprise visit of my wife, Molly, a few hours before the race.
The race started on time, and gradually all of us mellowed down the initial enthusiasm, and quitely jogged along at our own paces. Suddenly, I could here an American voice from behind shouting at the half marathoners on the other side of the road, encouraging them to run and not walk. I looked behind and got inspired to run this race strong, and not just struggle to finish it. I joined my new friend Joe Findaro, and kept pace with him for about 10km. I learnt that he had run the Boston Marathon! For those of you who are not aware, the qualifying time for this race is 3 hours 11 minutes. The hot weather had forced Joe to mellow down and target a time of 4 hours 30 minutes today. I was at the top of the world in those 10km, especially when I found out Joe was a regular triathlete.
I had to stop running and leave Joe’s excellent companionship at the 28th km – my left knee joint started yelling at me for pounding it on the harsh, uneven roads of Mumbai. I was forced to limp on the Sea Link bridge. The 5 hour bus led by Amit Sheth over took me at the end of the bridge, and it was the time I started considering the option of quiting, as given the rate at which I was slowing down, I would not have completed the race in the prescribed time. Worse yet, I would have had to spend the next few days hospitalized if I exerted myself beyond my limits.
No amount of training would have prepared me for what I faced on Race Day. However, it was this same training that saw me through the race, and helped me sprint the finish line in time for the Finisher’s medal. My final time was 5 hours 55 minutes. Out of the 2800 people who had registered for the Full Marathon, only 967 people finished the race in prescribed time of 6 hours and 30 minutes.
The Ambani Incident
When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
I clearly recall how I had started running. It was inspired by an article in the Times Of India detailing how Anil Ambani started running. In fact, I was so impressed by the article, I had typed it out for my webpage as I could not find the online version of it! At the end of the webpage, I had offered Anil my thanks, and requested him for an email. During this trip, he ended up doing more than that. We met, by chance and as strangers, on Saturday morning. Then again during the race on Sunday, as we were both running in opposite directions near Haji Ali. The pinnacle was when he gave me a hearty wave on Monday morning on Marine Drive after recognizing me from afar.
Suggestions for the next SCMM
A big hand to the race organizers for the wonderful work they have done on race day, as well as for the much needed awareness for fitness they have helped spread over the last few years.
The race does get better every year, and all the suggestions posted on the internet regarding the race in 2010 were well addressed in 2011. Here are my suggestions for the next race. Please continue playing music all along the route, especially in the second half of the race. Please do not release traffic before the race has ended. Please ensure more public toilets along the route 🙂
More SCMM 2011 Race Reports
- The Great Wall of Mumbai
- Tanvir Kazmi – Running Without Limits
- Sunil Tatkar – My First Marathon Story