Mumbai Marathon this year felt faster while the finish time was more than last year’s run. This is how runs go. One hopes, prepares and then variables beyond one’s control take over. All that variation and uncertainty is fine as long as one doesn’t expect. However, as much as running is about experience, one does expect to perform in a way. This is an aspect of running that feels hard to get away from.
Year on year, doing the same course is like referencing one’s psycho-physical progress along time. In a much better mental space this year, without having put in the necessary training, I hoped to hold on to last year’s finish time, if not better it. And yet, finishing the 42 km course, I found myself taking 15 minutes more than previous. Although, 0-42 was one swift run! Every marathon ends up in a surprise, which can swing either way – pleasant and disappointing. Then, is consistency a practical goal to chase for a recreational runner? Ahead of Mumbai marathon, I had put in three weeks of work travel, and occasional 12 km+ runs. Sleep routine, travel, food and training runs, everything seemed to be out of order. In the days leading up to marathon, fog played havoc with flights and I was spending long hours waiting for delayed departures. Big lesson is to try and not travel in the week ahead of a run. It doesn’t work well. At the start line I was in a positive mental space. May be, with right amount of conditioning, I could have managed a sub 3:30 run. But that’s speculation. Glad to have run a steady clip. In a zone of my own, didn’t care for much water or food, although I did say hello to a few old friends from previous runs – those two from Navy, enviable guys. Focused. Coach Kay, consistent and rock solid. In Rajasthan I ran looking at his legs and in Mumbai too. That walk-run-walk routine, I am learning. I figured that with my all out run from 0-42 I made poorer time than his walk-run-walk.
With soaring popularity of Mumbai marathon, it is likely that more runners would like to participate next year. If that happens, there is surely less space on the roads. The first five kilometres are all about negotiating space with scores of runners on all sides. The course’s carrying capacity is hitting maximum. I like the spirit of people and the kind that runners get from the people. It is still worth being on the Worli sea link for that one day of the year when it is just for people, walking or running. That feels a different way of experiencing the city.
The run this year felt easy and swift. I ran with a finish time in mind but did not go all out chasing it. Perhaps, this is the kind of seasoning that one undergoes with runs and doing a few courses over years. Endurance sports tend to be like a chisel working on the monolith self, carving it slowly, over courses, over years. With this year’s Mumbai run, I learn patience and steady performance while being in control of one’s thoughts and emotions.
Some weeks back a friend shared review of a new book on marathon – Inside a Marathon. While I await the book, from the review this quote struck a chord –
“It’s one thing to stand on a start line after an average build-up,” Fauble writes. “You might have high hopes, but you also probably know that you might not be good enough on the day. Conversely, when you’re checking all the boxes and surprising even yourself in workouts, excellence starts to feel like the only acceptable option. And excellence is hard.”
I guess we all run from a position of doubt, either way! Prepared, unprepared or too prepared. Year on year, the doubt continues.