You may call it over-hyped, you may find the weather unsuitable, the course longer, the terrain flawed, and so on, but the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) remains the mother of all marathons in India. Just like the city it is hosted in, the event will tantalise you to partake in its madness year after year.
These 21.1km runs have taught me to not let that small inner voice beat me up, but I must also thank her for helping me rearrange my priorities...
Last year was my first time at SCMM and I had gone into it with zero expectations and an unstructured (err, more like non-existent) plan. I made the mistake of starting faster, predictably crashing mid-way. I remember making all kinds of deals with the almighty in my mind just so he'd give me the will to make it to the finish line. Logging in 2:25 I managed to crawl to the timing mat. I called it a "sub 2:30."
Around the same time last year, I let a small voice get the better of me. You know, the voice which pops out more often than we would like, the voice that teases with its pessimistic tone, this internal voice that saps the very self-confidence we spend considerable time accumulating. Someone had asked me how many half-marathons I'd run. I sheepishly mumbled the number and bang! there it was, the mocking nudge from the voice inside me, "You call yourself a runner with just that number of half-marathons? Really?" Yeah, I have an MBA in marketing but I fall for such ridicule.
My New Year resolution was to complete five half-marathons, so after saying "never again" in Mumbai I was looking to strike off four more such self-torture jaunts in the coming months. Ridiculously humbled at the Airtel Hyderabad Half Marathon I decided to sign-up with Running Potential for three months of coaching towards SCMM 2017. I had seen how their professional approach had helped a dear friend get better. I also liked the fact that an engagement with Running Potential meant minimal or zero socialising and no coach worship. They expect none of it from their mentees and therefore do not extend "friendliness" beyond the scope of the coach-mentee realm. Having Anand Takale as my coach for the past three months has given me perspective on being "cautiously optimistic" towards my goals.
I am a damn good runner, because I am getting better at tiptoeing out of my house at an ungodly hour for a run.
While I was waiting for the flag off at Worli sea face in Mumbai, I was grateful for not feeling like I was jumping in without a plan. I was nervous but prepared. At the most dreaded Peddar Road climb, I did not stop to walk; in fact, I did not stop anywhere. I am not saying it was an easy run, it was hot, humid, crowded and very hard. One had to be careful to not trip over or be pushed amongst other things. But I more than just survived. I shaved off 12 minutes from last year's time and landed on the timing mat clocking in a time of 2:13 as AT (Anand Takale) had predicted for me. Thanks to the Running Potential mantra of "you are your own competition" I finished strong and happy.
These 21.1km runs have taught me to not let that small inner voice beat me up, but I at the same time must thank her for helping me rearrange my priorities; that voice helped me open myself to the good things that happen with training. While I know that there is someone out there who is always going to be better, faster and with more marathons under their belt, the past year has helped me come to terms with the fact that there is absolutely no need to preface any of my internal questions about running with "but I am not a runner, because..."
I am a damn good runner, because I am getting better at tiptoeing out of my house at an ungodly hour for a run. I am a damn good runner because I am happily addicted to it. I take a certain pride in the lifestyle change that running has brought to my life and that's all there to it.