The past week has been all about the Tata race, where in ran a half marathon today along with 55,000 other runners. It’s the largest run in Asia and Tata is the biggest company in India—active in just about every section of the Indian economy, and abroad.
I’ve been thinking and talking about this race all week and have been preparing for it since I signed up four months ago. I don’t know why I made such a big deal out of it. It’s just another race. I already know I can run a half marathon easily— I did it many times. And I don’t care about my time either, having achieved my “under two hours” goal last year in Berlin.
Perhaps what made me so excited about this race is that it’s such a huge event and the only opportunity to run freely across Mumbai and over the famous Worli Sea Link, without traffic. What made me nervous was the heat. Running takes me very little effort in cold weather but in India I feel like I’m melting every time I run.
I ran a half marathon in Uruguay (Punta del Este, obstacle course) in 90 degree weather once, twelve years ago. It was so slow and painful that I remember it in surprising detail. How much I wanted to give up, how often I walked instead of ran, and how people who three times my age passed me by. Now my brain is using this stored information to warn me! But I knew was gonna do it anyway, maybe event more so because it’s my first real running challenge in a long time.
This is how I'm going about it:
Do: buy new running shoes and test them (I used a non-brand pair for a while: never again!). For three months, run a 10k or more every (other) week or sub with long walks. Find a running buddy to make this fun. Eat lots of carbs the night before. Have breakfast with bread, eggs, and baked beans. Hydrate. Study the route. Get to the race early because it’s probably chaos. Set up a meeting point with colleagues running the same race. Bring a sweater for after the race.
Don’t: train on treadmills, they are boring and not very lifelike. Worry about my finishing time (but check current pace to see what’s realistic). Ask family to come watch me finish, because I’m sure they’ve got better things to do.
Emergency playlist: Eminem (Till I Collapse), Rage against the machine, Lenny Kravitz (Always on the run), Dorothy, Imagine Dragons, Metallica, Beyoncé, Sia (Unstoppable).
On race day I woke up at 3:30 AM and made my way over to Mahim Station, which was a challenge with all the blocked roads, as expected. But the runners started in waves so there was no stress. Around 5:30 I was able to start. It was only a small struggle to get away from the crowd. I found a comfortable pace right away and never felt like I needed to stop though I did, a few times, to drink water and to take a little bit of time to enjoy the dancers and the bands. And to try to “stretch” my knees.
I finished the race intact, with energy to spare, but with sore knees. My main concern all along was if I’d be able to run the whole race without stopping and at a reasonable pace. I did! Finishing time was 2:11. It was definitely as fun as I’d imagined. The course is relatively flat and pretty, especially the sea link, which we passed in the dark but it was beautifully lit up.
I’m definitely doing this again next year! That’s what I told the India Times journalist, anyway. I’d probably rather try something new, but I didn’t want to say that to her because it truly was an amazing event, so well organized, so many food and drink stations, and fantastic views. What a great city Mumbai would be without traffic—something that goes for most cities of course. I keep saying we should just ban cars, but nobody is listening.