In January 2014, I finished the Mumbai Half Marathon, which I think is the best half marathon route to run in India. Of the 21km route, almost 14kms are along the Arabian sea- on the Bandra-Worli sea link, the Worli sea-face, and Marine Drive. Additionally, for a true Bombayite, the sea route, along with landmarks like Nehru Planetarium, Mahalakshmi Race Course, Haji Ali, Peddar Road, Churchgate station, Victoria Terminus (V.T., now C.S.T.) station etc. bring back a flood of memories. It is a very well organized run, with enough provisions of water, energy drinks, glucose biscuits, orange slices etc. I took a long time (3 hours) to finish the route, but every minute was well worth it. It also gives me a good chance to better my personal record next year. Did I say next year? Of course- you do this route once, and you will want to keep going back to it every year!
A more detailed report of the run follows.
After a long hiatus, I got back to some serious running in 2013. Having completed the TCS World 10K run in May 2013, I was looking for a more challenging course. I had heard a lot about the Mumbai Half Marathon, and was thinking of doing it for the last few years. I was finally feeling in good shape for a half marathon, and therefore signed up in September, as soon as the registrations opened up.
Then started a long training season, with my gym instructor, S, assigning weekly workouts, with long runs starting from 5K to 18K. I felt quite comfortable with the training until early November. After that, with a couple of trips, as well as lots of guests to entertain at home in December, I messed up my training schedule. Additionally, I fell ill in January for almost a week, and was feeling rather weak until a couple of days before the run. I was wondering whether I should cancel the trip. But giving up without trying is very uncharacteristic of me, so I decided I’ll run as much as I can and walk the rest of the course. Plus, I really wanted to experience running on this beautiful route.
So with a lot of nervousness, I got up early in the morning on 19th Jan. N’s dad dropped me at the starting point in Bandra, about 45 minutes before the race. Not heeding my friend’s advice of getting there an hour before start costed me a lot. By the time I got there, it looked like all of Mumbai had descended on Bandra. In fact, the lines were so long at the entrance, as well as for the porta-potties that I got to the start line just as the race was being flagged off.
John Abraham flagged off the run, and this whole mass of ten thousand participants started streaming onto the Bandra-Worli sea link. It was the most beautiful sight I had seen in Bombay. We ran in the moonlight on the sea link- a stretch which is never open to pedestrians. The sea breeze was very refreshing and I had covered the 5.5km on the sea link at a good steady pace, moderated by the sea of people I was running with. We saw the break of dawn just as we were finishing the last stretch of the sea link.
We then came to the 4km internal loop in Worli, which according to T was a fun part, with onlookers cheering you on. Although that was true, it was also very boring to run in between tall buildings, with no sight of the sea. I guess the 5km on the sea-link had already spoiled me. Eventually, this internal loop turned out to be surprisingly slow for me. After the loop ended, I picked up my pace as soon as I saw the Worli sea face looming ahead. I ran the 4km stretch to Haji Ali in no time, after passing by Nehru planetarium and the race course.
Then came the most difficult stretch of the run. Anyone who has been to Peddar Road can immediately visualize the huge slope that is a killer even when one is walking. Imagine the plight of a runner who faces the slope after a 14km run. I knew this was going to be my weakest spot; so I gave up running and started walking up the slope. The folks handing out orange slices, water and energy drinks brought a good smile to my face at that point. Finally when I hit the downslope, I picked up the pace to make up for the lost time, until I got to Marine Drive.
By the time I reached Marine Drive, the sun was up (though thankfully blocked for the most part by buildings on the left), and it was getting hot. It was quite difficult for me to maintain pace at that point. There were a bunch of radio stations playing some good music, and I ended up half-running, half-walking that stretch. Finally when I got to Churchgate station, I knew this was the last stretch, and tried to run as much as I could.
In the event, I was happy that I managed to complete the half marathon without any issues. I was happy to see my parents as well as N’s dad and aunt at the finish line. And happier to see my mom finally acknowledging that I could run this distance without getting knocked off. In fact, at the end, I had enough strength left in me to walk another 2km till the car parking area.
Overall, an awesome run- one which I will continue going back to, year after year, as long as I can!