IIT Bombay Half Marathon 2023
A successful first attempt that exceeded expectations
This race was a lot of firsts for me. First time running with a pacer, first time finding out about my race pace and the first time exceeding expectations.
I had virtually no racing experience coming into this. The only race I had ever done before this was the Bengaluru Marathon 2023. I had almost no training for this race because I completely stopped running after my marathon. I was introduced to this event by my friend Abhinav, he told me that he would be running this and its a good event. Coincidentally, I was in Mumbai at the same time, so I decided to register for it. It was supposed to be a fun and easy run. And because I had already done a full marathon I was certain I would be able to finish it.
Prior to this event, I had no idea of what "race pace" was meant to feel like. For me, race pace was just easy pace because anything quicker and I wouldn't even be able to finish the race.
The race was in the IIT Bombay campus. The walk from the main gate to the start line was quite long. It was a good day, not very warm as per Mumbai standards. I was not feeling great, I had mild diarrhea the morning of the race and consequently some dehydration.
I took a gel at the start line and kept another one for half way into the race. I had no idea what my target race pace should be. My 5k time at this point was 29 minutes, so keeping a 6:30 min/km pace for 21.1kms seemed difficult. I had completed the first half in my full marathon in around 2h40m. So I would be happy with 2:30 here.
The race started off at 6 AM. In typical rookie fashion, I started off too quickly, I crossed the 3km mark at 16min30s, which was far too quick for me. It was faster than my 5k pace. I was ahead of the 2 hour pacer. I realized I was redlining and slowed down a bit. I was passed by the 2 hour pacer. I did the net couple kms at 6:30 min/km pace. It was at this point that I was passed by the 2h15min pacer, Mr. Rakesh Garg. I decided to hold onto this pacer for as long as I could. I quickly realized that running along with a pacer was very different and seemed much easier. We were consistently maintaining 6:15min/km pace and it didn't feel that hard. I just had to match the pacer's footsteps and not constantly look at my watch or worry about going too fast(or too slow) on a uphill section. Rakesh was a very motivating pacer, he would constantly encourage me to keep up when would see that my pace was slipping up. Around the 14th km, he told me, "You can go faster, why don't you go ahead, and if it doesn't work out I am behind you anyway". This was all the push I needed. Around the 17th km, I broke away from the pace group and tried to pick up some pace. However i wasn't particularly quick, by this point in the race my legs had begun flailing. The lack of training and poor conditioning was very apparent. I kept pushing, holding around the same 6:15-6:20 pace.
I finished the race in 2h14mins. I did not think I had it in me, to maintain roughly 6:20min/km pace for the complete race. I had massively exceeded my expectations, a large part of the credit needs to go Rakesh, who had paced an amazing race and was very encouraging whenever I felt like I couldn't go on.
The complete route was inside the IIT Bombay campus, it was a good route to race on with two laps of 10.5km each. The terrain was moderately hilly, with around 120m of elevation over 21kms.
In terms of logistics, the race was fairly well organized, the only qualm I had was the large water bottles which were given out at the aid stations. Obviously one wouldn't drink a litre of water while running, and we just had to lug around a large bottle of water for a large part of the race. Also, some pain relief spray at the aid stations would've been nice, as I ran the complete race with quite a lot of knee pain. A large number of runners were college students, who weren't very serious about the race, however I think the organizers did well to acomodate both serious and non-serious runners. The bib collection venue for this race was at a decathlon store in R City Mall. I would definitely love to run this race again, if I happen to be in Mumbai.
Post race, we had breakfast and took some pictures with Abhinav, whom I had met for the first time since our Kang Yatse II expedition. I particularly remember the cab ride back to the hostel, the driver was very intrigued about road running and marathons. He was very happy to see so many young people taking up running and a healthy lifestyle, especially at a young age. Hard to disagree!