2020 TMM / PODIUM MUSINGS

Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM) is the biggest event in India’s calendar of running events. The 2020 edition was held on January 19. The weather on race day this year was perfect. However the number of runners was high. Soon after the 2020 TMM got over, we spoke to some of those who got podium finishes at the event.

Prahlad Singh. This photo is from the Vasai Virar Mayor’s Marathon (Photo: courtesy Prahlad)

Prahlad Singh

Originally a resident of Pali, Rajasthan, Prahlad Singh took up running as sport to focus on, after he joined the Indian Army.

He has been running regularly for the past four years. The 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon was his first attempt at the full marathon. “ I had a target of finishing in 2:30-2:32. I managed the first half of the race very well finishing in 1:16:51 but could not repeat the performance in the second half because of the crowd of runners. There were too many runners on the course,” he said. This year over 55,000 people were expected to participate across categories in TMM including 9660 runners in the full marathon, 15,260 in the half marathon and 8032 runners in the 10 km-race (actual numbers on race day are usually less than the numbers registered).

Prahlad finished in 2:35:32. He won the amateur category for men and also secured the top podium position in his age category of 30-34 years. Prahlad trains with his army colleagues. His coach is his teammate, Vijender Malik, who completed the full marathon in 2:54:50 to place third in his age group of 40-44 years.

Preity Rai (Photo: Chetan Gusani; photo provided by Preity)

Preity Rai

Twenty-two-year-old Preity Rai, a resident of Darjeeling, West Bengal, had previously participated in half marathon and 25 kilometer-races.

The 2020 edition of Tata Mumbai Marathon was her first attempt at a full marathon. She had worked out a rough plan on how to tackle the race, a new distance for her. Her idea was to do the first half in one hour and 25 minutes. “ I started too fast and then had to slow down. About half way through the race, I found somebody racing ahead of me. That propelled me to push my way through,” Preity said.

Towards the end of her race she looked at her watch and found that three hours and 10 minutes were already past and she had 1.5 km still to cover. “ Volunteers on motorcycles encouraged me to speed up,” Preity said. She finished the race in 3:16:26, emerging overall winner among amateur women.

Preity participates in races primarily for the prize money. “ I was working in a showroom but the long hours impeded my training,” she said. She lives in Dilaram, Darjeeling, with her father. Her only other sibling, a sister, is married and stays away with her family. Preity plans to return to Mumbai to participate in the Maharashtra Police International Marathon to be held on February 9, 2020.

The Run Meghalaya team with friends in Mumbai (Photo: courtesy Gerald Pde)

Run Meghalaya

Going home with four podium finishes from the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon, was the six person team from Run Meghalaya. Tlanding Wahlang finished first in the 40-45 years age category of the full marathon for men. With timing of 2:39:09, he was winner by handsome margin. In the 45-50 years age category for men, Gerald Pde secured second place; he finished in 3:01:04. Swonding Mawlong (3:22:30) finished fourth in the 55-59 years age category for men. Snora Lyngkhoi (3:55:14) finished third in the 45-49 years age category for women while 72 year-old grandmother, Kmoinlang Wahlang (4:44:09) retained her first position in the 70-74 years age category for women. Last year, Kmoinlang had completed the race in 4:33:56. Except Gerald, all the runners are from Meghalaya’s Mawkyrwat region, which plays host to the annual Mawkyrwat Ultra. “ This time owing to funding issues we had a small team come to Mumbai. But the performances have been quite encouraging,’’ Gerald said. For Gerald, 2020 marked return to the Mumbai Marathon after a gap of eight years. In 2011, when he first ran it, he had covered the 42km-course in approximately three hours 23 minutes. In 2012, he brought that down to 3:03. “ Sunday’s 3:01 is a personal best,’’ Gerald said adding he seemed to have finally figured out what training and diet worked for him in long distance running. According to him, upcoming races for the runners from Meghalaya include the marathon in Kolkata and February’s Tata Ultra in Lonavala. At the latter, a team of six runners from Meghalaya is expected to participate. For more on Gerald Pde and Run Meghalaya, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2018/03/30/run-meghalaya/

Nupur Singh (Photo: Chetan Gusani)

Nupur Singh

On January 6, 2020, Nupur Singh crossed the finish line of Vadodara International Marathon in a personal best (PB) timing of 3:10:22. She won the women’s open category race.

She was expecting to get close to that timing and maybe even improve it at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM). But that was not to be. “ The first 18 kilometers went off very well. But soon after fatigue took over and I had to slow down my pace,” she said. She completed the marathon in 3:20:59, securing second position overall among amateur women runners and topping her age group of 30-34 years.

In November 2019, returning to running after a short hiatus, Nupur had participated in the 100 km IAU Asia and Oceania Championships at Aqaba, Jordan, in the open category. Following that, she was racing back to back for four weekends before TMM. During the weekend prior to TMM, Nupur attempted the 60km race at The Vagamon Ultrail in Kerala but she had to quit the race at the 32nd kilometer after she lost her way.

“ This was my first experience at TMM. I had heard so much about this event. It was absolutely spectacular with so many people – volunteers, supporters and runners. I have never enjoyed a race so much as this one,” Nupur said.

Over the next two weeks, Nupur will take on the role of an organizer. She will be busy with Deccan Ultra, a trail based ultra-running event organized by Grand Indian Trails (GRIT), of which Nupur is an integral part. In terms of running events, her next attempt will be the 50km race at Tata Ultra on February 23, 2020. For more on Nupur, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2019/12/14/an-aqaba-to-remember/

Anjali Saraogi (left) with Tlanding Wahlang, ultra runner from Meghalaya who was also podium finisher in his age category at 2020 TMM (Photo: courtesy Anjali)

Anjali Saraogi

Anjali Saraogi stood at the start line of the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon with barely two and half weeks of training done for the race. Less than two months earlier, in November 2019, the Kolkata-based long-distance runner had set a national record in 100 kilometers at the 2019 IAU Asia and Oceania Championships held in Aqaba, Jordan.

Beset with health issues, her overall training had suffered through much of 2019. Still, 2019 turned out to be a major year in Anjali’s running career with personal best (PB) timing of 3:14:33 at the Boston Marathon, a robust comeback in the Berlin Marathon after setbacks caused by health and injury and a national best in 100km at the 2019 IAU Asia and Oceania Championships.

“ I had not done any long runs for Mumbai Marathon. I had a target of 3:20-3:25. I was strong till the 22nd kilometer; after that I suffered,” Anjali said. She finished in 3:24:53, emerging first in her age category of 45-49 years and fourth overall among amateur women runners.

“ Mumbai Marathon is my favorite event in India. The atmosphere here is absolutely astounding with so many people on the streets, music bands and live music. The arrangements were excellent and the volunteers did awesome work,” she said. Anjali will be participating in a few running events over the next couple of months until her next major race – the 2020 London Marathon.

Thomas Bobby Philip (Photo: Chetan Gusani)

Thomas Bobby Philip

In 2019, Bengaluru-based amateur runner, Thomas Bobby Philip, had topped his age category for men at the annual Tata Mumbai Marathon, covering the 42 kilometer-course in 2:59:52. In 2018, he had placed second in his age category with timing of 2:57:17.

Bobby’s focus for a while now, has been maintaining the streak of sub three-hour finishes he has enjoyed in the past few years. As with chasing any target, there is an element of favorable circumstances converging for this to happen. The weather in Mumbai on January 19, 2020 – race day – was perfect. Unfortunately for Bobby, a week before TMM, he started experiencing cold, chest congestion and throat irritation. “ I was not keeping well. Things improved a bit by Thursday-Friday and I decided to proceed with my plans for Mumbai. But I wasn’t recovered fully,’’ he said. Result – he finished first in the age category of 50-54 years for men but with timing of 3:07:49. “ When you look at a race, there are two aspects – there is the quality of organization and your personal experience. At a personal level, I didn’t get that sub-three. But the race organization was done well. The overall experience was very good,’’ he said.

Notwithstanding Sunday’s outcome, Bobby believes that maintaining sub-three is a reasonable goal for him. He does not take part in many races. He has been relatively injury-free. “ If all goes well, there is nothing to stop me from pursuing sub-three as goal,’’ he said. Right now however, given the bout of ill health he faced ahead of 2020 TMM, his coach has advised him against participating in the next marathon he had signed up for – the 2020 IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon.  He will be giving that a miss and instead focusing on regaining his health. Once recovered, Bobby’s attention will revert to the annual calendar he has traditionally kept – Bengaluru’s TCS 10K in May followed by a bunch of half marathons to steadily work one’s way up to the annual TMM; and along with that, chasing sub-three. For more on Thomas Bobby Philip, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2016/03/10/in-the-right-sport/

Kavitha Reddy (Photo: courtesy Kavitha)

Kavitha Reddy

Given she is heading for the 2020 Tokyo Marathon, Kavitha Reddy chose to take the Mumbai Marathon of January 2020 as a training run. The Pune-based runner did not have a time target for the race. She also chose to do the half marathon instead of the full. “ I decided to go by feel. It was a good run. I was comfortable throughout the run,” she said.

Kavitha crossed the finish line in 1:36:11, a new personal best (PB) and securing the top podium position in her age group of 45-49 years. “ I deliberately decided to not race this one as I did not want to jeopardise my training for Tokyo Marathon,” she said. In October 2019, she had participated in the Chicago Marathon, where she secured a finish timing of 3:14:19 in the full marathon.

According to her, the arrangements this time in Mumbai were good but there were too many runners at the finish line. “ The finish line shouldn’t be the same for runners of various distances. The organisers need to segregate the finish line for 10 km and half marathon runners,” she said.

Mohamed Idris (This photo was downloaded from the runner’s Facebook page)

Mohamed Idris

“ The weather was fantastic. Coming from Chennai, I really felt it,’’ Mohamed Idris said of race day at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon. In 2019, he had topped his age category for men (50-54 years) in the half marathon with timing of 1:24:38. This year he covered the distance in 1:24:33 but placed second, three seconds behind the category winner. “ It was a good race. I was feeling strong. Running the half marathon in Mumbai is always a privilege,’’ he said. Someone known to race a lot every year, Idris has a few races coming up in Chennai. But he is making a change to his aspirations. “ I want to focus on the triathlon. I did one in 2010 and haven’t gone back to it since. I plan to attempt the newly introduced Melbourne Ironman in November this year,’’ Idris said. For more on Idris, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2016/12/30/life-retired-and-reinterpretted/

Nishu Kumar (Photo: courtesy Nishu)

Nishu Kumar

Twenty-four-year-old Nishu Kumar was a bit late to start his first full marathon at the 2020 edition of Tata Mumbai Marathon.

“ I got caught behind a big crowd of runners at the start of the race,” Nishu, a resident of Vadodara, Gujarat, said. At 2020 TMM, Nishu had a target of 2:36 hours for finishing time. But he ran into a wall of runners at the end of the race too and completed the run in 2:42:55. He won top honors in his age group of 18-24 years and eighth position overall among amateur male runners.

Nishu got into running about five years ago and has mostly been running 10km and 21km races. He was into cricket during his school years and later took up sprinting, participating in 100 meter and 200 meter-races. He trains under ultra-runner Sandeep Kumar, who has represented India in a couple of international ultra-running events. Having finished his graduation in electrical engineering, Nishu wants to do his MBA in sports management.

Dnyaneshwar Tidke (Photo: Chetan Gusani; photo provided by Dnyaneshwar)

Dnyaneshwar Tidke

Towards the end of October 2018, Dnyaneshwar Tidke felt discomfort in his right knee after a training run. An initial diagnosis had indicated the problem as ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injury. MRI scan later identified it as a meniscus tear and Dnyaneshwar had to undergo surgery in November 2018.

In January 2019, he started jogging slowly and over the next few days slowly increased his mileage. “ In February 2019, I did a 20 km run and felt quite comfortable. I decided to attempt the 2019 edition of Boston Marathon as I had already registered for the event,” But shortly thereafter, Dnyaneshwar met with a road accident resulting in a fractured scapula. He was out of action again.

“ I resumed my jogging in May. It was not easy as I had gained some weight due to lack of physical activity. It was a difficult phase for me. During my runs, I could feel niggling pains and aches,” he said.

Although he resumed his running, the overall volume was low. Despite that he got a podium finish in the 10k run at the 2019 Navy Half Marathon, held in November. A month later, he ran a half marathon in Pune and felt fairly confident to go into a full marathon.

“ At 2020 TMM, I had no target. I just wanted to go by feel. I ran the first half of the race comfortably in 1:29 hours. But during the second half I felt tired. I was low on energy,” he said. Dnyaneshwar finished in 3:06:56, getting third position in his age group of 45-49 years. “ It was overall a satisfactory performance as it was my first full marathon after surgery and fracture,” he said. For more on Dnyaneshwar, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2015/04/11/the-constant-runner/

Kamlya Bhagat (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Kamlya Bhagat

We are back at Visava Restaurant opposite Panvel bus depot, a longstanding assembly point for hikers and for this blog, venue to catch up with Kamlya Bhagat and his story in running. It is the Monday following the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM). According to Kamlya, he has run the half marathon at the event four times and ended up on the podium on all four occasions; twice first and twice second in his age category. The latest on January 19 saw him place second in the 35-39 years age category for men. Hailing from financially challenged circumstances and running to make additional money, Kamlya – he now works at a local school – races 3-4 times a month.

Race day this year began at roughly 2.30AM, which was the time he left home 10-12 kilometers away from Panvel town to join his friends driving to Worli in Mumbai for the half marathon’s start. They reached the venue around 5AM; Kamlya did a little warm-up and at the appointed time of 5.15AM commenced running. On his feet was his trademark improvised footwear – a pair of socks, each with an insole inserted inside. Kamlya had a good start. He recalled being out front for some time before a runner from a younger age group joined him. Together, they struck a fairly fast pace. Past 13 kilometers, Kamlya’s pace began to slacken. At around kilometer 16, a runner from his own age group caught up and progressively took the lead. Kamlya finished in 1:18:25 placing second in his age category. “ The race was good. The weather was apt for running and the new start time 15 minutes earlier than before worked well,’’ Kamlya said. The timing was an improvement over the 1:23:09 he registered in 2019, when he had placed second in the 30-34 age category. His personal best (PB) in the half marathon is 1:10, which he earned at a race in 2010 in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai.

Going ahead, Kamlya will participate in the 2020 edition of Tata Ultra Marathon in Lonavala, where he will run in the 35km race. He ran at Tata Ultra in 2018 and 2019. Both times, he got a podium finish in the 35km race; he was first (2:34:50) in 2018 and third (2:30:44) in 2019. Running in the 35km segment, Kamlya is slowly addressing a long held fear that his competence in the shorter distances (where he earns his prize money) may be compromised if he transitions to the longer races. While training for 35km, he puts in a few runs of 30-32km. But he is still hesitant to touch 40km although he suspects he is developing a desire to eventually try a full marathon. He holds himself back because committing to the full marathon typically entails greater expense. “ It calls for good training and a better diet. I eat what is made at home. I have no special diet; I don’t go to the gym. So far, whatever racing I have managed is within the parameters of what I can afford,’’ he said. Still, having come as far as 35km, who knows what the future holds? Meanwhile he is on the lookout for minimalist footwear (size 8) for running; something like Vibram Five Fingers. “ Regular running shoes weigh me down,’’ he said. For more on Kamlya, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2016/01/19/kamlya-runs-his-first-scmm-and-gets-a-first/

Shilpi Sahu (Photo: courtesy Shilpi)

Shilpi Sahu

A barefoot runner, Shilpi Sahu commenced her race at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon, at a slow pace. She did so because of the big crowd of runners. “ Once midway I picked up speed as I felt quite good,” she said.

The Bengaluru-based runner had a target of 3:30 hours but well into the race she realized that she would not be able to achieve it. She finished the race in 3:32:21, a personal best (PB) for her. It fetched her the top podium position in her age group of 40-44 years and tenth place overall among amateur women runners. “ I also managed a four minute negative split,” Shilpi said. As a barefoot runner, she did find the road surface tough because of the ongoing metro construction work.

According to her, the organization of the race was very good but the use of plastic remained high. “ I hope TMM organizers think seriously about reducing single use plastic bottles for the 21 km, 10 km and the Dream run by at least 50 per cent and by 100 per cent at the venue. I saw many runners take a sip and throw away the bottle. In the process, there is plastic being dumped and water being wasted,” she said.

The refill option should be encouraged, she said.

Chitra Nadkarni (Photo: courtesy Chitra)

Chitra Nadkarni

At the Adani Ahmedabad Marathon held in November 2019, Mumbai-based Chitra Nadkarni had secured top podium position in the age category of 51 years and above with timing of 4:09:11.

For 2020 TMM, she decided not to have a timing target as the race she is focused on is the 2020 Tokyo Marathon to be held in March. “ At TMM, I decided to run between the 4-hour and 4:15-hour pacers. The 4-hour pacer, Anirudha Athani, was very good. I kept pace with him for most part but could not manage to do so during the last two to three kilometers,” Chitra said. She finished in 4:01:12; it fetched her top podium position in her age group of 55-59 years.

“ I had a good run but the post-race arrangements were bad. It was chaotic and crowded at the finish line,” she said. She will now head for the Tokyo Marathon – it is one of the six World Marathon Majors – to be held on March 1, 2020. “ I am looking forward to my six-star medal,” she said. For more on Chitra Nadkarni, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2017/04/08/starting-line-50/

Dr Arati Gaikwad (Photo: courtesy Arati)

Arati Gaikwad

Sometime in May 2019, Dr Arati Gaikwad felt a tingling numbness in her left leg. “ I could not get up from my bed the normal way. I had pain in my right hip and a tingling feeling in my leg. I knew that the tingling feeling was not a good sign. It meant some nerve was getting pinched,” she said.

Arati and her husband, Dr Pravin Gaikwad, pediatricians and amateur runners (Pravin is also a coach; he is prime mover at Navi Mumbai based-Life Pacers), decided to consult an orthopedic surgeon for correct diagnosis of the problem. Following x-ray and MRI, it was diagnosed as congenital spondylolisthesis of L4 over L5. This is a spinal disorder in which the vertebra slips forward on to the bone below it.

Arati was distraught as she had to stop running. “ The first half hour after waking up was torture for me. I was worried if this problem would completely impact my physical activity,” she said. Thankfully, she was allowed to go for walks.

Typically, this condition is diagnosed in the thirties. The fact that Arati’s condition came to the fore in her fifties is a measure of her fitness level. Arati has been quite focused on physical fitness since her medical college days and has been actively involved in endurance sport including running, triathlon, cycling and swimming for the past several years.

The recommended line of treatment for this condition was strength training, core workout, stretching and a healthy lifestyle. “ Initially, I had to do half hour of stretching while lying on the bed before I got up,” she said. With consistent strength training, Arati was able to mitigate her pain.

“ At the time of registering for Mumbai Marathon, I was not sure if I could run a half marathon. That’s the reason I registered for the 10km race,” Arati said. She finished the 10km race at 2020 TMM in 58 minutes and 20 seconds, securing top position in her age category of 50-54 years.

“ I decided to go by feel and I enjoyed the run immensely. At some point during the race, I was overtaking many runners,” Arati said. To feel confident for 2020 TMM, she had attempted the 10km race at the Navy Half Marathon and a half marathon race in Navi Mumbai in December. She secured age category podium positions in both these races. For more on Arati and Pravin Gaikwad, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2017/02/12/the-diligent-and-the-fun-loving/

Seema Yadav (Photo: courtesy Seema)

Seema Yadav

In October 2019, Seema Yadav was the first runner-up in the amateur women’s category at the 2019 edition of Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. Already plagued by injuries, Seema’s condition worsened after the Delhi run.

In April 2019, Seema had run the Boston Marathon with several injuries. She finished the race with a personal best timing of 3:26:46 but had to go off running for a while and focus on healing. Through most of 2019, Seema was battling injuries in her glutes, hamstrings and abductor muscles. She also suffered from extensor tendonitis. Her training for TMM 2020 was far from adequate. Tracking the advice of her physiotherapist, it was also intermittent.

“ I had to take this run easy so as not to aggravate my injuries any further,” Seema, a resident of Faridabad, said, adding. “ I ran at a very comfortable pace. I did not push my pace at any point during the entire distance of 42.2 km.” She finished in 3:32:38, securing second position in her age group of 40-44 years and finishing overall 11th among amateur women runners.

Seema believes she has potential to do much better in terms of timing. She also pointed to the emergent difficulty in Mumbai, navigating one’s passage through a sea of runners towards the last part of the race. “ The number of runners for the full marathon also increased this time,” she said.

Sheran Mehra (Photo: courtesy Sheran)

Sheran Mehra

Sheran Mehra prefers to run the full marathon but her coach, Ashok Nath suggested that she opt for the half marathon in Mumbai and treat it like a training run for her upcoming race at the Tokyo Marathon.

“ I don’t like to run with targets. I just decided to go by feel. I started running comfortably and kept going on with a consistent pace,” she said. She was able to execute the second half of the race much better than the first half at TMM 2020. Sheran crossed the finish line in 1:43:24, a new personal best for her in the half marathon. She placed second in her age category of 45-49 years for women.

Sheran has been running for over 12 years. She was into sprinting during her schooling days at Bhopal and participated in district level events. “ I was active in sports through my school and college years,” she said. For a brief while sports came to a grinding halt because of injuries.

She resumed her fitness pursuit by joining a gym. “ My husband, Chandramohan Mehra, who is also a runner, is a fitness freak. Both of us were gym junkies,” she said. Her foray into running commenced when a colleague at her workplace prompted her to join him for a training run. “ I ran a distance of 7.5 km then. That’s how I got into running,” she said.

For many years she trained with Striders, a training group for long-distance running. Recently she also signed up with Bengaluru-based runner and coach, Ashok Nath. “ Initially, my focus was just running. Ashok Nath’s approach is more holistic. The accent is on overall fitness with adequate attention to strength training and nutrition,” she said.

She and her husband Chandramohan will be participating in the Tokyo Marathon in March this year.

Anil Korvi (Photo: courtesy Anil)

Anil Korvi

Anil Korvi, an employee of Indian Railways, has been running for over 12 years. He started running during his college days commencing with cross country races. Later he moved to running the marathon.

His best timing in the marathon was 2:39:28, set in 2017 at the IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon. “ I had a target of achieving sub-2.40 here at TMM. I started well and continued strong until about 33-34 kilometers. But I started to feel weak even before Peddar Road,” Anil said. He finished the marathon in 2:46:39, securing third position in his age group of 25-29 years and finishing overall 11th among amateur male runners. Over the last four to five kilometers, he too ran into a crowd of runners, a problem many sub-three-hour marathon runners faced this time.

Anil’s training for TMM was not adequate. “ I was training for a 10 km cross country race and followed it up a week later with the Vasai Virar Mayor’s Marathon,” he said. Anil has got Boston Qualifying (BQ) timings at the past few marathons that he has participated in but has not been able to travel overseas for a run. “ I have not yet found a sponsor who will support my travel for the Boston Marathon,” he said. That aside, he has been supported by brand HRX and more recently by Unived, a vegan sports nutrition brand.

Next month, Anil will be participating in the IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon.

Anubhav Karmakar (Photo: courtesy Anubhav)

Anubhav Karmakar

Two days prior to Tata Mumbai Marathon 2020 Anubhav Karmakar sprained his ankle. He was in pain. He was not sure about joining the starting line of runners on the morning of January 19. Eventually he decided to go ahead.

Anubhav finished the marathon in 2:38:41, missing his goal of 2:36. He also missed the podium by 30 seconds. His overall position among amateur runners was fourth.“ I wanted to run faster splits in the final few kilometers. But I was not able to. There was a wall of runners and it was quite frustrating dodging between people through the last part of the course,” he said.

At the finish line, Anubhav did not feel spent as he had not been able to push as much as he wanted to because of the crowds. “ I am shocked that the organizers did not pay attention to this aspect,” he said.

For Anubhav, running a marathon helps him grow as a runner. He trains meticulously, tweaking his training plans as he nears race date. “ I am at that stage of running and training when I can definitely expect more gains in my timing economy,” he said. His attention will now turn to IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon and later to the Boston Marathon, where he will be making his second appearance.

(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)

SRINU BUGATHA: A COMEBACK STORY

Srinu Bugatha (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Meeting Srinu Bugatha, winner among Indian men at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon

At his hotel room, Srinu Bugatha and his training partner A. B. Belliappa studied the former’s splits.

Hours earlier on Sunday (January 19), Bugatha had emerged victor among elite Indian men at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM). He had clocked 2:18:45. The course record for Indians held by fellow army runner Nitendra Singh Rawat is 2:15:48. Paced by two Kenyan runners, Bugatha had commenced his run hoping to have a crack at the course record. Mumbai’s annual marathon is not exactly record-friendly. Its course includes an uphill segment and the weather can be warm and humid. On Sunday however, the weather was supportive and early start for the amateur categories appears to have ensured relatively smooth progression for the elites. It could have been a day of new course record for the Indian elites. Overall for the race, Ethiopian runner Derara Hurisa did set a new course record of 2:08:09.

Armed with his findings from the splits, Bugatha turned to his mentor and motivator, Vickrant Mahajan seated nearby. He had run at fine pace for most of the way. By his own account till around 35 kilometers he was targeting the course record. But the Peddar Road uphill took a toll. Past that, his leg muscles felt tight. “ I was very slow over the last two kilometers,’’ he said, the realization overshadowing his sense of accomplishment.

“ Don’t forget, we nevertheless have several positives in there,’’ Mahajan reminded.

“ Still, it’s like getting out on 93 or 94,’’ Bugatha said resorting to cricket for metaphor.

A middle distance runner specialized in 5000m, 10,000m and cross country for most part of his career, the Bugatha of 2020 TMM is a comeback story. In 2018 he had placed third behind Gopi T and Nitendra Singh Rawat with timing of 2:23:56. His timing of 2020 is therefore a new PB (personal best). What makes it interesting is that those are the only full marathons he has run. He had been on the podium in half marathons and 25K runs but that 2018 podium in Mumbai was the only precedent in the full marathon before Sunday’s victory. In 2018, Bugatha was in the national camp for marathoners ahead of the Commonwealth Games. The training then had timing of 2:12 hours (Shivnath Singh’s still standing national record) in mind with weekly mileage sometimes hitting 220 kilometers. That proved tough for Bugatha to handle and he came off believing track events – the middle distance disciplines he was used to – were his forte.  He stopped running marathons. According to Mahajan (he is the person behind Superchampions Foundation), in April 2019, he chanced to give motivational talks at the Army Sports Institute (ASI), where Bugatha trained. Slowly Bugatha warmed up to him and started to share his thoughts. The subsequent drift back to the marathon, Mahajan said, was “ partly’’ Bugatha’s decision.

In December 2019, Bugatha participated in the 5000m at the South Asian Games in Kathmandu. As per information on the website olympicchannel.com, he placed fifth. At the 2019 Tata Steel 25K (an event where he has had several podium-finishes before) held on December 15, he topped among Indians with timing of 1:18:31. From December 18, 2019 onward he started training for TMM. In other words, the first place finish and PB of January 19, 2020 was the product of a mere month of preparations, in which time the longest training run he did was a 40km-run on January 2. “ Imagine what someone like him can do with proper training. I believe today’s win is the beginning of a journey,’’ Mahajan said on Sunday. Both he and Bugatha outlined the changes already put in place. A typical middle distance runner’s weekly mileage (that is, over six working days) aggregates to around 120 kilometers. As he geared up for TMM, weekly mileage went up to 180-200 kilometers, Bugatha said. Then, there has been the instilling of self-belief that targets like Shivnath Singh’s national record in the marathon are not beyond chasing; “ mental calibration’’ as Mahajan put it. Finally, there was the weeding out of distractions. For the past six months, Bugatha hasn’t been using a smartphone.

A. B. Belliappa (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Hailing from Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh, Bugatha’s career in running started after he joined the Indian Army in 2010. “ I have been running for the last five years,’’ he said. After a long time spent tackling the middle distances, he said, he is now resolved to focus on the marathon. Joining him in the transition is his training partner, third place winner among Indian men in the half marathon at 2020 TMM and a familiar face at half marathons and 25K runs in India – Belliappa. On Sunday, Belliappa was racing after a phase of injury. Although targeting course record and since introspecting where he got it wrong, Belliappa’s finish in 1:06 hours wasn’t far off his PB of 1:04. Like Bugatha, he was thinking of focusing on the marathon now on. It seemed mutually supportive. Mahajan believed that a reasonable target in the marathon for Bugatha, 27, would be qualifying for the 2024 Olympics. Given qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics requires breaking the longstanding Indian national record in the marathon, the qualifying mark for 2024 will be likely stiffer. Mahajan said that there may be an attempt to qualify for Tokyo too; towards that end Bugatha hopes to participate in the Barcelona Marathon of March 2020.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)  

LADAKH RUNNERS: A SUNDAY THAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER

Jigmet Dolma (left) and Tsetan Dolkar; after 2020 TMM (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Sunday could have been better for the runners from Ladakh visiting Mumbai every year for the annual marathon.

However even as podium finish eluded them at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM), the team’s outing of 2019-2020 has been fruitful overall with Jigmet Dolma’s participation in the 2019 South Asian Games, Tsetan Dolkar’s triumph at the 2019 Vasai Virar Mayors Marathon (VVMM) and the duo’s fifth and sixth place finishes in the Indian elite women’s category at this year’s TMM.

The two runners’ performance at 2020 TMM is a repeat of tradition; not only are the timings close to each other (Jigmet -3:05:10; Tsetan – 3:05:14) but the splits are also very close right through. With PBs (personal best) of 3:01 hours and separated by mere two seconds, both have been on a quest to go sub-three. They came to Sunday’s race in Mumbai with a plan in place but unfortunately its execution wasn’t to the dot. “ Our strategy was to run the first 21 kilometers in about 1:27. But we were a bit slow and it became 1:30,’’ Jigmet explained. In a race, particularly when chasing a mark like sub-three, the seconds and minutes count. Otherwise, 2020 TMM was “ a good run.’’ They faced no difficulties, the weather was much better than what it was last time and their training had been good in the run up to race day.

Aside from Jigmet and Tsetan in the elite Indian women’s category of the full marathon, the team had one participant in the men’s marathon and the rest in the half marathon for both gender categories. This year, according to Jigmet and Tsetan (who this blog spoke to), they return without a podium-finish in any segment at TMM. In 2019, Jigmet (3:10:43) had finished third among Indian women and Tsetan (3:13:13) had placed fifth. On the bright side, there is improvement in the timing of both runners at TMM, from last year to now. Further within the space of their 2019-2020 outing, Jigmet’s timing at 2020 TMM is better than the timing she returned at the South Asian Games of December 2019 (3:07) while that of Tsetan is an improvement over her timing at VVMM (3:10:27), also from December 2019.

They now have the IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon as last event to attend before heading back to Ladakh. They hope they are able to get that sub-three in Delhi. Asked if the mark seemed formidable, Jigmet said, “ it is not a big challenge. It is possible.’’

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)   

2020 TATA MUMBAI MARATHON (TMM) / NEW COURSE RECORD, ETHIOPIANS TAKE TOP HONORS

Elite runners at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon. Eventual winner Derara Hurisa of Ethiopia can be seen, right of center (Photo: Chetan Gusani)

Srinu Bugatha, Sudha Singh winners among Indian elite

Ethiopian athlete Derara Hurisa set a new course record at the 2020 edition of Tata Mumbai Marathon, topping the men’s category with a finish time of two hours, eight minutes and nine seconds.

The previous course record was 2:08:35, set by Kenyan runner Gideon Kipketer in 2016.

Ayele Abshero and Birhanu Teshome, both of Ethiopia, also finished in timings better than the previous course record. Ayele, in second position, crossed the finish line in 2:08:20 and Birhanu, in third position, in 2:08:26.

In the women’s race, Ethiopian Amane Beriso was the winner with timing of 2:24:51. She missed the previous course record of 2:24:33, by 18 seconds.

Amane Beriso of Ethiopia who topped among women runners at 2020 TMM (Photo: Chetan Gusani)

In second position was Kenyan runner Rodah Jepkorir, who finished in 2:27:14. Haven Hailu of Ethiopia came in third in 2:28:56.

Barring the Kenyan runner in second position in the women’s race, it was an Ethiopian sweep of the top podium positions.

Among Indian elite runners, Srinu Bugatha and Sudha Singh were winners of the men’s and women’s races respectively.

Bugatha of Indian Army finished the race in 2:18:44. In second place was Sher Singh with timing of 2:24. In third position was Durga Bahadur Budha with timing of 2:24:03.

Srinu Bugatha at 2020 TMM (Photo: Chetan Gusani)

Defending champion Sudha Singh maintained her title with a winning finish of 2:45:30. Jyoti Gawate came in second with timing of 2:49:14. Shyamali Singh finished in third position in 2:58:44.

Jyoti Gawate had finished second in the 2019 edition of Tata Mumbai Marathon with timing of 2.45.48, which was her best timing at the race. “ There was a change in the route and that resulted in a wide gap between the winner and me,’’ Jyoti said.

Across various categories of races, over 55,000 runners participated in the 17th edition of Mumbai Marathon, held on Sunday, January 19, 2020.

(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai. Thanks to Chetan Gusani for permitting the use of his photographs.)

AT A GLANCE / JANUARY 2020

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

Avinash Sable, Srinu Bugatha, Rashpal Singh, Sudha Singh, Jyoti Gawate lead Indian competition at 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon.

Over 55,000 people expected to participate.

Srinu Bugatha winner of the 2019 Airtel Delhi Half Marathon and Tata Steel Kolkata 25k, and Rashpal Singh, silver medalist at the 2019 South Asian Games, are among Indian elite runners scheduled to participate in the 2020 edition of Tata Mumbai Marathon, due January 19, 2020. Also in the fray is Rahul Pal, winner of the 2019 Pune International Marathon.

According to a statement available on the race organizer’s website, Indian elite runners in the women’s marathon include defending champion Sudha Singh and Jyoti Gawate, bronze medalist at the 2019 South Asian Games.

In the men’s half marathon race, Avinash Sable, national record holder in 3000 meter steeplechase (he turned in a gritty performance at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha) and Shankar Man Thapa will be among contenders. Swati Gadhave and Monica Athare will spearhead the challenge in the half marathon for women.

Nitendra Singh Rawat, course record holder among Indian runners and a popular face at TMM, won’t be running this year. In a Facebook post on January 13, he informed that after winning TMM in 2019 and giving his best at the London Marathon, “ it is very disheartening to say that I will not be able to participate in the upcoming TMM 2020 and Tokyo Olympics because of my fractured knee. I am advised to give complete rest to my knee.’’

A record number of 55,322 people are expected to participate in 2020 TMM. The 17th edition of this World Athletics Gold Label Road Race, will have 9660 runners running the full marathon, 15,260 runners in the half marathon, 8032 runners in the 10 kilometer-race, 19,707 participants  in the Dream Run, 1022 runners in the Senior Citizen Run and 1596 participants in the Champion with Disability, the earlier mentioned statement said.

According to it, women’s participation has increased to 35 per cent. Outstation participation has grown by 22 per cent and full marathon participation by 15 per cent.

Kipruto sets new world record in 10K

Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto has set a new world record in the 10 kilometer-road race. On January 12, at Valencia Ibercaja, he clocked 26 minutes, 24 seconds to win the World Athletics Gold Label road race, a report on the website of World Athletics (formerly IAAF) said.

The 20 year-old took 14 seconds off the yet-to-be-ratified mark set just six weeks earlier by Joshua Cheptegei in the same city, on a different course.

“ Only the legendary Ethiopian duo Kenenisa Bekele (26:17.53) and Haile Gebrselassie (26:22.75) have recorded faster times on the track, while Paul Tergat holds the Kenyan 10,000m record at 26:27:85,’’ the report said.

Sheila Chepkirui, also of Kenya, won the women’s race in 29:46.

Shoe war heats up

The controversy over Nike’s Vaporfly shoes worn by Eliud Kipchoge during his record breaking sub-two hour marathon in Vienna last year, has gathered momentum with recent media reports indicating that World Athletics may soon rule on their legality and share prices of shoe manufacturers responding accordingly.

On January 16, leading wire service Bloomberg informed that shares of Japanese manufacturer Asics Corp, a rival to Nike, “ surged as much as eight per cent before paring gains to 4.7 per cent as of 11:41 AM that day in Tokyo, after the Times of London and others reported that World Athletics was mulling a ban for Nike’s Vaporfly shoes in professional competition. Mizuno Corp, another Japanese maker of running equipment, rose as much as 1.6 per cent.’’

Nike’s Vaporfly Next % model was the shoe of choice for Kipchoge in Vienna and Brigid Kosgei, when she broke the women’s world record in the marathon, last year in Chicago. According to the Bloomberg report, the shoes gained popularity in Japan too resulting in a fall in share price for Asics at the start of 2020.

However, thick soles, the use of carbon fiber-plates and runners who used it confirming that the shoes contributed to improving their performance rendered the Nike model controversial. There have been calls since to restore a level playing field.

(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)

 

2020 TATA MUMBAI MARATHON / LAGAT, ALEMU SET TO RETURN

Flashback: elite runners at the 2019 edition of Tata Mumbai Marathon (Photo: by arrangement)

Defending champions Cosmas Lagat and Worknesh Alemu will be back for the Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM), due January 19, 2020, a report dated January 4, available on the website of World Athletics (formerly IAAF), said.

In 2019, Kenya’s Lagat, breaking away from the rest of the pack at around kilometer 29 and running alone for almost a third of the race, had won in 2:09:15, the second fastest winning time in Mumbai. It was just 40 seconds outside the course record of 2:08:35, set by his compatriot Gideon Kipketer in 2016, the report said. To date only one man has won TMM back-to- back; Kenyan runner John Kelai did that with victories in 2007 and 2008.

According to the report, for the 2020 edition of the race, TMM organizers have signed up no less than 14 men who have run faster than 2:10:00, “ making it the strongest marathon ever to be staged in India.’’ Of them, nine have run faster than the course record during their careers and six have run under the super-elite benchmark of 2:07:00. The four fastest men in the field are all Ethiopians, led by Ayele Abshero who has a personal best (PB) from eight years back at the Dubai Marathon, of 2:04:23.

Ethiopia’s Alemu had won in the women’s category at TMM in 2019 with a PB of 2:25:25, which was also the second fastest winning time in the race’s history. She subsequently improved her best to 2:24:42 later in 2019 when finishing sixth at the Amsterdam Marathon in October, the report said. In 2020, Alemu heads a very strong women’s field that has eight women who have run under 2:28:00. The fastest woman in the field is another Ethiopian, Amane Beriso, who clocked 2:20:48 for a second place finish in the 2016 Dubai Marathon, placing her third on that year’s world list. She took a break from competitive running last year. The course record at TMM for women is 2:24:33, set by Kenya’s Valentine Kipketer in 2013.

In addition to the marathon – which has a total prize fund of US$ 405,000 – there is a half marathon, a 10km race, a Dream Run (5.9km), Senior Citizens Race (4.2km) and a Champions with Disability Race (1.5km). About 50,000 runners are expected to take part, the report said.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)