Every three years I (with hubby and our two children) visit my family in Mumbai. So Stephen and I decided why not conclude our holidays with the Mumbai Marathon that takes place in January every year (formerly known as Standard Chartered Marathon). This year it was the TCS Mumbai Marathon. Stephen signed up for the full and I the half.

I was really worried about training in India and if I would have any motivation to do any running at all. Most of my holidays to India include shopping, eating ALL the food I haven’t in 3 years and visiting family and friends’ homes who spoil also me with good food.

Anyway I digress. Two days after I landed in India I found out about Pinkathon, an event only for women. Pinkathon encourages women to adopt a healthy lifestyle, get fitter and empower themselves. Besides supporting breast cancer and women’s health. They had a 21 km, 10km, 5km and 3 km and a baby wearing 3km category. I was too late to for the 21km as registrations had closed weeks ago. Luckily I got a last minute entry for the 10km.

For the first time in my entire running life I was not at the back of the pack. Rather almost the front. I was in the top 20! Only because the running culture is only just starting to evolve in India and it’s fantastic. I got a PB of 1 hour 1 minute. I was thrilled and quietly overconfident for the half marathon in January. That goal finish time of 2.10 for the half was looking good! All my running in Australia had definitely paid off, only because of the wonderful training plan that I stuck to. Shout out to my coach Martin Fryer for keeping it enjoyable and making me accountable.

After being on a Pink high I was keen to keep running. So I did what I dislike doing most. Early morning training runs, because that is the only time you can run in Mumbai. Less traffic on the roads, not as hot or humid then.

So almost every morning Stephen and I woke up at 6.15 am to go for a run (unfortunately we didn’t carry our head lamps so couldn’t go earlier as some of the roads we wanted to run on were not lit, or well lit.) We found a great stretch of road called Aarey Dairy Road, where traffic was at a minimum. So my long runs were done on this road. For shorter training runs we went to another great jogging park nearby popular with walkers and joggers that consisted of 500m loop dirt track with stairs on either side.

To get my hill reps in I just did stair reps at my parents apartment. Luckily my parents live on the 6th floor of a 12 storey building. So that was sorted. I was surprised with myself and my willingness to wake up and do morning runs. It helped that hubby ran with me, and both my children wanted to sleep with my parents so babysitting was sorted!

It was all going so well. Then 2 weeks before race day our trip to Goa (the coast) was due. For the 8 days we were there I did absolutely nothing! There were lots of late nights, catching up with more family and cousins, more good food (masala fried fish, fish curries and rice, more spiced fried fish!) You can tell why I run right?

The children had also gotten really clingy and would only sleep with us in the hotel room, so early mornings were out the window. I didn’t want to go out running alone as I didn’t feel quite safe where we were staying.

So my training took a big hit there. With less than a week to go after coming back to Mumbai I squeezed in a few short sharp runs hoping that would salvage all the training I had done before. I think my goal time of 2.10 slowly slipped to 2.15…

Race day arrived, 21st Jan and Stephen and I were up at 3 am as we both started our event at 5.40 am in different parts of the city. We caught an Uber as we lived right on the other side of town to where the race was. We were hoping we would make it on time considering information about the road closures was hard to come by. It wasn’t on the race app and the hotline was pretty useless. Thank goodness for Facebook and the Mumbai running groups I messaged who gave me an answer.

Once I got to my designated pick up area, there were several local buses all ready to take us half marathoners to the holding area. I was amazed to see SO many people turning up for the half marathon. I didn’t have to wait to board a bus, the buses were lined up waiting for us. Treat! Another good thing was there were separate toilets for men and women. Outside and inside the holding area. I went to the ones in the holding area and barely had to wait. That has NEVER happened before any race I have been to. Miracle! I had a few nervous toilet breaks before we started, and I may have left it too late because by the time my group started I missed it! I had to make my way through two groups of people only to find the way to my group holding area was back the way I came from. So a good warm up was had. Looking at the positives here! It was 5.47 am and 24 degrees already.

Once I crossed the start line my plan was to keep a consistent pace and have a 1 minute walking break every 5 kms. It only took me only 2 kms to break into a sweat. I never ever sweat that much so quickly into a run. I was on target and after 5 kms took a break and walked for a minute, did another 5 kms and walked another minute. Yes! 10kms down and it was going to plan. Pace was faltering a little bit but I was happy.

Then the next 5km was a different story, between 12 to 15 kms I really struggled. I walked a fair bit with spurts of running. I was so disappointed in myself. This of course meant that my pace slowed down considerably which made me feel more disheartened. I was beating myself up. I knew then that I wouldn’t make it to my goal time of 2.15. But what got me through was the community spirit. The amount of people that lined up near the race route from about the 11km mark was overwhelming. People of all ages were coming down from their apartments to see and cheer on runners. They were helping volunteers give out bottled water. Children with their parents were giving out biscuits, lollies and bananas to runners. They didn’t have to, they weren’t a part of the event volunteering team. They just did because they wanted to show their support. I was emotional at that stage anyway, what with my lack of running, but seeing all of this made me even more emotional (ah hormones!). I was so proud of the people, this was my city, the city I was born in. I had to keep going. How could I not when there was so much support. I also managed to down a lot of water and electrolyte drink which tasted like a God sent nectar. When I tasted this at the expo and it tasted like rubbish. Could barely down a sip.

What I really missed was a running buddy. I missed my RMA support. At almost every event and especially half marathons I have done, I have come across an RMA and started chatting and running along with them. And it’s SO good to have someone push you along, even for just a few kms, especially when you both are struggling and need each other for that little push. It makes the time go quicker.

I didn’t have that, I knew an RMA fairy wouldn’t miraculously arrive, so I had to suck it up and keep going!

There was music further along the route, loud Indian folk drum beats, oh that made me move again, more crowds, more support, 16km done. I was close to the end, no looking back now. I was running through my favourite part of the city, Marine Drive. I loved visiting this part of town when I was in college with my friends, always wanting to buy a house by the sea, living in the fancy part of the city only where the rich lived. When Stephen first visited me in India in 2004 I brought him here. Sitting on the sea face, enjoying the cool breeze and declaring our love for each other…only to be chased away by beggars!

So all these memories made me happy and kept me going. I overtook a few people and that made me even happier. Getting my mojo back was fantastic and just what I needed! I crossed the finish line with quite a few people. The finish chute seemed a bit hidden and to the side so not much glory to run in to at the end. All thanks in part to the metro construction. The recovery zone seemed good with lots of people giving out massages to sore runners. The medal collection area was painless, no lines, plus we got a bag full of goodies: fruits, chocolate bar, iced coffee (tetra pack), wet wipes, Indian snack, towel, deep heat spray. Don’t get that much at any other race I have done. The medal was nice and chunky too.

I finished the race in 2.20.08 I was a bit saddened I didn’t make my 2.15 or even 2.19! But my spirits lifted when I realised I got a PB in my 6th half marathon, in the city I was born in. Now that’s special :).

The very unique Pinkathon medal made by women who were affected by the 2004 tsumani