Race Report: Apollo Tyres New Delhi Marathon 2024 by Aravind

Training insights and race strategy of Aravind's Personal Best at New Delhi Marathon
Race Report: Apollo Tyres New Delhi Marathon 2024 by Aravind
Date: 25 Feb 2024
Start time: 4:15 AM
Start point: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi
Elevation: 45m ascent
Race Distance: 42.2km
  • A Goal: 3h:24m
  • B Goal: 3h:27m
  • C Goal: 3h:29m or Personal Best
  • Achieved : 3h:23m:05s

The New Delhi Marathon is special for me, this is where I started my marathon journey in 2018. So what could be a better course for my 10th Marathon than returning to where it all began?! After not a satisfactory outcome at the New York Marathon(race report), I was motivated to do better. Quite a few from my training group running this year’s event is a bonus, and sealed the deal as my goal marathon.


I had about 12 weeks for my training cycle. Before starting the training cycle, I had run Malnad Ultra 50k. Despite a zone 2 effort run, a finish of 7h:45m raised my spirits (I had a DNF in the same race two years ago). It was a good break from the monotony of road running and helped me with the mental side of running.


Building the “Speed Endurance” was my key objective. I chose Pfitz’s “Advanced Marathoning” 12/70 plan (12 weeks of 55 to 70 miles / 89 to 113 km per week ) as the base and fine-tuned it further. Though I am self-coached, I found value in brainstorming my ideas with my running friends and fine-tuning the plan based on their inputs. A few notable adjustments -

  • Added half-marathon-paced surges at the end of the long runs to help with speed endurance.
  • Weekend long runs were 30km and longer, slightly more than prescribed.
  • Eliminated the week-day doubles, and instead focused on strength training.
  • Replaced “tune-up” races with harder 10K tempo efforts.

Goal Setting

2 weeks into the training, I ran half distance at the Vizag Marathon. A podium finish with 1h:38m (4:40 min/km) for not an all-out run, gave me the confidence that I could target 4:50-4:55 min/km as my marathon pace.

I was reading Meb Keflezighi’s 26 Marathons. One of the take away for me is goal setting; setting goals that are meaningful to you and having a hierarchy of goals one backing the other. My first marathon finish at Delhi was 4h:24m. So setting the ‘A’ Goal of 3h:24m (4:50 min/km, and an hour faster after 6 years) seemed very meaningful to me. ‘B’ goal was 3h:27m (4:54 min/km) and the ‘C’ goal was 3h:29m (a sub-5-min/km finish).


I had run a total of seven 30 km plus runs during this cycle. 3 of these runs had significant portions of marathon-pace effort (18km, 22km, 23km). Unfortunately, A flu attack nearly disrupted my peak training. Instead of pushing through, I took 5 days off from training so that I could recover quickly, and this worked.

The week following that I had a dilemma about my last long run, whether to run the missed 23 km marathon effort run or the scheduled 38 km (longest run of the training block) long run. A smart suggestion from a friend made me do both, a double - marathon effort run in the morning, and another moderate in the afternoon (28 km + 15 km - a total of 45 km in a day).


During the 3 weeks of taper, I reduced the mileage gradually but kept the intensity high. Did a good amount of VO2Max work and plenty of strides. I also went heavy in terms of lifting weights but kept the sessions small in duration. On Tuesday during the final week, I ran a dress rehearsal of race day gear. A 3km segment of this run was close to the marathon pace but progressively slower at 4:45, 4:50, and 4:55 min/km. The pace between 4:50 to 4:55 min/km felt the most comfortable. My diet changed to predominantly carb-heavy eating rice in the evening.


One of the nicest things about domestic races is that you get to travel with your training group, which makes it memorable. Our training group reached Delhi on Friday morning to acclimate and rest before the race.

Despite the National Marathon tag, the Delhi Marathon Expo is relatively small. Stalls of a few nutrition brands including Fast&Up, Leap, and Asics sums it up. The bib collection process is much smoother this year. Collected the bibs in a jiffy and we were back to the hotel.

There is a bit of uncertainty around the temperature during the race day, with each weather service predicting differently (8-15 degrees). The goal of the shake-out run on Saturday morning is to figure out what to wear on the race day. Decided to go with arm sleeves, a hat and a slightly warmer singlet (than I had originally planned), no headband, and no gloves.

Rest of the day was spent quietly in the hotel, briefly meeting a longtime Strava friend, Sanchit. Most of my time was dedicated to refining my pacing strategy, setting time goals, visualizing the course, and focusing on my mindset for the race ahead. I have jotted down and memorized times at key milestones for my A, B and C goals, so as to avoid doing mental math on the course.

Race Day - Start

Woke-up at 2:15 am. I had a mix of overnight oats and Fast&Up pre-workout (beetroot powder) which I prepared the previous night as my pre-race breakfast. Sipped Maurten Drink Mix 160, and banana as I got ready. Intentionally didn’t drink much water as it was cold and I wasn’t expecting much sweat.

We reached the venue by 3:20 am. My warm-up was broken into two parts - an easy run of 400m, a circuit of running drills, and another run of 400m progressively touching the marathon pace. I had my first gel as I walked to the start area.

The marathon line-up had about 1500 runners. Since there were no corrals, we positioned ourselves as close to the start line as possible. Last year I had a bitter experience in the half-marathon line-up which lasted about a minute in the first km.

Race Day - During

My pacing strategy for the race is simple. Run steady & even effort (not even pace) throughout, while keeping the HR in the mid to high Z3 (155-160 bpm). I also had to prepare for an eventual slow-down in the second half. In terms of fueling the plan was to consume a gel every 6 km, 3 each of Fast&Up Gels (Classic Vanilla) and Power Gels (Strawberry Banana).

First 10 km ( avg. pace 4:44 min/km, avg HR 150 bpm, cumulative time 47m:20s )

Started the first kilometer slowly to get into the rhythm and navigate the crowds. Crossed a few of my friends and exchanged positive words as I entered Lodhi Road. My pace here was 4:50 min/km and the effort seemed very easy. Running in the colder weather and at a lower altitude definitely helps. The pace of 4:45 min/km felt surprisingly easy and my HR is hovering around low zone 3 around 150 bpm. Kilometer markers on the route and lap count on my watch matched almost on the dot which made it easier. Picked a water bottle at around 6th km, and had my second gel. A couple of ‘U’ turns in this section at Lodhi Road and Khan Market means I get to see my running group a couple of times. Vivek was ahead of me, Harish was just behind, and both were running comfortably. Also saw Aditi and Sangho in this section, and both were quite focused. Hit the 10km mark at 47:20, a minute in the bank.

10 km to Half Marathon ( avg. pace 4:47 min/km, avg HR 150 bpm, Cumulative Time 1h:40m:32s)

Upon entering Kartavya Path with the wide straight roads, is when I started to feel that I was racing. Took my third gel on this stretch. Vivek said a few encouraging words as he took a ‘U’ turn on the Kartavya path. Saw Aditi and Bhagya on the other side of the road just behind me. Took the fourth gel after crossing India Gate, and ran steady as I reached the JLN stadium, which is the halfway mark of the course at 1h:40m, which was 30s off my half-marathon personal best 15 months ago.

Half Marathon to 35km ( avg. pace 4:51 min/km, avg HR 153 bpm, Cumulative Time 2h:47m:52s)

A thought crossed my mind as I started the second loop, if I should attempt a BQ (3h:20m for my age group). But sanity prevailed and decided to maintain the same effort. The sections on Lodhi Road and Khan Market were lonely. I’ve paced up a bit to get closer to a small pack of runners (who probably are in for a 3h:20m finish) so that I don’t feel lonely. Vivek was running strong, and gave a shout out as he crossed the ‘U’ turn point at Khan market, so did Harish from the other side. He was running strong too.

At the end of the Kartavya Path section saw Lavanya and Ajay. A bit of a relief from the monotony of the long unwinding road. Ajay was to hand over my electrolyte bottle (Reload), but I couldn’t hold the bottle as my fingers were frozen, and dropped it. That wasn’t a big setback anyway, as I wasn’t sweating much. But the very next kilometer as I entered Jan Path (35th km) my breathing felt laborious. Switched to a combination of mouth and nose breathing. A shout-out from Vivek, helped me to settle to rhythm again. I also took my final gel a kilometer early as a precaution. By the end of the 35th, I am more than a minute ahead of my goal time. All I had to do was to maintain the pace and not do anything stupid.

36 km to Finish ( avg. pace 4:51 min/km, avg HR 153 bpm, Cumulative Time 2h:47m:52s)

This is the danger zone for me. Of the 9 races that I ran, I had cramps in 8 of the races. Roads are now busy with faster half-marathon runners, and that made the course interesting. While I continued to maintain the effort, I could see my pace was dropping. By the 39th km, I am feeling the effects of fatigue. But I remembered what Pfitz says, you are best trained to handle this situation more than anyone else. Yep, that is all the mileage and hundreds of kilometers of long runs talking.

I sensed a bit of cramping in the 40th km first on my right calf, and then on my left. I wished I had caffeine gel handy. By the 40th kilometer, I still had about 50s in the bank. Started counting down as I was just about 3 km away from the finish. As I took left towards Saibaba temple, I sped up a bit and overtook a few runners on the course. Fear of cramps however didn’t allow me to put in my best effort. Crossed the finish line strongly in 3h:23m:05s.

Post Race

This is one of the very few races, where cramps didn’t affect my race. Cramping during a marathon is a multi-factorial problem for me, electrolytes, hydration, gels, effort, and of course training all had to align well. Overall, a satisfactory result, it was not just the finish time, but the way the effort felt, and all the camaraderie shared with the group.

All of us had a good race and finished in under 4 hours. Aditi achieved her BQ with a massive PR; Harish finished his first sub-3:30; Vivek, Bhagya, and Sangho had strong runs; Raji and Mani had their successive half-marathon PBs. Murali ran yet another sub 3 hour PR, and Pankaj ran his PR too.

Key Stats

  • Overall Pace: 4:49 mins/km
  • Rank: 158 of 1505
  • Category Rank: 26 of 371
  • Gender Rank: 153 of 1310
  • Shoe: Nike AlphaFly Next%2

Strava Link

Official Race Result

What’s Next?

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses—behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” - Muhammad Ali

This resonates deeply with me, especially as I reflect on my journey without innate sporting talent but with sincere hard work as I start my next training block.

Over the next few months, I will focus on rebuilding myself for the next goal, as I go onto my next world marathon major later this year in October. I have been tweaking my nutrition over the last 6 weeks. It’s too soon for visible results, but I’ll share updates as they come. I also want to complete my pending reading list during this down time. Few of the books in my current reading list which are relevant for runners -


Aravind is a techie, running geek, and a marathoner. He loves all things technology and technology in running, with special interest in running form analysis. He is the co-founder of GeeksOnFeet.

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