Race Report: Tata Mumbai Marathon (Half) 2024 by Rajalakshmi

Race report of Tata Mumbai Marathon 2024 (Half) by Rajalakshmi
Race Report: Tata Mumbai Marathon (Half) 2024 by Rajalakshmi
Date: 21 Jan 2024
Start time: 5:00 AM
Distance: Half-marathon
Start point: Mahim Church, Mumbai, India
Net Elevation: 50+m ascent
  • Goal: below 1 hr 50 mins
  • Achieved : 1h:46m:48s

Key Stats

  • Rank: 372 of 12607
  • Overall Pace: 5:04 mins/km
  • Gender Rank: 26 of 2334
  • Age Category Rank: 3 of 536

Activity Details


As someone who spent a decade running casually since 2013, I decided it was time to upgrade my running status from ‘occasional jogger with occasional bursts of enthusiasm’ to ‘runner’.

Starting from Feb 2023, I began building my aerobic base from scratch, armed with determination and an excuse to escape household chores. Thankfully, my kids are older now; otherwise, my morning routine would still be dominated by chaos rather than getting my running shoes on and heading out for a run. From a modest 30k to 35k, I gradually increased my weekly mileage to around 60k to 65k in about six months (4 to 5 days of running per week). I also did TCS and Bengaluru 10k (May and July 2023), both of which had a 6 to 8-week training cycle. From there until October, I gradually continued to increase my weekly mileage, reaching 80Ks and kept it there for the entire cycle with one recovery week every 3 to 4 weeks.

Another factor I found to be a game-changer was adding protein to my routine. Being a vegetarian, protein supplementation was the much-needed ammunition for my nutritional needs.

Training for TMM - I followed a 12-week cycle from October involving 5 to 6 days of running in a week. Most days were easy running at around 6:15 to 6:30 pace of about an hour, one mid-week slightly longer easy run of 15-16k, and Saturdays were scheduled workouts. The Saturday workouts were planned with two aspects - building pace and developing the endurance to hold the pace for progressively longer distances. So, while the initial workouts were 1km repetitions in October, they gradually went up to 1 mile, 2 mile and 3-mile reps towards the end of the workout cycle at the beginning of January. My lungs, legs, and body parts were usually staging a revolt, and I often questioned my life choices during these intense, demanding workouts. But, on many days, I persevered – surprising even myself.

Sure, there were days when I fumbled or gave up on some reps, especially when I couldn’t sustain the pace, but as they say, it’s all part of the ‘running magic.' All the experiences were huge amounts of learning, so I’m glad I did them despite how daunting they were, leaving me with a newfound appreciation for the foam roller.

My twice-a-week strength training sessions at Peak Performance were integral to my TMM preparation. My S&C coach guides me with running specific strengthening routines. Many workouts involved following fundamentals - quads, hamstrings, calves, and glute strength, with variations for these muscle groups. All the while without ignoring upper body strength, core workouts, and stability exercises. As I discovered, running involves more than convincing your legs to move forward; your entire body must be on the fitness train. Being strong helps on race day and makes recovering from hard training sessions easier.


Touching down in Mumbai on Saturday morning marked the beginning of my half-marathon weekend. The expo experience was smooth, probably because I managed a swift bib collection and left before the swarms of zealous runners poured in.

By noon, I had settled into my hotel in Bandra (near HM start point) and then headed out to meet friends for lunch. Post lunch was spent investing some quality time in a pre-race nap – a ritual of questionable effectiveness that every runner swears by. With recharged energy, I ventured out to tick off a shake-out run in the evening. Not knowing the terrain, I opted for a foolproof strategy – find a nearby road and run up and down like a yo-yo. A few strides later, I was ready to take on the race with marginally better confidence.

My hotel was teeming with out-of-towners gearing up for the marathon madness. And in the spirit of adventure (or maybe just avoiding getting lost), a bunch of us at the hotel decided to take a cab together to the race venue. One of them, a fellow half marathoner, turned out to be a Mumbai expert, and we arrived at Mahim Reti Bandar ground at 4:10 am.

Race Day - Start

As the TMM morning unfolded, the bustling crowd made my warm-up run look more like an unintended interpretive dance. I dodged elbows and sidestepped fellow runners for 7 to 8 minutes before doing my regular warm-up routine of leg swings, hip openers and hamstring scoops. For the past few weeks, I’ve been having a pre-run fuel of a peanut butter sandwich since it is easily available anywhere. Armed with a Mumbai pav slathered with peanut butter, I munched it just before entering the corral holding area at 4:30 am.

Unfortunately, much to my chagrin, I was relegated to the ‘C’ section. Despite my earnest email pleas to the TMM organisers for an upgrade to the prestigious ‘A’ or ‘B,’ I was stuck being alphabetically challenged. The sections were maintained strictly until the gates were opened to move towards the start line about 8 minutes before the race started. By this time, I felt the body cool down a bit since there was a gap between the warm-up and the actual race time. I prayed this would be ok and joined the excited runners rushing towards the start line.

It felt overwhelming to be standing amongst the nation’s most passionate and strong runners. Some looked zen, clicking selfies, while others looked like they were about to conquer Mount Everest, and then there was me – a bundle of nerves with a side of excitement. Pre-race jitters are very real, and I was experiencing dread and thrill in equal measure.


Having survived the crazy elevations and humidity horror show in Goa in Dec 2023, I entered TMM hoping to do a sub-1:50. I was armed with the wisdom gained from getting dehydrated in Goa.

The race started exactly on time, and it was a magical (albeit emotional) roller coaster for the next 21.097km! The HM race begins in Mahim and quickly gets on to the sea link bridge, which is a 6 km long, slightly rolling stretch. I felt strong after the initial kilometre when the crowd thinned out and decided to maintain the pace of just around 5 min/km. The bridge has steel structural supports lit with the colours of our Indian flag for the whole length. In the darkness, these lights felt like a meditative disco party – simultaneously monotonous and comforting. The city skyline appeared like a well-dressed aunty attending a wedding, bedazzled with shiny lights celebrating the runners.

I overtook the 1:50 pacing bus on Sea Link Bridge and did not see them the whole race. While that was a decision I took on the fly, I am grateful that the risk paid off. Following my fueling plan, I took my first gel around the 3rd km after about 12 or 13 minutes into the race. I ran mostly ‘by feel’, so treated my watch like a distant relative at a family gathering – only acknowledging it when absolutely necessary. Pushing when strong and slowing down when needing a breather became my race philosophy.

The second section of the race, between the 7th and 13th km threw some wicked twists and turns, including 3 U-turns. Sharp turns are runners' least favourite as they tend to break the rhythm, and it was no different for me, and I had to pick up pace each time to compensate. I had some side stitches on the 13th km, and in my attempt to overcome them, I distracted myself by trying to catch up with a fellow runner. A young Mumbaikar who transformed into my personal GPS was naming roads with pride, and thanks to this hero’s running commentary and gulping down a second gel, I could push ahead. The infamous Peddar road climb at 14 plus km gets the better of all runners. It feels unrelenting as it unfolds without mercy. This accounts for a positive split for most runners, including me, as I dropped the pace and donated 60 seconds as a token of respect. The downhill after helped me recover pace and breath, and I continued to surge ahead.

To me, the actual race is between the 17th and 19th km in all the HMs I have done. That is when the body’s fatigue catches up, and the mind plays tricks on you. This was at Marine Drive, and the buildings became irrelevant as my brain wrestled with the idea of slowing down or, heaven forbid, giving up. I took my third gel in the 18th km to help me with the last leg. While trying to remain focused, I was constantly zoning in and out. At times, I am acutely aware of everything around me, or sometimes, complete blanks of some sections of the race which I have absolutely no memory of.

The last 2 kilometres bring with them the promise of completion. The thought of ‘only ten more minutes of this misery’ is enough to carry me to the finish line. Crossing the finish line felt like I had been blessed. I managed a 1:46:48, beating my previous personal best by nearly 4 minutes.

Post Race

I got to the finish line while it was still dark (advantage of doing an HM vs doing a FM). It was very well managed, considering the massive number of participants. After a well-deserved sit-down to catch my breath, I watched as triumphant runners streamed in – some doing victory dances, others doing victory limps. A race is truly an emotional experience, and it took me a few minutes to sink in. This was certainly not what I expected of myself a few years ago, but it is a highlight moment of my life.

I mustered some strength to walk around, congratulated all the runners who finished around me and went to collect my medal and post-race goodies. As I had not left any bag in the counter, I could leave the maidaan after taking some pictures. The cab ride back to the hotel was a blur, mostly because my eyes were on a self-imposed shutdown. Freshened up, breakfasted like a champion, and crashed out with a full hour of sleep – a power nap to rival all power naps. I checked out of the hotel by afternoon and took the evening flight home.

I heard about the podium later in the day & was amazed at what I’d pulled off. This was India’s premier open road race, and I was in third place for my age group. It feels like a dream, and I am grateful to everyone who has helped me reach this point. It took me two days to recover from the fatigue and snap out of zombie mode. I resumed running with the grace of a newborn giraffe attempting its first steps.

Overall Experience

I have been blessed to have friends who have given me invaluable advice; some of them are earworms that I keep repeating in my head like mantras.

Here are a few:

  • It’s just discomfort, not pain.
  • Visualise the finish line.
  • Pace yourself based on how you feel, not what the watch tells you.
  • Your body is capable of much more than you give it credit for.
  • Trust in the training process. Outcomes will take care of themselves.

My learnings from TMM:

  • Prioritise speed and endurance equally during training. I have to work on the latter.
  • Weather is a big determinant. It makes sense to train in similar conditions. Mercifully, Mumbai was blessed with great weather on race day.
  • Shoes can only do so much, even if they are the latest carbon-plated ones. Legs (and heart) need to do the work.
  • Studying the course prior (elevation, hydration points, sharp turns, expected crowd, etc.) is a sacred ritual and should not be ignored. You don’t want to deal with surprises on race day.
  • Fueling is critical and needs to be figured out at least a month ahead so you can get used to it (choice of food, gel, practising consuming gel while running, sipping water during a run) My first gel was the Unived 180 while the 2nd and 3rd gels were the Unived 100. This was something that I had arrived at after trying various combinations during the training and may be different for each individual.
  • Race day attire has to be pre-decided - no new clothes and nothing that can chafe or cause discomfort. Even the training was done with my phone, waist belt and gels in my pockets.

This is a huge milestone for me in my running journey, and I look forward to keep running for this lifetime. Until the next race, NDM in February, my running shoes and I are on standby, ready for another round of torturous and undoubtedly eventful running escapades!

Rajalakshmi (Raji)

Rajalakshmi (Raji) is an architect by qualification and has worked as a designer before foraying into pedagogy and skill building for children. When she’s not running or working out, you’ll find her gardening, reading or doting on her furry friends. She believes in learning something new every year.

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