In June 2023, on one of my usual daily runs, I toyed with the idea of finally running a marathon in the latter half of the year. However, I hadn’t even run a half-marathon then. So I wasn’t sure how to go about it, but all I knew was that I want to give a shot at it.
I realised that I needed a half marathon certificate in order to register for the Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM) to be held in January 2024. It took me a few days to mentally prepare myself to register to run the Ageas Federal Life Insurance Half Marathon which was to be held on 20th August, 2023. On a Sunday soon after, I struggled to complete a 16 km easy run, and I knew it was mainly the mental aspect that this sport needed that was holding me back. It took several days of mental preparation to harbour the idea of getting used to any distance over 10 kms to be able to run a half marathon comfortably.
I managed 2-3 easy long runs before running the half marathon. When race day came, it was the initial excitement of finally running my first half marathon that sent my breathing haywire, and side stitches badly affected me during the second half. My official timing for the race was 2h 1min - enough to help me register for TMM and was assigned Corral B. I wasn’t too happy as I didn’t want to wade through huge crowds at the start.
In September 2023, I ran yet another half marathon, Thane Creek Half Marathon - completing that one in 1h 49min and got into corral A at TMM! Success!
Post the Vedanta Delhi half marathon in October 2023, I focused on 800 metres interval workouts, and a one mile time trial every alternate week.
|15 mins WU with drills + 12x800m (faster than goal) /3 minutes + 20 mins CD
|15 mins WU with drills + 8x800m (at goal effort) /3 mins + 20 mins CD
|16 - 30 kms of easy running focusing on breathing comfortably throughout.
|15 mins WU with drills + 12x400m/200m + 20 mins CD
|25k (5k easy + 5k tempo + 5k easy + 5k tempo + 5k easy)
I went on to run few more half marathons and a 25K race in the following 3 months in different cities and improved my timing in each of them. The fastest was 1:45 in December - just what I wanted to achieve in the run-up to TMM the following month. My Sunday easy runs had greatly helped my mind get used to running long distances. I focused on at least one speed workout during the week that I devised for myself and gave myself ample rest days throughout the training block.
Since I had races lined up in December 2023, I ensured to focus on quality workouts and efficient running to not over exert myself. My peak week mileage was only 62 kms, while I averaged 37 - 50 kms in the other weeks. My longest run during this training cycle was 31 kms which I did on December 31st, 2023. Few remarked that this isn’t sufficient to run a marathon. But this is what I could manage with my schedule constraints.
What probably worked in my favour is how I remained consistent throughout the training cycle, and ensured to listen to my body even though I wasn’t accumulating the ‘desired’ weekly mileage. My easy runs helped develop an excellent connection with my mind that helped me focus on effort and breathing, instead of the pace shown on my watch.
Going from my first half marathon in August 2023 to my first full distance 5 months later, seemed a bit too ambitious. So, I set a few rules for myself as I strategized my race- fuel frequently, stay well hydrated throughout, and do not look at the watch until after crossing the finish line.
I had a chaotic start. Woke up at 1:15 am and ate overnight soaked oats, with cinnamon, bananas, soy milk, chia seeds and ground flax. I also had half a cup of black coffee. I got into Deviate Nitro Elites that PUMA India had sent to me specifically for TMM. I ran one hard speed workout in them already.
Reached the station to board the first train, and saw it leave in front of me. Oops! I boarded the next special train, but got off at Marine Lines instead of Churchgate, and ended up walking an extra kilometre to the venue. Well, I made that part of my warm up then. I was feeling all pumped and ready to run my first marathon!
I headed straight to the corrals and finished my last minute warmup drills there amidst the bustle of excited runners. Greeted the few familiar faces at the start-line and counted down seconds to the flag-off.
The race began, I was disappointed that they didn’t play the usual high-energy music on the main stage as we darted through the start line. I then quickly reminded myself to run at a comfortable pace no matter whom I’d see going faster around me. I wasn’t competing with anyone, I was here only to run a marathon for myself and finish it in good time - a goal that I had harboured months earlier. I always run with my mouth closed to ensure that the pace is comfortable and my breathing is regulated. Cruised through the first few kilometres and waited patiently for the Peddar Road incline to come around the 9th kilometre. Went up at a slower pace, felt great, and continued on to Worli at a similar effort.
An unlit dark stretch of road around Worli made me feel weary, but I talked to myself to keep going as this would be over before I knew it. A few runners were yelling slogans around me and their aggressive voices made me anxious, so I ran away from them. Then, the Sea Link came around the 17th kilometre - again a dark stretch - it was boring, with a gentle elevation and a subtle cool breeze. I realised then that running this marathon was going to be more of a mental game than a physical one. I saw the 3:35 pacer bus pass me, and that gave me a fair idea of how fast I was going based on the current kilometre that I was running on the Sea Link.
I grabbed onto hydration bottles as and when I felt necessary. I started fuelling proactively to ensure that I never ran out of energy. I was determined to not ‘hit the wall’ in my debut marathon. My fuel of choice was Unived energy gels, mainly because they are plant-based, so perfect for vegans like me, and I like the consistency too.
After the long sealink stretch, I saw a bunch of kids as I turned towards Mahim, holding a poster with the photographs of my friends and me, and I happily waved at them while continuing on to Shivaji Park that I had heard so much about.
The crowd support here though, wasn’t as tremendous as previous years’ runners had made it to be. It was another stretch where I felt incredibly bored and just had to convince my mind to keep going. My pace had dropped by now because mentally I wasn’t stimulated as much. I wanted to somehow get to 32 kms because then it would just be a quick 10 kms from there. As I neared 32 kms, I saw a few known faces volunteering from the Tilak Nagar Running Club and that made me smile. I kept waiting for the dreaded Peddar road at kilometre 36, and when it came, my mind was all ready. I had run this road several times during my easy long runs, but it still feels awful to run it during a full marathon. I went up as slowly as I could, because I wanted to conserve my energy for a strong finish.
Once Peddar road was done, I continued on to Marine Drive which was relatively flat, however the sun was up and shining straight into my eyes causing me to squint, which I found quite uncomfortable. I ran most of the Marine Drive stretch while looking down at the road, and continued hydrating throughout the 4 kilometres to the finish. Saw a few more known faces along the way whom I greeted and then geared up to run the last kilometre strong.
As I neared the finish line, I saw the timing above - 3:47 hours - and I found yet another gear to finish my marathon within the same minute.
My friends who had finished their half marathons, were waiting at the finish line for me, and I was just thrilled to have completed my first ever marathon within 4 hours! My watch showed a total distance of 42.5 kms (an extra 300 metres) and my official timing was 3:47:42.
It took a while for what I had accomplished to sink in. The runner’s high was very noticeable causing my voice to become high pitched too, and I rambled on for several minutes around my friends. My cousin had come from Goa to run the race too, and I was just delighted to celebrate this achievement with him. He and I ran our first 10 kms race together at the Goa River Marathon in December 2021, where I was awarded for winning 5th place in the open category and that’s when my interest in the sport got a stronger foundation.
The 5 months from my first half marathon to my first full marathon have been such an incredible journey of learning and unlearning too. I learned so much more about myself, and especially my mind, and unlearned the toxic habit of stopping my run when I’d get bored - something I had done several times during earlier training runs. I learned the importance of staying consistent, listening to my body, focusing on my breath, landing and form, and how to ensure I conserve enough energy for a strong finish. Finish line photos are always my favourite, and I like to look confident in them, instead of half dead and exhausted. I want to feel like I truly enjoyed a run when I reach the finish line. I want to go back with a story of a run, that was run well and comfortably, instead of pushing myself unnecessarily, to the point where I feel completely drained at the end of it.
The arrangements by the organisers are excellent. There were sufficient hydration stations, and route markers were well laid out and prominent. The volunteers were active and handed out water bottles whenever I gestured towards them from several metres away. I thanked each of them as I grabbed onto the bottles every time - they deserve it.
In my view, Lovegrove junction at Worli and Peddar Road were the most vibrant in terms of crowd support. People were having a ball! It was fun to run amidst it all - the cheers, the music, the claps! My first marathon was a fantastic experience overall, and one that I’ll cherish always, especially since I also won a podium here! If you’re planning to run one soon, stay consistent, prepare yourself mentally, and do not ignore the rest days - they are incredibly important for muscle and mental recovery.
Mitsu has been an amateur runner since 2021, and has shifted focus to longer distances recently. She’s a yoga trainer primarily based in Mumbai, who has always loved outdoor adventures - Himalayan treks, sea and sky dives. With her new interest in running marathons, she hopes to better her timing in road races. She would love to dabble in trail running in the near future. She can be reached on Instagram @movewithmitsu