Monthly Archives: July 2015

2-hour Pacing Strategy for the Airtel Hyderabad (Half) Marathon 2015

Your 2-hour pacer for AHM 2015

Your 2-hour pacer for AHM 2015

Earlier this year I presented to you my 2-hour pacing strategy for the Standard Chartered Mumbai (Half) Marathon 2015. Now I’m happy to present to you the strategy that my star mentee, Shailja Singh Sridhar, will follow as an official 2-hour pacer for the Airtel Hyderabad (Half) Marathon on 30 August 2015. I wrote about her in a previous article and since that time she has only grown from strength to strength.

The terrain and weather conditions form the primary factors driving the difference between the race in Mumbai (January) and Hyderabad (August). In fact, both the median and mean times for the Hyderabad (half marathon) are about 10 minutes slower than the equivalent in Mumbai. This overall population difference statistic is for a variety of reasons, but the key point to note is that Hyderabad is generally a slower race.

Hyderabad Half Elevation Map - Click to Enlarge

Hyderabad Half Elevation Map – Click to Enlarge

Hyderabad Half Route Map - Click to Enlarge

Hyderabad Half Route Map – Click to Enlarge

The usual word on the street is “Hyderabad is tough, too many flyovers” and so the pacing plan I present here is based on the changing terrain – elevation up/flat/down segments. Running based on “effort” rather than “pace”, you will naturally slow down during the up slopes and have a faster pace during the down slopes. And, in the final few hundred metres, most 2-hour runners push their pace to the finish. I also present the desired splits for two types of runners (a) the “Average” runner with slightly positive splits (slightly faster first half) and (b) a “Strong” runner with slightly negative splits (slightly faster second half). You can decide how you want to run between these two types of runners. Even if you meander between them during the race, just make sure you start with, and finish with or before, both of them.

Use me! (click to enlarge and PRINT)

Use me! (click to enlarge and PRINT)

You can print out the graphic, cut it out, and make a wristband out of it.  Or you could write some of the key numbers onto your forearm with waterproof ink.

I advise you, whether pacer, race organizer, wannabe pacer or race runner to also read my article on the matter of pacing to better understand how to make the most of this useful facility that is now a part of most public distance-running races.

I wish you well for your days of tapering to race day. Have a safe and fun run in Hyderabad!

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Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.

Mumbai vs Delhi – A Race Time Model

Hey! There’s a simple question for you at the end of this, don’t forget to scroll down and click to let your voice be heard!

Mumbai vs Delhi – A Race Time Model

Indians who have lived in either or both of Delhi and Mumbai will at some point make a comparison between the two cities and you’ll know why they have a strong preference for one over the other. Even expats in India who have lived in one and visited the other will express fairly strong opinions about one or both cities.

As a recreational distance runner, I am well aware of the claims that are made about the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon being a “faster race” than the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon. Both are held in the winter, with Mumbai scheduled for the third Sunday of January, and Delhi some weeks before that. In my life as a hedge fund manager, what mattered was not just how well you performed but also why your performance was the way it was – how much was from your effort or skill, and how much was just luck! Your time in a race will be a function of many things on race day, some that are to do with you, others that are to do with various features of the race itself.

The Question
The question I set about to answer was “how much faster is Delhi than Mumbai?”. Internationally, there are rating factors, a single number between 0-100 (or between 0-1) that rate races based on a given set of factors. However, I preferred to dig for a deeper understanding of Delhi vs Mumbai, the two most popular races in India. Would you like to know how much slower (or, perhaps, faster!) you will be in Mumbai than in Delhi? And how does that vary based on whether you are a 1:30 half marathoner as opposed to a 2:30 half marathoner?

Data & Methodology
Ideally, to make a comparison, you would like the weather and the course for both races to be the same every year – they are not. You would also like the same runners to participate in both races with the same level of fitness and race motivation. Often your motivation for one race is to “push hard” for the other it is to “do an easy pace”.

So, practically, I identify runners who ran both races a few weeks apart and thus am able to work with differences in race time for the same runner in both races. By using multiple race years and thousands of runners I hope to iron out any statistical variations and glean some useful information from the data.

Looking at the 6 races in Delhi from 2009 to 2014 I could identify 5,525 individual runners (by name, gender and age category) who ran both Delhi and Mumbai in any given season. From these records, obvious outliers were removed, many of them because it was clear that they ran the half marathon in Delhi but the full marathon in Mumbai a few weeks later.

Race Specific Backgrounds to Bear in Mind
There are features of the races that are specific to the comparison.
Time of Year
The Delhi race is earlier in the primary racing season, which for the main and older races in India happen between the end of the Monsoons and culminate with the race in Mumbai. Of course, fortunately, there are races in India all through the year now but the premium races are bunched in the period between October and January.
Weather
Delhi is colder in Nov-Jan than Mumbai by a noticeable margin. (The “historical average low” in Delhi in November is about 8 degrees Celsius lower than that of Mumbai in January). It is also less humid in Delhi than in Mumbai for the most part. One notable exception is the year 2012 when the Delhi race date was, annoyingly for most runners, brought forward to September! I will tell you how this too impacts the answer.
Terrain
The race route for Delhi is ‘pretty much flat’ whereas Mumbai has 2 noticeable inclines (the Bandra-Worli Sea Link and Peddar Road). In both cities, the races are held on motorable roads.

Calculations
Because Delhi is reputed to be faster, what interests me is “what is the time difference (in seconds) between Delhi and Mumbai run a few weeks later?”. So, I define
TimeDiff = Delhi – Mumbai
using the race records of “net time”.

Thus, a negative value indicates that Delhi is faster than Mumbai.  A positive value tells us that Mumbai was actually run faster than Delhi.

Racing ahead
I shall tell you the details of what I did over many tens of hours (of programming, number crunching and analysis) when I present this research in a live presentation one day.  For now, what might interest you more are the primary findings. And, pictorially, this is what they look like.

Race Times in Delhi not always faster than Mumbai

Race Times in Delhi not always faster than Mumbai

There’s no single number
There is no single “Delhi is faster than Mumbai by X minutes” that paints a decent representation. In fact the slower runners in Delhi get faster by the time they race in Mumbai.

The relationship is far from linear
One might expect that, as we examine slower runners, the difference grows such that Mumbai (hotter, more humid and with inclines) becomes increasingly slower.  Not only do we find the converse to be true, but also that it is not linear. This general relationship is seen when bucketing the time differences by race time buckets. The effect can be easily explained by the fact that often (not always, but, in general) the slower runners are also newer runners or are the type that train to race only in the primary racing season. Thus, even as they peak towards the end of the racing season (ending with the race in Mumbai) their fitness levels improve and they actually run Mumbai faster than Delhi.

2012 – The dreaded Delhi Year
In case you had not noticed, I excluded the data for Delhi from 2012 because that is the year the race was held in September, in weather that was considerably hotter (by about 5 degrees Celsius) than Mumbai in January. The impact of that is evident in the race timings. Once you adjust for the difference in weather, Delhi looks less attractive than Mumbai to obtain a better race time. Also, for the typical runner there was even more time to improve between Sep-12 (Delhi) and Jan-13 (Mumbai). I suspect that the additional training time had a greater impact than the weather difference.

Adjusting for heat makes Delhi less special

Adjusting for heat makes Delhi less special

Racing to the finish – what might you conclude?
So, what might you conclude from this? Well, if you are an experienced runner, run Delhi to get your fastest time in India. If you are new to running, and train to race mainly in the Sep-Jan season, then Mumbai will not be particularly slower than Delhi. In fact, you might even race faster in Mumbai than in Delhi. In that case, unless you are a Delhi lover or live close to it, reduce your carbon footprint and race only in Mumbai.

So far, so good…so what?
All that I presented is what the data tells us.  But you are not a number! You can pay attention to detail and focus on your goals without labels, avoiding bottlenecks and working with discipline to get to that higher level you have never been at before. Never mind the debate between Delhi and Mumbai lovers!

And now, I’d like your (anonymous) opinion please?


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Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.

The Money is in the Detail

Hey! There’s a simple question for you at the end of this, don’t forget to scroll down and click to let your voice be heard!

The Money is in the Detail

The Money is in the Detail

I am often asked by others “how does one go about achieving an amazing XYZ?” For XYZ fill in whatever matters to you e.g. physique, investment returns, marathon race times, golf handicap, sales presentation. I started this blog series with one of my favourite topics, discipline, and today I would like to tell you a story based around one of the other components necessary for success.

The World of Numbers

The Money is in the Detail

The Money is in the Detail

In a parallel life as a quant trader in financial markets, a few years ago, I headed a team of super bright graduates in Mumbai from various Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) disciplines. One of the automated computer driven trading strategies we decided to build was, we were told, “traded for many years” since the inception of the equity derivatives market in India. The jargon “PD trading” (price discovery) was well known to traders in that market – trading in the last half hour, on the single day each month that equity futures contracts expired and would be settled for cash. “It’s a crowded space, you won’t achieve anything special” we were told.

Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail
Having placed the responsibility for supervising the details of the system construction to the most senior of my IIT boffins I stepped back until the day we tested it live in the markets for the first time.  On the first day of trading we waited for the result – a sizable loss! This was not meant to happen! With probably the smartest guys in the Indian financial markets working with an experienced trader from their alma mater supervising them, what could go wrong? The answer, quite simply, was attention to detail, or lack thereof.

Succeeding in Preparation is Preparing for Success
I then took upon myself the responsibility for the detailed examination and redevelopment of every part of the system.  Being of the mindset that it is better to train and test yet another 1000 extra simulations and improve performance than lose even $100, our system for trading was up and ready to attack the electronic market  place again within a few weeks. The details of what the system did cannot be explained here but it would be fair to say that just about every detail that could be improved was given thought to.

From the first time we went live again, every day that we turned on that system it traded smoothly, making us profits each and every time! Even today, years later, the system continues to be successful in generating almost riskless profits.

Attention to detail will affect the quality of success

Attention to detail will affect the quality of success

So, What’s so Special?
So, why am I telling you this story? What is instructive to note is not that a pure money making machine sits in an air-conditioned server room in Mumbai, but that (a) not a single other trader in the world was actually doing what we were doing because we know that (b) our rate of success of capturing every observable trading opportunity was close to 100% (with actions monitored in microsecond detail). Sure, traders were making money during that half hour period, but it was not from trading “expectations arbitrage” opportunities like they claimed. Instead they were all jumping on the same bandwagon (mostly what might be called “momentum trading”) and copying each other. All of them just doing slightly different versions of an altogether different (I hesitate to say“wrong”) trade idea. We, on the other hand, continued to make our probability of, and payout from, success higher in every successive month by paying greater and greater attention to detail.

What does this mean for you?
How does this relate to you? Whenever you take up a new goal or sub-goal, there’s always a better way to get there. Even when you think you’ve got the hang of things, there’s at least one better way to do it. The money is in the detail… it’s up to you to make the effort to seek it.

Details matter everywhere

Details matter everywhere

Running Parallel
In a parallel world where I enjoy distance running, every year I might race just once or twice, but each race is carefully thought through and the training is specific to a narrow target band for race day. Every component that drives success is paid close attention to. The race might be almost a year away, with training involving thousands of miles run, but the daily process involves no lack of attention to detail. Whether it be workouts, nutrition, rest and recovery, each component that could increase the probability of success is paid attention to.

Attention to detail helps you converge towards success

Attention to detail helps you converge towards success

Other Parallels
And so it could be with every aspect of life that is important to you. When something is not particularly important for the happiness of your soul, perhaps it does not matter.  But there are always a couple of things that are close to your heart, and they need not be about sports or career goals.

Set your goal, pay attention to detail, execute with discipline

Set your goal, pay attention to detail, execute with discipline

How about ensuring that your children speak their non-English mother tongue and father tongue? What thoughts and simple actions could make them fluently multilingual in the language of their ethnic roots with negligible effort? How about losing weight? What are the extremely simple things that you could do to reduce your body fat % to athletic levels?

And what happens if you do not pay attention to detail? Well, have you noticed how some recreational runners clock endless miles and make some improvement to their health but never quite look kick ass? Almost always, they are not paying close enough attention to the relevant detail.

It could be anything that you decide you want to excel at relative to what you have been used to. Once your decision is made, your success is just about having the discipline to think through the detail and then executing flawlessly.  Success is your birth right.  The money is in the detail!

And now, I’d like your (anonymous) opinion please?


cropped-screenshot293-001.jpg

Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.