Monthly Archives: August 2016

Learning from the IDBI Mumbai 2016 Race Event

Learning from the IDBI Mumbai 2016

The IDBI Federal Life Insurance Mumbai Race had its first edition on 21 August 2016. What are some of the things that we can learn from it as pacers, race runners, organizers or coaches?

Learning from – The Route

Two days before the race I chatted with you to provide a few tips specific for this race day. It seems like there was indeed some (fortunately, only minor) confusion in stages where the 5-km, 10-km and 21-km routes overlapped. Hopefully that did not cause any problems for your pace.

Although some of you who ran the half marathon version have reported that you found the distance measure was slightly short of 21.1 km, my analysis from various independent GPS devices suggests that the distance was correctly measured within an acceptable range. Please be aware that if your GPS device has a sampling frequency that is not very high then you will typically get a distance reading that is biased to be shorter than what you actually ran. Also, be aware that running the shortest distance between any pair of the 20+ twists and turns will lead to a shorter measure than the official measurement device which has been used for internationally approved races. That device is specifically used with the protocol of traversing a path in the middle of the road-route, not the shortest distance between two turns.

Learning from – The Weather

The weather was not a surprise to us. My own rudimentary forecast was almost bang on target. The temperature and humidity were both as I expected. Also, there was some drizzle which is always nice. And, the wind was less forceful than than my forecast and also gentler than in the mornings leading up to the race. In summary, the weather was, at best, a small positive surprise!

Learning from – The Pacing

I have already reported on the failure of pacers at this race. This aspect definitely needs to change in race events. Western businesses often complain about Indians’ approach to winning projects – reassurances of “yes, we can do that” – followed by under-delivery!  Let’s root out such repeated failures! Whether you are a race organizer, a pacer, a wannabe pacer, or someone who is selecting a pacer for help in their next race, you would be well advised to read my guide on it.

Learning from – The Post-Race Breakfast

I do not have much to comment about the post-race nutrition – I rarely find that it is what I want to eat after a tough race. Because everyone has different preferences, when I suspect that what is offered will bother me, I ensure that I arrange for my own post-race food and drink.

Learning from – Expectation v Actual

IDBI Mumbai 2016 – Performance – Actual v Expected

I asked, and many of you responded (thank you for that) about your own performance versus target. Given that the weather conditions were not different from expected, in fact less headwind where we might have had some (“between the 17-19km markers”), my guidance is the following. Think back to each and every step of your process for setting up the expectation that you had for your target. In parallel, read what I said a few weeks ago about process for performance. Going through this exercise is likely to generate a more accurate ex ante forecast of your next race finish time. Not necessarily because you might be faster, but because you will understand your own ability more accurately.

Mat Placement Error for the Half Marathon

Click to enlarge

I happened to come across the following error about the race organization. On scouring the GPS records of my mentees who ran the race, compared with the official timing records, I noticed that the official 16.0 km timing mat was not at the 16.0 km point – it was actually placed a significantly further distance down the route. I do not have any reason to think that this error is directly related to the wrong placement of Km markers on the official route map, that I mentioned in my pre-race guide, but you never know! So, why do I think that the mat was in the wrong place, and where exactly was it? Here are my answers to these two questions.

Why do I think the 16.0 km mat was in the wrong place?

Wrong mat distance suggests wrong pace

If you pick anyone who ran the race without any “odd or unusual” pattern you will notice that their ‘average pace’ up to the 16.0 km mat according to the official distance/time splits was unusually slower compared with the ‘average pace’ up to the 12.1 km mat. Now, all that would be fine, except that the ‘average pace’ up to the 21.1 km (finish) mat is then faster again. This will strike you as slightly unusual, and prompt you to ask a question like “ah, but maybe the person actually ran really slowly between 12.1 km and 16.0 km and then ran much faster between the 16.0 km and 21.1 km mark?”  However, that argument falls apart when you calculate that the pace the recreational runner would have to run the last 5.1 km is significantly faster than what they ran in the earlier parts of the race, when in fact they had been gradually slowing down from the very start (as recreational runners typically do!).

So where was the 16.0 km mat actually placed?

Highly likely that the 16.0km mat was at 16.75km

Highly likely that the 16.0km mat was at 16.75km

It is 30 elite and 2,213 non-elite half marathoners for whom there exist valid readings across all the 8 timing mats (km = 0, 3, 5.7, 9.1, 10.4, 12.1, 16.0, 21.1). Taking all their mat timings and building a few linear and non-linear models I concluded that the 16.0 km mat was actually placed at the 16.75 km mark. This is clearly a glaring error, not a small one! Perhaps you do not need to look at the official splits because you (a) are not interested in your performance details (b) have your own GPS device readings (c) don’t see what the big deal is. After all most racers do not bother to do an ex post quantitative analysis of their race. However, my more serious question is, what went wrong with the race organization process and the (non-existent?) checks that should be in place?

Concluding Remarks

Each of us individually has to focus on what we can do, as well as we can do it, and in every aspect of our personal and professional lives. We are happy to pay the equivalent of a household maid’s weekly wages for a single Sunday morning run.  We expect fairly high performance from our domestic helpers. How often do we stop and ask ourselves if we get that from others, especially organizations, that we are paying for a service or product?

Let us work together to make all races across the country, not just the next edition of the IDBI Mumbai, a more successful event at the individual and organizational level.

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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.

Reporting on Pacing Failures at the IDBI 2016

Start…                          Middle…                          Finish!

Don’t shoot the messenger

Last month I ran and won my main race of the year, the BNP Endurathon 25.0, a 25km race with some pretty tough hills in muggy conditions. I did not stick to a pacing strategy because my goal there was to win along with only a soft pace target – I had a racing strategy. But let’s not care about my podium finish. When my goal is specifically to pace others in a race, it is no longer competitive strategy and game-theory that I employ – after all the mandate is to hit an acceptable time band for crossing the finish line. Come hell or high water! The race strategy is then simply a pacing strategy

to run the route at an appropriate pace at each of the many stages of the entire distance to ensure that the typical person who has trained appropriately crosses the finish line ahead of the target time”

So, to go too fast at times might lose certain participants, and to go too slow at specific stages of the race might force others to drop back later when the pace is increased too much in order to catch up. The money is in the detail and success is in the process. It was in that vein that I also created these free gifts for you, specifically for that race.

I should tell you that I do not like this part of my ‘self-inflicted job’ – being the messenger to you about pacing failures at races. After all, many of the pacers are my friends! The IDBI (Mumbai) 2016 of last Sunday was no different.

Previous Reports

I reported on the Failure of Pacers at the SCMM-2016 earlier this year, and about the Pacing Failures at the SCMM 2015 a year prior to that. For some background, my most widely read guide on being a pacer or choosing a pacer is worth going through if you haven’t already.

It is true that most people do not use a pacer, but whether you use one or not, you might like to see that the quality of pacers is not sub-standard, as that sets the tone for other things at the event too then!

The IDBI-2016 10km Race Pacers Report – Shocking Failure Rates!

IDBI-2016 10km Pacer Race Times

Of course this categorization of what is success and failure is my own, based on what I think a recreational runner doing a 10km race would find acceptable when targeting a finish time in the range 50-minutes to 90-minutes. Going slower than the finish time is definitely unacceptable, but you might argue that going faster than 1-min-15-sec is not too bad. However, I believe that someone struggling to complete his race in, say, 70-minutes, would find it incredibly difficult if pushed to a time faster than 68-min 45-sec. As a pacer, if you go inappropriately fast, you will lose runners who will drop back and then never catch up with their goal pace. A strategy with built-in dynamic balance is key. In any case, even if you were to relax the conditions, the failure rate is shocking! The actual times are also listed in the table for you to make your own judgement of pass/fail. I am just the messenger.

What I would like to point out is that I do not even think that a ‘yaay!’ is necessarily success if the pacer simply ran too fast for most of the distance and then slowed down deliberately close to the finish line to avoid being documented as a failure.

The IDBI-2016 Half Marathon Race Pacers Report – Shocking Failure Rates!

IDBI-2016 Half Marathon Pacer Race Times

The acceptable band, like in previous reports, starts 2-min 30-sec before the target time. For longer distances such as a full marathon, I have the same width of acceptance. As you can see from the table, the failure rate is shocking!

Why this report update?

Most mass participation sporting events are about combining physical fitness with entertainment. In India with all its frustrations of corruption in so many walks of life, we often look at recreational running as a way to get away from things that we often seem to have little control over, towards something that we can have some control over that also leads to a better physical existence. So, when we race towards a time target with a pacer, we expect that promises will not be broken, just like that of politicians. We expect that we won’t get failure, just like that of electricity supply. We hope that we won’t fall short of our target like we might fall short of water in our homes. 7 pacers out of 12 failing to achieve their promised target for the half marathon is shocking!

It’s great that so many entities are able to use the financial profits from such events as an incentive to create and conduct these events. As customers of such service providers, we would like to get value for money in terms of the experience – often we don’t. In the same vein, it’s always good to report on the standards of pacers. I decided to report on this aspect of the IDBI 2016 race because it is the main competitor in the race calendar for what has been my “home city’s race”, the SCMM held in January each year.

Questions to be answered

I have many friends among both the lists above and I hope that those who didn’t finish successfully will not take this report personally. I am sure they already feel quite rotten about what transpired. Perhaps they will step back and think about their performance objectively. In the cases where the same pacer has failed in a previous race, perhaps we should ask the race organizers “why was that person selected again to be a pacer?” What are we doing about Process for Performance?

I have told you why you need not run to be fit. But if you are going to run, and if you are going to race, and have been promised a pacer, you deserve a successful pacer. I’m just saying…

Don’t shoot the messenger!

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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.

AHM-2016 – Free Gifts

Free Gifts for Your AHM-2016 Target

Quick Background
If you are running the Airtel Hyderabad Half Marathon on Sunday 28th August 2016, I have some wonderful free gifts for you below. If you have not read about the background behind the creation of these gifts for you, you should definitely read more about them here. The actual gifts and instructions-for-use are below.

My Dream Wish – Your Gift
I have a short fun video to show you how to use the bands. The links to your free bands are below, just scroll down to pick the one that’s right for you…

Instruction Video for your Band (93 seconds)


Your Half Marathon Bands – CLICK on as many as you wish – it’s your choice

Choose PINK or WHITE

Look Good, Run Well

1:39 (white)
1:44 (white)
1:49 (white)
1:54 (white)
1:57 (white)
1:59 (white)
2:04 (white)
2:06 (blue)
2:09 (white)
2:14 (white)
2:19 (white)
2:24 (white)
2:29 (white)
2:34 (white)
2:39 (white)
2:44 (white)
2:49 (white)

Disclaimer for other races
A word of caution to remember –  these bands have been calibrated specifically for the AHM-2016 route and elevation profile. Although they might (approximately) work for other races of similar distance, they will not be ideal and you might find yourself being ahead or behind of the band at certain points of that other race.

Click, Print, Cut, Wear… Pose… and Run!

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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.

Pre-Race Wisdom for the IDBI-2016 Race

IDBI 2016 – route maps

On Your Marks, Get Ready… Go!

Whether it is the 5km, 10km or the half-marathon you are running at the IDBI-2016 here are some superb last-day tips for you. Before I begin, I would like to remind you that if you are running the half-marathon tomorrow I hope you will have selected your free pacing band for the target times of your choice that I spoke about here. Print, laminate, cut, wear, pose and run! The video is here.

For many of you this might be your first race, for others it might be just another one added to a growing list. For some it might be about taking in the wonderful sights, for others it might be about obtaining a PB (personal best) and, for yet others, it might be about pacing a friend to help them achieve their PB. You might be from Mumbai or from out-of-town but here are some tips especially for you.

Puru enjoyed the sites at the promo event

Puru enjoyed the sites at the promo event

These are some final thoughts from me to you about this race:

  • I went to what was a launch event run on 17th April 2016 to motivate others to run tomorrow. That was well organized so I hope the main race tomorrow is too. There were only a few hundred runners that day, and there are like to be about 20 times as many participants tomorrow, so please pray that there won’t be any hiccups but do allow for glitches and try to not let them affect your mood
  • If you are from out of town and used to running in Mumbai only during the SCMM in January, then here’s some sobering comparison with the SCMM:
    • The temperature is likely to be about 6-degrees Celsius higher than during the typical SCMM race in January
    • The humidity is likely to be about 83% rather than 55% of the typical SCMM race in January
    • The winds are likely to be more like 20kmph rather than the gentle 3kmph you would have faced during a typical January SCMM
    • As there is an 80% chance of rain, beware that your shoes, socks and everything else will get heavier, and that will slow you down
    • Be aware also, that if it rains, there are likely to be more participants who will be running for fun, and so you will need to keep your cool if you are trying to overtake and they don’t give you way as efficiently as you think they could
  • On the other hand, compared with the SCMM:
    • You won’t have the elevation of Peddar Road to deal with and
    • You won’t have the elevation of the Sea-Link (twice in 2016) to deal with
  • If you are running the (10km or the) half-marathon, you are going to face the monsoon winds on Marine Drive. This is likely to help you (but you won’t be able to tell) between the 13-15km markers. However, these winds are highly likely to be a noticeable struggle to deal with between the 17-19km markers (just when you don’t want to face more struggle!)
  • Life is full of twists and turns. The half-marathon has 21 turns of which 7 are pretty much like U-turns. If you are focusing on a blistering pace, this is something to be aware of. I won second place in a half-marathon last October with almost 60 turns so I know it’s not a lot of fun. But that’s not why I told you, soon after that race, why you need not run!
  • Because the overlaps in routes between the 5km, 10km and half-marathon are significant, and we don’t know how diligent the stewards will be, please memorize the route yourself. Empower yourself because race stewards pose two risks:
    • If you are fast and ahead of the pack, you might get sent the wrong way (I’ve won a race because I memorized a route in another city and my primary competitor, who was from that city and noticeably faster, was sent the wrong way).
    • Race stewards are known to get bored after a while and the very runners who need our help (the stragglers who are in need of motivation) get confusing (or no) signals from stewards – I pointed this out when I told you why I don’t care much about your podium finish
  • When memorizing the route, please note that the official route map does not have the distance markers in precise locations on the graphic (notice, for instance, the oddly short 1km between 17km and 18km) but we can pray that the actual kilometer markers on the route will be appropriately placed (and that they sync beautifully with your GPS device)

What next?
The usual… Rest your legs well, sleep on time, and eat/drink sensibly today. Remember what I said about process for performance barely 10 days ago? Give that more thought too! Enjoy the day and have a wonderful experience.

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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.

IDBI-2016 – Free Gifts

Free Gifts for Your IDBI Target

My Dream Wish – Your Gift

If you are running the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Mumbai Half Marathon 2016 (IDBI-2016)  on 21-Aug-2016, I have a special gift for you – so, if in a rush, keep reading for just another 25 seconds (or, if super impatient, jump straight to the gift)!

For a few years of the SCMM, as a 2-hour pacer, I’ve had many of you achieve your personal best or first sub-2 in the half. I also told you in an earlier conversation why I do not really care about a podium finish (yours or mine) and how we all ought to focus on helping other runners. So, in X-thousand parallel universes, given my running ability, and attention to technical detail, I would have loved to pace 99% of you individually to your target finish times at the IDBI-2016 race! Getting back to ground reality, things can be almost as wonderful with the next best gift I have for you…

Specifically designed for the IDBI 2016 Course
Pacer Bands for the Half Marathon

You could click on the link above and jump straight to the gift and instruction video. If you would love to equip yourself with some more background and to know what makes these special, you could continue to the end of this short chat.

Why a GPS watch won’t solve all your pacing problems
If you have a simple stopwatch, and wondered if you are missing out relative to a GPS sports watch in a race, there’s no need to be especially envious. Although a GPS sports watch will tell you where you are and when, it will not easily tell you when you need to be at every kilometer of a specific route with its idiosyncratic elevation profile. Unless you have done all the calculations yourself and are carrying the results with you, you are more likely to either do some guesswork or remember just a few benchmark numbers. Moreover, you will not have a Km by Km guide of where you should be when, for achieving your target time, on that particular course, and for your own ability. That explains the need for human pacers and the inanimate pacer bands.

Human Pacers
I spoke to you earlier about the benefits of, and how to choose a pacer. Having said that, I also checked with you via an earlier poll regarding last year’s SCMM (2015) edition and found, not surprisingly that, in fact, less than 20% of you actually “ran with an official pacer and (were) satisfied”. Many of you were not satisfied with your pacer experience. In fact, 73% of you “did not run with a pacer at all”. One of the reasons would have been that the pacers are not synchronized in their distribution across the finish target range despite my having recommended this in the past. It is also not unlikely that the pacer you run with will fail to do the job as I highlighted in my report on SCMM-2015 pacers and then again on SCMM-2016 pacers! So then, might we be better off using inanimate wrist pacer bands?

Pacer Bands
Unfortunately, the typical pacer bands you get as freebies have a host of drawbacks:
– they have an implicit assumption that your course is flat
– and that even for a flat course your pace per km will be constant
– worse still, many of the ones you get handed at expos are illegible even when you are stationary in daylight
For these reasons and more, there’s unnecessary plastic and rubber wasted (let’s stop that everywhere please!) for something of limited realistic practical value. Use Puru’s pacer bands instead.

Puru’s Pacer Bands

PuruTheGuru's Race Distance-Time-Pace Model

PuruTheGuru’s Race Distance-Time-Pace Model

A lot of thought and action has gone into getting you these free gifts for your race success:
– they are calibrated for the specific route of the IDBI-2016 race
– they account for the fact that as your target race time changes, your pace profile on the course also changes…
– so that the slower runners need more allowance for warming up in the initial stage of the race…
– whereas the fastest runners often bolt out from the start line to create a gap between themselves and others
– although we have might have an uphill where we slow down, we have a corresponding downhill where we go faster
– the downhill does not quite make up for the loss of time on the uphill
– the differential between uphill (slowdown) and downhill (speedup) varies across the running abilities
– in the final stages of the race, slower runners usually slow down further, especially for the full marathon, whereas the fastest runners have a strong finish, faster than their average pace
– all things remaining equal, even on a flat course, there is an underling trend to go slower as each km goes by
– this trend might be tiny for the fastest runners, but noticeable for the slowest ones

What next?
Simple! Just go to the bands and strips… print, cut, wear, pose and run!

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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.

Process for Performance

Let us focus on Process

Let us focus on Process

Physicist and Performance

While chatting with a physicist who reads my varied conversations with you, he asked me about my interest and focus on distance running in the general population. I clarified without hesitation that my interest is not in running as much as it is in performance. Whether as a consultant to organisations, a wellness mentor to individuals globally, or a performance coach for business leaders, my focus is on improvement. Running just happens to be one area of technical expertise within that. (To the extent that I even tell you why you need not run!)

When we speak about performance our focus often, quite naturally, goes to the headline number. Who won Wimbledon and in how many sets? What was the new world record set for the butterfly stroke in the Rio Olympics on day 1? How many goals has Cristiano Ronaldo scored? Unfortunately, our expressions of awe at the superhuman outcomes are rarely followed by useful questioning about process. My own interest is almost never in these outcome (I have no clue about the answers to any of the questions above) but, instead, very much in the process that one might follow to achieve them.

Never Mind the Olympics

Unless you are in Rio at the moment, you are probably not very different from the lady you walked past on the street outside. But you too are probably looking to excel at one or more things in your life. And, this could be anything, earth-shattering or trivial – embroidery, cancer-research, tennis, baking, swimming, teaching or dancing the salsa! And, if you remember from when I talked about why I don’t care much about your podium finish, it doesn’t really matter if that lady you crossed on the street is better at that than you are. What matters is if you are performing as close to your potential as you could. I appreciate that that might not be the only thing you have in life to focus on. There are the many constraints of daily life like putting bread on the table, or literally baking bread for the family table! So, how good is your performance given those constraints? Could you be performing better? As I have said before, what matters is the detail. Have you thought through the processes you are following and could you be doing things differently? Could you be doing them better?

Am I lost or am I even following some defined process in the first place?

Am I lost or am I even following some defined process in the first place?

What Could Better Performance Mean for You?

Time = Money = Time

Time = Money = Time

Whether it is Warren Buffet or that lady you walked past, time is money. Given that you probably want to enjoy your waking hours, and I’m assuming you are sleeping well every night, what changes could you make to the many processes or sub-processes you follow that might be improved on, so that you could:
(a) get the same result in less time?
(b) get a better result in the same time?
c) get a better result in less time?
(d) get a better result in less time and save money?
More importantly, how often do you even ask yourself these questions? In other words…
    …how often do you question whether you are questioning your processes?

Are You Missing Out?

If you are not asking yourself these questions about most of the things you do in your daily life, you are probably missing out on a lot in life. How so? For a start, if you had more time, you could spend it doing more things or more enjoyable things – sleep, for example! If you improved your performance that would bring intrinsic satisfaction and perhaps more money too!  And, saving money, well, that’s like saving time!

What Could You Do Next?

So, can you give up 10 minutes of TV time today, or invest some of that time spent watching the Olympics, on this style of questioning? Then use that time today asking yourself questions related to the processes you follow and whether they could be made better. (Hint: the answer is almost always “yes”!) Ask yourself, “is this really getting me closer to my goal efficiently?” (Hint: the answer is often “no”!) Then ask yourself, “how would someone who is doing really well at this be doing things differently from how I am?” (Tip: there’s almost always something you will think of!). For instance, even simply mastering the pushup, or improving the long-term impact of making smart decisions regarding food can be mastered if we focus on improving the processes we follow for them.

You might be thinking, “hey, I’m happy with life, I don’t think I really want to struggle to improve anything” and if that is really you, great! But if you think you do want to do better at one or more things in your life, then, believe me, you can! Never mind the performance of Olympians, focus on your own processes to be a winner!

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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.