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
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
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
Excellent analysis Puru. Though I didn’t run in this race, I would like to see similar analysis done for Hyderabad marathon also especially the mat points. Many people (including me) have complains that HM KM markers were not placed correctly though overall distance was accurate. This lead to some runner missing their target like sub 100, sub 120 by few seconds to a minute. We prepare so much for the D-day and want to ensure that organizers provide the service we expect.
Very well explained