Reporting on Pacing Failures at the SCMM 2017

The FunRunParty Bus
The FunRunParty Bus

The Messenger is Back
Ever since my “Being a Pacer, Choosing a Pacer – A Guide” I have published a table once a year after the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) on the performance of official pacers selected to set the pace for other recreational runners for various target times.

The reason for my tabulated updates after the race are outlined in the 2016 report and some lessons from pacer failures are outlined in the 2015 report.

Last Sunday, it felt great to be greeted throughout the race morning of the 2017 edition by runners who had used my freely available pacing bands. Even the tiny proportion of runners who decided to race with a pacer would have done well to use one of my pacing bands. For the SCMM, they were first released in 2016, and then republished in 2017. To see why I think they are calibrated brilliantly read this.

This Time you may Shoot the Messenger

Lights, Music, Dance, Colour
Lights, Music, Dance, Colour

A whopping 184 runners pre-registered their interest to make history and run on my FunRunParty 2-hour Bus and many others joined along the way. The goal was to party along the entire route and, as promised, we had lights, music, dance and other action.  Wine, however, was not served – nor was beer! Save a few grumblers, everyone who was part of it had a wonderful experience… so, success was achieved at least on the ‘fun party’ dimension!

Shockingly enough I did not realize until I crossed the finish mat that I had missed my own strict deadline requirement by 32 seconds! Abominable and unforgivable! So, this time around, we can shoot the messenger! Not that one should have any excuse, but I did encourage everyone on my bus to wear the pacing band for their own target times, and I joked that those who were targeting 1:59:00 were to keep me on track. (It’s not the easiest thing to watch both wrists in crowds when carrying a very large flag while running at 10.6228 km/h. Excuses shex-queue-zes… Stop it Puru!!)


OK, so here are the results in two separate tables for the half marathon and the full marathon.

Half Marathon

SCMM 2017 – Half Marathon – Pacer Performance

Full Marathon

SCMM 2017 – Full Marathon – Pacer Performance

Why are things still going wrong?
To continue to have half the pacers in the full marathon failing again this year is not a joking matter! The half marathon had significantly more failures than last year and the year before that– again not something to take lightly!
In terms of process, there continue to be odd things happening in the race times of the pacers listed. Just to cite a couple of examples and I am sure there are more:
Example 1: One of the 3-hour pacers for the half marathon was announced to have dropped out of the event because of a prior injury but his race time shows up as 2:17:33.
Example 2: Prior to the event I received communication from puzzled runners about the 3:45 pacer for the full marathon whose prior best time with the SCMM was 4:06:34. To give him the benefit of your doubt, which would have been formed based on what was advertised, perhaps he had indeed trained enough to achieve 3:45. However, those who decided to not run with him based on public information would have felt vindicated after he finished in 4:09:03.

So, What Next?
Presenting this table each year seems to not affect the outcome in the next year. But, it is still worth my doing so for the running community. On the bright side, do look out for more interesting articles from me based on this specific race in the weeks ahead that might be more relevant to your training as well as race experience.

Wait for the messenger!


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.


  1. Hi Puru, the 4:30 pacer Ashok ER was bib 1280 and finished in 4:28:25. I was with him for a large part of the race. You might want to make an edit. Thank you for your insights buddy. Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have read your previous blog on same topic too and have seen pacer failing and still running with flags. I have already decided not to follow any pacers in any race so going good:-). Bt just curious about international standard. Are they more matured? What is the scene there?


    • Thanks for your comment and question Archana.
      When I polled all the readers almost 2 years ago it turned out that not many people use a pacer. So, it’s one of those ‘add-ons’ to an event. It helps a few… that’s it… not a really big thing.
      For races where you can calibrate each kilometer split based on elevation profile, target time and your ability – creating your own pacing band makes more sense.
      As for what happens abroad, I do not know, but anecdotal evidence suggests that failure is a rare thing!
      I also do not care about what happens abroad… India needs to set and follow its own high standards, I’m sure you’ll agree.


  3. What is the HM failure rates in other “respectable runs ” ? What is an acceptable failure rate ?
    I am a Pulmonologist involved in critical care and interventional pupmonology and we know things can go wrong . With anyone . Any time .
    Not justifying my failure at all , but didn’t keep 2 mins in store for a fall . & if I had kept that time for the unpredictable I would have had to outrun the group only to make everyone holier the wall .
    Consistently attempting to do better is the goal . Always .
    Puru I am the 2:30 pacer who shouted out to you and made my whole bus cheer to you .
    Running is sublime form of rejuvenation and a goal achieving exercise to one and all . I look at it that way . I shall pace ( if allowed ) & god forbid may fail again . But the efforts to strive for perfection wouldn’t cease .


    • Dear Kumar

      Thanks for cheering for us as we ran past. Hopefully our music also rejuvenated your bus passengers.
      I appreciate your comments and feedback and it is great to know that you strive for perfection.
      Did you trip and fall? That was unfortunate… it’s not unlikely that that might have slowed you down… Having said that…
      …as a pacer one must NOT allow for a trip/fall in the kilometer splits but if one DOES fall, it’s best to shout “carry on guys” and then catch up as soon as you can (perhaps in 10-30 seconds) so that on a Km-by-Km basis there is no time lost.
      I always have a strict instruction to my bus passengers to keep a safe distance from me. If during the run, someone who joins the bus mid-race comes close to me I am not shy about barking out a warning “150 men/women will eat you for breakfast if I fall”

      Good luck with the pulmonary intervention procedures and with the race pacing processes!

      See you on the road soon!




      • Of course I asked guys to carry on and many did meet me at the finishing line to thank me achieve their target . That’s exactly what’s pacing for .
        Anything to do with the physiological processes of the body cannot be trivialised to processes of mathematics but yet it can be done and that’s fantastic ! But failures would happen ! & that’s the beauty of the human body .

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I get immensely benefitted by your analysis so please continue to do it, regardless of whether scmm organizers take advantage of it or not! Another screw up which is missing here is their pace through out the half or full marathon. Most of the full marathon pacers run way fast earlier and walk at the end! Many half marathon pacers sprint at the end to cover (including you this time), that’s another screw up! Their pace is not consistent!


  5. Puru, I think you did a fantastic job. Yes as per the pacing standards set, its a failure as you missed out on the target time and many others who were hovering around also missed if they were completely dependent on you to cross along with you over the line. Even if you did ask some of them to move on about a km or two to the finish, only the ones who could manage a good negative split or had it in their legs to eke out a good part of a minute would be able to do that. Possibly one big reason for you to miss was the late start where in you wanted to accommodate more fun-run-party guys, which resulted in a sort of constricted pace due to overcrowding in the first 1/3rd. I also feel the split’s / Mats seem to indicate that the distances mentioned in timing technologies at intermediate points are not accurate. Almost all, including the best of runners seem to have lost few sec/km w.r.t their avg pace at the progressive split points. Reasons apart, for me three factors which failed me are my own level of fitness coming to the race, warm weather and late start / crowding at the start point. I am curious to know how many of us who registered for the bus did meet their targets and hope to see some report from you on that soon. Again, a fantastic experience and we will beat it next time! … Regards, Sreenath


    • Dear Sreenath

      Thank you for making time to formulate your thoughts and writing.

      I shall investigate… might get back to you on that…

      Quite a few of the runners, including female runners were able to keep up with me through the crowds (in theory, I ought to have had the toughest time but managed to get through without a problem).
      Until I come up with the numbers to prove it, a very rough intuition to prove (in a ‘hand waving’ sense) that the late start would not have caused a problem is that we did continue to overtake runners for the entire duration of the race. If we had to overtake only for 10 minutes and then found it free to run, that would be guidance enough that a late start does perhaps hinder.

      Pushing Runners:
      The runners who could not push ahead when I asked them to (actually I cheered on all runners, bus passengers or not, when there was about 1.5km to go) perhaps did not have enough steam in them to do so.
      But… in the end, I think, a lot of people who didn’t think this race was the be all and end all of their running year, had a wonderful experience like you did.

      Thank you again.



  6. Hi Puru,
    Am from Delhi. Heard a lot about the SCMM and now TMM. Got myself registered this time. Do we have a route profiling -something like the where is the gradient, where is the track flat etc…
    Thanks and Regards



    • Dear Kaushik

      The route for the Mumbai Marathon 2018 is likely to be the same as in 2017. So, you could check with any friends who ran it in 2017 and have their GPS records available for you.

      The official route announcement for 2018 will probably be out by the end of this month.

      Good luck!



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