Reporting on Pacing Failures at the Mumbai Marathon 2020

Sher-e-Punjab cum Bengal Tiger



The Messenger is Back
Links to Previous Reports
The Punjabi Party Bus
Don’t Shoot the Messenger
    Half Marathon
    Full Marathon
Have Things Gotten Better or Worse?
Improving Pacer Coordination
Race Organization Complaints
So, What Next?


The Messenger is Back [top]

shared interests beyond running

Ever since my “Being a Pacer, Choosing a Pacer – A Guide” I have published a table once a year after the Mumbai Marathon 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.

Here are links to all the previous reports on Pacer Failures:
Mumbai Marathon 2015
Mumbai Marathon 2016
Mumbai Marathon 2017
Mumbai Marathon 2018
Mumbai Marathon 2019

Today I present you my report for 2020.

The previous Sunday, 19th January, it felt great to be greeted throughout the race morning of the 2020 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 Mumbai Marathon, they were first released in 2016republished in 2017, and then for 2018, for 2019 and again for 2020. To see why I think they are calibrated brilliantly read this.


The Punjabi Party Bus [top]

The theme for this year’s pacing was “The Punjabi Party Bus“. The message is fairly simple:

You don’t have to be Punjabi to enjoy life. Even a grueling race can be a source of great joy and satisfaction!

Almost 90 runners pre-registered their interest to make history and run on my FunRunParty 2-hour Bus and many others joined along the way. [You can watch the promo PostPreview film based on the 2017 run.] 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! Everyone who was part of it had a wonderful experience… so, success was achieved on the ‘fun party’ dimension! And, our bus finished bang on target time!


Don’t Shoot the Messenger [top]

I present the numbers in this report. It is done without emotion or bias. Without political affiliation! The only agenda of sorts is to see improvement in the process as we move towards perfection in process performance.



Here are the results in three separate tables for the 10Km, half marathon and the full marathon.

10Km [top]

Mumbai Marathon 2020 – 10km Race – Failure of Pacers


Half Marathon [top]

Mumbai Marathon 2020 – Half Marathon – Failure of Pacers


Full Marathon [top]

Mumbai Marathon 2020 – Full Marathon – Failure of Pacers


Have Things Got Better or Worse? [top]

Your pacer should have your back

It appeared last year (2019) that, being more stringent in the selection of pacers for the full-marathon, had paid off dividends with fewer failures than in 2018. This year (2020) the full-marathon had an even smaller failure rate – the smallest failure rate so far!

For the half-marathon, the failure rate is much smaller than in previous years.

I know a couple of the runners who failed in their pacing job that day. They’re dedicated human beings and I know they must feel awful to have missed their target by a small amount. However, I hope they have also learned valuable life lessons from it.

Although we had failures this year across all 3 categories, when there really should be none, it warms my heart to see such improvements finally. I hope that the trend continues so that next year there are zero failures.

Improving Pacer Coordination [top]

Two simple improvement areas:

A) For a given target time where there are 2 (or more) pacers, it would be good to see the pair of pacers for that target time spread themselves out through the running crowd. This is done by simply not crossing the start line at similar times. If a pair does not do that (and, unfortunately, we see quite a few such pairs in both the half and in the full-marathon in the tables above), then one is not really serving as many runners as one could. What the pair have then effectively done is to have provided just one pacing bus with 2 persons allocated to driving that bus! It would be good to have 2 buses, each with a driver, rather than a bus driver and a conductor! And, if you have a bus driver and a conductor, then do not consider it to be 2 separate buses – it is better to say you have a bus with a backup driver!

B) The sea of runners crosses the start line across a wide time window. It makes sense for pacers to not look to cross the start line soon after the starting gun themselves. Other than for the fastest buses in each race, all pacing buses must necessarily consciously cross the start line after a non-trivial delay after the race is flagged off. I am not suggesting they start a very long time after the gun but simply that they consider where the centre of mass of their target runners is instead of crossing the start line as soon as they can from their race enclosure.

Race Organization Complaints [top]

No race organization of Mumbai Marathon has ever been perfect but it is good to see that the organizers wish to get there.

I will mention just 2 of the primary complaints that I gathered from the experiences of others. They are both problems that could have been easily avoided.

The first problem affected many runners.
The second problem affected most runners!

Lane management closer to the finish line was poor which affected runners finishing a longer distance (e.g. 42km) having to try to run past slower runners enjoying a different race distance (e.g. 10km). Rather than play around with adjusting only the start times, it would make sense to also segregate running lanes by race categories in the last kilometer, or even in the last mile.

Post-race process management was poor with very long queues of tired, even if elated runners, having to patiently wait for their chance to exit with medal and refreshment bag. When I land after a long international flight, I do not like to wait for ages in an immigration queue, or for my bags to arrive – especially when the journey itself was exhausting!


So, What Next? [top]

I am glad that I take on this self-imposed thankless task every January. Whether my relentless emotionless reporting has driven some of the improvements or not is immaterial.  I am just glad to see that there is an improvement.

I hope that, through the year ahead, you pace yourself out through daily life with all the small actions driven by evolving thoughts.

Do keep a lookout for more interesting articles from me, based on things that are more important in life than running on a road for hours.

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. Good analysis as usual Puri. One point that must be mentioned that when one started around 20 mins after the gun time, we were swamped with the extra runners from the 10k group. Many slowed down at the Pizza by the Bay and we kept bumping into them. Finally, there was no option but to slow down and jog to the finish line. I usually have started late (15-20 mins after gun time) and found it quite enjoyable as the Sea link is less crowded.

    Will join your bus next year.



    • Dear Dinesh

      Thank you for your comments and appreciation. I’m sorry that you too can corroborate the problem of jams near the finish line. Nonetheless, I’m glad you had an enjoyable morning that day. With the race starting earlier now, it’s a pity that the Sea Link journey is done in the dark. I have fond memories of running on it with the sun rising above the horizon and fighting the pollution to have a glimpse of x-thousand people running over the sea….

      Look forward to driving you on my bus next year!



  2. Hi, Thanks for writing this. I was not knowing that so much of thoughts and planning goes behind this job!

    Just to share my experience (I have participated only in 2 TMM races) and in my first experience of TMM 2018 10k, the 1 hr Bus driver sped up too early leaving me far behind (I ended 1 hour 30 sec and sure the pacer made it much before)! So for 2019 I planned my own!



    • Dear Dipanjan

      There really should be thought and planning for everything. So much in the country is executed so poorly at all levels because of the refusal to think.

      After your 2018 experience, I must say that your 54:16 in 2019 was a good improvement. I hope you enjoyed that. If you attempt the half marathon next year, do use my (free) pacing bands and sign up for my 2-hr party bus.

      Bhalo theko!

      Puru Da


  3. Hi Puru The Guru, first of all I am a Big fan of yours. Superb article.
    Secondly regarding your point A Pacer Coordination Improvement. I and Hitesh Mehta (both 2 Hrs Bus) actually implemented this at #TMM. We started more than 6 minutes apart, but I think it should have been 10 minutes apart seeing the strength of HM runners.
    Regarding 2nd point though Line up sections were mentioned but not implemented and it affects a lot of Runners to cut through slow/very slow runners just jaywalking in front of you like a barriar.
    Will try to improve the splits more consistently.


    • Dear Sanjay

      Thanks for your kind words.

      About Point A) and the separation of pacers, I hope to write a separate piece after a few weeks.

      About Point B) and the late-crossing across the start line… Notwithstanding the problems of race enclosure release times and congestion bottlenecks along the length of the Sea Link, as I said to the 80+ who registered for my bus… if we are going to service those passengers who are forced into Start Enclosures E, F etc… then we must be patient for a while and try to take as many as we can with us on the journey. In a similar vein, we must, as a nation, try to lose the mentality of trying to get ahead at a junction or traffic light or busy crossing because WE want to rush home from the office… and we must just do what is optimal with the longer-term societal view. About this too I shall write again.

      Have a wonderful 2020!


      Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally agree .I ran half marathon. The whole run was very very enjoyable till we crossed finish line then no place to stretch no water too much crowd and long wait for medal and breakfast .hopefully this is sorted out next time .still it is one of the best marathons no doubt about that we thoroughly enjoyed and will come again


  5. This was my second TMM Half Marathon. Enjoyed the complete course of the route. Happy it started early. As many commented, I too feel the Medal Distribution could have been better. This was structured separately in 2019. It would be good if the Medal Distribution and refreshments be separated.


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