Attacking the TMM-21 Problem

Whether you are a promoter, sponsor, event organizer, logistics provider, pacer, participant or just a family member supporting, how should the TMM-21 problem be tackled?

It’s 2 months to potential race day. Should TMM-21, the most-awaited, distance running annual event for recreational runners in India go ahead on 30th May 2021? If it does go ahead, what does it mean for each type of stakeholder? Given the uncertainty, what does one do between now and then?

Whether or not the event goes ahead eventually, here is my guidance for different types of stakeholders connected to the event. Please go to the section below that is relevant for you.

Some of what I say is specific to TMM-21 and the rest is more general for events planned in the months ahead with uncertainties driven by the Coronavirus-19 pandemic. It will be useful whether you are hosting a sporting event, a stage performance in an auditorium or a wedding.

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Reason for Uncertainty
Covid Cancellation Curves
Reason for Chosen Date
Sponsors & Partners
Event Organizer
1234Covid-19 Action
Logistics Support
Friendly Supporter
Race Pacer
1234Reasons to register for the event
1234Reasons to NOT register for the event
1234Will Puru Register for the Event?
Planning your TRAINING
1234Route & Terrain
1234Race Start Time
12345678Rainfall & Wind
12345678No Rainfall & Wind
1234Targeting a Finish Time
1234Ramadhaan Running
Race Day Strategies & Tactics
1234Running with a Pacer
Parting Message

Reason for Uncertainty [top]

The reason for the uncertainty around whether the event will go ahead is the uncertainty of the paths that the number of deaths/cases in India and, specifically, in Mumbai will follow. Permission has to be granted by various authorities before the party can be held. If cases fall to acceptable levels, the event can go ahead. If not, it won’t!

Beyond the COVID-19 related uncertainty about whether the event will go ahead or not, there are other uncertainties that various stakeholders now face. I discuss these throughout the article.

Covid Cancellation Curves [top]

Each stakeholder faces what I call a Covid Cancellation Curve. There is a different optimal stopping problem faced by each. “Should I wait for more cases to appear or bail now?”. The optimal solution for each of the stakeholders will be very different because each has a different set of payoffs – past/future investments and past/future rewards.

Example #1 – for the participant, if they decide the night before that they’d rather not race with crowds but just sleep late into the summer Sunday morning, their loss is really just a finisher’s medal. Hardly a great loss! The upside is that they’ve trained for the event (which I hope is the primary motivation for registering for the event in the first place). They can always wake up late and then head out for a run in the sun anyway after a good night’s sleep. They’d be in a better state of health at lunchtime than if they’d woken up at 3am to race in a state of sleep deprivation!

Example #2 – for the promoter/owner of the event, the later they cancel, the bigger their loss unless they can impose draconian clauses into the fine print of their agreements with the event management company, the vendors, the sponsors and the participants.

These examples are specific single case examples – the details for each stakeholder will change and the cancel/don’t-cancel binary choice will vary as the calendar rolls forward!

Reason for Chosen Date [top]

When the press announcement was made on 9th Feb 2021 the furthest Sunday one could get to without entering Monsoon territory was the last Sunday of May. If the winter date (17th January 2021) was missed anyway, and hot weather was going to be guaranteed, then it made sense to have it as far out as possible. That would have increased the value of the embedded real option the owners hold.

For my article on the tradeoffs between factors such as pollution and weather for organizing or attending outdoor events read this.

Promoter/Owner [top]

You are the proud owner of the most glamorous of racing events in the sub-continent. This may be the year for you to take a higher risk with your capital to give back to your customers for their loyalty in the past. Keep pushing to have the event in a safe manner, even if your return on equity is lower than usual. Try to not push all the downside risk to the other stakeholders involved. Do not take all the risk yourself either. Figure out an equitable distribution of risk in the network of stakeholders and try to be as transparent as possible.

Reputation risk is often ignored in India or given low priority but, hopefully, you value your reputation and so will handle the media outlets well, especially because they love to sell negative publicity.

Sponsor & Partners [top]

You’ve either paid upfront or are going to pay again now to get publicity at an event that will have few competing events in the city of Mumbai this year. That means fewer distractions from competitors for the eyeballs you are chasing and, ultimately, the millions of wallets you want to tap into. Your return on each dollar spent could be higher this year than in previous years!

Reputation risk is often ignored in India or given low priority but, hopefully, you value your reputation and so will handle the media outlets well, especially because they love to sell negative publicity.

Event Organizer [top]

If you pull this through successfully this year it will mean a lot of pats on your back from all those who turn up on the day. This year’s hosting should be a different challenge that I hope you will relish. You are going to have to plan this very carefully. I recommend setting up a simulation in which you can do some sensitivity analysis too.  [See: Marathon Squeezing at the TMM-20]

We should all learn from past mistakes, but best to avoid future new ones.

Reputation risk is often ignored in India or given low priority but, hopefully, you value your reputation and so will handle the media outlets well, especially because they love to sell negative publicity.

No harm in reading this: Race Organizers and Excess Short-Term Greed.

Covid-19 Action [top]

Here is one suggestion that can be expanded upon. Ask participants to get a negative RT-PCR test result to participate. The smoothest way to do this is to get a bulk discount deal from a lab. Have them set up a swab collection unit at the bib collection expo which you should host on only 2 days just prior to the event. Block entry at the race venue gates directly based on RT-PCR test results that are fed into the security system. Of course, let participants know their test results by the morning following their bib collection so that they don’t trek to the race start point in the first place.

Logistics Support [top]

You are going to have to plan this very carefully. I recommend setting up a simulation in which you can do some sensitivity analysis too.

We should all learn from past mistakes, but best to avoid future new ones.

Reputation risk is often ignored in India or given low priority but, hopefully, you value your reputation and so will handle the media well given that they love to sell negative publicity.

Friendly Supporter [top]

If you have a family member running in the event, do give them moral support and practical support. They may have less enthusiasm to socialize as a family after training in the summer heat. Go easy on them.

If you have a friend running the event, do come out to cheer them on the morning of the race. Unlike in previous Januarys, you won’t have to head out in the dark.

Race Pacer [top]

Whether or not you have been a race pacer before, you should consider your appropriateness for the role. Do not base it on your eagerness to do it, but on your ability to do it. Do not add to the dismal statistics from 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.


You are at the most important core of this event. Without your entry fee that buys you the option to tire yourself out on the roads of Mumbai on a hot summer morning, there will be no event. The questions still remain:

  • should you buy that option?
  • should you exercise the option?
  • if deciding to exercise the option, what should you do between now and then to make the most of that early morning wake-up on race day?

I prefix what follows with my constant reminder to all of us – Why You Need Not Run to be fit.

Reasons to register for the event [top]

It will be a unique Mumbai Marathon experience if it goes ahead. Starting your race in daylight rather than darkness as in previous years. Running in the hottest month rather than the coldest month. Finishing and finding it difficult to cool down after. Something worth experiencing? I think so! But you may want to think again.

The training involved will be good for you if you do it wisely.

So, come June, you are likely to be healthier and happier than if you did not register. [Read: Internal Culture – Voluntary Hormetic Shocks]

Please make sure you read why you should NOT register for the event.

Reasons to NOT register for the event [top]

If you register for the event there is a significant chance that the event will be cancelled on any day right up to and including the event date itself. Having registered for an event, it is always an administrative pain to have to deal with the refund process if there is a cancellation.

Event Experience – Even without the practical inconveniences brought to the event on the day because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will have the discomfort of very unbearable weather. If you are someone who tends to complain that it’s too hot to run, this event is not for you. [Read: Hyp*thermic Conditioning]

If you don’t need to register for an event to improve your health and fitness, you can reduce the unnecessary anxiety around the uncertainty of the event by simply doing the training anyway and not registering for it. It is also likely that, because of the higher fixed costs per customer this year, the entry fee will be much higher.

The training is not going to be easy. If the hot months of April and May tend to be when you typically have lower weekly mileage, you are going to have to ask yourself what the upside is from putting yourself through the training required if the desire is to eventually run the race safely on a hot day. There are better paths to follow to a long Healthspan than doing this in 2021! [Read: Internal Culture – Voluntary Hormetic Shocks]

Please make sure you read why you SHOULD register for the event.

Will Puru Register for the Event? [top]

Oh hell, yeah! Most definitely!

[Note: I do not believe it will help me with my plans to be productive at 110]

Planning your TRAINING [top]

Assuming the event goes ahead and that you do run it, I touch upon the primary differences between the previous winter Mumbai marathons and this year’s summer event so that you can adjust your training strategy and tactics.

Psychology – All the exercise, nutrition and rest that I pay detailed attention to is for the short and long-term benefits to my mind. If you plan your training with that focus, you will enjoy the weeks of training that lie ahead. The psychological training specifically for race day also yields benefits beyond race day, even if you do not eventually run in the event. [top]

Route & Terrain – We do not expect any significant alteration to the route and, therefore, the terrain. At most, the precise route near the southern end of the course (start/finish of the 10km/FM, finish for the HM) may change based on any infrastructure works related to the roads and the Mumbai Metro. [top]

Race Start Time – It is reasonable to assume that the race start will not be brought forward simply because participants in the FM will feel hot when the sun is out. Anyone training for a FM will typically be doing their weekend long runs during bright morning sunlight too. [top]

Light – there will be daylight when you start which is great for boosting your alertness. You will be all psyched up to race anyway, but daylight on top of that always helps. This actually makes training more enjoyable. We have not evolved to be physically hyperactive (running!) in the dark other than for emergencies. [top]

Sunlight – Often by the last days of May there is considerable cloud cover. It is unlikely to be gloomy but you will also not get clear skies. Depending on when you start running, and at which points of solar time you are facing south, you may need sunglasses to protect your eyes from harsh sunlight. I suggest you do considerable mileage with the sunglasses you plan to carry on race day. The earlier parts of your run will not need them so you will need to have a plan for how to carry the sunglasses with you. [top]

Perspiration – You are going to perspire a lot and I mean a LOT! If you haven’t yet figured out your “fluid loss per hour”, you have time to do so and plan accordingly for race day. If you will run the FM, be safe and train and race with an electrolyte drink and/or salt tablets. When sweat gets into them, your eyes can burn, so wipe the sweat off your forehead before it reaches your eyebrows. If sweat touches your sunglasses, that’s worse, because it’s not easy to clean them mid-race like you can clean your eyes (simply splash water!). So, wipe, wipe, wipe your forehead at regular intervals and do not leave it until it’s too late. [top]

Pollution – If you run in Mumbai, you have accepted that you will run in polluted air. The good news is that pollution levels are always lower at the end of May than at the end of January. For 2020 and 2021, air pollution levels are lower thanks to the Coronavirus-19 pandemic. So, you have a double whammy benefit this year. [See AQI history for Mumbai.] [top]


Jump from the Coldest to the Hottest race morning temperatures.

You may run in Mumbai despite or precisely because of the climate in Mumbai. It is best to assume that it is going to feel unbearably hot on race day. The “feels like temperature” which includes the impact of humidity, wind, and direct sunlight is what you should keep your eye on rather than the “shade temperature” which is what is typically reported in the newspaper. How you will feel, therefore, will depend on the following components of weather on race day. [top]

Temperature – Instead of the coldest month of the year, the race is now in the hottest month of the year. Exciting for some! [top]

Humidity – at the time of writing this, the temperatures are already moving higher each day. The pre-Monsoon humidity won’t kick in for a while and the skies are fairly clear of clouds on most days. In the pre-Monsoon phase, humidity tends to peak just before the rains hit Mumbai bringing relief to its inhabitants. Unfortunately, we will be at the cusp of this situation on race day so since it is not likely to rain, you are literally likely to be racing in one of the “feels like the hottest day of the year” even if the temperature itself is not high. [top]

Rainfall & Wind – Although the official date for the start of the Monsoon rains is 10th June, the probability of rain on the morning of 30th May is not close to zero. Rain that morning will bring cooler temperatures but also strong winds. Be prepared for your racing bib to get wet and so ensure that it is securely fastened to your gear. You won’t need sunglasses if it rains! Be prepared for your shoes and socks to feel heavier, leading to a slightly lower cadence than if they were not rain-water soaked. [top]

No Rainfall & Wind – If it does not rain, winds will bring only slight respite from the heat as they will not be cold winds! [top]

Targeting a Finishing Time [top]

I strongly recommend that you set a target finish time even if you are running only for fun this year. The internal pressure to set a target finish time will make you focus on your training numbers along with the numbers related to the components of weather. You will have to keep revising your target finish time as you approach race day. It is important that you set a target range rather than a fixed time. It can be wider if you have more uncertainty or if you are keen to have the flexibility to push hard or not based on your mood as you approach race day.

Unless you are training in much more unbearable weather conditions, do not look for a PB (personal best) time in this event.

Ramadhaan Running [top]

If like I will, you too will fast and train in the sun during the scorching hot month of Ramadhaan 2021, please read Ramadhaan Running for All Faiths to be better informed, so that you have a better outcome from the month.

More power to your prayers…

Race Day Strategies and Tactics [top]

The race organizers will publish information regarding the logistics surrounding your run like they do each year. They will have tweaked their usual plans to account for the pandemic and the weather. So, expect the following:

  • the requirement to carry a mask with you at all times
  • greater space around you when you race because of fewer participants being allowed race entries
  • more hydration stations for water along the route
  • more electrolyte drink stations along the route
  • more first aid stations

If you are allowed to hang around in the post-race rest area, expect to have to wear a mask at all times. If you spot me, I’d love to have a photo with you!!

Running with a Pacer [top]

First, read what I have said to the Pace Setters above and note the statistics I’ve published for the last few years. After reading that, if running with a pacer still sounds like a good idea to you, please turn up on race day having printed out and securely fastened 2 (or more) pacer bands from my page here. I may update these later for TMM-2021 for the weather, but even if I don’t, please use them. For example, if you think you will run the FM in 5-hours, print out the 4:59 and the 5:14 bands.

Even if you do decide to run with a pacer, make sure you are not relying on them for your success with your target time. Be self-reliant. Use the pacer bands.

Whether or not you decide to run with a pacer, stay calm, download, print out the pacer bands, cut, staple and run!

Parting Message [top]

Every situation gives each of us a chance to work in a mature manner to create a better outcome for us as individuals, and for society at large. Let us hope that the event does go ahead in a manner consistent with the Covid-19 curves at that time. Hope to see you on race day!

If you found this useful, please do please share it with your friends.

If you would like to be guided in detail to have the best life possible, you know how to reach me.



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.

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