Reporting on Pacing Failures at the Mumbai Marathon 2023

Pacers – past, present, future

I don’t bring you good news today.

Dealing with failure in an important and challenging task is rarely easy. An important outcome of any failure should be the learning from that failure that prevents future failures. The foolish rarely seem to learn from their own mistakes. [more]

In a race, a pace-setter is someone who runs (with others joining their “bus”) to cross the finish line within a narrow time band before their advertised “target time”. I have “driven the 2-hour bus” at the Mumbai (Half) Marathon for many years. Anyone who ran with me all the way would have finished in “just under 2 hours”.

I woke up in Mumbai on 15th January 2023 excited because, like the previous morning, the temperature was at its lowest in many months (18°C at 7am).  It was perfect for the Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM 2023) the flagship marathon event of India that was being held that morning. I had not registered to run in this year’s edition as I was hoping to be living in heaven (aka Goa) and did not want to tempt fate by registering for the Mumbai race.

As luck would have it, I was forced to be in my Mumbai home anyway. That morning, I headed out for a walk, met friends visiting Mumbai from Singapore for poolside teekoffee and ran later at my favourite time – just before lunch.

I was excited when I woke up that morning because my expectation was that the pacers in India’s most prestigious recreational race would all have easy success in hitting their targets. Warnings from both yogic and Stoic philosophies – do not have expectations of others.

A few hours later as I ploughed through the data from the race, I was horrified with how the pacers had performed as a group! Let us have a swift look at what happened.

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Contents

Pacing Results
123410Km
12345678Gender Equality Destruction
1234Half Marathon
1234Full Marathon
Tight Finishes
Previous Years’ Results
123456782020 Report
123456782019 Report
123456782018 Report
123456782017 Report
123456782016 Report
123456782015 Report
ChatGPT
Parting Message



Pacing Results [top]

ouch! ouch!

The graph above showing the number of pacing failures in each race event gives us a clear message – in aggregate, the results are dismal. Ideally, we should have seen only green and no red. Ouch, ouch!

I present in tables the results for each pacer for the 3 events. I will try to comment a little based on what we can observe.

10 Km [top]

Failure at the 10 Km is NOT gender-related


Gender Equality Destruction [top]

I was informed that a decision was made for all the pacers in the 10 Km event to be females. I don’t know why such intent existed or was publicized. It does nothing particularly useful for empowering women. In fact, it works against them. Positions of responsibility should be given to those most capable of carrying out a task, regardless of gender. Or where will it end? You want first-aid during a race in New York or London to be given by a competent healthcare worker, right? Not someone incompetent who scraped through medical school because their original admission was based on a seat reserved for their minority ethnic status!

The pacers in the 10 km event who had failed had failed not because they were women. None of the many pacers in the 3 races who failed had failed because they were of a particular gender. Opportunities to pace should be given to everyone. By placing an emphasis on gender during selection we send a host of wrong messages to everyone – men and women. I hope this never happens again in any race event in India, where females continue to make significant progress in just about every domain.

I won’t discuss the myriad ways to encourage more women to use recreational distance running for better health. Instead, I present the gender-wise split of participants in the 3 races. It is only FYI – we cannot draw any firm conclusions about why there are fewer women in the longer races. I cannot even say they are wiser because they may not have chosen to run less out of wisdom.

Women ran shorter distances on average but we can conclude nothing more


Half Marathon [top]

Failure at the Half Marathon is NOT gender-related


Full Marathon [top]

Failure at the Full Marathon is NOT gender-related


Tight Finishes [top]

Any pacer with a “Gap” of less than 30 seconds should be careful to finish a little bit faster next time. Although they received a yaay! there is a distinct possibility that a participant who started off a few metres ahead of them in the crowd and finished a few metres behind them will have missed the target by a few seconds.


Previous Years’ Results [top]

Mumbai Marathon Pacing Failures:

2020 Report
2019 Report
2018 Report
2017 Report
2016 Report
2015 Report


ChatGPT [top]

I asked ChatGPT the following questions:

  1. How should I pace in a race?
  2. How should I pace someone else in a race?
  3. How should I pace someone else in a race to finish within a target time?
  4. How should I pace a large group of runners in a race to finish within a target time?

The answers were fairly obvious and correct. Detail was lacking because the questions were not highly specific.

On the other hand, I wasn’t impressed by ChatGPT’s answers to:

  1. How do I get a 6-pack? (I do very little of what GPT specifically recommended to keep mine)
  2. How do I learn Cantonese? (No, Duolingo does not offer Cantonese. Not yet, anyway.)

Conclusion: ChatGPT is amazing when you think about the science used to build it. But it’s still not ready for giving expert customized advice. For that, you will still need a human like this one.


Parting Message [top]

I am only the messenger. Do not shoot me for making the effort to collect all the information and present it in an easily digestible format. It has not been easy for me to digest the fact that with India set to become the most populous country in the world in the next few weeks (in April ‘23) the flagship, highly publicized race, cannot get some things right, year after year! We needed only 43 competent citizens from a population of 1.4 bn.  You cannot blame your government for that.

If everything you do is consistent with your core beliefs and desires, then a long and healthy life of joy is pretty much guaranteed to be yours. If you want to be guided in detail, you know how to reach me, and if you found this useful, please do share it with others.

Puru

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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.

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