Tag Archives: Oxfam Trailwalker Mumbai

SCMM-2017 – A Quick Update on Quantity and Quality

*Net Finish Times winsorized at 6:15 [click to enlarge]

*Net Finish Times winsorized at 6:15       [click to enlarge]

Memories of each SCMM fade quicker each year as the racing calendar in India gets more crowded with each passing year. However, as the flagship race of the country it is worthwhile using it as a benchmark race to assess how things are progressing, both for the race itself and for the runners within it.

I wrote a quick update on the numbers of 2016 a year ago, and this short conversation is to mirror that with an update for the 2017 race event of 15th January.

The total number of participants in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon went up again this year but only marginally (by less than 1000). Of that, in the half marathon, the numbers were capped (presumably for safety reasons) and the full marathon saw another year of increasing participation.

The overall (mean and median) race times of those who crossed the finish line was slower for the half marathon. (I might provide further insight regarding that in the weeks ahead.) For the full marathon, the worsening we have seen in the last two years, became worse (slower) this year. It is not unlikely that the increased worsening in finish times is driven by the large number of new entrants, but given that the number of entries has been increasing every single year, to blame the newbies for the recent worsening is unjustifiably unfair without delving into the details.

To get a better picture of what has been happening with aggregate numbers, you can also see my much earlier report on what happened between 2010-2014. And for the most sophisticated analysis on Indian marathon running so far you may want to look at the question “Are Recreational Marathoners in India getting Faster?” and its follow-on multi-year cohort analysis in “You are getting slower sooner than you think“.

Please click on ONE choice for YOUR answer here

If you had not already thought about it when looking at the graphs and tables in this article, then from the two earlier articles on consecutive races, and multi-year cohort analysis, you would have figured out that interesting stories are hidden in the details of aggregated statistics. I might tease out more such stories for you in the weeks to come. Until then, here are the tables for the graphs above.

*Net Finish Times winsorized at 6:15 (Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon)

*Net Finish Times winsorized at 6:15 (Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon)



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.

The 1-arm Pushup

Watch the video!

A few months ago, I spoke about Pushups for the Ladies and was serious when I said that it wasn’t only for the ladies. Now, I bring you 1-arm pushups, something that is definitely for the men! And again, this time, if you are a lady, please don’t go away – there’s useful learning in what I have to say that will translate into other activities of daily life that you might do. And, if you were disciplined in following the process I outlined and can do good pushups on the floor, you might enjoy the challenge of doing at least one good quality 1-arm pushup after a few weeks.

Chat flow – I will first tell you what the 1-arm pushup is, the benefits of doing it, how to get around to doing (first) a single repetition of the 1-arm pushup and (then) many repetitions successfully, as well as the potential risks to watch out for. As usual, I will keep unnecessary biology and physics out of this chat and focus on getting practical results safely.


What is a 1-arm pushup?
A 1-arm pushup is a pushup with just one arm at a time – the other arm provides no assistance!


Why is it good to be able to do a 1-arm pushup?

As with the pushup, the primary muscles worked are the chest muscles and the triceps. The reason that most of us do not want to try a 1-arm pushup is very simple – it feels very difficult. Indeed, it is difficult, because we typically do not need or require that level of strength for 99% of our daily activities. So, the muscle fibres that would typically be called into action to do that work are lying asleep most of our lives. Whether or not you do strength training at the gym, it is likely that you will enjoy the process and the final outcome of attempting the 1-arm pushup. And, of course, the relevant muscles will become stronger and larger.

Because of having no support from the ‘missing arm’, your entire body has to work to hold your posture. You will feel the maximum effort in those muscles that provide rotational stabilizing torque around your hips and torso.

Hero with Pushups – Zero with 1-arm Pushups
Here you can watch me doing 66 good quality standard pushups in a split set. But even if you can drop down and give me 50 good quality standard pushups with both arms, it is highly likely that you will not be able to do a single good quality 1-arm pushup. (Test my theory by trying one right now, and respond to this poll. Keep reading, of course…)

And if you can do only 30 (or 40 or 50) regular pushups, my bet is that in progressing to 1-arm pushups you will soon be able to do more than 50 of the regular kind!

Pointless Planks
You’ve probably heard me say that I don’t think much of doing standard or modified planks as part of a regular workout for the reasonably fit. As an isometric and static exercise, its functional usefulness is low. In Pushups for the Ladies I set planks as a prerequisite if you’ve been a couch potato or were doing what I called ‘sissy knee pushups’. The return on time invested in exercise is low with a plank – graduate to pushups if you haven’t already done so and make sure of success with regular pushups by reading my guidance on it.

For me, the beauty of the pushup is that it uses so much of your entire body while requiring no equipment. The 1-arm pushup just takes that beauty 5 notches higher!


What does it take to do a 1-arm pushup?

Complete FULL range of motion for the 1-arm Pushup

Complete FULL range of motion for the 1-arm Pushup

I would say that you should be able to do at least 30 good quality pushups on the ground before you progress to attempting the 1-arm pushup. Remember, the 1-arm pushup will make you stronger for the regular pushup so you could merge the progression of both. So, in sessions when you are not doing the 1-arm pushup, you might find that you are now able to do more regular pushups than you could.

Range of Motion
As with the standard pushup, it is important that you go all the way down, to ensure that your nose touches the ground.

Form & Technique
Excellent form and technique are important with any movement or static posture. The tendency to make errors when being pushed to the limits is higher so be extra careful with spine safety when doing the 1-arm pushup! I have highlighted these earlier.

Similar to my advice for the regular pushups, I can guarantee you success with the 1-arm pushup if you start with the ‘imaginary ground’ at a considerable height and then progressively lower it over many sessions.

Careful progress in load intensity over time

Careful progress in load intensity over many weeks

Remember, you should keep at least 48 hours between sessions and, whenever needed, an even longer gap. In the early days, most of the changes in your body are neuro-muscular as you ‘learn the movement pattern’. The smooth firing of neurons and muscle fibre units will take a few sessions to consolidate as the requirements are different from those of a standard pushup. Remember, there’s no rush – take it easy with progression, focus on the process not the outcome, and you will succeed. And remember, just as you expect to go lower as the weeks go by, within any given session, it’s OK to go higher for a second or third or fourth set.

Feet positions and Centre of Gravity
When doing a standard (symmetrical) pushup your COG (centre of gravity) was in the midline of your body. The base of support there was (roughly) the rectangle formed by your hands and feet. Now, with one arm withdrawn and not providing support, the symmetry has been broken and your COG is now shifted away. Fortunately, the shift of your COG is likely to be towards the opposite arm and leg. The vertical line of gravity is now not necessarily going to pass through the triangular base of support. There will be natural tendency to widen your feet position and that is fine – it’s still a 1-arm pushup!

Feet Positions, Base of Support and Centre/Line of Gravity

Feet Positions, Base of Support and Centre/Line of Gravity

Feet positions and Slipping
You will notice that if the soles of your shoes are even slightly slippery your feet will tend to skid when doing the 1-arm pushup. This can be unnerving but you can also use it to your advantage to find out the most stable body position thanks to that slack variable.

The Working Arm
The further your working hand is away from your head the greater will be the effort by your chest muscles. The closer it is to your head, elbow closer to the side of your body, the greater will be the effort required by your triceps. This was the case with the regular pushup too. Note that a narrow hand (relative to head) position and a narrow feet position will mean a smaller triangular base of support within which your line of gravity must be.

The Other Arm
I typically keep the free arm behind my back, but you have a choice of keeping it in the air in ‘alert position’ if you are nervous. The lowest ‘load contribution’ of that arm is when your hand is around your belly button (or lower back) and will be greatest when the arm is stretched out ahead of your head. You must, of course, develop the ability to do a 1-arm pushup with each of your arms, equally, not only your stronger arm. Whatever you do with the right arm, you must do with the left!


Risks of a 1-arm pushup

Joint Risk – Shoulder, Elbow, Wrist
Because the resistance you are pushing is both very high and very concentrated in terms of location you need to keep a careful watch out for your shoulder – a ball-and-socket joint that is highly susceptible to sports injuries. However, that should not stop you from venturing into 1-arm pushups as careful progression towards the ability to do a 1-arm pushup will mean increased strength and stability for that otherwise vulnerable joint. So, the trick is to shock your body safely! The wrist and elbow joints will have to deal with similar shocks so be sensible with progression – be conservative – in this case, it is better to take many weeks to reach your goal than not at all.

Face Smash Risk
The thought of sudden failure with a 1-arm pushup can seem scary because of your fear of smashing your face in the ground. However, what is more likely is that you will roll into the ‘missing arm’ and fall on its upper arm and shoulder – your face is likely to remain beautiful and unhurt! Fear not!

Anatomical Deformities
The ape-like imbalanced appearance of many gym rats can be easily avoided by maintaining symmetry along all dimensions (upper/lower body, left/right limbs, front/back). To balance the 1-arm pushup with its mirror movement, you could do the 1-arm row, either seated or standing (straight on a pulley system, or bent over with a dumbbell when hinging at your hip).

Seated Row to mirror the 1-arm Pushup

Seated Row to mirror the 1-arm Pushup

Standing Row to mirror the 1-arm Pushup

Standing Row to mirror the 1-arm Pushup

How long will it take to do a 1-arm pushup?

Progression is always a function of many things. But, my rough guess is that in as little as 12 sessions, spread over say 8 weeks, you can be doing at least one good form 1-arm pushup with very low injury risk. If you are one-third my age and naturally strong, you could probably achieve the goal in a couple of weeks. However, overriding your eagerness and ambition should be feelings of self-protection, so be conservative in your progression from zero to hero!

1-arm Pushup, then what?

Once you can do a 1-arm pushup with each arm, the obvious natural progression is to do more of them. The functional benefit of doing too many is limited especially compared to the risk to the shoulder joint. Unless you sense that you are genetically gifted I would say that doing up to 10 repetitions on each side is sufficient for developing excellent strength in a safe manner. Once you can do 10 with each arm, there is no shame in pulling back and just sticking to doing 5 with each arm perhaps once a week. For the next 40 years 😉 …heh heh!

Path ahead

I guarantee that if you internalize what I have said, and go through the process until you can do even a single 1-arm pushup, it will definitely change your perspective on life positively, even if just slightly. Go on, do it!

Just push it!


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.

You Might Run Slower Sooner Than You Think

Land, Air or Sea - Natural Limits Exist

Land, Air or Sea – Natural Limits Exist

Do you sometimes wonder for how long you will keep improving your race times? Do you see some friends (appear to) continue to improve year after year, and yet others (seem to) not improve much at all, and some even (seem to) be get slightly worse every year? What could your own benchmark be for athletic performance as the years roll past? Would be good to have a handle on that, right? (Did you wonder why I have those few words in parentheses and emphasized in italics? It is because what ‘appears to’ be, or ‘seems to’ be, might not always be!)

Now, what if you could follow almost 200 recreational distance runners for 7 years over the same race that they ran year-after-year? That might tell you a lot about where your own running might take you, right? Well, here’s some evidence based guidance, based on data never seen before, that I have put together for you.

After listening to what I have to say here, mostly facts, and some conjecture, you will be able to plan your own distance running or other athletic targets for the years to come.

Quick Background

From early childhood to post-puberty, children keep improving for years in various measures of fitness. There is a difference between boys and girls and, depending on what feature of athletic performance one looks at, for a given youth the path will follow periods of rapid improvement, stagnation, and then further improvement followed by tapering off in improvements. What can we say for adult recreational athletes?

Some studies suggest that it takes about 4 years of training for an adult to reach their peak potential. Of course, it is quite likely that the results from controlled studies on adult sporting professionals might not apply to you. That is especially the case if you are an urban recreational athlete. So, let us listen to the story from a unique data set that I have prepared for us.

Unique Data

I look at the case of my ‘home race’, the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, and examine the performance of all the runners who raced the exact same half marathon or full marathon every single year for 7 years in a row (2010 to 2016). This is a small subset of the urban running population. But it is a very valuable subset as it allows us to follow the exact same population of runners over multiple years. Recreational runners in Mumbai face all the constraints and challenges of life in a city with a very high population density, stupidly high real estate costs, terrible public infrastructure and not the most pleasant weather in the world. Having said that, I believe the broad pattern of results will apply to any pairwise population cohort and race combination.

Earlier Work on this Race Event

In a much earlier conversation I presented what happened between 2010 and 2014 to the overall numbers of all participants in the races and average race times over those 5 years. Earlier this year I presented here how that overall quality (race times) and quantity (number of participants) had changed in the period 2010 to 2016. Neither of those investigations had controlled for individual runners being identified and tracked separately across races. Then, when I addressed the question Are Recreational Marathoners in India Getting Faster? I tackled the issue of identifying runners across consecutive races and examining their performance. I identified and tracked 50,719 consecutive period race pairs. However, this repeated pairing was done only across consecutive races – not across the entire span of multiple years. Now, for the first time, here, I identify and examine the same runner across a long span of 7 years and always running the same race – either the half marathon 7 years in a row, or the full marathon 7 years in a row.


There will be a few cases within the data where the race times are not representative of the ‘true state of athletic performance’. Examples include: transfer of racing bibs to friends who are a lot slower/faster, pacing a slower set of runners, sudden bout of food poisoning during the race. Cramping or running injuries mid-race are not equivalent examples because they do indicate the state of the runner – unprepared for the race!

What happened to Race Times over 7 Years?

There were only 158 participants who ran the half marathon in all 7 years. The equivalent number for the full marathon is just 35, so I exclude them for now but will refer to them shortly.

Same Race, Same Runners, Net-Finish-Times

As the bar graph shows, in terms of the average finish time of the group, the absolute athletic performance does not keep improving each year endlessly. In fact, besides being numerically similar, the average race time sometimes does not prove to be statistically different from one year to the next (i.e. given the variation in individual timings from one race to the next, the average of the race times of all runners in each year does not change enough for that change to be distinguished to be different from zero). So then what can we say about the variation from one year to the next?

Factors Affecting Performance

Factors Affecting Aggregate Race Performance

Factors Affecting Aggregate Race Performance

Of the broad factors affecting performance, the (i) Temperature on race morning and (ii) Humidity on race morning which can, confusingly, often vary in opposite directions to each other can be cleverly combined into the single Heat Index for those race mornings for neater analysis. The process followed by (iii) Ageing is deterministic (a year every year!) even if its effect is not constant, and so can be ignored to a very good first approximation between consecutive years (even if not across a 7-year jump). The (iv) Elevation profile was approximately the same for the years 2010 to 2015 (inclusive) and we can note the effect of the noticeably changed route in 2016. The process followed by (v) Training is the big unknown, and is individual runner specific, and is into which we can subsume all variation unexplained by the other factors when comparing successive years for any individual runner. This includes physical conditioning over a year, psychological training for athletic performance, and any other on-race-day individual behaviour.

Note that although we cannot distinguish between those who commenced running in 2010 and those who might have been active distance runners for 30 years, by aggregating numbers, we can smoothen out individual idiosyncracies and examine the overall impact of Training and the other factors on the entire cohort over that period.

Reasonable Factor Variability Reduction

Reasonable Factor Variability Reduction

Plotting the Heat Index for each of the race mornings along with the average finish times we can see that, from 2011 to 2016 the Heat Index stays within a narrow band, but the performance does not really improve much with time. The effect of training of these runners over a year is not strong enough to drive race performance to faster finish times.

Weather within a Narrow Band - Performance Stagnates

Weather within a Narrow Band – Performance Stagnates

Worsening Performance in 2016 – Route Change, Ageing or Training?

When the changed route for the Half Marathon was announced for 2016 I spoke to you about the challenges. My estimate then was that it would add between 1%-3% to your race time. Given that the Heat Index was almost identical on the race mornings of 2015 and 2016, one might conclude that (all other things remaining equal) the (2.56%) slower time in 2016 vindicated my forecast estimate of 1%-3%. Of course, the runners were a year older. But, let’s assume that the extra year of ageing didn’t really affect performance. Then, since the Full Marathon had the same route for both 2015 and 2016, perhaps we can say that those who had been running it for 7 years in a row displayed worse performance! The effect of a year of ageing had now overpowered an extra year of training! In that case we cannot separate out the effects of the route change for the Half Marathon and the worsening because of ageing versus training.

Same Weather - Same/Changed Route - Worse Performance!

Same Weather – Same/Changed Route – Worse Performance!

Why we should Love this Special Population?

It is instructive to note that this population of runners who had run the same 7 races for 7 years in a row is a unique subset of the 45,000 humans who ran in either the half or the full marathon in those 7 years. They are not representative of the typical recreational runner (who clearly did not run the same race for 7 years). However, they are an especially useful segment of the running population because they tell us what we can reasonably expect of ourselves when we set out to make running (or any other physical activity) a part of our lives for the long run. You can also see that their athletic ability spans a wide range and you will be able to identify your own ability within this range.

2016 SCMM Half Marathon Finish Times for the Cohort of 158 runners

2016 SCMM Half Marathon Finish Times for the Cohort of 158 runners

What does this Story Really Mean for You?

I have told you why you need not run and even why I don’t care about your podium finish (or mine). I love to include running as one very very tiny part of the many activities I engage in for a happier life. I ran my first half marathon (accidentally) in that same Half Marathon in 2010 but am not part of this data set. However, the numbers speak to me very clearly and form evidence based guidance on what could be appropriate benchmarks for my own running as the years roll by. Even as I write this closing paragraph, I noticed that my regular weekend long-run buddy features in the data. He has a Half Marathon PB of 1-hour-12-minutes (many years ago) and is the fastest runner in this cohort of runners. I like the guidance that these numbers give me. How will you benefit from their story?


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.

Learning from the IDBI Mumbai 2016 Race Event

Learning from the IDBI Mumbai 2016

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

IDBI Mumbai 2016 – Performance – Actual v Expected

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

Click to enlarge

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?

Wrong mat distance suggests wrong pace

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?

Highly likely that the 16.0km mat was at 16.75km

Highly likely that the 16.0km mat was at 16.75km

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?

Concluding Remarks

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.

Reporting on Pacing Failures at the IDBI 2016

Start…                          Middle…                          Finish!

Don’t shoot the messenger

Last month I ran and won my main race of the year, the BNP Endurathon 25.0, a 25km race with some pretty tough hills in muggy conditions. I did not stick to a pacing strategy because my goal there was to win along with only a soft pace target – I had a racing strategy. But let’s not care about my podium finish. When my goal is specifically to pace others in a race, it is no longer competitive strategy and game-theory that I employ – after all the mandate is to hit an acceptable time band for crossing the finish line. Come hell or high water! The race strategy is then simply a pacing strategy

to run the route at an appropriate pace at each of the many stages of the entire distance to ensure that the typical person who has trained appropriately crosses the finish line ahead of the target time”

So, to go too fast at times might lose certain participants, and to go too slow at specific stages of the race might force others to drop back later when the pace is increased too much in order to catch up. The money is in the detail and success is in the process. It was in that vein that I also created these free gifts for you, specifically for that race.

I should tell you that I do not like this part of my ‘self-inflicted job’ – being the messenger to you about pacing failures at races. After all, many of the pacers are my friends! The IDBI (Mumbai) 2016 of last Sunday was no different.

Previous Reports

I reported on the Failure of Pacers at the SCMM-2016 earlier this year, and about the Pacing Failures at the SCMM 2015 a year prior to that. For some background, my most widely read guide on being a pacer or choosing a pacer is worth going through if you haven’t already.

It is true that most people do not use a pacer, but whether you use one or not, you might like to see that the quality of pacers is not sub-standard, as that sets the tone for other things at the event too then!

The IDBI-2016 10km Race Pacers Report – Shocking Failure Rates!

IDBI-2016 10km Pacer Race Times

Of course this categorization of what is success and failure is my own, based on what I think a recreational runner doing a 10km race would find acceptable when targeting a finish time in the range 50-minutes to 90-minutes. Going slower than the finish time is definitely unacceptable, but you might argue that going faster than 1-min-15-sec is not too bad. However, I believe that someone struggling to complete his race in, say, 70-minutes, would find it incredibly difficult if pushed to a time faster than 68-min 45-sec. As a pacer, if you go inappropriately fast, you will lose runners who will drop back and then never catch up with their goal pace. A strategy with built-in dynamic balance is key. In any case, even if you were to relax the conditions, the failure rate is shocking! The actual times are also listed in the table for you to make your own judgement of pass/fail. I am just the messenger.

What I would like to point out is that I do not even think that a ‘yaay!’ is necessarily success if the pacer simply ran too fast for most of the distance and then slowed down deliberately close to the finish line to avoid being documented as a failure.

The IDBI-2016 Half Marathon Race Pacers Report – Shocking Failure Rates!

IDBI-2016 Half Marathon Pacer Race Times

The acceptable band, like in previous reports, starts 2-min 30-sec before the target time. For longer distances such as a full marathon, I have the same width of acceptance. As you can see from the table, the failure rate is shocking!

Why this report update?

Most mass participation sporting events are about combining physical fitness with entertainment. In India with all its frustrations of corruption in so many walks of life, we often look at recreational running as a way to get away from things that we often seem to have little control over, towards something that we can have some control over that also leads to a better physical existence. So, when we race towards a time target with a pacer, we expect that promises will not be broken, just like that of politicians. We expect that we won’t get failure, just like that of electricity supply. We hope that we won’t fall short of our target like we might fall short of water in our homes. 7 pacers out of 12 failing to achieve their promised target for the half marathon is shocking!

It’s great that so many entities are able to use the financial profits from such events as an incentive to create and conduct these events. As customers of such service providers, we would like to get value for money in terms of the experience – often we don’t. In the same vein, it’s always good to report on the standards of pacers. I decided to report on this aspect of the IDBI 2016 race because it is the main competitor in the race calendar for what has been my “home city’s race”, the SCMM held in January each year.

Questions to be answered

I have many friends among both the lists above and I hope that those who didn’t finish successfully will not take this report personally. I am sure they already feel quite rotten about what transpired. Perhaps they will step back and think about their performance objectively. In the cases where the same pacer has failed in a previous race, perhaps we should ask the race organizers “why was that person selected again to be a pacer?” What are we doing about Process for Performance?

I have told you why you need not run to be fit. But if you are going to run, and if you are going to race, and have been promised a pacer, you deserve a successful pacer. I’m just saying…

Don’t shoot 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.

Pre-Race Wisdom for the IDBI-2016 Race

IDBI 2016 – route maps

On Your Marks, Get Ready… Go!

Whether it is the 5km, 10km or the half-marathon you are running at the IDBI-2016 here are some superb last-day tips for you. Before I begin, I would like to remind you that if you are running the half-marathon tomorrow I hope you will have selected your free pacing band for the target times of your choice that I spoke about here. Print, laminate, cut, wear, pose and run! The video is here.

For many of you this might be your first race, for others it might be just another one added to a growing list. For some it might be about taking in the wonderful sights, for others it might be about obtaining a PB (personal best) and, for yet others, it might be about pacing a friend to help them achieve their PB. You might be from Mumbai or from out-of-town but here are some tips especially for you.

Puru enjoyed the sites at the promo event

Puru enjoyed the sites at the promo event

These are some final thoughts from me to you about this race:

  • I went to what was a launch event run on 17th April 2016 to motivate others to run tomorrow. That was well organized so I hope the main race tomorrow is too. There were only a few hundred runners that day, and there are like to be about 20 times as many participants tomorrow, so please pray that there won’t be any hiccups but do allow for glitches and try to not let them affect your mood
  • If you are from out of town and used to running in Mumbai only during the SCMM in January, then here’s some sobering comparison with the SCMM:
    • The temperature is likely to be about 6-degrees Celsius higher than during the typical SCMM race in January
    • The humidity is likely to be about 83% rather than 55% of the typical SCMM race in January
    • The winds are likely to be more like 20kmph rather than the gentle 3kmph you would have faced during a typical January SCMM
    • As there is an 80% chance of rain, beware that your shoes, socks and everything else will get heavier, and that will slow you down
    • Be aware also, that if it rains, there are likely to be more participants who will be running for fun, and so you will need to keep your cool if you are trying to overtake and they don’t give you way as efficiently as you think they could
  • On the other hand, compared with the SCMM:
    • You won’t have the elevation of Peddar Road to deal with and
    • You won’t have the elevation of the Sea-Link (twice in 2016) to deal with
  • If you are running the (10km or the) half-marathon, you are going to face the monsoon winds on Marine Drive. This is likely to help you (but you won’t be able to tell) between the 13-15km markers. However, these winds are highly likely to be a noticeable struggle to deal with between the 17-19km markers (just when you don’t want to face more struggle!)
  • Life is full of twists and turns. The half-marathon has 21 turns of which 7 are pretty much like U-turns. If you are focusing on a blistering pace, this is something to be aware of. I won second place in a half-marathon last October with almost 60 turns so I know it’s not a lot of fun. But that’s not why I told you, soon after that race, why you need not run!
  • Because the overlaps in routes between the 5km, 10km and half-marathon are significant, and we don’t know how diligent the stewards will be, please memorize the route yourself. Empower yourself because race stewards pose two risks:
    • If you are fast and ahead of the pack, you might get sent the wrong way (I’ve won a race because I memorized a route in another city and my primary competitor, who was from that city and noticeably faster, was sent the wrong way).
    • Race stewards are known to get bored after a while and the very runners who need our help (the stragglers who are in need of motivation) get confusing (or no) signals from stewards – I pointed this out when I told you why I don’t care much about your podium finish
  • When memorizing the route, please note that the official route map does not have the distance markers in precise locations on the graphic (notice, for instance, the oddly short 1km between 17km and 18km) but we can pray that the actual kilometer markers on the route will be appropriately placed (and that they sync beautifully with your GPS device)

What next?
The usual… Rest your legs well, sleep on time, and eat/drink sensibly today. Remember what I said about process for performance barely 10 days ago? Give that more thought too! Enjoy the day and have a wonderful experience.


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.

IDBI-2016 – Free Gifts

Free Gifts for Your IDBI Target

My Dream Wish – Your Gift

If you are running the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Mumbai Half Marathon 2016 (IDBI-2016)  on 21-Aug-2016, I have a special gift for you – so, if in a rush, keep reading for just another 25 seconds (or, if super impatient, jump straight to the gift)!

For a few years of the SCMM, as a 2-hour pacer, I’ve had many of you achieve your personal best or first sub-2 in the half. I also told you in an earlier conversation why I do not really care about a podium finish (yours or mine) and how we all ought to focus on helping other runners. So, in X-thousand parallel universes, given my running ability, and attention to technical detail, I would have loved to pace 99% of you individually to your target finish times at the IDBI-2016 race! Getting back to ground reality, things can be almost as wonderful with the next best gift I have for you…

Specifically designed for the IDBI 2016 Course
Pacer Bands for the Half Marathon

You could click on the link above and jump straight to the gift and instruction video. If you would love to equip yourself with some more background and to know what makes these special, you could continue to the end of this short chat.

Why a GPS watch won’t solve all your pacing problems
If you have a simple stopwatch, and wondered if you are missing out relative to a GPS sports watch in a race, there’s no need to be especially envious. Although a GPS sports watch will tell you where you are and when, it will not easily tell you when you need to be at every kilometer of a specific route with its idiosyncratic elevation profile. Unless you have done all the calculations yourself and are carrying the results with you, you are more likely to either do some guesswork or remember just a few benchmark numbers. Moreover, you will not have a Km by Km guide of where you should be when, for achieving your target time, on that particular course, and for your own ability. That explains the need for human pacers and the inanimate pacer bands.

Human Pacers
I spoke to you earlier about the benefits of, and how to choose a pacer. Having said that, I also checked with you via an earlier poll regarding last year’s SCMM (2015) edition and found, not surprisingly that, in fact, less than 20% of you actually “ran with an official pacer and (were) satisfied”. Many of you were not satisfied with your pacer experience. In fact, 73% of you “did not run with a pacer at all”. One of the reasons would have been that the pacers are not synchronized in their distribution across the finish target range despite my having recommended this in the past. It is also not unlikely that the pacer you run with will fail to do the job as I highlighted in my report on SCMM-2015 pacers and then again on SCMM-2016 pacers! So then, might we be better off using inanimate wrist pacer bands?

Pacer Bands
Unfortunately, the typical pacer bands you get as freebies have a host of drawbacks:
– they have an implicit assumption that your course is flat
– and that even for a flat course your pace per km will be constant
– worse still, many of the ones you get handed at expos are illegible even when you are stationary in daylight
For these reasons and more, there’s unnecessary plastic and rubber wasted (let’s stop that everywhere please!) for something of limited realistic practical value. Use Puru’s pacer bands instead.

Puru’s Pacer Bands

PuruTheGuru's Race Distance-Time-Pace Model

PuruTheGuru’s Race Distance-Time-Pace Model

A lot of thought and action has gone into getting you these free gifts for your race success:
– they are calibrated for the specific route of the IDBI-2016 race
– they account for the fact that as your target race time changes, your pace profile on the course also changes…
– so that the slower runners need more allowance for warming up in the initial stage of the race…
– whereas the fastest runners often bolt out from the start line to create a gap between themselves and others
– although we have might have an uphill where we slow down, we have a corresponding downhill where we go faster
– the downhill does not quite make up for the loss of time on the uphill
– the differential between uphill (slowdown) and downhill (speedup) varies across the running abilities
– in the final stages of the race, slower runners usually slow down further, especially for the full marathon, whereas the fastest runners have a strong finish, faster than their average pace
– all things remaining equal, even on a flat course, there is an underling trend to go slower as each km goes by
– this trend might be tiny for the fastest runners, but noticeable for the slowest ones

What next?
Simple! Just go to the bands and strips… print, cut, wear, pose and run!


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.