Monday 19 January 2015

The Cuckoo Plan : SCMM 2015

I had written down my Plan for the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2015:

“I just want One Mind.
I just want One Plan.
I just want One Goal.
I just want to run a 4:00 hour Marathon! 
Trust is the Supreme Daring!” 

I had advertised it far and wide!

Namrata, my daughter, and I had discussed the blog and its possible consequences.  Was it, she had asked, necessary to tell the whole world of my plans, so far in advance, especially when I was seeking a target that was so out of my reach?

The only danger with advertising ones target is the danger of failing to achieve it.  I have never been worried about failing publicly.  I’m a harder critique of myself than anyone else can be and so it does not bother me.

The advantages of advertising my target, on the other hand, surpass the dangers.  There is a possibility that my friends may be inspired by my target and push themselves as well.  Besides even if I fail, they will see me pick myself up and go at it again. And there is some good in that too.

I missed my 4:00 marathon target.  I held One-mind, One-Goal and One-Plan throughout the race.  I gave it my 100%.  I tried my best.  I did not make it.

The pace I held to make it in 4:00 was perhaps just too fast for my current ability.  This perhaps, caused me to miss, not only the 4:00 target but also the 4:10 mark, which I thought I was capable of.  But that is water under the bridge. One never knows what might have been.  There is no advantage in speculating what might have been.

The 4:00 target was missed and that’s that.

Did I fail? Well, Yes and No. 
Two issues are involved: Math and Emotion.

Mathematically there is no doubt that I missed 4:00. I ended up with 4:16:23.

But when I analyze it emotionally, I see it differently. 
In my first SCMM, I did not get an official time because by the time I finished, they had removed the timing carpet and even the finish-line clock.

For a long time afterwards, I improved as a runner but I started the Pacing initiative in India and started pacing the sub 5:00 bus.  Consequently I became a 4:58/59 runner.  Year after year, I simply finished in either 4:58 or 4:59.

In 2014 I decided that I would not pace and simply try and run fast. I tried to push my time (without the requisite training). I ended up with a 4:50. I was very disappointed but from that day on, I decided that I would train for pace. 

With this, larger frame of reference a 4:16:23 isn’t all that bad.

To go from 4:50 to 4:16:23, in one year, is pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, GOOD!  

It is my personal best and it does push me up on the 89km Comrades Ultra Marathon start-line seeding. Did I say, pretty Good?

Of course, I cannot deny that there is a part of me that feels sad at missing not only 4:00 but also 4:10.

The 4:00 target, in hindsight, was madness. A Bit Cuckoo! 

By all logical reasoning, it is madness to aim 10 minutes faster than what one is capable of. 
But since when has marathon running and logical reasoning gone hand in hand? 

So what was I really thinking? Was 4:00 ever possible?

In the 1975 movie, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Jack Nicholson is trying to escape from a mental institution.  In one of the scenes he tries to pull out the drinking water trough and use it to smash one of the barred windows to escape. 

One of the other patients says, “Don’t be stupid, you can’t do that.” Jack replied, “Yes I can, anything is possible.”

Jack gives it everything.  He strains his hands, legs and back until the veins stick out of his neck.  But he could not move the thing at all.

They all said, “We told you that you couldn’t do it.”

Nicholson looks at them and says, “But I tried, didn’t I? Goddamnit, at least I did.”

Was 4:00 impossible?

Yes, Perhaps it was impossible. But I tried, didn’t I? Goddamnit, at least I did.



  1. Super improvement in a year !! and u inspired many like me to also be a bit Cuckoo !!

  2. Dear Amit
    I've seen how hard you've been training all year. I haven't seen all your runs, but many of them. You've been focused in all of them, with no distractions other than a quick hello wave.
    You reached for the stars, and got the moon.
    I'm glad as you are that you didn't try to reach for just the moon...
    Best wishes for that unchanged goal of 4:00

  3. Dear Amit, I admire you for one more reason now - this immediate blog confessing your missing the target - it needs lot of courage!! However your blog did the trick for me yesterday - from a 5:25 runner in SCMM 2014 I achieved a 4:32 finish almost meeting my target 4:30 which I had firmed up after reading your blog! Offcourse your blog was the final tipping point in this achievement which was made possible by Coach Daniel Vaz through his exacting training schedules all year long and Puru's Pacepal which immensely helped in my final planning and fine tune my run. I really do not know if I would have even attempted this feat but for your blog and therefore allow me to Congratulate you for sharing your terrific thoughts through your blogs which continue to be HUGE WINNERS as is evidenced by how it has helped mortals like me in this instance!!! THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN!!! Anant

  4. Amit, you are an inspiration to so many of us runners! Considering the way I felt yesterday, and I am pretty sore today too, I salute you for just having the ability to write anything leave alone something as eloquent as this blog. As Puru puts it so well, "You reached for the stars, and got the moon" and you should continue to do so. Life is about living to "dream the impossible dream" and we runners are no different.

  5. Well done mate! An utterly positive result.


  6. As I always say, you are a monk in the guise of an ultra marathoner !!!
    Blessed to know you.
    Blessed to read such great writing.
    Thank you my friend.

  7. Congratulations Amit! You hive or your best and that is all that matters. Your last post inspired a lot of runners to go for it! And your PB is pretty darn good. :)

  8. Congratulations! I had done something similar and I too could not meet my goal (sub-2, for half marathon) due to health reasons. But announcing it publicly forced me to participate rather than resting in my bed that morning.
    Niranjan Deo

  9. Hi Amit,
    Both your blogs, the pre and post marathon are inspirations by themselves. To keep a goal, try hard and then not get disheartened, but use it for further motivation speaks volumes about your resilience.
    Keep writing, keep running & keep inspiring.
    Best wishes for the Comrades!

  10. Great work Amit! You put the best foot forward. And look this preparation will go a long way! and easy sub 4 soon and faster comrades. Above all it gives so much inspiration. Thanks for sharing Amit.

  11. Congratulations !! I ran my first FM this year and managed to drag and reach finish line in 5:38:42. I wanted to reach by 5:15 but certainly not beyond 5:30. So need your mental resolve and do it under 5:00 hour within a year !! May be will talk to you some time and get some motivation and of course technical inputs on improvement from 5:39 to 4:59

  12. Congrats Amit! Great work. Your blog is an inspiration to a lot of us. This year I could not train a lot and had put on extra weight. Had it not been for your post, I would not have pushed myself repeating the mantra 'Mind In Boat' throughout the race to finish in 2:10 for the half marathon, certainly not my best but better than the original of 2:15. Goal set for next year a sub 2:00 finish. Will keep following your post for more inspiration.

  13. Hats off!! Superb mindset and running!! God Bless.

  14. Awesome, you are a hero! cutting down 45 minutes within a year is not easy. Speaks about the hardwork and determination to run injury free!
    Thank you for setting such a wonderful example!