Interview With 3:03 Boston Qualifier Vishwas Suryavanshi

Team Motiv8 athlete Vishwas Suryavanshi had a dream race at Tata Mumbai Marathon on Jan 19th 2020, clocking a super-fast 3:03. Not only was this his personal best by 14 minutes – by itself a huge jump, but it was also a Boston Qualifying time, which for his age group of M35-40 is currently 3:05.

Last year, the cut-off for all qualifiers who applied was 1 minute and 39 seconds below the qualifying time – indicating that many runners cleared the tough qualifying times. If Vishwas applies on his current time of 3:03, he will have a few seconds of margin if the cut-off remains the same or lowers.

Motiv8 Coaching founder and his coach since last 3 years, Atul Godbole talks to Vishwas about his journey to TMM 2020 and the Boston Qualification…

Atul Godbole (AG): Firstly, how does it feel to official qualify for Boston?

Vishwas Suryavanshi (VS): I am still not believing that I did 3:03. I have seen my splits many times in last two days to make sure :). For many marathoners, running a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time is the holy grail. Boston is the most prestigious marathon, know as the amateur Olympics among runners, and also an iconic race and it’s stringent qualification criteria for entry makes it even more challenging and hence beautiful and I am extremely happy that I could able to make it below the qualifying standards.

AG: What is making you more happy – the huge PB or the BQ?

VS: I will say both. Because this PB is more than what I planned for and 14 min at this stage is big jump. BQ has of course been my long term goal; it’s a dream I saw every day and thought about it whenever I ran. Getting actual entry is a different thing but making to the qualifying standards is a huge sense of achievement. So I am happy for both.

AG: After the Berlin race did not go as planned, did you make any changes to your training?

VS: After Berlin Marathon there are no changes that we make to the training & after having the discussion with you, we repeated the same training pattern; the only thing is we swapped some of the runs due to some personal priorities. Berlin was just a one bad day & I knew there was nothing wrong with the training.

AG: Were you anxious leading up to race day?

VS: I will be lying if I said no. Some anxiety was there but compared to Berlin I was much more relaxed and confident in terms of my health, fitness & TMM target because of the way training has gone. Having a regular discussion with you, as well as teammates Krishna & Kavitha helped to reduce the anxiety.

AG: How big a factor were the earlier start time and the better weather to your performance

VS: Its major factor on race day, almost 30 min early means we get more time to run in pleasant weather without the sun beating down on us. Till almost 24-25k it was dark. I like to run in the dark bcoz we cannot feel the distance. Weather was really good this time compare to earlier editions, the usual humidity wasn’t there. Towards end of the race we get exposed to the sun but not this time. So this definitely helped.

AG: How did the training go? Did it go to your satisfaction?

VS: Yes, the training went perfectly as per plan. A couple of runs I missed due to my personal travel but other 15 weeks of training & regular strength training was as per plan. Thursday and Sunday runs with my team mates went really well. Overall it was good team work I would say.

AG: Did you have any periods of doubts during training?

VS: No major doubts but only thing is a minor doubt about my target – whether 3.05 is achievable or shall I go for 3.08, 3.10. Because the jump from 3.17 to 3.05 is huge and after having the tough 2nd half in Berlin I was a bit apprehensive. I didn’t want to have the same slippage. But then another thought was this will give a new PB and not the BQ so what to do. Then I decided to give it a shot and at least come closer to the 3.05 and anything under 3.08 would be a satisfactory performance for me. Other than this there are no any other doubts. I was having complete trust on my training.

AG: How important is diet and nutrition to good training and racing?

VS: Diet and nutrition are one of the key things in marathon training. This will make or break your marathon. Balance between proteins, carbs & fat has to be there. Good amount of water every day. Quality and quantity of what you eat and what time you eat is also important. It makes huge difference if you do proper carb loading during the days leading up to the race. I had lot of banana’s and boiled potatoes. 1 liter of electrolyte starting Wednesday. Also during the run what you eat & drink at initial 25 km will decide your next 15km. I consumed 5 gels & 4 salt tablets. Started this consumption right from start.

AG: How did the race unfold? Were you able to stick to your paces? How hard did it get later on?

VS: It was a perfect race which I never imagined. I had good negative splits. I controlled the first half as per pacing plan & had a strong 2nd half. I did not see the Garmin much & majority of the run was by feel. It was not that hard in second half in fact I felt much stronger. Sticking to the plan, holding myself back initially, controlling the temptation of going fast due to fresh rested legs, race day anxiety and aggressive target, perfect nutrition & hydration right from start helped to have strong 2nd half. This is the race I will be happy to repeat.

AG: Did you use any mental tricks during the race?

VS: Yes I counted 1 to 100 numbers countless times & kept on repeating that to divert my attention. During last 6k I was imagining myself remaining strong because that’s the period which will make the difference in my finish time. All the tips that you had sent during the last 2 weeks I started implementing those. Pain tolerance is key thing and as you say tolerate the pain for some time and you will be rewarded in the end OR if give up that will hurt for a life time. When I completed 25k I was thinking about my 32k long runs – now I am at University gate and going to Khadaki station and then next milestone, and so on.

AG: Whats the single most important thing that you feel helped during a) training b) race day

VS: Being relaxed & confident. This is the mistake I made during my Berlin cycle, I was too focused thinking Berlin is the last marathon of my life. But this time I was much more relaxed & didn’t take any pressure of target. At the start line I was very confident & I knew even if I don’t get BQ I will definitely have a new PB and will come close to the target & it will not be a big miss like Berlin. Having that confidence on training & trust on you as a coach helped. I was having some doubts about my target but you said that’s perfect target for you and that boosted my confidence. Coach’s prediction on my finish time was perfect. Also whenever people ask me about my target I told everyone I am targeting 3.05 and that stayed in my subconscious mind.

AG: There is a lot of talk about the messed route management in the last few Ks at TMM this year. Your thoughts on that?

VS: Yes the final part of the route is shared with the half-marathoners, meaning you get tangled up with some of the slower half-marathoners and that was not at all good arrangement, I had to shout continuously to make my way. Last year at 38th km they asked us to run in a special lane made for elite runners which made my way clearer, but not this time. The route is sealed for almost the whole race, so no road traffic. But this half and full in the same lane was not good. At 40th km I stopped for 2 sec moved that barricade & came to the Elite lane. Once I took left turn & saw 500 meters sign board I wanted to sprint but that was too crowdy road as 10k runners also mixed with HM runners in same route so forget about sprinting it was difficult to just find our way to run. I was able to sprint a little in last 50 meters. I lost some time in last 4k and when you are running a Boston Qualification race where every single sec matters a lot and these things are disappointing.

AG: What’s next on the plate for you? Which race?

VS: I will be doing IDBI Delhi marathon in Feb. If everything goes well there I will try to increase the chances of getting actual entry to Boston by improving the margin between the expected cutoff & my finish time.

AG: The next logical target is the coveted sub 3 mark. Any thoughts on that? Will you aim for it?

VS: Breaking three-hours in the marathon will be big thing. Definitely this will be the next goal I have in my mind. At the same time I know repeating the same performance again is a challenge & improvement after a threshold limit required huge amount of hard work and dedication. After a certain point improvement of even 1 minute is a challenge but I will keep working hard for that and that will keep me motivated. I am very positive about it and looking forward for the attempt soon.

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