Having broken the national half-marathon record at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon on Sunday, steeplechaser Avinash Sable admits he could have run even faster.
Despite the pollution in New Delhi during the race and the fact that he had not raced competitively in nearly a year, Sable ran the half-marathon distance in 1:00:30sec, becoming the first Indian to run a half marathon under 61 minutes.
"I could have had an even faster time," Sable told Firstpost. "But my confidence started to sag a little by the end of the race. That's why I didn't push myself harder in the finishing stages. It's because I haven't competed in nearly a year."
After the phenomenal year he had in 2019 " where he broke his own national record multiple times, including twice at the World Championships in September " Sable said he was hoping to bring his timing in steeplechase down to 8:10.00secs. That's a massive leap for any runner, but Sable has improved on his personal best timings year after year: bringing it down to 8:29.80 in 2018 from 8:39.81 in 2017. In 2019, he brought it further down to 8:21.37.
"That's the target now in whatever event I run the steeplechase in. Maybe I can even try to run 8:05.00. I got a whole year to train on bringing down my speed. I was sure that I was going to break a national record at whatever event I competed in next," said the JSW Sports-backed athlete. "I feel I've improved a lot in this year despite not having trained in ideal conditions sometimes."
Sable was in Ooty when the lockdown started, but when coronavirus cases started to rise around August, he moved to Sports Authority of India's Bengaluru campus.
He says he really had to be innovative with his training sessions when in Ooty because somedays the ground he would usually train on would not be available. For a steeplechaser, the value of running on a track with hurdles and a water pit cannot be understated. Yet, Sable said he would train on secluded streets, or when even that was not possible, he would train in his room.
"I had never needed to train on streets before this," said Sable.
After breaking the national half-marathon record, Sable is targeting three or four international competitions before the deferred Tokyo Olympics in July next year. Sable said he was keen to participate in the Asian Athletics Championships to be held in China's Hangzhou in May next year.
"I was preparing for the Tokyo Olympics. The Delhi Half Marathon was not on my radar. But then when I heard it was being organised I ran it just as a test event. Now I will go back to planning and training for Tokyo 2021," said Sable.