Friday, February 09, 2007

A Interesting Tag....

Saw this tag in Anumita's blog while browsing through her archives. Since she has asked anyone who reads it to give it a try, here goes:

I am thinking about: my wife's indulgent smile when she sees me doing something I really like.
I want to: earn enough to be able to spend without thinking a second time about it.
I wish: I could be more empathetic towards people I care about.
I hear: okay but I listen very well.
I wonder: how some people can just walk over other people without a thought to the effect.
I regret: not being able to keep in touch with some people very important to me. Also that I am sometimes very brusque in my speech with the people I love the most.
I am: very patient - sometimes it tends to make me complacent too.
I dance: with abandon, sometimes embarassing my wife in the process.
I sing: or try to, the songs which really impress me with strong emotions.
I cry: silently when I see anyone else in pain or sorrow.
I make with my hands: or have made stuff which might end up different from what it started out being.
I write: to express myself better than what I might have when I talked.
I confuse: acquaintances with friends - according to me, everyone is good, unless proven bad.
I need: to see S everyday before going to sleep.
And finally: there are still a lot of things I want to do, a lot of places I want to see and a lot of things I have to share with S.
Since writing this was very enjoyable for me, I'd like some others to experience this as well. So Shruthi, Triya and Lak are hereby passed the baton for now. All others who happen to read this are welcome to take this up.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Mumbai Marathon experience!

Though this post should have been out at least a week or more earlier, a subsequent trip to Kerala with S prevented me from doing it earlier.

The Mumbai Marathon started off in 2003 with much fanfare. Over the years since, the number of sponsors have gone up exponentially - at the same time, public interest in the marathon has always been very high, so much so that people from all walks of life participate in the marathon. For the common man, a "marathon" conjures up images of well toned athletes, sweat streaming down their bodies, pistoning their legs up and down on a long long road having trained for most of their lives for such a test of physical and mental endurance.

The Mumbai Marathon pushed away these images and replaced them with something that was fun, rewarding and at the same time had some social responsibility attached to it. This did not replace the marathon in its real sense as there different categories to the Mumbai Marathon. These are enumerated for the benefit of those who are not familiar with the format - Full Marathon (approx. 42 km), Half Marathon (approx. 21 km), the Dream Run (approx. 7 km), the Senior Citizens Run (approx. 5 km) and the Wheelchair event.

My stint with the Mumbai Marathon began only in 2006 when I decided to try and do the Dream Run (the obvious run of choice for about 90% of the total marathoners) which was a distance of 7.5 km in 2006. The pre-marathon advice was that the Dream runners should start off their training program a month before Race day. I started off following that program but obviously there were many hindrances which meant that on the day of the run, I had practised for only 5-6 days. That I did manage to finish the run is another story altogether.

Cut to Jan 21st, 2007.

This year, the Dream Run was only 6 km (correspondingly, the number of days I had run before it was only 2!!). This year, I was running as part of a Corporate team - basically my organization had registered all employees who were interested as part of its marathon team. So we all were given bright orange t-shirts with my company logo emblazoned on them.

S, being a physio, is a part of medical assistance team at the marathon every year and is usually a team leader for one of the medical stations along the route. These medical stations do a great job keeping a look-out for runners who may be at the end of their tether and pulling them in for either plain resting or for the requisite treatment for sun-stroke or physical injury that they might have sustained. This year, S made sure she was at the 5 km point so that I would have to pass her on my way to the finish and she could make sure I was ok. She had also told all her colleagues at different aid stations along the way to keep an eye out for me and let her know if I was ok. :)

The day dawned (I was just about to say "bright and clear" but then I realized that it was only 6 am when we left the house). S, my younger brother who was also running and me. We also met another friend who was taking part along the way. Though the Dream Run was scheduled to start only at 9.10 am, we left early because S had to reach her aid station earlier.

** The Mumbai Marathon usually starts off from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Railway Terminus (popularly known as V.T.) and the holding area for all participants is the equally well-known Azad Maidan.

The train we took from Borivli to Marine Lines was quite crowded, considering this was very early on a Sunday morning - it was no real surprise that most of the crowd were either marathoners or at least people on their view to see the marathoners run and cheer for them. I could feel a sense of exhilaration build up inside me coupled with a sense of dread thinking of the 6 km run which suddenly seemed quite a distance. Questions arose in my mind: Would I be able to finish the run comfortably? Or would I be sprawled out by the side of the road heaving with exhaustion or sun stroke or for that matter, with just plain aching legs? Well, I thought, all of that should have been thought about before I enrolled and not now.

Having gotten off the train at Marine Lines station, we dropped S off at her medical aid station and set out to Metro Cinema where my organization people had been asked to assemble. Obviously, having left so early, we were the first to reach there from our company. There were a lot of other people already there though, from different companies all indicated by their t-shirts, along with quite a few television crews. A whole contingent of Shiamak Davar's dance class members were present. In fact, some of them have even featured in almost every new Bollywood dance number that has come out recently.

Slowly but surely, the "orange t-shirt gang" grew and at about 8:30, we were close to 50. It was good to see the sea of orange - also it was a very different kind of feeling to see colleagues who I had never seen outside of office, maybe not even outside of their office desks in such a backdrop. By now, many other groups had also assembled there so the whole place was a riot of colours with varied banners and flags being displayed by each group. I was wondering if there were so many runners in just the Corporate section, how many there would be in the "individual" category.

After shooting a few pictures as a group for posterity, we moved towards the holding area in Azad Maidan. Inside there, we could see a lot of news reporters or popular TV jockeys interviewing celebrities and small-time starlets regarding their participation. The whole place was bustling with activity - the latest foot-tappers blasting from mammoth speakers, cheerleaders and dance troupes showing their moves on decorated platforms and above all the runners themselves, cheerfully pushing their way forward or chatting to each other. That was when I felt that I definitely would finish off the 6 km. Anything seemed possible in that kind of atmosphere!

Race time still found us trying to fight our way through the throngs and about at least a kilometer to even the start line. All of the sudden, the roads opened up and we surged forward towards the start line. The gigantic digital clock on top of the start line read exactly 9:25 when I passed through it. A couple of platforms erected on the left of the starting position had quite a few big shots from Standard Chartered as well as from the sporting and film fraternity. RJ Harsh from Radio Mirchi was on the other platform, urging people on through his constant commentary and leading the crowd in cheering the contingent from each organization as it passed. There was this huge thrill running through me seeing so many ordinary people assembled here for just this one cause, all differences forgotten with the sole purpose of seeing this event through to its finish. All thought of not completing, getting injured etc forgotten, I started making my way through the throng in front of me.

School children, collegians, aunties, uncles and peers were all there either walking or jogging as their age and condition would allow them. There were crowds on both sides of the road lining the barricades erected their to keep them out egging the runners on, cheering for people they did not know and might never ever even see again. It is events like these which bring people together, that let out such feelings of comraderie that people never even know exist.

There were many in varied costumes like Disney characters, dancers in those huge masks from Karnataka (I think its called Hexa Gaana Bailat - my friends from Karnataka may please correct me), a lot of Mahatma Gandhis (in fact, the coolest one of these was a gentlemen dressed like Gandhiji but instead of the so well known Gandhi glasses sporting a cool pair of dark Ray Bans), even a guy dressed as General Pervez Mussharaf. There was a contingent of young officers from the Mumbai Police, all able bodied cadets, their muscles moving as they jogged along. Music was playing throughout the whole stretch, changing from time to time but always there. There were groups of cheerleaders, either professional ones weilding pom poms and whistles or impromptu groups of youngsters doing their bit of cheering. Before I knew it, I had jogged for about 3 km and was on Marine Drive.

Here I could see choppers from the Navy circling overhead videotaping the whole event. Each time a chopper made its run overhead, all the runners would wave out enthusiastically hoping to get captured and beamed on national tv. Here the sun was making its presence felt and I could feel my stamina running down along with a lot of sweat. Even my legs were aching and promising to give way any moment. I knew that if I stopped, I would not be able to start running again so I refused to give up. At the same time, I could hear the strains of "Saare Jahan Se Accha" emanating from about 200 meters ahead. Moving ahead, I saw a whole band from the Navy sitting in a small enclosure on the promenade on the left and belting out such patriotic numbers. Believe it or not, even then I felt the hairs on the back of my neck and my arms rise - there was something so evocative about hearing those tunes here that I could possibly describe it. I was not the only person to feel that then and I could see many others take heart from the music and brush aside their exhaustion and make a fresh start.

A wide U-turn on Marine Drive would bring us on to the Princess Street fly-over, the end of which signalled the 5 km mark. Just before I hit that U-turn, I heard the crowd raise a huge cheer. I looked to see the cause of this and to my amazement, I saw the first of the full marathoners returning on the opposite side of the road with only about 3 km of their stipulated 42 to go. Just think about this, we dream runners were on an average taking almost an hour to run 6 km while these athletes were doing 42 km in just about 2 hours. What a treat it was to see them run, even in the state we were in. In fact, one can almost imagine the cheetah running captured so well on Nat Geo or Discovery, each muscles well defined and moving in tandem with the others.

The start of the fly-over being narrow, was very crowded so everyone had slowed to a walk whether they liked it or not. From the top of the fly-over I could see a huge number of runners still on Marine Drive making their way here. It was not a sight to be missed so I risked stopping for a moment and took out my digital camera and shot a few pics there. Moving on, I passed the 5 km marker. I could S at her aid station now, handing water to some people and also cheering at the same time. It was worth the whole effort to see the expression of relief and pleasure on her face when I appeared before her! A quick word, and a small bottle of water later I was on my way again gaining the final stretch of the Dream Run. As expected, with the end in sight, we all tried to make our way ahead much quicker and with a final burst made it past the finish line which was outside Metro Adlabs. I checked my watch and saw that it had taken me exactly 44 mins since I had started. The area behind the finish line was full of people congratulating each other for completing the run. I pushed my way out of there panting freely but with a sense of achievement.

I located a couple of my friends and waited for my brother and S to join us. While we were doing there, we saw groups of people joyously heading home. We too went to a near by Pizza Hut for lunch and had a leisurely time there and then made our way home in the train. Needless to say, we slept really well that afternoon and at least I had a dead pair of legs for the next 2 days. But here I am, already waiting for Mumbai Marathon 2008 (ahem...with dreams of trying out for the half marathon this time round but am quite sure that the Dream Run is what I will ultimately be a part of). More power to such marathons that foster team spirit in such a large way!!!

** I know this one is way too long for a post so excuse me, reader, if you do read through till this point.