Readers Write: Delhi Man At The Mumbai Marathon


Mumbai Marathon 2013 Image:PTI

Following our Readers Write post by Urvashi Ashar on why she ran the Mumbai marathon, we received this story from Delhi based Gajendra Upadhyay sharing a Delhites experience of the Mumbai Marathon. 

I ran the Mumbai half marathon, because I HAD to.

Quickly, my background: I am from Delhi – though I haven’t always been so. I had run 9 half marathons since 2005 – all in Delhi. The last one was in September 2012. I am an avid runner, but not a fanatical one – mostly because I have been running since my school days and have done my fair share of crazy runs (but never more than 10-12 kms till I started the half marathons).

It had started to seem that not running in one Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon would make life not worth living. And so, my 10th half marathon was also the 10th SCMM and of course my first in Mumbai city. For me the challenge in this run was simply – TO RUN IN MUMBAI.

I have always wondered how do people run in Mumbai: it is crowded, it is humid, it is bustling. If you run in Mumbai you are sure to knock into several people at once, run into Fiat taxis and/or Vada Pav joints every 10 steps. How can you run in Mumbai?

Well, myths got busted on 20th January 2013. For starters, it was a fairly chilly day and that was a wonderful bonus – because Mumbai is a humid city, right? For another, the organisers had their early morning time just perfect. Finally, the enthusiasm of the entire city was unexpected– it turned out in hordes to cheer the runners. This was the only warmth we needed.

It was a smooth and quiet start. The Mumbai sun rises late on most days – out of concern for its citizens who work till unearthly hours daily. On this wintry January day the 5:40 am sky was pitch black. A perfect dawn that brought a shiver of excitement. Emotions of various kinds merged into one – the runner’s thrill of another new run, the vibrancy of the atmosphere and the chill of an unexpected morning.

The bigger surprise was the holding area – under a flyover, next to a fire station. Excited participants just trooped in early (I came in at 5 and there were a couple of hundred or thousand already there); they squatted on the sidelines and waited for the start. I looked around to be sure they were runners – they were. In Delhi, the jostling starts about half an hour before the run. Here no one jostled. Hmm.

They shared stories. “My wife was anxious and cooked me a hearty meal before the run. I promised to go back and eat it.” Hope you did.
The beginning was memorable. There were no blaring mikes or bhangra dancers. It was annoyingly well organized.

Within moments thousands of feet were on the iconic Sea Link (for me its charm is diminished by the “dynastic” nomenclature). All I could hear was the thumping of shoes all around – the sound of running feet – and the ocean below. The waves splashed and lapped on the shores but seemed eerily calm. This was a different run. The air smelt salty. And the rest of Mumbai was still sleeping.

I have a proposal for the Mumbai administration – carve out a permanent joggers track on the Sea Link – this city will be the greatest one to run in. It was a mesmeric stretch (shadowy flickers of the dawn sky reflected in the dark, deep waters below). All too soon we had moved from the Sea Link towards Pedder Road and the city had suddenly come alive. Children with their mommies and daddies were cheering.

A little girl and her brother were holding out bottles of water for the runners. Someone grabbed the water bottle from the little boy. He was thrilled. Now the girl looked really anxious. Noone was stretching out towards her bottle. She kept pushing her hand towards the runners – one ran past her, two, three, four ….and in a flash! someone snatched the bottle from her hand.

“YES!” she shouted and jumped in glee and pumped her hands in victory. The whole city was part of the run. “Go Mumbai Go,” they shouted and held out trays of candies. Hey Delhi is also running here, I wanted to say, but kept my counsel. I was not going to experiment with loyalties today –I was keen to finish this run.

Ah the Run. I had done 14 odd kms and it was still a breeze. Literally. The sea breeze.

It was soooo refreshing. My pace was the same and the feeling of thrill did not subside as I finished the race. I was not tired…!! Funny.
The medal queue moved fast and after a fleeting, beautiful smile from a fleeting, beautiful lady who handed me the medal, I was desperate to bump into a Vada Pav joint. Hot cutting chai with a fresh Vada Pav dripping in green chutney is the food for gods after a 21 km run. I then hopped into a fiat taxi and headed back to the airport. Mumbai I will be back.

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