When I think of Marathon, my mind wonders to those dark and wiry Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes who are a force to reckon with in world sports. For the past three years, I have been noticing Mumbai Marathon, which is being held every year in January, when Mumbai weather is at its coolest. After giving a go bye for the past two years after some initial enthusiasm, this year I was determined to have a look from ring side about what it is like.
There, I got up at six o’clock in the morning, on 15th January, 2012, had a quick hot water bath, a cup of tea and biscuits and my Sony Handycam in tow, took the train at 7 am for Churchgate station with intention to walk to Marine Drive, where I can observe all the action the Marathon event has to offer.
While I was walking from Churchgate Station toMarine Drive, it was still early morning, with no trace of sunlight; being situated in west, I did not expect it. In the dim light my first encounter with a marathoner was a dark skinned African, almost getting lost in darkness, his bright clothing gave him away. The guy was running steady paced with long strides. Before I could take out my Handycam, he was gone!
Moving ahead towards the junction point of Marine drive, some crowd had already gathered for cheering the runners. As per the race timetable the first batch of runners competing among Indian athletes, started their race from CST at 5.45 am. CST being close to Marine drive, I reckoned that I missed those runners.
The second batch consisting of elite athletes from across the world, were to start their race at 7.30 am. As, I got my Handycam ready near a table containing water bottles, the first batch of elite athletes were all over the place, mostly African athletes, some picking up water bottles on the run. By the time the second group came I was all ready to capture them. Moving to the Marine drive road coming from Oberoi side, I was able to catch them once again.
I was positioned in the triangle area between three roads, moving to and fro capturing the runners from three different locations. One corner of the junction had two small stages set up side by side, one by Star TV and another by Standard Chartered Bank who are the principal sponsors for the event.
Star had some folk music and folk dance to go with it for the crowd. The adjacent stage was occupied with some pop music singers, belting out numbers which had the small crowd young and old enthralled, some dancing to the beats. One Parsi gentleman sang a few old time favourite Hindi songs to the applause of the crowd.
After the main runners were gone, the senior citizen 5 km run saw some in their seventies, running enthusiastically. There was an event for the paraplegics in wheel chairs, making do with their arms, what they lacked in their legs. Every where the spirit was the real thing, winning or losing did not matter.
This year some 38,000 runners took part. A large number of corporate participated with their employees, carrying some banners for a social cause. Many NGO’s working in various areas including Epilepsy, Spinal Cord Injury, eradication of illiteracy and promoting education.
The participants had colouful banners, donning bright coloured dresses to be noticed. The cheering crowds had their full satisfaction, having come from far and wide to witness the once in a year spectacle.
I spent nearly four hours to capture more than 150 video clips being constantly on toes. At the end of it, I had a feeling that I must have exercised my legs to the extent of running a 5 km marathon meant for seniors. I made a promise to come back next year.
No amount of writing will do justice for this spectacular annual event at Mumbai. Travellers to Mumbai especially during winter should take into consideration the date of this event while planning their itinerary.