India & Around, Living, Running, Sports, Sports & Adventure, Travel
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Running in Mumbai

The Mumbai run was an exciting event for me. The registrations start way in advance so there is quite a build up over the months. It was another story that I wasn’t too prepared and hadn’t put in any long runs in the month prior to Mumbai.

But I was excited, never the less.

My mom expressed her surprise when I said I was going to Mumbai. To run. I had after all lived in the city for well over 5 years and she couldn’t quite figure out why at this stage in life, I was suddenly travelling all the way to another city just to run. Some things are just too hard to explain.

In my many years living in Mumbai, I never actually witnessed or took part in the Mumbai marathon. Maybe, I had just read about it in the passing or saw pictures mostly of celebrities in the dream run. That’s about it.

But life is strange that way. After 4 years in Bangalore, I was now travelling all the way to Mumbai to run the Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon on Jan 18.

Looking back, I left Mumbai in 2004 in a bit of a hurry. There was nothing I wanted more to leave the city and start life afresh. All my pent up anger and bitterness got directed towards the “city” though I knew it had little to do with my problems.

Over the years, when I return, though I feel some nostalgia for a place I lived and worked for more than 5 years, I have no regrets. The familiar sights I used to cross everyday on my way to work and the crowded trains bring back memories but I don’t miss anything. “I’m so glad I left,” I told my friend as we were trying to get onto a crowded local in Dadar. While I don’t miss the city, at least I don’t look back in anger anymore.

The experience:

It was still dark in Mumbai when I started from G’s place in Mahim to Azad Maidan, the starting point, well ahead of time. The roads hadn’t been cordoned off as yet so I was able to get a ride right up to the start point. The Bangalore gang started trickling in one by one and around 640 am or so we made our way to the gates. There were thousands of runners milling around the ground.

By the time we crossed the flag off point near VT it was nearly 7 am.

I started off slowly (my usual pace!) and soon crossed Churchgate station and ran out into Marine Drive where a band was playing in Rock On style. They had placed loud speakers in some places with canned crowd noises so it felt like there was a stadium full of people cheering you! Early morning joggers and walkers stopped to cheer and people were out already all along the route.

The Marine Drive stretch of about 2-3 kms was nice and pleasant with the sea on one side and I could see thousands of runners in front and behind.

From there, we ran onto Peddar Road via the flyover where a lot of people started walking as it was a bit of an incline. I shifted to a slow shuffle mode. And then it was the next stretch of Peddar Road and here everyone accelerated as it was downhill right upto Haji Ali.

This stretch towards the half way mark was a little tiring. I took out a fruit bar. There was water all along the way with volunteers handing it out. I carried some nimbu paani which I kept sipping on.

Somewhere near the half way mark, sirens sounded and the timings car crossed with the full marathon runners behind them. The Kenyan marathon runners (most of them) with their powerful strides whizzed past and I just paused a moment to just watch them. What beautiful runners they are : their arms, legs all in sync : there is little doubt that they were born to run. It’s just amazing to watch them. But, I need to get back to business. On the other side of the road, I could already see many half marathon runners making their way back.

While the Kenyans and other full marathon runners went on running towards Bandra reclamation, we had to do U-turn under the bridge and continue our way back on the other side of the road. At the half way mark I took a 2-3 minute walking break and had some dried fruits.

Then I resumed running again and geared up for the slope at Peddar Road again. The residents were out in full support handing out bananas and biscuits and water, cheering and encouraging everyone. The atmosphere was just great. Over the bridge again and then the placard at the end of the stretch said 18 kms. I was beginning to tire slightly and I could feel my feet dragging as I turned the corner back into Marine Drive and saw the Ambassador hotel in the distance. It seemed really far away. The last stretch was tough and I slowed down a little to watch all the dream run folks coming out for their 6 km stretch on the other side of the road. I thought I would do some star spotting but I couldn’t see a single celebrity :-).

At the corner of Marine Drive before starting towards Churchgate, I had some water and another fruit bar and then started back on the last stretch : the most painful because I know the end if near but it’s still out of reach.

As I turned the corner and saw the huge gates near VT that we crossed a few hours earlier in the morning it was with a sense of relief that I sped towards the finish line to complete the race. Sweaty and tired, I was looking around when someone from the Times Now channel pounced on me and asked me something like how I was feeling. I have no idea what I said, but I hope they didn’t air it. I wouldn’t have made for a very pleasant sight.

A few had completed the race, still others were trickling in. We waited there for a while watching the dream run folks still going out of Azad Maidan : there were around 10-15,000 people I think.

I caught up with a few other girls from the gang : Nirupa, Anjana and Vidya and we went back towards Azad Maidan where we were given refreshments (bananas/biscuits). We wandered around, Vidya tried to find a medical aid for her swollen ankle and we took some after race photos.

After a while, I made my way back towards Churchgate. Tired but quite happy with the whole experience of running in Mumbai : definitely a memory I will cherish for a long time. As I boarded the train, I remember the many times I would take the train back home tired and dead beat after work from Churchgate. This time too, I’m going through the same feelings but I’m glad it’s for different reasons!

I boarded the Churchgate-Borivili slow train and made my way back.

(Pics courtesy: Vidya Sampath)


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