It becomes the event where celebrities, industrialists, physically challenged, the elderly, and rest of the masses come together to honor a social cause and to spread the cheer! Officially sponsored by Standard Chartered, this is one of the biggest events in the city.
The much awaited January 15th finally arrived and many Mumbaikers across the city woke up during wee hours on a Sunday morning and boarded the locals at 6.00 am. The richest sporting event in Asia had been flagged off and the crowd was trickling in.
This year too, I shamelessly tagged along with a friend, to be a part of the festivities.
The turnaround was simply mind blowing! Azad Maidan was a sight for anyone with a sore eye. It was buzzing with a sea of people including hundreds of NGOs supported by various corporates with their volunteers in colorful costumes. Thanks to my blinding orange t shirt and matching cap I must say I blended in quite well! Most of the NGOs had their own mascots and folk dancers who stole the show. Stilt walking clowns, life sized cartoon characters, teenagers parading as Yamdoots against corruption, aunties sporting No Smoking head gears….…Mardi Gras? Well, almost.
Clearly infectious and a delight to watch is the sporting spirit displayed by every marathon participant and the harmony in which the event is conducted. It is almost like the entire city tacitly agrees to all the rules and regulations to render maximum support to this mega event. All roads which constitute the runner’s route map are cordoned off the previous evening and traffic is controlled so that the participants can run in peace, avoiding the blaring horns and traffic jams. There are assigned stand points for media, police, and the celebs. To top it all quite literally, there are helicopters flying above the streets for air security cover and gunned policemen at every nook and corner for ground security. Every now and then you also see volunteers on bikes carrying bottled water. And just when you think all of this is so comforting, you bump into an ambulance. Bombs or no bombs, we are definitely good to go.
It is said that every year half marathon receives the maximum number of entries, and this year the number was close to 14,000. The following day maybe a mad mad Monday, but then who really cares? The media frenzy was growing by the minute while the on-lookers cheered the participants into the last lap of this do or die event.
Later I got to know that the winner of the full marathon Kenyan Laban Moiben took home a whopping 36,000$! I mean just what are these guys made of!? The last time I managed to complete close to 8 km (Obviously I walked the second half) on Marine Drive, I was very close to being immobile! :-/
Old or young; the passion, enthusiasm and the willingness to take on a challenge heads on (with or without medical aid!), is absolutely admirable.
And it does leave you with that same inevitable feeling. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time you tried it too??