This would have been my 5th continuous half-marathon. I am registered, have a bib, but can’t run…I have a commitment in another city that is even more important!
If it was just another run (and there are so many of them these days), it wouldn’t have mattered…the Mumbai Marathon has now morphed into something bigger than “just another race”.
It doesn’t matter how many half-marathons or marathons you may have participated in throughout the year in India. When you are part of a collective whoosh like the Mumbai event, the high that you get from just being part of the sea of people that makes its way from the start-point to the end, is worth all the effort…it doesn’t matter whether you stumble, walk or run…the glow that envelopes you when you breast the finish line, despite the pain and the muscle aches, lasts for a good few days more. It’s an endorphin high that crack addicts inject themselves daily for!
The run itself has its own rhythm. The start, when we are all fresh and enthusiastic, the middle drudge portion when we pass Wilson college and then the final segment that starts the moment we take a left turn from Marine Drive. That’s when we know, with just about a kilometer left, that we will make it, come what may. The countdown to the finish starts when we take the next left turn onto D N Road…about 300 meters down the road looms the finish line…people in front of us finish with their arms held high, making sure the cameras capture their bib numbers…and then disappear into the crowd beyond.
As we approach the end and see the large clock timer, we try and speed up in the last 200 meters, hoping to better our time somehow in that short period, even if we are not focused on our pace…and then, it’s over!
Some people walk away immediately. I stay back, and try and stretch on the wall on the left and take in the energy. Everyone who finishes has a look of accomplishment …of having achieved something bigger than oneself…of having done something different that day. People do jigs, hug each other, give high-fives and then hobble towards the medical tent or try and get inside the holding area. When we finally walk away, we see others like us, still wearing their bibs…despite being total strangers there is an instant knowing smile or grimace and an intuitive acknowledgement that binds us together for that brief moment!
Running on the SeaLink has also changed the run’s profile. The first year it was thrown open, it was amazing to see the sun rise on our left…there were non-runners with cameras who had registered just so that they could get to walk across the SeaLink and take pictures.
The first time I ran in Jan 2008, I managed an unprepared under-3 hours that left me stiff as a board for the next 3 days. The next year I ran a slow 3 hours and 15 minutes, walking most of the times…I had trained badly. For the next two runs, I was better prepared and the last one was my best…easy and smooth and according to plan. This year would have been even better!
Do yourself a favor! Be part of the event next Sunday! You could still perhaps get a bib for charity. Or you can be on the sidelines, cheering. One way or the other you will have the pleasure of being part of a terrific collective event that happens but once a year in our city!