Before you roll your eyes and say, “Not again. Not one more article about cars and traffic jams and law breaking motor cyclists and bad roads and potholes” …this is not about vehicular traffic jams.
There are 8 days left for SCMM’s 11th edition…before some of you non-runners roll your eyes and say “Not again. Not one more article about running”, remember, “ek running article, once a year, to banta hai”.
I don’t have the numbers, but if last year was any indication, there should be about 5,000 full-marathon and about 15,000 odd half-marathon runners participating this year.
Most are Mumbaiites. And they need to train. And given the lack of large grounds and open spaces, most training happens on the roads, typically, in the early mornings before sunrise. In the winter months, when sunrise is around 7.00, practice runs often start at 5.00 or even earlier, given how well lit our main roads are.
One of the more popular running routes is the Worli Sea Face — Haji Ali — Peddar Rd — Babulnath — Marine Drive — Nariman Point one. The Sunday before New Year’s Eve (Dec 29th), 3 weeks before the 19th January event, saw perhaps the largest turnout of runners on the roads, most doing a last but one long practice run, some alone, many in groups.
In the last few years, running in groups and with trainers has become quite popular in our city. Unfortunately in SoBo, all groups pretty much have to use the same running routes.
I always run facing the traffic and find it insane that most run with their back to the oncoming vehicles. That day, I started from Worli Sea Face around 5.15 AM with a few stray runners in both directions. As I hit the Peddar Road incline, there was someone running towards me virtually every minute or so. This continued up to the Kemps Corner flyover, where the singletons turned to pairs. To pass them, I would either have to run onto the road, or force the pairs to do so, but luckily the flyover run is short, there were no speeding cars and there was no major incident.
Then I turned into Babulnath Road, and bang…hit a virtual wall of runners. There were at least 3 groups that had probably started together on Marine Drive and in the dark, these groups were running 3–4 together, as if this was already the Mumbai Marathon, the road theirs, cleared of cars and trucks, nothing to fear from the vehicles that often careen by at crazy speeds at that time of the day. Seriously! 3–4 together, hogging more than 1/2 to 2/3rds of the road, forcing anyone coming from the opposite side to either sidestep onto the pavement, or steer onto the middle of the road!
I did what any sensible person would do. I raised my forearms in front of my head as shields and just ploughed through the runners’ traffic.
In a way this is all good. More runners, more people staying fit and all quite good for all of humankind, etc., etc. But like with cars, runners too need to follow some etiquette. And one of them is…do not run in trios or 4 together on a regular road with traffic, especially in the dark.
Having said this! All the best to those who are running next Sunday! Have a blast, enjoy yourself and for those who are still sitting on the fence…walk and have some fun. It is only once a year that you get to walk/run on the Bandra-Worli SeaLink anyway!