The first time we heard of Mumbai Marathon was back in 2004. It was a balmy day in Jan/Feb that year. For me, it was the best idea - to start the tradition of running and marathons in Mumbai. I could hardly contain my excitement. Then I looked down at myself, wait, where are my feet? Oh yeah, there they are, under the belly. I was some 7 months pregnant. Although in the final analysis I had one child - that too not a particularly large one - coming out of the belly, even at 7 months I looked as if I was carrying, no, not a basketball, but a basketball team itself, inside there. So running was out, even if it was only 7 measly kilometers. I valiantly made my way to Azad Maidan in any case. Armed with biscuits and juice, a hat, and sunglasses. Cheered the husband on in his run, baby-sat a few kids who ate Idlis with their grandmom, generally thought of the things I would do once I had the baby and miraculously, overnight lost all the weight I had gained in the past months. It was a wonderful experience. Swore to be back at it again the next year.
In the past years I have graduated from fat, pregnant spectator to fat dream (7 km) runner to brave half-marathon (21 km) runner. This year was my second experience with the half (as we are calling it these days). The organisation was a little off this time compared to last year. We were in some Tirupati Temple like enclosure in the holding area when there was a sudden commotion. We realised that the people in the other enclosure were moving out and unless we stepped over the dividers we would remain hemmed in here. Some enterprising fat individuals went one step further and broke down the thin wooden things and we all jumped over. Followed the surge through to the start, but only managed to reach the start line some 8 minutes after the race was flagged off. No matter, I told myself, armed as I was with the special champion chips, which would record times of starting, stopping, peeing, and surely, finishing. So I would have to the second an accurate record of my race. Of course that was not to be, but I did not know that then.
I began strongly, though put off a bit due to all the callous individuals walking four abreast and blocking my running path. My crib was that all this tortuosity was increasing my total distance to be run, already the 21 km despite my earlier experience, is a long way away from being comfortable. Chatted and chattered feeling comfortable up to the half way mark, saw Anil Ambani, Milind Soman ahead at the turn.
All cool up to 14 kilometers. The three of us that train together, stuck together till about the half way mark, then I lost them. Was by now running with a guy from New Jersey who read my NGO affiliation on my TShirt and discovered the common thread. He was an experienced marathoner, and it was nice to heave someone to run with. But even that did not help when my legs started to fail me. I could not understand it at first, they are yet to have given up on me thus, in all my years of running. But then many of those years were when I was younger, smaller, and much more agile, and also I was only doing sprints back then, never anything longer than 5 kms.
Anyhow, the calves were cramping a bit. In the back of my mind there was a voice telling me that if I upped the pace a bit, at least for a little while, the acid would burn out and I would be fine. But then, more than an hour into the race, with at least an hour more to go, this hardly seemed like an option. So I did the unthinkable and walked a few paces. For me, mentally and physically, this is suicide. So pace, race, everything went out right there, and I struggled and struggled to reach the finish finally in 2 hours 25 mins. Did several sets of multiplication tables in my head, got to a point where I could only do the 1s and 2s, although I could go up to 2 times 20 (I usually do tables of 16 or 17 in my head, in such moments of duress). Only good thing was that in the last 1.5 km I could overcome everything, and could run fast, faster even than the average person around me at that time.
The calves were totally cramped while I waited in the interminable line for my certificate. Drank a billion bottles of electral water from the medical tent, met a few more wonderful fellow runners in the line, and finally managed to convince a kind-hearted volunteer to lend me her phone for an SMS to contact my husband. He, being the man of action that he is, charged into the tent and found me, god bless him. I was just about to go to the counter for my certi then, so we just sort of smiled at each other, I told him about my cramp, and that I was OK now, and he went away.
My certificate is kind of green, says my name and bib no. Finish time is 2:33 and placing is 51 (among women). Both of these are wrong as they don't account for the fact that I reached the start 8 mins after the flagging off. This was really irritating after waiting in line for so very long. At least my other friends had GPS watches, and stopwatches, or at least meaningful watches unlike me who had just her usual Timex on. Makes one doubt ones ability to ignore technology. :-( I was also a bit disappointed with my time and the fact that I felt so much discomfort..
But wait! My 2:25 is nothing to be ashamed about. My actual placing is more like 45. The time and placing are both exactly, bang on, what I did last year, and 45 was my roll number in college, that wonderful place where my life really shaped out into the beautiful thing it is today. I have also raised more than Rs.70000 for Asha (www.ashanet.org/mumbai), the NGO I volunteer at, from this run, and received immense support from everyone around me. Despite what was happening to my legs, I thoroughly enjoyed the action around me, saw Rahul Bose and Tara Sharma go off for the Dream Run, and when I got home, had the energy to play with my little one. My legs are a bit stiff but all fine now! I saw the best of Mumbai out there in their yellow and green and red tshirts yesterday! Young and old, thin and fat, everyones legs pounding away. This is really, absolutely the best event, there is no show, dance, play, movie, party, nothing, that can beat the celebration that this Marathon is.
And... in the Times of India, on page 12, my sis-in-law found me this picture today.