It was one of those normal evenings, when my editor casually asked me to have a look at a piece of news covered on the website which I work for. The title caught my attention instantly as it read “ Marathon man Pat Farmer to run from Kanyakumari to Kashmir”. “Wow! What a guy”, I thought as I read the article with great enthusiasm. He was a former member of the parliament who had undertaken this robust task to raise funds for the girl child education, which is the Nanhi Kali program of Mahindra and Mahindra. Being a runner myself, I was elated when my editor asked to me to pursue this story and interview Pat.
Gathering my network through various sources, I finally managed to touch base with the right contacts who would help me get through to Pat Farmer. He had commenced his run on Jan 26th from Kanyakumari and would land in Mumbai on February 17th. ‘It would be great if runners could accompany Pat’, I was told which propelled me to encourage my family of runners from Mumbai road runners (MRR) to join this expedition till whatever distance they could while Pat was in Mumbai.
The D day arrived with the route schedule not arriving till the last moment. I could barely sleep that night due to a strange combination of excitement and anxiety. We reached Turbhe flyover at Vashi, where the run was supposed to start. It was still dark considering it was barely 5 am with trucks moving up the highway at a fast pace. We stood in zest holding posters saying ‘Mumbai Road Runners (MRR) welcomes you Pat”. Our guest finally arrived.
Now whenever you meet a fellow runner, it feels like you are meeting a long lost friend as you start bonding from the word go. That’s exactly what happened with Pat. After a round of introduction about the running community and photographs, we set off. The route had changed from what it was stated earlier. Nevertheless we decided to prod on this road less travelled, joined by other fellow MRR runners midway.
Amicably chatting with Pat about Cricket, the weather, Mumbai city and the incessant honking which apparently amused him, we ran along, followed by his crew, right behind us in a car and the traffic police in front, shooing all the other vehicles to give us space. It was truly a celebrity moment as we continued our strides smiling at the astonished faces of the onlookers. The weather wasn’t exactly at its best with the sudden soar in the humidity levels. However we managed to keep pace with Pat. We passed Tata institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and after reaching a point at Chembur, east, we had completed over 13 km. At this point, we decided to bid Pat goodbye as I was planning to meet him later that afternoon to interview him and needed to prepare for it.
It was one of those rare yet delightful moments where my profession (journalism) and passion (running) had come together. As a journalist, it’s interesting to meet people from different walks of life, which enhances my learning curve and growth as a person. It was intriguing to learn about how and why Pat got into running. As I wrapped up my day with this incredible long distance runner, I wished him good luck with his remaining miles. No doubt, with every mile, he was bound to bring a smile on to the faces of little children especially the nanhi kalis!