Not all races are meant to be run with a competitive spirit. Some need to be enjoyed for its scenic route and the views that you would normally not be treated to, especially in a crowd jostling city like Mumbai. Being a nature lover, I often found solace in running amidst the shrubs and trees-a sort of gratification which the traffic laden roads failed to offer. So when Ram Venkatraman- a seasoned runner cum the MRR (Mumbai Road runners) admin asked me if I had ever run in IIT Bombay campus, proclaiming the picturesque route that it offered, I immediately signed up for the 11k run at IIT Bombay Monsoon run event.
Considering it was just a week after the IDBI federal Mumbai marathon where I had run a gruelling 21.1 km, my coach Samir Singh asked me to take this one easy. Continuous pushing, he said, would drain my reserves and could result in fatigue with a probability of injury or so. “Choose your races appropriately and just run the others for your own personal satisfaction”, were his golden words.
It was raining cats and dogs on the race day, quite living up to the name- the monsoon run. We finally arrived at the IIT campus where we were dropped off at the gate as outside vehicles were barred from entering inside. The start line was still a good 1 km away and the runners could avail the services of the bus and auto rickshaws to take us to the holding area-a thoughtful initiative offered by the organisers. When we reached the holding area, there was still ten minutes left before the 11K race commenced as we basked in the lively spirit of IITians and our run buddies.
Now IIT always aroused my curiosity, considering how it was the aspiration for many. Students dedicating their heart and soul into the entrance exams by toiling for months which reminded me of the preparations that a runner goes through especially while training for a full marathon. Those days of waking up early, compromising your social life and dedicating several hours of running on the road was certainly no piece of cake.
As clock struck 6:30 am, I began the race, this time not in the quest for a PB but to get a tour of the vivid surroundings of one of the most prestigious colleges in India. The first kilometre was a little crowded and it was difficult to overtake another person for the fear of shoving or pushing them unnecessarily. Slowly and gradually I paved my way through the army of striders, taking a good look at the scenery. I spotted a small lake at the 2 km mark along with lush greenery that adorned both sides of the roads. We ran through a patch of shrubs which opened out into a forest like area before we hit the roads again. The route certainly was not a cake walk as it consisted of some rolling inclines, similar to the ones at Aarey milk colony (situated in eastern suburb of Mumbai). However there were water stations at every 2.5 km with energetic volunteers fervently handing out those tiny Bisleri bottles that runners could carry with them during the run.
The trees formed an arch casting a gloomy shadow on the pathway which was enhanced by the dark looming clouds ready to burst into a shower. I could spot some large patches of green to my right. ‘Probably designed for hockey and football’, I thought, as I cast an admiring look at the well-manicured lawns. As I cruised along, I got a glimpse of the residential quarters, laboratories and research centres. These sights reminded me of the movie ‘3 Idiots’ based on the novel ‘Five Point Someone’, which brought an amused smile to my face as I recollected some of the comical scenes from the film.
I soon spotted a steep incline ahead of me. Despite the vigorous hill training sessions for the last couple of months, I always get a little nervous on spotting a slope. Suddenly a famous line from the movie popped up in my head which aided me through this patch. ‘Aal izz well, aal izz well’ I told myself as I swung my hands upwards and cruised through the incline. I heaved a sigh of relief when I ran downhill and was instantly treated to a mesmerising sight of mist up the mountains in yonder.
Basking in the tranquillity of the surroundings, I soon got immersed in my thoughts as I listened to the music playing on my ipod. It was the Eagle number from an old band called Abba which sang out the lyrics ‘Flying high, high I’m a bird in the sky, I’m the eagle that rides on the breeze…’ Imagining myself to be a bird, I went into a meditative mode and began to pick up pace as the rains came pelting down. I soon passed the 10 km mark and before I knew it I crossed the finish line where I joined Amit-my hubby cum running partner.
After receiving the medals, we posed for some pictures which were clicked by the photographers at the event. A good breakfast of sandwiches, salad and hummus was served for the runners post the run.
The best part about any race is engaging in a tete-e-tete with our runner friends and hearing about their special experiences. Whether it is about their training for the upcoming races, discussing the route which we had just run or something unique which they had encountered. For instance, one of my friends Ravi Malhan was vividly describing about his unexpected run in with film actor Siddharth Malhotra (of ‘Student of the year’ fame) while searching for the baggage counter and how he had a conversation with him. Apparently Siddharth had been invited for the IIT Bombay monsoon run event and we had unfortunately missed seeing him.
It was still pouring incessantly as we walked back towards the entrance. We soon parted ways bidding goodbyes as we were heading home in different directions. I looked back at the enthralling campus, glad to have been a part of IIT in some form, even if it didn’t mean cracking the intimidating IIT-JEE (not that engineering was of my area of specialisation) or attaining the status of a five point someone. However considering that I had encountered the runners’ high, I was contended just being a ‘High’ point someone!!
Thank you Ram for giving us this wonderful opportunity to run amidst this beautiful campus, volunteers and photographers for their selfless gestures, the students of IIT B for giving us a good experience of running this one.