When you have the roads washed for you the day before, volunteers who wake up wee hours of the morning to hand over the necessary refreshments at regular intervals; the village folk sacrificing their Sunday morning sleep to cheer for you, then you have no reason to complain even when the weather Gods are not exactly at their best.
Despite light showers the day before, Sunday, November 22nd-the day of the Vasai Virar Mayors’ Marathon, still exhibited some humidity in the air. The start line was jubilant with all the Djs and bands playing tracks. The song ‘Bhaag Milka Bhaag’ was enough to make get us going, determined to put our best feet forward. After running just 2 kms, we were surprised to find ourselves drenched with perspiration. Did the calender just turn back to May? No time for such thoughts as we saw the board saying ‘water point 100 metres away. ‘Thanking our stars we rushed to replenish ourselves with enerzal and water which the helpful volunteers handed over with a reassuring look.
Within a short while, around the 7 km mark, we got a glimpse of the breaking dawn as sunrise slowly began to make its way. Just as we were down on our energy levels, we began to spot runner friends, some of them doing the full marathon. A hi five, wave and a smile was enough to set our spirits soaring as we raced past with renewed vigour, well in time to pose obligingly for the chirpy photographers who clicked away as we continued our strides. What an amazing set of people, to wake up and travel this far, only because they could treat us runners with sweet memories of our run, not to mention the eye catching display pictures for our profiles on social media.
As we continued our journey, we found the atmosphere to be nothing less than a carnival. Bands playing, colourful balloons adorned on the road sides, school kids doing their little cheer, lending out their hand in anticipation for a hi five that would make their day, laying yellow flowers for us, handing out bananas, biscuits and their own refreshments. The old and the young folk of the Vasai village kept clapping with exuberance, encouraging us runners to keep going. Volunteers who were present at regular intervals handed over the ice pack/ sponge and sprays to ensure that we runners had a comfortable journey to the finish line. It was welcoming to find aid stations at almost every kilometre. Such unsolicited support from volunteers, crowd and the photographers gave us enough incentive to run with zest and banish those questions that kept creeping in time and again “why did I decide to run this one?”
That reminds me of a few questions I am often asked by non-runners-“How can you keep running? Isn’t it boring? What’s so special about running marathons?”
Well one thing is to experience the runners high, the feeling of setting a target for yourself and achieving it, the congratulatory messages after you get your medal, is all fine. But when you are running towards your goal, you realize that there are others who sacrifice so many things so that they can help you achieve your goal. Right from the organizers, volunteers, photographers, pacers to the crowd- they sacrifice their sleep so that they can come and hand over your refreshments, click your pictures to brighten up your day and cheer you up, when you are almost on the verge of giving up your run. Taking all this into consideration, you realize you are not alone in your journey and it gives you enough incentive and enthusiasm to think of signing up for the next race, no sooner than you have crossed the finish line of the present one.
Coming back to the Vasai Virar run, we soon reached the finish line and were greeted with pats on our backs by the volunteers who personally attended to each of us asking if we were ok and guiding us towards the medals. It was a welcome treat to find a sumptuous breakfast awaiting us, thanks to the suggestion by the Mumbai Road Runners-the running group whom we run from Bandra to NCPA every first Sunday of the month. The Poha and sheera catered to our famished runners’ appetites as they just melted in our mouths. It was a brilliant and a thoughtful suggestion, considering that we runners were up from 3:00 am and travelled far and wide to run this race. It was certainly needed to replenish our depleted energy levels.
Meeting and embracing runner friends post breakfast, posing for pics added to the celebrations. It may not have been the ideal winter weather, which would have restricted many from achieving a good time leading to inevitable disappointments, yet the entire experience of running through amidst the ecstatic and electrical atmosphere was worth the journey. Despite these little drawbacks, we runners went home a satisfied lot. Guess it’s the journey which makes it more memorable than the destination.
A big thanks to all the volunteers, photographers, organizers, the pacers, the crowd and fellow runners for making this event a joyful and memorable one.