A friend had suggested to me before SCMM that I should try running for a cause as the feeling of doing so is much more gratifying. I mulled over it and replied in affirmative stating that when the opportunity arises I will do so.

Indeed the opportunity did present itself when running veteran and a person whom I greatly admire-Sayuri Dalvi asked me if I was willing to run for a cause at the Footsteps4 good event dated on Feb 7th. Being just the week after The Wipro Chennai marathon, I hesitated initially but she assured me saying that it was just a 10 km run to which I happily agreed.

The NGO I was to run for was called Marys clan which helped in the rehabilitation of destitute alcoholics and assisted them to regain sobriety. They took care of our registrations and the fees were donated to the NGO along with the prize money in case the runner either had a podium or a top 10 finish. While collecting the bibs on Friday, I got to hear about the intriguing and moving story of how ‘Marys clan’ was initially founded back in the 80s. Apparently these alcoholic souls were discarded from their own families even after they were cured. Such instances evoke mixed feelings within you- while you are thankful for what you are blessed with, you are also appalled hearing about the plight of fellow humans who are subjected to such harshness. Sort of reminded me of the day and night image of the earth we were taught in our geography lessons-where one side was subjected to light while the other was a complete black out.

With such thoughts embedded in my head, I reached home determined to push myself at the race as a token of doing my bit for them. Now I still hadn’t recovered from my 21 km in Chennai, added to which I was suffering a mild chest congestion, which I thought would disappear by just drinking gallons of hot water.

Sunday dawned nice and chill-an ideal weather to give your best. The event was being held at MMRDA grounds at BKC and was scheduled to start at 6:30 am. The atmosphere was buzzing with various stalls by NGOs, a good mix of enthusiastic runners- some of my friends from MRR and a lot of expats. What made this race different from the rest was the fact that everybody was running for a cause more than for themselves. In a way that makes you push beyond your limits than what you would do when you are just running for yourself and that’s precisely what I did.

From the word go, I set off like a dragon with steel in my eyes and heart, ignoring the little imp called fatigue initially. It was still dark and we were surrounded by nothing but those lifeless commercial buildings all around. A couple of volunteers stood by clapping and handing out water. At the 5 km mark, I started coughing and felt a little nauseous-a similar feeling I had encountered in the Chennai marathon which at that time I had attributed to the humid and oppressive weather. I stopped in my tracks, took a sip of Gatorade and continued my pace. My legs looked strong, yet my lungs did not give me the allowance to push further than my normal pace.

I stopped again at the 8 km point much to the surprise of my running partner cum husband. ‘Just 2 km’ he said signalling with his fingers as my ears were firmly plugged to my ipod speakers blaring a peppy EDM number. I shook my head in despair as I mouthed stating ‘I am unable to push further’. I watched in dismay as 3 expats overtook me at that point. On other days I wouldn’t have turned a hair, but today was different. I wanted to finish among the top 10, for those discarded beings, whom I was running for, so that my prize money would go towards their betterment. I put my best foot forward and dashed again. On normal days I would end up overtaking people at the 9th km juncture but today was just not my day. My lungs refused to comply even though my legs were eager to push. I crossed the finish line in 57 minutes.

Not a bad timing but for the first time, I lacked the feeling of the famous runner’s high. I was disappointed that I could not finish among the top 10 and do my bit for ‘Marys Clan’ in a way I had hoped to, despite the fact I had pre-warned them not to have any expectations from me as I had not recovered fully. In a way I felt that I had let the NGO down, despite the owner reassuring me that I had done my best.

I sat down on the chair and gathered my thoughts. I was probably being too hard on myself by taking my body for granted and not giving it adequate rest. Maybe I was pushing it beyond its capacity. I recollected that a person whom I had interviewed recently told me that one should learn to choose their races and not expect to run every race, by drawing parallels to the famous hare and the tortoise story. I realized that following the tortoise’s philosophy of stopping to smell the roses should be incorporated in some runs.

As I looked up at the cheerful faces around me, I realized that I had run with my heart today, for a noble cause and that’s what mattered. My sensibilities soon returned as I went and collected the breakfast of sandwiches and muffins. I stood there with my hubby, watching the music and dance show put up by the special kids wearing their warm hearted smiles.

During the drive back home, I realized that running for a cause taught me some vital lessons. I may not have necessarily bagged my personal best or that podium finish but I certainly did win a million hearts. Today I felt that I had come out as a better person with a sense of fulfillment, if not a better runner.