Being residents of Colaba/Cuffe parade for the last ten years, the iconic landmarks such as the Gateway of India, Taj Mahal Hotel, Oval Maidan and Marine drive always caught our fancy whenever we would go cycling or do our long runs. It made us wonder why a marathon could not be organised in this part of town. Of course the famous Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon did take us through the route of Marine Drive. However besides that there wasn’t any other race conducted around this area. Little did we realize that our wish would be granted soon.
In April 2016, we got to hear that a marathon was being held in South Mumbai by Nagaraj Adiga along with an accomplished and well known couple in the running circuit- Sunil Shetty and Sangeeta Shetty. The several promo runs organised in different parts of the city gave us a preview of what runners could expect from the main event which was to be held on August 21st. We signed up for it instantly.
The IDBI Federal Life insurance Mumbai half marathon as it is called, commenced at 5:45 am from Oval Maidan. For once we had the luxury of waking up at leisure, instead of the usual 3:00 am routine that we were normally accustomed to while doing other events. It was not more than a couple of km away from our residence and we were excited at the prospect of running in our own backyard.
It was the usual camaraderie of cheerful greetings and chirpy chatter with our fellow runners as we assembled near the start line. All on a sudden, shouts of “Sachin Sachin” filled the air, taking us back to the Wankhede stadium during the IPL and other matches. As we looked up, we were thrilled to see the renowned Indian Cricketer wave to us from the side stage. It sort of gave us that initial boost in our strides as we geared up to conquer the lanes of SOBO (South Bombay). Now at the start of the race, my running partner cum husband-Amit had suggested that we follow the 2 hour bus to which I raised my eyebrows doubtfully but finally relented to keep pace as long as I could.
The route took us through the lanes of Colaba where we were sandwiched between the intimidating Gateway of India & the alluring Taj Mahal Palace hotel. A wave of nostalgia took over as our previous residence was very close to the Gateway of India. We soon ventured into Colaba causeway-a place where the famous Cafe Mondegar and Leopold were located. We proceeded towards Cuffe Parade-my current neighbourhood where we crossed the Taj President Hotel generic celebrex.
As the minutes ticked by, the humidity levels soared with the rains doing their disappearing act. It was clear that the weather Gods were in no mood to relent. The pacer was well within my sight till about 8 km after which the heat took a toll on my body which was just recovering from the gruelling Durshet Forest half marathon which I had run just 2 weeks ago. Fortunately the aid stations at every kilometre mark came to our rescue as the volunteers fervently handed over water and enerzals, boosting the runners’ energy levels along with the much needed morale. “Bless them” I thought to myself. “If we achieve our goals and target in a race, it’s all because of these selfless souls who aid us through the entire journey.”
As we turned at a particular juncture, I caught sight of a few fellow runners and greeted them with a smile and a wave. Somehow it gave me a sense of comfort that I wasn’t alone in this arduous journey to the finish line which made me stronger. I decided to focus on my strides, determined not to be bogged down by the warm weather and turned up the volume of my ipod speakers a notch higher.
We soon reached NCPA to run along Marine drive- reminding me of all my practice runs here, ever since I took up running. Surprisingly the usually cool sea breeze decided to elude us as well and the oppressive climate was showing no signs of mercy. As far as I was concerned, it was war. My strides were strong and I wasn’t about to let Mr. Sun play spoilsport to my rhythmic strides. “Now look” I told myself. “You have run this route before-be it peak summers, humid conditions and chill winters. You own this road and nothing can stop you unless you want it to.”
I swung my arms furiously, ran along Marine drive and turned at Wilson College. This stretch reminded me of the last 4 km of the SCMM route. “Alright, I can do this”. I said to myself. Every time I crossed a kilometre mark, I would silently cheer. I soon reached the Intercontinental Hotel which was to my right and it was just a km to go from there on.
Something snapped inside me at that point as I suddenly recollected the words of my coach- Samir Singh. “When you see that finish line, give it all you have and finish strong.” I increased my pace and started sprinting, oblivious to everything else but the finish line. “The final leg of the war”, I thought. The timing mat was visible and with just a few strides, I finally embraced the finish line in a strong manner.
I sat down, suddenly feeling drained of all my resources, managing to finish in a decent time of 2:11. I must have looked dazed and zonked as a few of my runner friends Manasi, Rupal and Rodman asked me if I was fine. I nodded my head. Spotting Ashok Sir with his camera, I smiled and posed weakly. I vaguely remember Sunil Shetty-the organiser tapping me on the shoulder as I turned to congratulate him on a well conducted event.
After regaining my energy levels, I collected my medal, met my runner friends, clicked the customary photographs and headed towards breakfast which was a lavish buffet spread of Poha, Upma, Sheera and wada Pav.
As I left the ground, I realised that being on home turf, this race had ended up being a psychological battle more than anything, considering the tough conditions we were subjected to and despite being given a beautiful and most importantly a flat track.
Thank you Nagaraj Adiga, Sunil Shetty and Sangeeta Shetty for a well organised event, the breakfast which catered to our famished appetites, volunteers for their unconditional support and the photographers for making every race memorable.