It was somewhere in the year 2009 when I met  the gang that started as MMR and later rechristened as MRR.  It  began with long runs on Saturdays at the lush green lungs of  Mumbai  suburbs that we know as Aarey. It was quite a challenging route  with one loop of around 8kms with a fair share of uphills that we had nicknamed “Heart Break Hill”. There was no FB group and  we had a platform known as Runners For Life  which had groups like the one we have on FB today.

Later in the year 2010, the Bandra NCPA long run was conceived  by Giles, Milton, Ram  amongst others and  myself including Bijay, Mani Iyer, Bhasker Desai, Mumtaz Qureshi and few others  became part of the same.  This was basically to have  training runs  mostly on the SCMM route   so that  runners  are familiar  with the  route and its difficulties.  The response was good considering the number of people running at that point of time and slowly the popularity of this monthly run grew and people from  different parts of  Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane joined  the fun.  The MRR community itself grew from a mere 20  odd people  to  over 8500  now and it is a matter of pride  and joy that today we have  members from across India connecting with us and also coming to participate in the iconic run whenever any of them are in Mumbai. Some die hards  schedule their visits so as to participate in these runs, and  we have had members  coming in specially to participate in the Anniversary celebrations.

The anniversary runs are a lot of fun, as runners come in huge numbers and runners across various groups  participate in the run as well as celebrations. It also gives an opportunity  for the runners who are connected on FB to actually meet and put a face to the name that they know and interact with.  The charges for participating in the monthly runs have remained constant at Rs. 50/- (inflation and GST can take a walk!) and on an average  any monthly run has upwards of 200  participants, equivalent to a small event. The Anniversary runs  have larger numbers and hence a  bit more effort goes into organizing the same. The 7 Anniversary  run on 2 July 2017 had over 400 participants, by any standards a  decent number even for a time event.

I have participated in most of the  monthly runs and  all of the Anniversary runs.  This year  since had scheduled  a 16 k  run for myself, I had decided to start from NCPA and do a 8k loop. I had to ferry  another MRR  member, Vishaka who also stays in Powai and who was attending the run  for the first time.  As we were  proceeding towards NCPA, the rains were  heavy and  we were a bit worried as to what the  scene would be if the  rains did not abate.  A moment after we landed at NCPA, the heavens opened up in full glory.  Since Vishaka was to do a 10k, I asked her to wait for MRR volunteers to arrive, and I pushed off  for  my scheduled 16k run.  The first 4 kms was run in blistering downpour and head winds, but  later on the  rains abated a bit and though the shoes swished with residual water, it was a comfortable run.  I completed my run in good time  again battling strong winds and rains on the return leg.  A  bit later runners started to converge on the promenade opposite NCPA.

The sight was that of a festival. Runners of all kinds  with colourful attire, swarmed the promenade like proverbial bees.  The chatter was endless.  There would have been a world record of the maximum amount of selfies taken, hugs exchanged, hi fi’s given and the  happiness quotient. The glow on the face of the runners told the story and it is this glow which makes us  arrange these  runs  month after month. It is such a satisfying experience  to see the sense of achievement on the face of the runners. Many  ran the distance for the first time, many ran in the rains for the first time, and  some volunteered for the first time. One thing was common among all of them – the joy!

The  hydration points were well stocked  with water, energy drinks and some eats, and also  volunteers  with unlimited smiles, and last but not the least, photographers to capture the run and the smiles so that  the FB pages are  flooded the next day with new profile pics and group pics!  The  finish point had participation medals  for all and yummy breakfast for that customary ‘carbo loading’.  Runners do enjoy running, but the most thing that the runners enjoy is the camaraderie and fun times that  they spend with like minded people.  This explains  why even after the run, the runners are still at the venue a good one and a half hours after completing their runs.  The customary  Anniversary cake prepared thoughtfully by Ritu, was cut by  our iconic  runner Khushroo,  and  Sameer Gaikwad, who had travelled all the way from Baroda to participate in this event.

From a motley group of 20 runners this run today had over 400  runners, which  is an indication of the running culture  that has  grown and MRR has had a good share in making the same popular with its own brand of  openness, and all inclusive  philosophy.  A word here  for the  tireless efforts put in by the  Admins of MRR, all of them who are professionals, and who put in  that extra mile to make the runners comfortable, be it the monthly runs, or managing the  FB group,  and more importantly  conceiving and implementing the various programs to help  underprivileged runners.  A huge thanks to the  Volunteers  who  work hard to  provide an enjoyable run to the  runners, sacrificing their runs and tirelessly manning everything from purchase of  materials to serving  till the last runner  has crossed the station, and doing this with smiles and all the time encouraging the runners.

Its  been a wonderful  8 years journey, and it is heartening to note that most of the initial group members are still a part of this wonderful initiative and  the group has grown in manifold terms.  Here’s wishing MRR  a fantastic future and many many more celebrations!

Some pictures of the First Anniversary  Run – 3 July 2011.