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.