Sometimes, sport is not about the competition. It transcends into a community event. Sometimes, grand old men can participate in a marathon, with their six-year-old granddaughter sitting pretty on their shoulders. Sometimes, you can make a difference... just by running.
Thousands of people who took to the streets to participate in the third edition of Marg Chennai Marathon on Sunday did just that. As the grey skies gave way to the morning light and the Marina Beach Road turned into a picnic spot, group after group walked, jogged, sprinted and sauntered towards the finish line – for a cause.
Funds raised from the marathon will go to GiveLife Charity, which takes care of the education of 8,000 underprivileged children.
“I came here to showcase a sense of participation, said 62-year-old C.Venkataraman, who took part in the seven kilometre ‘I love Chennai' run. “Sport unites people. I ran along with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, even foreigners.”
“I will come back next year,” he added. “There is still the 21 kilometre half marathon. I won't give up without an attempt.”
Jean Marc, currently working in Bangalore, was one of those who took part in the 21 kilometre half marathon. Having run marathons in at least four other cities, including in his hometown Paris, he says Chennai's event was as good as any he has participated in.
“The crowd was great and there was a lot of enthusiasm. However, it is very hot here. Maybe the organisers can consider starting it even earlier,” he said.
Apart from the runners, student-run organisations and collectives such as Reclaim Our Beaches (ROB) and Free Hugs India showed up to spread the word about their campaigns. “Sadly, we didn't get a chance to hug too many people,” said Raghav Ramachandran of Free Hugs India. “We were running fast.”
There was also representation from quite a few colleges in the city. After the run, most of the students congregated around the arena where drummer Sivamani was playing. “This is not a competition. It is a gathering of people,” he would later say. The Chennai Marathon might have come and gone, but the spirit must live on. As Mr. Marc said: “I grew up in an environment where sport is an integral part of everyone's life. Sport is not about fighting with an opponent. It is about fighting with yourself. Even when your body asks you to stop, you keep running. And that cannot be learnt in a day. More efforts must be made to integrate sports into our lives.”