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Life in the slow lane

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FUNATHON Kids enjoying their lap at the Citizen’s Run
FUNATHON Kids enjoying their lap at the Citizen’s Run

The entire MetroPlus reporting team turned up for the annual run, but cut many corners

Shonali and Priya’s Version

Priya wants to call this, ‘The Day I Got Tanned.’ So much for the MetroPlus team’s heroic attempt to do its bit for one of Chennai’s most popular and egalitarian events: The annual Citizen’s Run.

It didn’t help that intrepid runners and serious atheletes that we are, we decided to inaugurate the run at the Reebok Sale on Khader Nawaz Khan Road. Not exactly a stone’s throw from the event, but in our defence there were hot pink sports caps on sale. Caps, shoes and a really cool light pink set of track pants later, we were ready to join the run.

The event, organised in Chennai every year since 1996, has been designed to use running as a leveller, to bring together a wide range of people, including children from both Corporation and fancy private schools, Hashers (the running club with a drinking problem) and Rotarians, ladies-who-lunch and celebrities — and us.

Prince, as MetroPlus’ most earnest, responsible reporter, had decreed that we all reach 20 minutes early to soak in the atmosphere at Queen Mary’s College, where the run was scheduled to flag off.

However, in true MetroPlus fashion (our team’s peopled with independent thinkers with punctuality issues), when we reached the venue early — as agreed — liberally slathered in sunscreen and flexing our muscles in anticipation, not a single other person from the team was there.

So at 3.30 p.m. on a Sunday, we went looking for cappuccinos.

Shonali, Priya, and Divya’s Version

Divya didn’t expect to begin her run at Manhattan. The hotel on R.K Salai, that is, where she eventually tracked down early birds Shonali and Priya waiting in air-conditioned comfort. And here we were under the rather suspicious gaze of a handful of waiters.

Meanwhile, there was no sign of either of the boys. Reluctantly responding to the call of duty at four, the girls set off to Queen Mary’s at a dignified jog. Only to find that Prince, eager to make up for lost time, had set off on the run without them and had to be made to return to the designated spot.

And then, there were four.

Of Sudhish, there was still no sign. Making a mental note to snitch on him first thing Monday, we set out on our noble endeavour with Shonali’s neon-green umbrella held jauntily overhead to protect us from the searing mid-afternoon heat. Even minus the umbrella, we would have been pretty hard to miss with two bright pink caps bobbing along and the fact that we were so slow that we were eventually walking in the opposite direction from the other 5,995 people who were returning from the end-point.

That we were essentially being out-run by the knee-high brigade was embarrassing enough to make us break into a run. Well, Prince ran; the girls jogged just fast enough to ensure they were staying in the shade of a slowly patrolling ambulance (a whole new meaning to the term ‘ambulance chasers’). We dodged passing stray dogs, narrowly avoided running headfirst into buses and by dint of stopping only for a quick drink of coconut water on the way, managed to overtake some of the runners (take that you little 11 and 12-year-olds!) and make reasonable time.

Shonali, Priya, Divya and Prince’s version

If winning is reaching the destination, no matter how, Sudhish won hands down.

While all runners were asked to turn around at Kannagi Silai (barely a kilometre from the starting point) by the men in khaki, Sudhish managed to reach the War Memorial, the scheduled end point for the run.

How did he do it? Simple. He parked himself and his Avenger near the War Memorial, when the Run was being flagged off at the Willingdon Teachers’ Training College grounds, five km away. He actually pulled off what was impossible for over 6,000 runners and made the MetroPlus reporting team proud!

For some of those who wanted to ‘run’ all the way to the War Memorial, the truncated Run did not hold much charm. Apparently, the whole world had been informed about the Citizens’ Run, except the city police, who learnt of the run only after flag-off.

Not that it was an unsuccessful event. Money collected from the sale of T-shirts went to charity. Runners were all praise for the initiative. Like Frank Talluto, a member of a huge contingent from the American Consulate, thought it was good the run was cut short. “Given the heat, it was a blessing in disguise.”

When we got back to Willingdon College grounds, there was entertainment on and off the stage, accompanied by sporadic chants of Appadi Poadu and catcalls. And, then one wise soul among the bunch of idiots realised the cops were around and asked the others to shut up. “Police da, vaaya moodeetu ukkaru!”

Shonali, Priya, Divya, Prince and Sudhish’s version

Sudhish, late as always, decided to head to the War Memorial directly to park his bike. “I could always run in the opposite direction and join the rest of the crowd,” he thought.

At five p.m., there was no sign of runners at the War Memorial. Pleased as punch, he called the rest of the gang only to find out the run was over. He knew he would never hear the last of it. At 5-30 p.m., he reached the start point (which was also the finishing point) to find the gang chilling out with a pregnant Irish Red Setter called Ginger. Her drunk owner said that the vet had asked him to give the dog plenty of exercise and the man was taking this advice to ridiculous lengths. Like all other participants, the dog was wearing a black T-shirt with the official logo. The owner danced and drummed his fingers on a utensil. In the background, an annoyed Shonali told Sudhish: “We ran, you didn’t. So, you write the story.”

Predictably, he didn’t.

(The intrepid athletes who ran and wrote this piece are Shonali Muthalaly, Divya Kumar, Prince Frederick, Priyadarshini Paitandy and Sudhish Kamath.)

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