Mumbai Marathon

It’s the people of Mumbai who make this marathon different

Participants came in from across the country and other parts of the world. The elite runners strode ahead of the pack, intent on the win, but for others, some were just aiming to improve on personal best times, others were just there to have fun and soak in the atmosphere. One thing held them all together: the raucous encouragement and enthusiastic support of the city's residents across the various routes. It was the street experience of Mumbai that once again marked out the Mumbai Marathon as a special experience this year.

“What makes this marathon different from others is the people of Mumbai and the city’s spirit,” says Paulose Paul, 33, who, with other members of Soles of Cochin, a running club from Kerala, was running the event for the first time. “Not just the volunteers, but the locals, too, cheer you and support you throughout the run. Kids come out with water and request you to have it even when you don’t need it. I haven’t witnessed anything like this in other marathons.”

Another running group, the Chandigarh Distance Runners, here for the second time, said they ran just for the fun of it. Kulwinder Singh Saini, a member, says “We had heard a lot of praises about this marathon and all of it is true. The support of the locals was amazing.” The group had one of the youngest participants, 18-year-old Mohit Giri (who finished the race in almost five hours) and one of oldest, 74-year-old Amar Singh Chauhan from Mohali. Mr. Chauhan is a serious runner, who says he has won gold medals in 21 out of 24 marathons he participated in across the world and was aiming for first prize in the senior citizen category here as well. He finished in first place.

It’s the people of Mumbai who make this marathon different

Not all participants were as pleased. S. Sinha from Ranchi and R.P. Payasi from Delhi said that the last 10 kilometres of the marathon did not have drinking water, water sponges, or music to motivate the runners. “The problem with this marathon is that it depends too much on the locals,” says Mr. Sinha. “The refreshment provided to us after the race included Maggi and Nestea – how are we supposed to cook them?”

Some came up against their own limitations. One of the most difficult parts of the route was the steep climb on Pedder Road, says Rohit Pal (27) from Ghaziabad, who ran the full distance. “[The climb] is towards the end of the route and that is what makes it more difficult.” He was disappointed to have clocked 5’50”, after doing 4’28” last year.

Anand Mishra, a builder from Jaipur, who has participated in several endurance races and ran here for the second time, managed 5’15”, which he is pleased with. He praised the route and said that it holds many challenges for the runners. Rishikesh Bhorania (35) from Navi Mumbai, has also run in marathons in the country and abroad, and says none are as well-organised as the Mumbai Marathon.

Pankaj Malani, who ran the full distance, was full of praise for the ordinary Mumbaikar. “Especially in the areas after the Sea Link and leading up to Shivaji Park, I noticed that it was the residents who were actually playing the role of the organisers and keeping the runners going. That was amazing to see. That doesn't say much about the organisers, but when I was running past this stretch it was only the people along the street who were helping out with bottles of water or an orange. But for them many people would have dropped out.”

Another huge factor this year, according to several participants, was the support and encouragement of the police. “For the first time this year, when we had gone to support a friend who was running, we saw the police clapping on every participant, and even handing them a packet of Parle G or a bottle of water," says Arjun Rao. “A friend who had come for Delhi said that during their half-marathon there is nothing even approaching this level of support.”

Other participants noted the small details that always makes the SCMM an ever improving experience. “There was a special ethnic dhol performance on the Sea Link that was really special this year and was an immediate morale booster to all the runners," says Girish Mallya, a regular marathoner.

There was a fair amount of colour from the runners themselves. A dozen monks from the Coimbatore-based Isha Foundation ran, not in shorts and T-shirts but in saffron dhotis and kurtas, rudraksha maalas around their necks and, most importantly, barefoot. One of the young monks, 29-year-old Raghavendra, finished the half-marathon in one hour and 57 minutes, a good timing considering most amateur runners take at least 30 minutes more than that to cover the distance.

Among the other runners who stood out were a woman with a bunch of balloons tied to her torso, and a man with LED lights on his t-shirt and a Bluetooth speaker attached to his shorts. This electronic Pied Piper played pacer to others who ran with him, as he announced his intention to finish the half-marathon in two hours. (He was just a little off-target, taking 32 seconds more.)

Organisation at the main venue was also better this year, with some participants noting that the cooling-off area for participants was better regulated, with fewer non-runners outsiders being admitted. “It's really important to have a comfortable cooling-off area after the race,” one runner said, asking that she not be named. “So I really appreciate that improvement by the organisers.”

With inputs from Ashish Rukhaiyar

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 12:39:16 AM |

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