The Marathon in Mumbai is an annual affair for me from it's first edition in 2004 where we were around 80 finishers, to yesterday in 2017 when we were around 5000, but with the engagement of the city and it's people - it is unlike any other in India.
Haji Ali in all it's glory early morning,
the Hi Fives of kids oozing energy at Worli Fishing Village and Mahim and Dadar in particular, the residents with all their snacks and toffees and water at Worli, Dadar and Peddar road, the dholaks and dancers at Bandra Reclamation,
the Japanese group on the top of Peddar road, and the smiling policemen have always been wonderful connects.
But the most special part of the Mumbai Marathon Experience year on year are with fellow runners, some whom I don't know at all and exchange a smile of a cheer, some whom I meet annually at this party, and other close friends and some whom I am lucky to run into, at this social, and re-connect.
I stuck mostly to my plan this year with the core objective of meeting up with as many people of different paces and finishing with a smile, as I used this to physically be back into shape after a long hiatus given the Delhi pollution.
I started a little ahead of the 4 hour bus and somewhere around Chowpati joined Dinesh in his 4:15 bus. Hopped on and hopped off of many buses after that as the sea link emerged out of the mist and haze with a gorgeous orange sun. The Bandra Reclamation dance and music troupe were truly energising - hats off to them.
The icing on the cake for me was at around km 25, running into two old friends - Breeze Sharma who had just run a 100 miler the week before and was cooling down with this Marathon and with Pedong express - Roshni - who was also taking it easy. We chatted about various experiences, tales of running - both highs and lows, of cheating, or breaking of records and about each other. It was a wonderful connect - we were taking it easy and soaking it in, making the most of our time together. I had always wanted to run with breeze behind me, and a gentle light in front, and this time, I had both, with Breeze and Roshni as we finished the run together!!
I always look forward to the after party party at Leopold's where we are all 5 year old kids again. This time was no exception and it was wonderful to connect with fellow blistered and bruised and energised folks. This time we were perhaps 4 year olds!!
Then I went to Cafe Mondegar and saw all the staff wearing singlets - where the front said - the race is over, its beer time now, and the back had a print of several runners headed to the finish line - for beer. Only in Mumbai!! The whole city really does get engaged.
Cheers to Mumbai. You sure infect all those who come from various cities, towns and villages and India and I am sure that slowly and steadily, other runs across the country will become more and more engaging for the city and the participants.
Cheers to running bringing all of us together regardless of caste, creed, gender, economics, religion..... and at the finish line, gets us weak at the knees