Sunday, January 15, 2006

Mumbai Marathon

Life wasn't going too good for him. Work was boring, the girlfriend was not too interesting anymore, and the parents were insisting that he get married. And even worse, his TV was not working !!

Dejected, bored, pissed with life, feeling depressed without having a reason.... he went off to a bar to hang out with some work mates, discuss the latest gossip, bitch about the girls, when one of his friends (a health freak of course) started talking about the Mumbai Marathon. How great it was, how tough, all the way from VT to Bandra and back... a true test of man's determination... how it was all about one man against the elements, fighting for glory, fighting against all odds. In that dejected, lonely, sad state of mind, it sounded soo inspiring.... the perfect way of getting out of the rut, doing something different, accomplishing a well-defined goal.

So he started practising every day - starting with a three kilometer walk everyday in June, to a 5 km daily run in August and by December he was running 20 non-stop km a day. When he got his Diwali bonus, he spent it on running shoes and shorts rather than a TV, so high was his enthusiasm for his new passion. He lost 10 kgs weight running, developed the confident personality of one who has a great body, knows it, and revels in it. Everyone could see the change, he glowed health, and happiness, and was forever smiling.

As he grew healthier, and happier, his sense of humor returned. He could laugh now - at himself, and the world. Road rage seemed funny now - so immature. So did kissing the boss's ass, and haggling with the vegetable guy for 2 Rs. And as he started observing the absurdities of life, he decided to something crazy himself for the marathon, wear something totally wacky, and original, that will make him stand out as he runs across the city. But the million dollar question was what should he dress up as?

Should he dress up as one of the Indian mythological characters? Ram was too stately and too much of a gentleman to run, Hanuman needed a mask that would obstruct his breathing. Ravana appealed more to his sense of absurdity, maybe he could dress as Ravana and keep shouting "Shri Ran ki Jai!"... but the heads would be tough to manage.

Maybe he could try being a Greek guy, since they started the Olympics and represented youthful vitality, vigor and even wisdom... or maybe he could be a traditional Mallu guy with a lungi or maybe he could cross-dress as a fairy with wings and a wand (though he could never run in a dress - which ruled out being the Statue of Liberty as well).

Finally, he hit on the perfect solution - he would run as a murdered man ! So he got a knife stitched across his tshirt, into a pool of blood, with the other edge of the knife protruding from the back of the tee. To make things even more appropriate he wrote a slogan at the back - "Fat kills - Run and stay alive !"

The d-day arrived. 30000 runners and 1.5 lakh cheerers arrived at VT early in the morning. They came from different parts of the city, and even the country, wearing their sponsored company/college tshirts. Each company seemed to have sent a group of 50 employees to run on their behalf. His company's contigent was there as well but he chose to wear his own murdered look. There were many Rams, Ravanas, lungi-clothed sardars as well... but no mudered men yet. He felt pleased with his look, and smiled at everyone who gaped at him. He almost felt like a celebrity, in this mass of people, a part of a bigger whole, yet a part that is unique.

42 km
A very long distance.
A distance that had represented a HUGE challenge to him - one that had already changed his life. It had already made him a healthier, happier, better man.
Failure was not an option, giving up before the finish line was not possible.
He had worked for 7 months for this with whole-hearted dedication.
His motivation was astounding.

The race started, people started running/ jogging/ walking as each tried to reach the famed 42 mark - one step at a time. The onlookers waved at everyone, and cheered especially loudly for him, dressed as he was. 1,2,3,4.... the kilometers ran past and they reached Nariman Point and he was running along the beautiful Queen's Necklace, feeling the sea breeze refresh him and egg him on to run some more. 5,6,7,8,9,10.... and he started thinking "this is easy - I can do this quickly enough - 10 done, only 30 more to go..." By the 11th km, he had reached Haji Ali, and he bowed in respect at the Durgah, feeling like even God was encouraging him to keep running ... and soon he crossed Siddhivinayak Temple and Mahim Church as well... reaching Bandra Reclamation and then it was time to turn and repeat his backward journey.

The half point had a lot of bands cheering the runners, with girls dancing with pom-poms singing "Run Mumbai Run ! Run Run Run !!". He smiled and waved, and even winked at one or two girls, stopping to have some fruit juice before beginning his journey backwards. Even though he had just reached the half-way point, he felt that he had succeeded, and now he just had to run back home - if he could run so far, he could run back as well....

But his legs didn't agree with such optimism, they had started paining, and he was forced to slow down....

What happened next? Keep watching this space to find out more ... :)