It is 5.00 AM on slightly chilly Hyderabad dawn. There are about a few thousand of us who have gathered on Necklace Road next to the Hussain Sagar lake. The air is electric with anticipation. A cheer rises as the flag is waved and then there is just the sound of feet pounding the pavement.
At 7:00 AM of a really cold Pune morning, a motely group of chatty athletes gather on one side of the Garware Flyover on Deccan Gymkhana. The whistle sounds, the flag waves. A few hundred feet hit the ground
It is 6.00 AM on a rare good weathered Mumbai morning. A sea of humanity slotted into one lane of the Sea Link surges ahead. To an observer from high up it would look like a huge mass heading on to a small line drawn across the bay. The Sea Link is brilliantly lit up in florescent lamps all pointing to the heavens, the eyes only see the wall of people in front. The only sound is those made by feet pounding the pavement.
The folks who these feet belong to are new generation of athletes who run because of what it means to them. They have nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. They are certainly not aiming for the records. Running is different things to different people. For everyone one of them however, a marathon is the culmination of those hours of endless running, tiring, getting up and running again. It is the time to celebrate all that has been practiced and perfected. There are lean folks and heavy folks, tall ones and short, happy and grumpy, lazy and active..in short all kinds. But they have one thing in common, they love to pound the pavement day after day, month after month and year after year in fair weather and foul.
When Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens carrying news of the victory, little did he know he was starting a tradition for everyone who could shuffle their feet faster than a normal walking pace. Now he has more followers in the world that he could have ever imagined. He runs in the company of millions –elite as well as recreational athletes.
My earliest memory of a marathon is going to cheer the Pune Marathon runners on Tilak road in the 1980s. And the only incident that I remember from there is that of a goat trapped among those relentlessly moving legs. Poor thing also had to run along, not finding a way out of the crowd. I don’t know if it ended up breasting the tape (or hoofing it) or not, but it gave me a story to tell all who would listen.
When I began to run, not too long ago – 16 months to be precise, I had no agenda except to enjoy the experience. I had not speed or distance records to set. It was all a small part of the preparation for my expedition to the Gobi.
Yet I enjoyed the wind ruffle my hair as it blew against my face and I discovered that I loved to run in the rain. The most important thing I think is to enjoy it as is. Then the pain, the excuses disappear automatically. If you really want to make the most of the experience and keep your motivation levels constant I would recommend a group of likeminded friends to run with. They make a world of difference when you are down and out, you want to improve and most importantly they stop you from taking a rash decision due to overconfidence.
When I cheered the runners as a kid, I had no idea I would find myself at the starting line of a marathon. Yet here I was, my hands tingling with nervousness, hoping that my legs were warm enough to avoid starting cramps and praying that I would prevail on the most steep inclines. My heart was racing even before I had taken a step.
The flag whooshed down, the drumming started. The sound of pounding feet and the beats of my heart became one.