HomeUncategorizedNip in air trumps air quality concerns at Mumbai Marathon

    Nip in air trumps air quality concerns at Mumbai Marathon

    Twitter: @the_news_21

    As I slept last night, the only thing playing on my mind was a simple wish: let the trend of lower temperatures hold up.

    The nip in the air continued, as the city delivered another fine marathon, despite concerns around worsening air quality.

    The declining temperatures had already tempered anxieties about participating in the annual Mumbai Marathon, which returned after a three-year break due to COVID-19.

    I’m sure the AQI indices will tell a different tale, but none of the 55,000-odd people who participated across categories would complain because they breathed an air filled with excitement and joy.

    Unlike the full marathon outings in a few of the past editions, I was doing a half marathon this time. Sign of setting realistic expectations for yourself as you age, but also a determination to continue indulging what you love. To make matters worse, I had successfully tricked two colleagues – Dnyanesh Chavan and Kapil Kelkar – into signing up for the same event.

    Kapil’s central Mumbai pad served as the perfect place to camp before the marathon and we headed out to the start line in the specially arranged buses at 4 am. It was a much, much larger gathering than we had imagined and it took 20 minutes after the starting gun for us to actually ‘start’ our races.

    Poor practicing does not allow for luxuries like race strategies, and the only sliver you chase is a finish. We three, the ‘team PTI’ at the run which has become into a great branding opportunity for corporates, decided to run our own races, and soon got dissolved into the crowd of runners.

    The first few kilometres in pitch darkness were about finding your groove and wading through the huge number of runners around you.

    Just when it started feeling monotonous, the sight of the illuminated Bandra-Worli Sea Link, waiting to embrace each of us, served as the perfect anti-dote and we continued.

    All along the 5.6 km sea link, I watched to the east, not for signs of the upcoming sunrise, but just to revel, and sometimes despise, how the city skyline has changed. The pandemic clearly has not impacted luxury apartment sales in the mill land, I thought, as my vision tilted up from Worli Fort and the adjoining slums, among the first sprawls to report COVID infections in the city.

    The road got narrower as I snailed through Worli seaface, now witnessing the Coastal Road work. After the 12-km mark, I found myself in the ‘low’ zone ahead with nothing really to motivate, but I trudged on and braced for the dreaded Peddar Road climb.

    There, the multitude of watchers encouraged the runners as they always do, showering chocolates, jaggery-filled confectionary, and oranges, and also cheering those with sagging spirits.

    I witnessed the rising sun far away on the eastern horizon as I took the left turn on the Marine Drive, but it proved to be just a fleeting one as the running continued. I was headed south on the city’s famous landmark, even as the spirits headed northwards as the finish came closer.

    For a barefoot runner like me, the scenic Marine Drive is always a pain as the road surface on the stretch – which is an ode to the city planners’ obsession to prioritise motorized vehicles over any pragmatic activity – can hardly be called ‘even’.

    Stones spook out from the tarred surface, and even the pandemic has not corrected things. Aggravating the woes was the crowds as we got mixed up with the tail of the 10 km category of runners in an otherwise immaculate marathon.

    I carried on and crossed the finish line, with what I consider minimal damage to the legs. I met Dnyanesh and Kapil at the finish line – they had also finished the race strong. And the usual boisterous talk about upgrading ourselves to the full marathon followed over cups of tea at a local Irani joint packed with runners high on their performance in the marathon.


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