The Chennai Marathon.
I don’t quite know what I imagined it would be like. We, some of the lady officers of the Railways in Chennai, did go for ‘practice runs’ on two Saturdays and completed the Chennai Run- all 7 kms of it, without stopping, although the speed at which we ran wouldn’t have set any records on fire! Quite a few registered for the run, but it was only the four of us (vk madam, hema, rathi and I) who religiously ‘practiced’ as we say in our part of the world and the four of us who completed the run. We congratulated ourselves each time… it’s a piece of cake we told each other, we would breeze through….
The big day arrived..31st August, 2008 it was. Believe it or not, I was like a little kid before Deepavali, I could hardly sleep! I was so excited! Did the others feel the same way? Yes they did, they told me so….as I said, Sunday dawned nice and bright, in my area. At the appointed hour I presented myself, complete in our logo-marked t-shirt, tracks and running shoes at the place where we were all to board a bus which would take us to the starting point of the race. Unfortunately, due to one or two laggards, we got a tad delayed and by the time we arrived at the Island grounds from where the run was to be flagged off, the place was a sea of humanity. People everywhere, in every direction, in colorful t-shirts and tracks. There were thousands of school children, all assembled there by the diktat of higher administration one gathers. Still they were there and that was important. Anxious parents stood alongside- I don’t understand, why when they came along with the kids, they couldn’t just join in the run. I really don’t. Perhaps, they too didn’t quite know what to expect just like me. Or for that matter the organizers themselves!!
In the end, we joined somewhere in the middle with a few thousands ahead of us and what seemed like a few hundred thousands behind us. There were many announcements in Tamil, the local language, much extortion to be safe, and take care of the child next to oneself as one’s own child/brother/sister and so on. Green, blue and white balloons were released and we watched them become tiny white specks high up in the sky. We waited and waited for the chief guest to arrive and eventually he did and somewhere up ahead, the flag was swung and we were off… at least the first few hundreds were off… and we? We started shuffling ahead!! So much for running! We were hard put to stay on our feet, there was a mass pushing from behind. If one was not alert then one would surely fall? And there would be a stampede?! However, we started finding gaps, and three of us started forging ahead and started to slowly jog our way through people of all ages, shapes and size. There were school bands playing well known tunes, there were loud speakers blaring away and all the while we steadily moved forward. There were videographers along the way, capturing the moment for posterity. Before we knew it, we had completed two kilometers and had arrived at Anna Square. As we jogged across the road, we found water sachets being distributed- 830 AM, the sun was already high in the sky and people were sweating buckets and water was very welcome. But we didn’t go to get one, people crowding around people distributing water was very off-putting and we just carried on. Soon we found that running was not the safest thing to do on marina that day! Kids sprayed water over each other and once they finished, the plastic sachets were just chucked on the road. Before long, the whole stretch of road was covered with litter, mainly plastic water sachets. Carefully and steadily we jogged our way to the light house, took a U-turn there and jogged back to Queen Mary’s College, where there was a reception committee of sorts, noting down the chest numbers of the joggers who passed through the human tunnel that had been formed at the ‘finish-line’. Feeling thrilled with ourselves for having completed the run, we got ourselves some bottled water and waited for the others to join us. We found our transport waiting in the appointed place and left feeling very accomplished and good. All of us stopped off at the restaurant in Sterling Club for a well deserved break fast and broke up to go home… I talk about that marathon even today.
P.S. last week I got a certificate from the organizers… for participating and completing the 7-KM Chennai Run!! I couldn’t stop showing it off to all and sundry, I tell you!! And guess what?! It was signed by Ms. Kanimozhi, the charismatic daughter of the present CM of Tamil Nadu.