I stood there in the holding area, one among the sea of many runners. I could sense the high spirits. Everyone was cheering each other. The atmosphere was charged with adrenaline. And then there was a distant sound of a gun shot at 6.15am. Of course, I could not hear this, since I was way behind in the sea of noisy runners.
People around me started jogging trying their best to avoid tripping over other runners, as if they were determined to get an early head start. I was slightly more cautious as I briskly walked to the starting point and started jogging by the side of the road. The music from my IPod was totally drowned out by the loud sounds from the blaring speakers.
Soon I was on my own, slowly leaving all the humdrum behind and maintaining my pace to the steady rhythm of my breath. I was out there soaking in the cheers and enjoying the beautiful view of the sea at Marine Drive and various heritage sights of my beautiful city by foot.
The crowd cheer, from people lined up the roads on both sides, was fantastic. Hats off to the sporting spirit of Mumbaikars! I saw residents of various buildings and hotels on the roof top and balcony waving out and encouraging the runners. All this made me feel absolutely great.
As the gentle breeze wafted along the sea front at Chowpatty, and blowing through my hair, I turned towards Peddar road and now I knew that the killer flyover was waiting for me to attack with gusto!! I sipped some electrolyte drink from my hydration belt and had strategized to walk up the flyover briskly and then run down fast which I managed well. It was such a wonderful feeling defeating these small hurdles along the way (similarities to daily life, if we put our heart and soul we can always overcome obstacles).
In good time, I reached the half way mark at Mela restaurant in Worli. Fishermen folk from a nearby village had turned up at the half way mark to encourage the runners. And then, I suddenly heard loud horse-like hoofs. The very same group of Kenyans whizzed past me along with other leading full marathoners. It was such a delightful sight to watch that for a few minutes I just stood and stared!
With renewed inspiration from watching these elite runners, I turned around at the halfway mark and made my way back. By this time, the sun was high up and shining bright. All along, I was constantly telling myself that "I can do it!" Interestingly, by this stage, my mind was taking its grip over my body and deciding that I was going to complete this run.
Marine Drive marked the 15 km mark. Many residents had put up temporary stalls and giving glucose cookies and bananas to pump back some much-needed energy. My body also decided for me to bite into a couple of cookies. By this stage, I had reached the 18kms mark. Even if I wanted to stop, crowd cheer would not let me as they kept cheering loudly and wildly.
And then, from afar, I could see the finish line. This was an indescribable emotion, a combination of joy, pride, humility and satisfaction. There was no looking back now. I had come this far, given it my everything and hugged the finish line gracefully.Finishing with your very best effort is the only thing that matters and running had taught me just that and this is what I will apply to my life itself!
It was two hours and forty minutes since I had started running. Yes, several people finished before me. And yet, I felt like a "winner"!