5 Feb 2013


 I penned my experience at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon which was held on Jan 20th, 2013 and posted within 48hrs before closure of a contest with the intent that if I ever win something then the whole prize money I will donate for educating rural kids at Isha Vidhya. 145 well wishers liked my story and many more shared the same. I won a prize money of Indian rupees 2000 which can provide 2 sets of school uniforms for 2 children for a year! Heart and Mind very happy. To quote Sir Winston Churchill "We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give". Sharing the story on my personal blog. Enjoy and please feel free to comment :-)

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Lao Tzu  
Run enthusiasts have often told me that the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) is the marathon of all marathons in India. Everyone looks forward to participating in this annual event held on the third Sunday of January with enthusiasm. As the New Year unfolds, it brings with it new beginnings, hopes, dreams and resolutions for all. This marathon is also timed nicely so as to become the starting point of many individual running goals.

For me personally, I was eagerly looking forward to running the full marathon in Mumbai, my first one in my former karmabhoomi (work place).  When my registration was accepted in July 2012, I was excited like a small child. I knew in my heart that this was going to be a special journey in more ways than one. I had returned from the Everest Base Camp expedition in May, which I had undertaken to fulfil a “bucket list” wish and, more importantly, to send a few rural kids in India to school at Isha Vidhya through SeeYourImpact.org.   In that strenuous adventure, I had sustained injuries which got aggravated because of over-training and running on cambered concrete roads.  I had to undergo  physiotherapy sessions. I had then wondered whether it would be the end of my dream of running at Mumbai.  A soul sister, also a running mate, had suggested that I should undertake structured training so that I can run injury-free and enjoy my passion for a lifetime. As they say, “When the student is ready, the master arrives.” So came Dan (Zico) and became my running guru.

The SCMM tagline read, “10 years of running and 1 memory to share.” I left it to my guru and god to help me reach the start line of this special 10th anniversary of the Mumbai marathon. My vision was to enjoy the run as a thanks giving to amchi Mumbai for all that it has bestowed on me in life and also to send a few kids from rural India to Isha Vidhya School where they can get a better life. Since Mumbai was where I embarked on running way back in 2005, it was also to be a walk down memory lane.  I was planning to soak it all in.

When I landed in Mumbai on January 17 from Hong Kong, I pinched myself. It was real. I had visualised the run course in my mind, every step that I will take from Chatrapati Shivaji           Terminus (CST), the starting point, via Churchgate, Marine Drive, Peddar Road, Worli, The Sea Link, Dadar, NCPA, Chowpatty, and back to CST. As always, the pre- race night sleep was minimal with tossing and turning and a few butterflies in my stomach! As the race day dawned, I drove with my sole-to-soul sister Natasha to the start line. The mood at Azad Maidan was pumped with adrenaline. I had pinned an Isha Vidhya poster on the back of my T shirt. I met many run buddies face to face for the first time outside of the virtual Facebook world. I was touched by the camaraderie and support when they called out my name and wished me luck.

The cool breeze alongside Marine Drive early morning was invigorating. There were live bands and cheer leaders along the way. When we turned at Babulnath, I heard the temple bells chime. I said a small prayer, sent a ‘thank you” note to the Supreme Being and moved on. Amit and Neepa  Sheth’s  five-hour  “ bus” was alongside me. We exchanged smiles. I thoroughly enjoyed the mantra those running as the “bus” were chanting in unison, “Speed thrills, but kills.” At the mile markers they shouted, “Another one bites the dust.”
 I speeded along and saw the Mahalaxmi temple and the majestic Haji Ali mosque jutting into the Arabian Sea. I also remembered the Haji Ali juice centre where I and my friends had gulped down many glasses of sugarcane and fresh mosambi juice.  It was wonderful to run on a deserted Sea Link (probably the only day in Mumbai when it is closed to snarling traffic). The beautiful Arabian Sea and the glimpse of the orange ball of rising sun added spark to my endeavour. I shouted out to a few fellow runners to watch the sun rise. I felt like a small “pea” in the vastness of the Universe which engulfed me at the light of dawn!  There was Mahim church on my left. While crossing Lilavati and Hinduja hospitals, I saw many patients and hospital staff cheering me on. I thanked them and told them that I am running on their behalf, too. They smiled back and I felt happy. 

The Siddhi Vinayak temple, the abode of the elephant-headed god (remover of all obstacles), passed by.  At this point, the cobwebs of doubts and pessimism were cleared from my mind. Here I also saw a few runners by the side of the road; they had given up, some had cramps and the others were throwing up. I walked up to them and, as a doctor, offered some advice and was relieved to see the immediate medical attention given to them by the organisers and the medical team. Kudos for this. I felt reassured that they were in safe hands.
 I moved on.  Back onto Worli Sea face I high-fived many street kids who were cheering loudly and musically. Many residents were handing out biscuits, water, dry fruits and chocolates. Their children were encouraging and shouting out supportive slogans. Some had water sprays (like the one they use during the Holi festival) and were spraying our tired faces. It was refreshing. I was moved! 

At this stretch, the sun god was out in all his glory, shining above our heads. My legs were beginning to feel heavy. I took a few short-walk breaks. I poured water on my head. I was experiencing the “wall.” I took one step at a time and finally pushed through it. I smiled at a few runners and they smiled back. It was amazing. All of us were in pain, were pushing ourselves and still managed to smile! After all, we were all in this together.

 When we reached Peddar Road flyover, I saw some Japanese women and children cheering. I shouted out to them “arigato gozaimasu,” which means “thank you.” There was more crowd of supporters on the side walk who cheered me by calling out my name loudly, “Priya, veteran runner, you can do it, run strong for Isha Vidhya.”  I realised that the named and numbered bibs on my front and the poster pinned on my back indeed served a purpose.


Suddenly at that moment there was a personal touch and strangers became friends. Another runner smiled at me and said, "I am Priya, too.” I told her that we should run together and we did manage to run for almost one kilometre together before I moved on prodded by her. When I saw the local train whizz past Churni Road and Marine Lines, it brought back memories of my rides long ago in the Virar-Churchgate fast train. I also saw many men in Khaki cheering us. 
The adjunct smaller dream run had started by then. There were loud drum beats and music and a party scene on the other side of the road. I remembered my first dream run of seven kilometres in 2005 which at that time felt like a full marathon for me. Today I was actually running the real full marathon on the same roads! I felt grateful to the Almighty for having brought me a long way. “One step at a time, one smiling child at Isha Vidhya at a time,” I told myself as I crossed the finish line. My heart and soul felt happy although physically I was exhausted.

The Mumbai marathon running course had many temples, a mosque and a church.  The vast Arabian Sea and the rising sun on the Sea Link reminded me of how “small” and insignificant we are in this unfathomable Universe. The crowd support along the route who sat or stood patiently for almost 5-plus hours left me speechless, reminding me again that total strangers could indeed become friends. It has also filled me with memories to cherish for a lifetime. 

Those little kids at Isha Vidhya will be in school for another year, thanks to all those who supported the cause I was running for. Does my heart beat for Mumbai? Yes, it does. Will I come back to run the Mumbai marathon again? Undoubtedly.