Me at a marathon??? An unlikely sight indeed. Most would think of the ‘fish out of water’ analogy. I am going to take it a step further and ask you to take a fish – your choice entirely which one – trout, mackerel, sardine, porpoise, etc. – and whisk the poor soul away to the top of a snow capped peak. Again, your choice where (I am generous that way!). Now, step back and take a look.
If you can imagine anything utterly, totally and completely out of place… well, feel free to share it with me. But that is how incongruous I felt standing at the Nehru Stadium on Dec 15, 2013, having been forced to wake up at 5.30 in the morning and dragged out of my house at 6.30, leaving behind a cozy bed and a very perplexed Noddy (my dog). He did not approve of my early morning adventure at all.
All this probably begs the question ‘Why?’ I am still trying to figure that out. I would put it down to 30 parts of friendship and loyalty and about 70 parts of stupidity. Only the most ‘out-of-their-brains’ people would shun the comfort of a mink blanket and step out on a cold, foggy, winter morning to cheer on 2 friends who believe that pounding 21 kilometers worth of tar-lined Delhi roads with their sneakers is sporty and challenging. They were not alone. 30,998 other such imbeciles had flocked to the stadium. On a cold foggy winter morning. Did I already say that? It begs a repeat mention.
However, I take comfort in knowing that I am not the only victim of emotional blackmailing. I met a few wives, friends, colleagues, and even neighbours, who had been cajoled, threatened, pushed, and talked into a similar predicament. We are currently plotting a variety of different ways to exact revenge on the perpetrators of this cruelty. So far, I have thought of 5-6 equally torturous activities that I intend to drag my friends along for. Those poor fellows have no idea what awaits them in the coming weeks. They owe me. And they are in my clutches!!!
Cue my most ‘evil witch’ laugh. Bwahahahaha.
On a more serious note, while I might never understand people’s fascination for running the marathon, I have to salute their spirit, nonetheless. As the tide of humanity broke free off the flag off line and bobbed along the road at varying speeds, I tried to look past the forest and notice the individual trees. And what a variety of trees there were. Young guys full of enthusiasm, middle-aged men out to reclaim their life, old men full of stubborn determination, and women with shy smiles and outfits so tight, men would have run to the farthest corners of the planet behind them (including my two friends).
There were people who looked like they’d been dealt a poor hand in life and this run could somehow correct that. There was a woman who looked like she’d spent the better part of her life in the kitchen and was enjoying the unfamiliar territory she was in. I spotted a pot-bellied uncle who maintained a good-natured smile on his face and ambled along at the pace of a sedated bull. Then, there were a few studs displaying their well-toned bodies in shorts and sleeveless tees.
And then, there were the disabled people…
My heart simply welled up as I saw them start off on their wheelchairs and crutches, exhilarated by the support they received from spectators. The crowd, on its part, was hushed into silence for a few seconds as the first guy in the wheelchair rolled out. And then, almost unanimously, a cheer broke out among us as several pairs of hands clapped and encouraged him, and the others that followed, to set a new record for personal grit and strength. And an even heartier round of applause for those people who were extending support in any way they could – to the father who was wheeling his disabled son with a cheerful grin on his face, the mother who walked by her child hobbling along on her crutches and just generally everybody who told these brave souls not to back down, come what may.
I’d like to think that this marathon is lot more than just a run. It’s a promise that people make to themselves. Be it someone who has given up smoking and drinking for a month just to see the event through or the hard core professional who’s trying to beat his personal best timing. It’s a celebration for the woman who spent 6 months training and dieting and denying herself pleasures just for this moment and a test for the athlete who’s making a comeback after a decade long absence from the sport scene.
It’s about overcoming personal demons or displaying sheer recklessness. It’s about supporting a cause and it’s about hanging in there despite the pain and the injury. It’s also about recognizing the futility of the task ahead of you but carrying on nonetheless, because you are so very stubborn. Finally, it’s a salute to the human spirit and the will power – one that is fabled to move mountains; but today I saw it make achievers out of all, one step (or should I say jog? Trot? Hop?) at a time.
In the end, I’d like to make a special mention of these two unsung heroes who greeted participants as they returned to the finish line. Their playful nips at the ankles and encouraging yelps convinced one and all to abandon their sedate walk and run the last 100 meters with all the energy they could muster! Can’t say they didn’t do their bit.