Dil Scoop with Pankaj Athawale
Maara Re” Marathon ne Mara Re
The Greek Solider Philippides would have never thought that his glorious run from Marathon to Athens would result in a global phenomenon called Marathon. With the next edition of the Tata Mumbai International marathon already announced for January 2018, we take a look at the growing popularity of running in the city and how cultural and social perspectives towards sports bring about experiential surprises in our country.
13th August saw a couple of marathons being organized in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, the 12 hour Ultra Run at Shivaji park and the 28th edition of the iconic Thane Mayors Varsha Marathon. Over the years the scale as well as participation of elite athletes has descended at the Thane Municipal Corporation supported event.
As I was waiting at the busiest signal at Thane, The teen haath naka which is officially known as the Marathon Chowk, there was a large number of vehicles waiting for their turn to cross this busy junction. All motorists, eagerly awaiting their turn, suddenly saw a couple of runners turn right towards the LBS marg in their quest to complete the half marathon. Suddenly as I looked around, I found most of the motorists completely ignorant about the race, frowning away with disregard as to why they were made to wait.
The road race scene in Mumbai has evolved fantastically over the years with the popularity and scale of the Mumbai International Marathon. Organizing races has become a template and every weekend, you have all sorts of events organized across the MMR. From a few kilometers to ravine races, the city has woken up to a fit lifestyle.
But we should not forget the kind of characters that still exist among us who apart from their ignorance are also immune to sports.
Back to the signal at Marathon chowk!!!! As the runners moved towards the LBS marg, the police allowed the traffic, without taking into consideration that the runners have just passed and the vehicles could speed towards them and distract the runners. As per the script, motorists raced towards the runners who were running barefoot and over took them with utter disdain and insensitivity. Incidentally the song popped up on one of the radio stations in my car. The song was ‘Mara re…….Koi jaye to le aye” from the film Ghatak. Guess I heard the runners sing Maara Re………
This is the state of affairs for amateur road races in our country. The poor runners not only have to brave the distance but also have to bear our motorist who are happy to be ignorant.
This reminds me of a few incidents I can recall while covering various international marathons over the years.
Most of the marathon races were heavily politically patronized in the early years. I remember a political bigwig riding in his open top jeep through the route waving to invisible fans, on the way leaving behind a huge cloud of black smoke emanating from the silencer of his jeep which probably was not serviced since it was bought. Most of these marathon routes are also influenced by the dynamics of constituencies of organizers.
At one of the editions of the Pune International marathon, I was flabbergasted to see young techies trying to nudge their mortgaged cars through a bunch of international runners, honking on the way and giving looks worth clicking.
Will we do this when we live abroad? No way isn’t it, because we would be reprimanded or penalized.
Now let us understand what must be going through the mind of the athlete while running, as they bear the brunt of antics of our own people. The psychological burden of the distance, dogs following you while running, unruly individuals barging in with their vehicles, the sudden stops and turns the athlete needs to take while dodging these obstacles, the weather, pollution, routes with minimal distance and direction signage’s, no one to attend at the finish line post the top athletes have completed their race…….. the list is endless.
Barring a few top international and national marathons in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, most of the local races follow this ritual.
One would simply ask, why should one run in such a mess?
There are two kinds of runners apart from the professional ones. The amateurs who have taken up running as a lifestyle, the others who because of their economic background, run to get a shot at a sarkari job.
It’s high time that we reboot our senses and our outlook towards sports and a fit lifestyle. We need to introspect the way we organize sports events, without an iota of thought for the participants, the facilities and their competitive comfort.
We at sportsnasha strive hard to resurrect these virtues, push for betterment of facilities and support sportsperson to excel in their art. Till then happy and safe running.
The writer is a radio sports commentator