For the first time this is not a runner’s blog rather it is the diary of a volunteer ( to cheer his mood and his work delivering capacity he is renamed as a race marshal )
Disclaimer : This is a personal blog. It may have inherent shortcoming of not remembering each and every incident or every individual . Also this is written with intension of finishing the blog and not much time is given for redrafting or reediting.
It is also a bit frank on opinions, so if you like it ….thanks in advance ( in return of your thank you….remember we are part of never ending thank you BNP( Borivli national Park ) chain…in more of lucknowi style) ….if you do not like it please give best gaalis in the name of this nacheez.
The blog of the volunteer :
Visual 1 :
She is struggling with her stick. She is trying to jump ( vertically ) so that her reach and effective impact on the monkey is established.
The couple of monkeys have come to do early morning review for the day . “Apni to nikal padi” is the report they are going to give to their fraternity so that they can come with more .
Rupal mani realizes her position at 4 km ….she also realizes that their performance as race marshals will depend a lot on monkey management.
She does not know how to react …….There is a clear disbelief on her face. She is at zero km point ( start / first loop turn and the race end point ) and what she has just witnessed is unbelievable. The fist and leading runner , the white man has just completed the first loop and rather than turning back for the second loop ( so as to complete the race ) has just continued his run straight towards the main gate of BNP.
Supriya tries to show multiple expressions with her hand raised in “ I just don’t understand “ kind of position…….
She is calm and smiling . Her demeanor can be misleading.
She behaves as if she is at the welcome desk of a large 7 star hotel where in clean room- air-conditioned ( 18 degree C )environment is keeping her fresh as a lilly.
“ are you a volunteer or a runner ? “ is her question. Vidhi looks at the person and enters the name in list. Vidhi looks at her friend Sree who takes out the Tee. They both look up . There is small helicopter kind of sound making fan trying its best to give them same hot air. They both are in this hot , stuffy cabin since morning . Only consolation is the colour of this small cabin “ it’s green in colour “
He is growling at him . He is looking at his forefather ( according to Mr Darvin ) . All the teeth are visible as if the message is “they can bite” . “ How can this monkey enter in my car and do the recce when me myself is on the last minute recce of the whole route , trying to envisage the probable problems for tomorrow” the race director Ananth is thinking but is little taken a back . Handling monkey on his car’s back seat was least expected when he took over the responsibility of “ the race director “
She is trying to contact the base . It’s almost like space station calling Houston…..Space station calling Houston …. kind of situation ( oh those lovely Hollywood films )
Instrument makes some sound, the call does not go through.
Sree looks at the specially procured MTNL sim driven phone and sighs . She is at the highest and farthest point at the top of kanheri hills and there is no live contact with base at “4-in –raw – tents base station” at 500 m (mini ground on right of the road.)
I am invited to a breakfast meeting ( obviously self funded ) at Suruchi restaurant in thakur complex.
The vision document is well presented to the group.
Some high caliber – inherently loaded words like “ co-laterals “etc are thrown in .
Shashiji says “ think big” …..”sochne mein kamee naheen karni hai.”
Shashiji, maheshji,pramodbhai present the whole scenario and even face some questions.
We are informed about formation of sub committees and are told that every one must come up with ideas
The whole style has an imprint of “ the American way of handling projects and crises ( which are often self created due to the grandiose way of handling the project ): as shown in Hollywood films “
Shashiji is confidence personified. I hardly know him apart from normal Hi –Hello …..but I start admiring the way in which he conducts the meeting .
It’s a different story that we all are on roll and are having sumptuous breakfast ( some of us order more than one item along with mandatory tea or coffee ) but two of the crucial things are totally missing : the date of the race itself and the permission ( official or unofficial ) from the park authorities.
A cup of espresso coffee in the late evening at thakur villagge
We are interacting. This is my first doston waali meeting with Shashiji . Nitin is yet to join us .
The life from catering college to professional hospitality industries , the first independent business , again the professional job and finally the second stint at business is covered in very short span. I realize that Shashiji is a self made man and my respect and admiration goes few notches upwards .
We discuss how to expand the scope of our subcommittee. He smiles ….giving extra dose of confidence …. Says “think big…..sab socho….do not restrict yourself on budget now…let the ideas flow….”
When I depart I have that “ typical happy feeling” even though the seasoned project execution keeda inside me tells me “ oh man here there are too many individuals and ironically they all are Indians and we Indian have huge egos….”.ye sangh kashi kab pahonchega “( when will this group reach to a common goal )
( do not try to find reading material here because nothing much happened “ involving me” ….at the same time whole lot of mahabharat happened ( which typically happens in this kind of large project….especially when every one is on volunteering basis )
Nitin involves me for runners profile job ( again over the breakfast meeting at udupi joint in thakur village ) . I try do my little with very little material given to me…..time is against us as we are late .
Eventually much of the job Nitin himself does , as there is not much time for more creativity.
We are called on Monday morning ( just to train the working class amongst us to get used to this as our race is now on Saturday and not on Sunday ) at BNP for a group briefing.
Actually it is not a group meeting , but meetings of different groups at one venue.
We have our meetings ( at times partially blocking the ongoing traffic )
Anant sir , the race director has done his home work well and he explains our group in minute details about our role and he polishes our egos by naming us as race marshals
He is very clear on few points
- Cheer the runners on continuous basis as the race is in BNP (un necessary explanation is added by me :the cheering options are less as apart from us , BNP will have morning walkers, faithful dogs, monkeys , birds , deers and leopards ….so the reliable option remains limited.
- Offer specific things to the incoming runner with full attention to save his or her crucial timing….” This is enerzal “ “ this is water”….say it loud .
- Zero litter tolerance policy .
- Make the even “ the bhuto na bhavishyati “
Few of the innovations are striking : the core committee has brought this project with some unique features
- Hill motivators, running marshals : at every important points our volunteers will run along with the participants to motivate them ( dil jitney waali soch )
- Hot breakfast . at the end of race superb break fast will be served to the runners ( pet jitney waali soch )
- Individual foot massage : ( visual must come ) at the end of race …treat them as kings and queen ( sukoon jitney wali soch )
(by the way , this meeting had one interesting personalized invitation email …the first para was typically Indian system personified : reproduced as it is : “ As discussed and confirmed by you to Punit and Nitin your services as Volunteers for BNPGR’s inaugural race BNP endurathon 25.0 have been gratefully accepted . “)
Later Varun calls me and discusses the idea of naming the Water stations with specific names ( a very similar to 15 th august 12 hours run arranged by shivaji park group: where in different water stations were named as alpha, beta ,gamma etc )
I give him two suggestions : option I : related to Mumbai and BNP geo-history :Name of lakes ( life line of Mumbai ) supplying water to Mumbai city .Each water station can be named “ tulsi “ , “ vihar “ “ Vaitarna “ etc
Or option II : more on poetic side
Name each water station as “ water “ but in different languages ,So we call one as “ aqua or hydra “.
The other ones can be “ vaari “ ( Sanskrit ). AAB ( in urdu ) and may be one in “Persian language “
10th October : Friday 2014
Post late lunch I have reached BNP to collect my Tee .Sree and Vidhi are sitting in the green cabin and are sweating since morning ( figuratively and actually ) There volunteering work has began a day before of the race. The green cabin was once started to collect the anti –plastic deposit by park authority .It has one small fan . Paras is helping them and she is sweating more as if she has just come out of sauna. Sree has come prepared . She has brought in breakfast , lunch , Tea in thermos .
This is our expo ! It may not have all the razzmatazz associated with big expo like SCMM , but it has warmth of human emotions and personal touch. I meet maheshbhai , punit ,savio,pradeep, aadesh ,ankur , devendra jagatap ( he has brought different newspaper cuttings which have covered his achievements. He is the person who travelled with us during Satara to Mumbai return journey . He is one of the few rare ones who could even advice Maheshbhai “ dekho negative mat socho…!! “) …he is going to run barefoot .
Pradeep and myself finally talk things beyond running . He tells me his story since 10th standard and how he has built his business from scratch. One more self made person. He has a smiling face and young boy type of charm but he is a seasoned person who has learned a lot from life .
Savio wants buy some stickers ( which stick to me as they become part of my next day duty )and we all the way go near station . after buying the stickers and glass of sugar cane juice we return . Savio is yet to resume his next assignment as the key person in the India operation to the new travel start up. Before that he will be doing trek in West Sikkim. We will be missing him in bangaalore during the Bangalore ultra as he has skipped the same for Himalayan trek. Before I leave for office I have taken permission from Maheshbhai to stay with him at tents in night inside BNP .We have hired two tents so as to keep the saaman as well vehicles can be parked inside for early morning use. This will be a unique experience and will be very handy to understand the preparation , last minute work and early morning on dot/time reporting.
10 th Friday Evening :
When I reach Springfield hotel opposite Tata Steel main gate at Borivali east , the meeting (over the dinner and drinks) is over and every one is outside. Varun looks more tired than his post Satara run . Totally drained out. Shashiji , Anat sir , Maheshbhai , Kaushikbhai , Punit , Nitin all are out of the marathon meeting and are about to depart but still some issues are there. Maheshbhai assures me that Sunilji and Sangeetaji were once again called up to be with us on the most important event of the year.
Maheshbhai jokingly says “ after a nice drink I am relieved but punit is tensed “
I do not follow much except I am able to go through the printed list of volunteers and their assigned positions. I will be stationed at finishers medals and trophies section. I am shown the boxes of trophies which are put in Maheshbhai’s innova. Technically my duty may start after 7:30 am . Till that time I am more like “ A bird on a wire”
Kaushikbhai allows me to join him at 5:00 am for on the spot registration and first welcome desk point. He is relieved when he comes to know that I will be sleeping inside the BNP for the night so that I can report at required time.
The tent in side the BNP
Anand has already checked in . He is part of photographers brigade …photo marshal!
Post event he will be directly going to join his friends for the trekking expedition in the saputara hills .
Nitesh Mohite ( the ever helpful , ever concerned driver of Anant sir ) is also staying with us . Together we three start working on the Finishers medals . We try to arrange them in such a way that handing over each and every customized medal becomes easier. There are lists followed by revision list …what we are referring is one of the latest one ( which gets replaced by one more latest list next day at the counter ) .Maheshbhai gives some more medals which we are also arranged.
Dr Oak has joined us and I am looking forward to hear from him about his story of running including comrades. Unfortunately he is not keeping well and soon Maheshbhai shifts him to his tent so that he can have some sleep as in our tent we will be working late. The tents are nice. AC is powerful at 18 degree and there is no remote .The bathrooms are clean and some what spacious. We all have applied odomos cream as the required precautionary measure .Before sleeping we take one round with torch in our hands on the periphery of camp site to see any last minute darshan of deers or may be ???
11 th October : The race day
I am up by 4:00 am and getting ready . By 4:40 am Maheshbhai is up and all ready and restless. Its obvious that for him it’s “ the examination day” . All these days of endless meetings , mehnat….like Shashiji, Anant sir, Punit , Nitin, Varun …. he has put in everything. His personal time , personal good will , two cars , own home as the godown , his infrastructure especially for Tee’s selection , procurement till delivery ( he even arranged the direct individual billing from Tirupur in one of the first BNPGR Tees ) and even the cash sponsor ( who even though has his logo on tees , has no connections to running or running community or even any direct connection to the end consumer. The sponsor has agreed to give money only because of his relationship with Maheshbhai )
During the day when I try to joke that “ Maheshbhai’s condition is like father of bride on the main wedding day !” he is in no mood to laugh or react to my joke .
4:55 am and we are at the main gate . The gate is yet to open . Outside the gate one more restless ( but calmer than Maheshbhai ) person is waiting .
Shashiji has reached before time and he is not happy to see doors closed.
The security shows the time “ Aajun 5 nahee vajale “ . Visual of him holding the vertical bars of the small gate in anticipation of early opening reminds me of Dilipkumar type of filmi visual “ Are bhai koi darvaza to kholo !”
We have set our spot registration and first welcome desk counter . Kaushikbhai gives me the credit card swipe machine to study and operate. Dhanraj is helping and we soon arrange the Tees of runners who could not collect their Tees before . Some of the volunteers wants their Tees as they have not collected the same earlier . Couple of “well networked” volunteers are given the tees but soon it is realized that this is on the spot registration counter with limited stock of tees. Volunteers are told to collect their tees from the main tents at the 500 m ground on right side.
The runners are given their monthly passes.
Rupal ( shah ) has come along with her camera and she is part of photo marshals brigade . I really feel very happy to see her and wish Shanky too should have come ..
Punit gives me suggestion to go inside and join the water distribution team as water has to reach at all the station well in time and there is some delay . I take kaushikbhai’s consent and move on.
I am using Ankur’s bike. At the 500 m , I am told the main food counter does not have water and all the runners have started coming in. All I have is a bike and I need helping hand. Suvendu who is running today’s endurathon25.0 volunteers for the job. I take him to the night camping tents where in more than 40 twenty litres water bottles are kept . We manage one twenty litre bottle on the bike , but there is no water dispenser. Throughout this water arrangement I have this guilty feeling of getting the help of Suvendu who has come here to run and not to be a mazdoor. Surprisingly he is very cool ….”Aapne ghar ka hi race hai, kar lenge” .
While leaving the camp tent I see big rope which I feel must be there on some purpose so I collect the same along with water.
At 500 m –“ four –in –series” tents I casually ask Maheshbhai “ what is the purpose of this rope ? “ and he says this is required at the start point to guide and control the runners at the start point. We realize that runners are already being lead to the start point ….so here I am ….on Ankur’s motorcycle with rope in front circumventing all the runners from off the main road -kucha path rushing towards the main point. I reach just in time to see some relief on the face of Anat sir ( who must have by this time decided …to hell with the rope )
The race has started . I have still enough time before my assigned duty starts .
Punit’s advice is still in my mind so I decide to take a round till kanheri to get first hand feedback . I already have MTNL numbers of coordinators .
At 2 km point …Kashmira, Chirag , Tejal , Sanjay , Kiran have already arranged everything along with garbage bag in place.
I am carrying extra garbage bags in case some station needs them .
( next day when I run my 21 km at pune marathon I am more tuned to volunteering efforts provided by Pune runners and appreciate the use of square /rectangle carton boxes along with garbage bag tucked in to make it more user friendly…….more on Pune race in next blog )
They want more water.
At 4 km mark every one is struggling with early monkey troubles. Rupal is already using stick and doing all kind of posturing but there are just few monkeys who have come just to assess the situations . Shridhar and Rupal want more volunteers, sticks and yes water !
At kanheri it is good to see Arjun on the duty . Ajit wants to reconfirm the position of water tables . But they have done best arrangements. Dr Sachin Thakar is in striped shirt and trouser ….he is on doctor’s duty ….the hill motivators Nilesh , Anand , Ankur and Aadesh are bit restless and pacing up and down and are waiting to get utilized. They will be the first lot of hill motivators which runners will encounter.
Sree and myself try to figure out why our calls to MTNL sims are not getting through. Ambulance is already stationed . The message to Houston is Kanheri space station is ready …they also want additional water . I try to report to Punit over phone ….not much talk but all I get is that he is also on the rounds to check the last moment requirements and positions at all the stations.
On my return ride I see Avani the photo marshal positioned herself on the kanheri slopes, all ready to shoot the first runner as and when he or she arrives on kanheri hills. She waves as I ride on. On my way I try my best to cheer all the runners on the way . I cheer little more when I see the pacer groups or the known faces ( obvious human bias ) .
Almost in the end of runners’ sequence I see a Ram- Sita Jodi ….Rashmiji and Kedarji are on a fast stroll /slow jog …but they are enjoying the climate , the BNP air and yes each other’s company. As they are at the end of the running human chain it is reassuring that in case of any undesired incident some one responsible is at the end ….
I have parked the motor cycle and I am at start point . Paras , Sunil , Supriya are the race marshals and Sidhi , Pradeep , Nitin are ready to push the runners on the Gandhi tekdi hill as the hill motivators. Supriya is worried about the 1st loop turning as well as the mandatory right turn while coming down from Gandhi tekdi.
Two chairs are arranged at the timing mat with special request to the timing outsourced agency guy . Our race marshal is already there . Only hitch is the chairs will be moving as we can not block the traffic.
I come back to 4-tents Houston base station . We need an arrow mark with 2nd loop signage. Shashiji helps with this as he makes the sign without required thick marker.
I take back this signage and find the position for the same.
By the time I am moving back Supriya with bewildering looks tells me “ the first in the race has not turned back at the timing mats for second loop and continued his run straight towards the main gate. “
When I come to 500 m ….more surprised faces confirm the news .Shashiji has the correct version ….he tells me that our friend has gone to answer the nature call and tells me “ go and get him back in the race “
I take Ankur’s bike and reach to the newly opened washrooms on the left.
I am standing near the main door …..one of the toilet door is closed. I am not sure whether our “first in race” is here or some where else….
“ is the person who is 1st in the race inside ? “ is my straight question .
“Bloody Indians: not allowing to shit also “ must be his expression …..but he is courteous enough to respond “aye aye sir “
I wait for him …he comes out ….I take him on bike and drop him at the start point so that he can resume his race.
Kaushikbhai has brought all the trophies and medals at the main base station . I take them inside the allocated tent and start arranging the medals along with kaushikbhai . Later savio and Anthony join me.
The next tent is of baggage and is managed by anisha joshi pant and vidhi …anisha is sincerity personified.
Whatever she does ,she does with utmost dedication .
When I try to boast that we all slept late At 12:30 and got up at 4 am …she casually mentions that she came home from duty at 2 :00 am midnight and was here with us at 5 :00 am .
Kaushikbhai helps me with medals meant for very last minute entries as well as today morning’s spot entries . We make new stickers, do entries into the latest print out . Few of these medals now do not have engraved name of the runner.
We are ready with medals arrangements so that they can be given easily even when there is a sudden rush of many runners for medal collections . Trophies are arranged outside on table for an open display. Anant sir comes twice to check whether our arrangements are OK. Shashiji explains me about some problems in trophies and how he is going to handle the problem.
He is quite cool. He is going to head the trophy distribution knowingly fully well the goof ups involved. He has worked very hard , totally compromised his time and business and when the time has come he is even ready for this kind of adverse eventuality .Show must go on !
Finally we are in business. Our first client is Aditya Shroff who has won the race with impressive timings of 01:55:22 hrs
Philip Earis is our second client with timings of 02:03:08 ( winner of 45-55 age category )
We are ready with medals before they reach our counter for there medals .
Anant sir is ready and he individually puts the medal on them . He does this job for more than 90 % of runners . It is individual attention and Indian mehmannavazi at the best . He tells congratulations to every runner….ask them individually to enjoy all the facilities provided…foot massage, hot food including gajar halva , hot tea and buttermilk.
Pramodbhai’s daughter Shreya is the photo marshal with us . Every time Anant sir presents the medal to the new runner , she is there to click the photo. At times Anant sir goes all the way to the runner ( who is yet to come to our counter ) she also rushes with him to click the photo. The involvement of the family members of the BNP green ‘ is the evolving strength of our group . Many like Nitin have brought their kids. This is almost like commune or kibbutz kind of feeling .May the commune of BNP green runners grow !!
Ab hamari dukaan chal padti hai…..we have constant flow of runners .
We are able to do justice to all except two
Mr Mohamad naeem sayed ‘s personalized medal is not there.( even though the sheet given to me shows tick mark against his name , we do not find the same )
He visits our section more than 4 times . Even though we give him non engraved medal he comes back with eager eyes….Punit comes and dantofies me “where is his medal ? “ I do not know whether his mild scolding is for some effect and impact on our friend Mohamad naeem sayed….but he again turns up . Anant sir promises him more than twice that we will engrave his name and definitely give him his perosnalised medal.
The other gentleman had removed his shoes and given them to one of our volunteers so he is worried about his shoes post the race completion ….we have taken down his mobile number
Towards end he comes back and thanks us as he has been given back his shoes
Almost all the runners are happy with BNP green runners mehmannavaazi . They have thoroughly enjoyed the route, climate, cheering by volunteers , services at water station , hill motivators co-runs with them and in the end great medical care by kokilaben hospitals’ team , foot massages and hot and great food.
And yes there are those personal imprints…..Sunil Agarwal physically carrying a block of ice or Vidhi constantly refilling the butter milk jars ( even when outsourced catering agency persons are available )
Mr Mehta of Kokilaben hospital wants to know whether all is well at kanheri …where the ambulance is stationed.
I try my best to contact Sree on her MTNL mobile….eventually over sms she replies “all is well “ which is conveyed to Mr Mehta and he is relieved in totality.
We take turns and have our own breakfast. Alpeshbhai joins us so we can have breakfasts.
It’ s price distribution time .
Shashiji conducts this session like a smooth operator…Once he does get irritated with me when like a novice I remind him to tell the awardees about small faux pas.
Shamjiskar sir, Mr Mehta , Maheshbhai and Anant sir give away the trophies . Many of the early winners have already gone ( in turn saving us in giving individual explanation of little corrections in trophies )
Purnedu nath while accepting his trophy sweetly comments on sizes of tees. ( basically on behalf of his friends ) but this becomes an interesting visual which brings smile on every one’s mind…..a bare chest man ( not wearing except shorts and shoes ) commenting of tees and their fittings!
Some of us also wonder on his famous style ( within running community to participate bare chest ) in BNP environment where in mosquitoes definitely show there presence felt.
All the BNP pacers are very happy . I wish if they all are impromptu motivated further to share their experience with little elaboration …same with the runners…..those who speak is more or less kind of customary speech. A live question answer kind of session could have been more interesting.
During wind up I suggest review rounds for cleaning of garbage and every one lovingly joins in. Two separate groups go on garbage hunting. All gents group followed by all ladies group ( they never fully believe in men’s house keeping abilities )does the rounds of national park.
On bike sanjaybhai does separate rounds.
While coming back from kanheri we all appreciate the dedication of each zones’ volunteers …they have done their job very well as there is no much garbage left due to our running event. Out of desperation Anant sir tells us to collect something and we end up collecting pan gutakhas wrappers….bottle caps, few bottles , plastic thrown by regular tourists.
I ask Sanjyabhai to allow me to take round on his brand new 500 cc Enfield bullet, which he willingly gives…I have my wind caressing my hair kind of moments as I take rounds till night camp tents ….we end up getting a lot of stuff from there to our main base centre.
I remind Maheshbhai about his personal belongings and reminder by the staff for check out.Post lunch I have to leave for Pune . Tomorrow I will be running Pune Marathon, so I want to reach pune by 8 : 00 pm ( on the way there is stoppage at APMC market at Vashi )
Punit drops me at main gate as he is also enjoying a small ride on Sanjaybhai’s bullet.
Post script : next day at the end of my Pune 21km run I happen to meet my friend Nitin Pandya . He still looks tired and has the hassled look. Last night he had given me my Bib at 9:30 ( after a tiring day at Pune Expo ) and was preparing for almost full night volunteering work. He tells me “ we had to carry 80 kg weighing boxes of timing technologies in the midnight and arranged everything on the race route before the dawn .” we end up discussing the nature and pattern of large social events and their project management . he says “ typically there are always 6 to 8 dedicated guys who slog it out . Than there are pudharies/leaders who are on networking trip of their own and there are few 11 th hour helps “
I try to imbibe the theory . It may be true for the most of the events I have handled or was part of …..yes there were big fat Indian weddings, social gatherings , community events …in the end there were always few genuine workers ….but there were always leaders, credit seekers who did not bother to even move a single chair ( even for their own sitting )….but this event is an exceptional . Our 11 th Oct 2014 : Endurathon 25.0 is a unique event where in there were only dedicated workers and doers …..every one was there “ dil se “ . the leadership was exceptional and was there to face the problem upfront with cool and calm approach.
I salute to every one who has put in his or her heart to make this event “na bhuto na bhavishyati “!
May the force be with all of us !!