BNP GR ( Borivali National Park Green Runners ) Endurathon 2018

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BNPGR endurathon 2018

PHOTOS courtesy : BNPGR friends, pixabay

The Blog of a volunteer
Prelude :

200 plus volunteers.

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BNPGr is now a totally charged group. Under the new leadership, some projects or group activities are always going on.

Though within and around BNP there are many other running groups they all are primarily based on the business model.

Striders, Road burners, Runners Academy, Varun’s, Aadesh, Nishant are active in improving the graph of individual running and goals. They do offer some kind of group environment and masti ( after paying thousands of rupees annually )but inherent business model limits their horizon.

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BNPGr has remained so far faithful to core philosophy.

“Not for profit”

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“No to media limelight “

&

“Keep it simple”

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BNPGr ’s weight loss programme ( with total reduction within participants: more than 213 KG with absolutely no cost attached ) has created long term vibes everywhere.

Self-less service, giving back to running community without any kind of monitory expectations have raised the bar.

Successful execution (within the desired budget) of the international marathon at exotic Borneo with a family vacation at Malaysia and Singapore ( without any kind of mishap),

Gorai run, Aksa beach functional training programmes have made BNPGr an all-inclusive group.

Many of this kind of events have brought in young children in the forefront and their enthusiasm during the event has brought in new heights in the overall motivational quotient.

BNPGr is now a big family. Its appeal is across all age group.

We are now part of people’s kitchen talk and kids at home want to know “ What next ?”

Endurathon 2018 has now a willing list of 200 plus volunteers.

The ratio of 1:5 , is difficult to match for any national or an international marathon.

For every five marathon runners in BNPGr’s Endurathon, there will be one volunteer!

The most appealing aspect: Each volunteer is either runner herself/ himself or belongs to the family of runners.

Even though this is going to be the 5th edition of endurathon, no one wants the complacency to creep in.

Post-BNPgr’s International marathon ( which again was along with BNPGr’s weight loss challenge project (almost five months commitments), I have decided to go slow on certain activities.

Fortunately, I am not involved in any of the pre-duration meetings.

Sanjay calls me and informs me about my role as one of the chosen team leader.

They have once again asked me to take care of Award and Race facilitation.

I was lucky enough to have this role during Endurathon 2017.

During the previous edition, I had requested Maheshbhai and Sanjay to allow me to experiment with max female power.

It was Sanjay’s first event as the president of the club and as the Race Director. Race and Award functions are the face of the race. Any goof up can be too embarrassing. Any major fax pas can become the talk of the town. Most experienced runners good at public speaking are always preferred.

Traditionally sports events are managed by experienced men.

The max visibility factor is always with men. At times one or two female faces are given some limited role to bring in the glamour angle.

Relying on females (wherein no one had gone beyond 21.1 km in running journey ) and making them the face of the race was a kind of risky proposition.

Still, Maheshbhai and Sanjay trusted me and gave me the green signal.

We did pull it through!! (Yes there were internal currents which I had to manage)

(Subsequently, BNPGr weight loss challenge was also out and out “ All female power show “)

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

Sanjay and I are discussing names.

This time once again I am expected to be the main speaker. Yes, I am quite comfortable on stage and love being a chatterbox in front of the mic.

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Talking to a large audience comes naturally to me!

I have one inherent drawback.

I also love being a field project execution person.

I am happier and charged up in a chaotic situation.

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Even with meticulous planning (on paper), things can go haywire. This is truer in Indian scenario wherein any unpredictable element can crop up from nowhere and question the smooth flow.

I do not want to be the main speaker in the main area.

Our award and race announcement zone is part of the base station area.

Kitchen zone, medical zone,baggage counters, finishers’ medal area, ice zone, trinayani, hold up area, general queries, special requests, requests to use speaker system for personal messages, pressure build-up gimmicks: all happen in this periphery.

It can become more demanding as all VIPs/guests assemble here.

It is also the final complaint area for anyone with any kind of grievance.

Basically, it can turn into a high-pressure zone due to any important or unimportant reason/s and I love it, and Maheshbhai and Sanjay know it.

They have seen my planning and executing our firasti roadies trips in unknown and unexplored territories. Maybe they want me to remain in that area.

There is one more common ground.

We all 3 agree on one thing.

BNPGr must keep on developing newer talents. Our future leaders must be groomed and we should be open to anyone who wants to come in the forefront.

Our only conditions are

  1. Selfless approach ( no personal and hidden agendas )
  2. Willingness to give time and learn.
  3. Once given the task: she /he should report back from time to time. We should not be forced to remind them with continuous follow-ups.

Not being the main speaker also gives me to monitor in real time, asses our own shortcomings also in real time, manage the internal and external factors and manage the programme within the time frame committed to Anant sir.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Sanjay is with me in my office. He wants new ideas which can make endurathon 2018 more unique.

I have already prepared a written document. I have a list of eight new ideas.

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We go through it point wise. I ask him about budgetary support. He smiles: “ Aree to ideas to bata “

We also discuss how to implement the ideas.

Soon we are discussing probable names in my zone.

Deepa M is an obvious choice. She is excellent in her job when it comes to public speaking. She was also in last year in my team when we had paired her with Varun ( again a gifted speaker who can even sing )

Others from last years team are not available at this time RCC has assigned them different duties.

“ Give me new members/faces “ I request him.

Sanjay is reluctant. It seems he does not want to take chance with someone unproven in public speaking and very new to our culture.

Sheila’s name is discussed. I have seen her skills in public speaking before and after marriage. She was very good at it, but now there has been a long gap as she is a full-time parent (compensating my periodical absence due to extensive travel). Her journey to the world of running is also more structured and scientific.

“ But I will not speak to her “ is my request to Sanjay.

“ Aree I have seen her handling weight loss project, she can do it “ is Sanjay’s confidence in her.

I suggest Sridhar mani and Rupal as a team. I have seen Sridhar handling monthly meetings of his school’s programme with ease.

“ If you want a very young face I can recommend Riva”

Is my only recommendation to Sanjay.

Sanjay has seen Riva and Tvisha during our 12 days international marathon, so he can take a call.

The only problem with this kind of set up: three members from one single family: Obvious enough for people to raise eyebrows and ask questions

{“ Oh all within the family: looks like the home affair “ is the most obvious reaction and this becomes the exact reaction of Rupal Mani when she joins later for our first ever meeting, ironically in our home only !!}

Soon Sanjay uses his charm and ropes in every one. I prepare the detailed 10 page write up with key dialogues and submit the same to Anant Sir. He is the real taskmaster. His eyes can catch minor details. His background with a long career in corporate India adds the professional angle to the whole endurathon affair.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Green restaurant :

BNPGr MC and RCC have called the group meeting of all the leads.

It’s first and only interaction wherein we all are going to meet and discuss the behind the scene of ongoing action and race day strategy.

Since I have my 10-page document ready I request Sanjay, Sree and Maheshbhai to allow me to go through all the points.

As our role is virtually from the start till the very end so we are anyway covering the whole event flow.

One by one all the queries are raised and cleared with the help of team heads.

There are still some grey areas regarding the chief guests’ confirmation and some detailed background for their introductions.

Two points which are raised are

  1. shifting the time slot ( prepone ) solar lamp distribution by Bajaj Electrical to tribal children ( so that they can go back earlier)
  2. Finishing the award function earlier than the last time.

Ours is now the fifth edition. BY 3rd and 4 the edition a lot of fine tuning was already achieved.

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I leave the meeting still wondering “ why these kinds of ideas are being given? By this time core team must be having a fairly good idea about the overall time zones and time flow of the programme.”

Later I call up Anant Sir to understand the time flow of the whole programme.

As usual, he starts with his typical reaction which means “ oh dear friend why you want to reinvent the wheel ?”

“ we have time and again gone through the time flow of the programme. “

He goes on with details on various reasoning.

I realise the internal expectation is more difficult to handle as compared to external pressures.

I take a mental note to see that I remain faithful to Anant sir’s timeline and at the same time please certain expectations of friends so that in the end everyone is happy. ( subject to race day’s actual position )

What follows is more drafts. By the time we go online, I am out with draft no 4 ( which also needs some kind of changes as the eleventh hour brings in new developments )

We have two to three rounds of rehearsals. Majority of the show is given to Deepa and Sheila. Rupal and Riva are given specific zones.

Deepa comes up with an interesting concept to add some zing to the whole thing. It involves involving more volunteers and requires a couple of rehearsals. Lack of time does not allow us to incorporate the same.

Soon we realise the shortage of time and decide to drop the idea.

We have few rounds of rehearsals with timing.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

CPR ( Cardiopulmonary resuscitation ) session: Raheja club

Every year we are arranging the CPR session for all the volunteers. If volunteers are trained in CPR, the whole concept of organising a marathon rises up by few notches. It is a noble cause. This time BNPGr’s medical team has really worked hard and we have a great interactive session with the team from Sanjeevani. It is with PPT presentation and videos.

Yes, this time volunteers are more so not everyone gets the chance to actually perform on dummy models.

Anant sir once again gives the briefing to all the volunteers.

“ what is the expectation from us “ is covered in detail.

The overall mood is quite upbeat.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Last minute changes: This time we have two main guests for the awards ceremony and finishers medal distribution.

Mr Krishna Raj ( IGP police ) who is marathon man+iron man+ultra man

And Mr Bansila Netam who has cycled across India on golden quadrilateral for 5846 km in 16 days and 16 hours and is world record holder.

Mr Krishna Raj is in charge of VVIP security and due to last minute job priority, he sends his regrets.

Fortunately, Mr Kishor Dhankude accepts our invitation at almost 11 the hour. He is regular comrade finisher. He has climbed Mt Everest twice ( Chinese and Nepal side )and now he is the mentor to ultra runners and iron man aspirants.

We quickly change our narratives to include all these changes

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The night before:20th July 2018

Since 2014 ( the first duration) Maheshbhai and I are staying inside BNP for an overnight stay.

We have to hire a couple of tents and dormitories available to the general public as a lot of early morning activities are better managed if you are inside BNP.

Maheshbhai remains busy in receiving both the esteem guests as he receives them and takes them for dinner one after the other.

I reach BNP only after 9.30 pm.

Vishwas Joshi and Sridhar are still in BNP beyond 10 pm looking after the last minute preparations.

I get the opportunity to spend some time with Kishorji.

He is from my hometown Pune. He remains extremely approachable and humble to the core. He is not carrying an iota of his achievements in his head. Unlike many normal marathon runners who carry their achievements as part of their attitude, this man stands out to be a sage type of person. We spend some quality time.

Once Maheshbhai comes he soon gets involved with all the workers/helping hands’ problem.

It seems there are more workers ( kitchen and other areas) than anticipated. Ideally, with proper planning, we could have taken one more dormitory ( which is available but now cannot be used as booking at these hours is impossible )

Soon ever concerned, benevolent Maheshbhai opens doors of our tent for everyone.

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Now we have people sleeping everywhere : near the door, under the bed. He also gives them his blanket and bedsheet.

Workers take their sweet time before deciding to sleep ( they are busy with their smartphones )

Finally our sleeping hours: 11.45 pm till 3.30 am ( as at 3.30 am Maheshbhai gets up )

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Saturday, 21st July 2018

5.00 am. Base area: 5th edition of endurathon.

It has rained in the night. The ground in front of our tent area is totally wet. There are zones where water has accumulated.

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One has to take the required care while crossing over.

Rain is the highlight of our race at the same time too much rain affects our organising efforts.

I have my rounds between the base tents area and starting line. I hand over the required items for the flag off to Falguni.

Pradeep helps me with my car as he goes to the tent area to bring both our chief guests just in time before our race announcements.

Deepa M and Sheila start the session.

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They have to cover all the important information related to race and arrangements. Time schedules of the day. Introduce the pacer team.

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This time we have kept a different format. It is more informal and more like live chat.

They have a lot to cover. At 6.14 I realise that we may need a few more minutes. I request both of them to stop so that we can start the national anthem at predecided time of 6.15 and shift the remaining talk at the start point. They are quick to understand and shift the track.

We have a very unique initiative for the national anthem. Young children of our runners’ friends have come at these early hours. Preet ( all the way from Vasai), Siya, Sana, Shreya, Manushree, Harshiv, Sasmit, Ishan, Rohit, Dhaivat, Tanaya and many more came as the race started.

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The national anthem is now sung by children which adds a new dimension to the race.

It is really a beautiful site at this morning hour to observe time freeze as thousands of runners offer their respect to the national anthem.

Soon action shifts towards the start line. We all rush towards the start line.

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Deepa M has an unfortunate fall and she hurts herself. There is the delay in her reaching the start line. She somehow manages and we resume our talk Both the chief guests are introduced to the runner.

Sanjay has arranged the big digital clock ( one of my suggestion as this is now a standard feature with most of the marathons )

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. Common reverse countdown is now easy as everyone can follow the digital timings ( they, in turn, are directly linked to official timings being provided by our timing partners: My race solutions.

“ Life is something which happens to you when you are busy making other plans “

As we are approaching the final minute before the race, one jeep with big sign Police approaches the start line. The volunteers who are there between base area and start line have not anticipated this. It’s catches 22 situation. We are in a public place. We can not stop any traffic. At the most one can request, but the jeep is almost near the start line. We take on the spot decision and request all the runners to disperse so that jeep can go.

Crucial seconds of last minutes are lost. I give the signal to everyone to drop reverse counting from 20, 19,18 sequence ( just to built up excitement ) and shift to 10,9, 8 sequences.

We all improvise and countdown shifts.

We start our race by promised flag off time of 06:29: 59. I am happy as my commitment to Anant sir ( and it turns to the concept of a well-organised race )is followed till the last second.

Once the race starts, I have some time before our phase II activities start.

I voluntarily get involved wherever I can be of any help.

We have the kitchen, medical, baggage counter and finishers medals and trinayani zones around us.

Display tandem cycle and other cycles are brought in and are lined up at required places.

I

also take one round with Punit on his motorcycle to have the feel of race as it is happening.

As we pass by Gandhi tekdi turning I see children in the role of cheerleaders.

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“ Oh, one more unique feature of this race “ the runners will take good memories back home.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Soon we have winners and runners steady flow.

Team Bajaj and all our other sponsors also arrive on time.

What follows is non stop action all the way till 11 am.

Deepa M, Sheila, Rupal and Riva do an excellent job as we manage the programme within the planned time frame.

There are subtle and direct pressures of all kinds. sponsors, runners, people who think they matter to come up with questions and demands.

Since I have kept my self-free I am able to manage all the pressures and even try my best to accommodate everyone within my permissible limits.

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We are able to balance with all our esteem guests Bajaj team, GU gels, other sponsors, both the chief guests, Giles sir.

Every who is who is given required photo opportunity so that all go back happy.

Post major function we also line up zone wise photos of different teams.

Netam has handcrafted gift for BNP GR and we find his gesture very touching.

Saturday being a working day I decide to leave with Sheila and daughters beyond 11.30 am.

As we leave BNP we all have the satisfaction of serving the runner community to the best of our abilities….

One more edition of BNPGR’s endurathon finishes beautifully with God’s kind grace without any mishap or problem.

…………………………………………………………………….the end

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