Maharashtra Police’s 1s International Marathon, ( MPIM) Mumbai: 9th  February  2020

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Maharashtra Police’s 1s International Marathon, ( MPIM) Mumbai: 9th February 2020

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Photos courtesy : BNP GR friends and pexels.com
I have been off the paid running. It’s not that I don’t believe in paying for running, rather I have been paying the different registration fees for different marathons but was unable to run the marathons. This is more due to my Knee injury and other related issues.

pair of black and white converse all star and gray denim jeans
Photo by Sofia Garza on Pexels.com

The Knee injury has evolved me into a different kind of runner. I had my own stints with Plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow ( nothing to do with playing tennis or running ) and now I find them relatively easy to manage injury { even though I had moments of tears in my eyes during the plantar injuries and recovery phase ).
If you have a profession which involves extensive travelling (and you like travelling), you value the pain-free movement of all the limbs of your body.

man jumping from a rock
Photo by Vlad Chețan on Pexels.com

If I have to borrow the words of my mentor and guide Nirmal Pandya (Gym owner and fitness guru, who has overcome his own demons of injuries and physical limitations)
“Unlike other injuries, a Knee injury can terrorise you! “

brown cat in pet cave
Photo by Alina Vilchenko on Pexels.com

It affects you more mentally than physically. It is just not one more pain which you have to overcome the hard way, but it affects your day to day travel. A small hint of mild pain can start a cascading mental thought process. Did I again goof up somewhere? Will I have to repeat the whole slow recovery process again?
Is it back to square one.?
The good aspect of the recovery journey is I have come close to my body and its signals. I have tried to read, view, interact on the subject of human motions and how we abuse it in day to day routine.
One funny aspect: During our fitness hours, we remain conscious of our posture and correct form. Once we are beyond fitness hours, we remain careless and abuse our body.

MPIM: Mumbai

When the Police decide to host you, you just cannot say No. It is a superb initiative by Police to extend the human side so that there is a healthy interaction between the public and police.

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The police force is there in most of the major races on city roads. They even clap or encourage you, but most of the time it is a compulsory duty and a hassle for them as it disturbs the traffic.
This is a unique event where the state police are inviting us and allowing us to run on and from one of the Iconic Mumbai landmark: Bandra Sea link to the main iconic landmark: The Gateway of India: The identity of Mumbai city to the world.

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Yes, I will run this race as I register for Sheila and Myself. Since her friends are doing 10 miles race(post recently held,half marathon of Tata Mumbai Marathon ), I also opt for the same.
10 miles (16km )is a straight road passing though what mid to south Mumbai can offer. 21km has one internal loop at Worli (mid-Mumbai) just to add required miles and not to show more parts of Mumbai ( For serious runners this aspect is never important. Whether they run in Mumbai or Delhi, the place does not matter much as they are more bothered about pace and targeted sub 1.30 to sub 2 targets. All they do is take selfies at the start and end of the race and feel happy that they have run in those cities.

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The Race day:

Vandana is supposed to pick us in Auto in the early morning hours. Surprisingly 4 or 5 autos approach us (when you need them, they are usually not seen !)as we are waiting for her on the highway. Soon we mutually conclude to take an auto and go towards her area as she is yet to get an auto. Soon we are at the station.

Borivali National Park Green Runner club’s friends have decided to travel together and we all pile into the coach no 3. What makes running club interesting are these measures: travel together, warm up together, do stretching post-run together, maybe have some fun post-run together ( plan coffee/beer/lunch or just relaxed time beyond few selfies)

Paras is with us with plaster in her hand. We, runners, are determined minds (Non-runners can call us: stubborn ) She is going to run with an injured hand.

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The usual chatter has some in-jokes and soon we are at Bandra station. We have free bus service to the race zone. Where to release the bladders does not reach a common consensus as we avoid using washrooms at Bandra station. The morning loos are always a big issue when it comes to crowded marathons. Female runners have this perennial problem and the lack of mobile toilets at the start zone reminds everyone of the typical regret we all have post passing off the moment “oh shit, we should have used those washrooms! “

Male runners find ways to add glories to the national mission of “ Swatch Bharat “ ( Clean India )

In every race, I try to coordinate with like-minded friends to have a group warm-up. Things have changed over time as there is no coordination within runner friends to have a larger group warm-up. Bimal and I along with very few new runner friends make our own subgroup and have our warm-up.

The starting point is beyond the toll gates of Bandra Worli sea link.

The beginning:

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The timing mats make the exact start point a bit cramped up zone and by the time I cross the timing mat it is beyond a couple of minutes. We all start and immediately land on the major part of Bandra Sea link. It is a little breezy, but they are too many runners. Soon I find myself in the unique situation “Sudden craze of mass photography”. It is obviously tempting to click selfies. Selfies are the most essential new instant gratification boosters. If there are no selfies – most will go under some kind of mild depression. This race has given the golden opportunity to have your own selfie with the beautiful cable-stayed bridge with strong yellow lights.(when you have just started and body and mind are yet to reach in the regular running mode ) This is that part of Mumbai real estate where walking is not allowed. Getting down from the car will create suspicions of suicidal attempts. Marathon is the only time when you are allowed to run or run-walk on this bridge. The biggest catch to selfie crazy guys is the race has just started. The initial patch has a combination of fast pace runners and let’s enjoy types. The fast pace guys need to increase their speed so that they remain committed to their race plans. Most of the selfie conscious runners are not bothered about others. They are in some kind of wonderland and are stopping anywhere and everywhere to do click- clicks. It becomes a kind of hurdle race and some angry incoming runners become bit aggressive. As I am observing the phenomenon I finally overcome my own dilemma. Shall I use the opportunity or keep on running.? I find appropriate spots on corners and behind the blocked -shadow zones ( the area just behind selfie enthusiasts ) and do my tribute to millennium ‘s compulsory phenomenon of taking a selfie with some random framing in those few seconds and move on.

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I am not listening to any music. In any case, I want to observe and remain conscious of my body signals when I decide to increase my pace.
What can be the theme for the observation?
“Movement of hands and bums” can be an interesting observation as I see few runners running together in front of me. What is striking (and maybe the trigger of this idea): the movement of hips of the male runner is more vigorous than the female runner next to him. This is odd!
Each runner is unique. Some move their hands vigorously, some don’t. Some are almost doing boxing with air. Some have stiff hands. Some have predominantly one hand movement. Some have vertical piston kind of movement with one of the hands. Hip movement vis a vis stride have very interesting relationships. Correct running form can become a difficult subject to grasp or accept when you really see some fast runners having their own unique running form. ( what happens with them in the long term can be a different subject )
“ Movement of hands and bums “ can be an independent photoblog or even become subject of humour writing.

family walking on path
Photo by Vidal Balielo Jr. on Pexels.com

The second breezy phase is at Haji Ali long curvy turn. This is also a wide road so it’s always fun to run on this stretch. Overall, there are fewer volunteers. Pedder road has a mix of runners and walkers. One lady runner is doing solo motivating- run- help -volunteering on camps corner fly over. She is running few meters with any random slow runner as she runs along those difficult inclined meters on the flyover.

When you run the half the marathon distance ( your chosen distance ) you come to know the typical ones around you. Your race strategy has brought you in the company of few runners who remain around you by few meters ahead or behind. More or less you all will fall into a subgroup which will reach the finishing line within a couple of minutes of difference ( There may be exceptions of few if they develop cramps) I have already assessed my fellow runners around me and I use them as my yardsticks…Oh that T-shirt or that girl with a tilting head, they all are around me so my pace is constant. I have Garmin which reconfirms the phenomenon with solid data.

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Suddenly from Girgaon chowpati till marine lines flyover, all the visible areas are covered by hundreds of hoardings of today’s political rally which aims and appeals to the citizen to find the infiltrators around them. All the bus stops, all the poles, anything and everything which can hold the message is innovatively used. Looking around, enjoying this new phenomenon and you forget the race for some time and before you realise a couple of kilometres have gone and gone are these hoardings…sudden disappearance….” Oh, the rally will take the marine lines flyover whereas race route will go straight on queen’s neckless “ as you realise, you are back in marathon race.

The traffic is thrown open on the other side of the road. Now you have the company of zooming pass fast vehicles who were frustrated as they were stopped on not a good Sunday ( for them). Noise and cacophony add to your race.

As we move past Sachivalaya and important government buildings we runners realise that runners have to share their position with dozens of buses and already bored traffic ( which might have waited to feel free )

I move to pass enjoying ( and being careful as I run ) the dharmsankat ( real dilemma ) of policemen on duty: “ When to stop the traffic so that runners cross the junction and When to stop runners so that some of the traffic is eased off for few minutes”

As I cross Regal cinema and soon see the digital clock I go into little sprint mode, but have to remain alert. Soon I cross the timing mats at the finish line and get into a most crowded zone.

As per my Garmin I have run 16.35 km in 2.02.39 hours (“not bad, rather I should have avoided the desire to sustain negative split “I hear my inner self advice.)

There is an interesting chaos as there is a coordination gap between team responsible to give finishers’ medals vis a vis the police assigned for the zone.

What makes things more complicated is the goodie bag zone, it is just at the entry. The goodie bag has one towel and some food items.

Runners have gone wild. After their 21km, 16km and 5 km no one has patience. I try to get into the mad rush along with Sheila and her friends and soon realise the crowd crush and probable stampede.

I have to pull Sheila out and soon all girls come out from the mad -chaotic zone.

The runners have really gone wild. What adds to their ego is few are getting goodie bag the hardest way- fight it out, man !!

The feeling of being left out is not taken lightly by many ( females become helpless) and they increase their level of survival in this wild west…each is own his own.

Any amount of request, pleading by volunteers and policemen hits a dead wall. “ I want my goodie bag “ is the only aggressive language.

Few of us try to reason out with few of the police force.

They show their helplessness. They work in a very hierarchical structure. If one officer is posted at the medical camp which is just next to goodie bag zone, he is not supposed to get involved in any other zone except medical zone.

The job of distribution of goodie bags is assigned to certain group/company and the assigned men in uniform, beyond them no other men in uniform can impromptu get into the situation.

Unlike private events where in anyone who is good at crisis management gets involved here the organisation structure is meant to follow certain laid down procedures.

Now there are two live shows, one of the main stage wherein film stars, top officer cum race director are motivating and entertaining the runners ( more runners are without goodie bag and/or finishers medals and few runners arewith both: the real warriors.Some runners have misused the chaos and are carrying multiple medals and goodie bags ) and here few helpless policemen and volunteers are trying and repeatedly failing to calm the aggressive runners.
What becomes a kind of tragi-comedy when one of the star starts praising runners for their spirit ( as if reading from a preconceived script) and not seeing(clearly visible from stage ) the unruly behaviour of runners.

Stupidly I decide to get the experience of the madness and get into the mad crowd. I wear spectacles, by simple logic I should not get into this chaos, but I have some strange feeling to have this experience also. Anxious moments get multiply when people responsible for goodie bag distribution stop the distribution twice in the hope to see improvement in the behaviour of aggressive runners. They once again miscalculate as more and more runners are now coming in and it only adds to more runners fighting for the goodie bags.

Once I am out, I have my rounds of searching for Sheila( in turn she is searching for me and her mobile ( which is with Chaitali, who is also searching for friends )

Overall it is now Dadar station during peak hours.
We meet BNPR friends and soon finish the photo sessions and have a hot breakfast in a hurry.

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Overall, we the runners have made the whole area as some kind of desperate refugee camp.

Yes, many will blame the organisers ( they should be blamed ) but the journey from being a non-runner to the marathon runner is achieved only when we follow the path which values discipline and self-control/restraint.

My mood is quite off, and I want to have a nice coffee at a peaceful location.

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My request to have a coffee at Kitab Khana is accepted by most of the girls and we finish our run with coffee in the exclusive zone for all of us with good coffee, clean washrooms and books all around us.

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Kitab khana team(Reshma Sanghi and team ) is kind enough to allow us to get in a bit early and even gifts us drawstring backpacks( to each one of us) in appreciating our efforts as runners. ( it becomes a kind of poetic balance as most of the girls did not get the goodie bag )

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All’s well that ends well……………………………

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