It’s coming up to one of my favourite days of the year, the day of the Mumbai Marathon. Come Jan 16, and the kids from the Andamans, being put through school at Rishi Valley by us at The Foundation, will be coming to the city to run alongside employees from three corporates who’ve signed up with us. I have always held this is the most important public event in modern-day India. There is no such mass, non-discriminatory, non-religious event in the country that melts all boundaries for both participators and onlookers.
If only for a few hours the world is one, where poor, lefthanded, flower-selling Hindu girl rubs shoulders with wealthy, righthanded Christian software engineer at the starting line. For spectators entry is free and everybody has a front seat. Pushcart puller and restaurant owner, Marine Drive boutique owner and Malad leather worker, everyone has a dress circle ticket.This time, we at The Foundation have instituted a ten-week running program for our supporters. Thrice a week, for a nominal fee, we have Sanjay and Sachin Rahate, two of the best fitness trainers in the business, putting our pledgers through their paces, advising on nutrition and ensuring the right physiotherapy's provided to those with creaks and groans. The idea is to build the fitness levels of participants to a point where they don’t dread the run, they enjoy it.
Personally, I’m just excited because the kids are coming. They first ran when they were 12 years old in 2007. Now, at 14 and 15 they have not only become better runners, but have understood the Mumbai Marathon is about togetherness, inclusiveness and most of all, about joy.
Sports make that happen, a road run more so and a city marathon the most. Here’s an example. Two years ago, as I ran, I missed a water station. The next one was a ways away and I felt my mouth going dry. A guy running alongside me noticed my error. He gave me the remaining water from his cup and I drank gratefully. What are the chances I would ever sip from a stranger’s glass on the streets at any other time in my life? As human beings, we instinctively step away from strangers. Try stepping towards them. The energy it will unleash in you is enough to run the marathon on Jan 16, as well as the one we call life.