There were the dream runners — over 21,000 of them — and there were those with dreams, a little more than 2,000 in numbers.
These were the participants of the 4.3-km senior citizens’ race and the 2.5-km wheelchair event at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon on Sunday. Most of these were first-timers for whom training, rewards or recognition didn’t quite matter.
What mattered was being there, running and as one senior citizen put it, to ‘add spice to life’.
“I have not practised for the marathon,” said Amar Inamdar, a student of Agripada’s Society for Education of the Crippled.
“I do not know how many kilometres I will run, but I know that I want to participate,” said the 14-year-old, who has been afflicted with polio and has a speech defect.
Inamdar was dressed like a politician; he was among the 35 students to have come for the event sporting attires of various professions “to convey that they too can be integrated into mainstream society”, said their coordinator Manju Uttamchandani.
Next to Inamdar was 17-year-old Riddhi Gala on a wheelchair, who completed the 2.5-km race in 30 minutes. Wheelchair-bound since the age of seven, Gala, who has cerebral palsy, has reconciled herself to the fact that she needs a wheelchair for a lifetime. “The only thing I regret is being unable to rise when the national anthem is sung,” said Riddhi who blushed profusely after sighting actor John Abraham.
Angad Dugal, who too suffers from cerebral palsy, was aided by his family; his two sisters encouraged him to keep going while his mother trailed with his moulded chair so he could rest. “In life, one must forge ahead,” said the 21-year-old.
That is precisely what Ghatkopar resident Champaklal Upadhyaya exemplified in the senior citizens’ race as he ambled with the support of a walking stick and an escort. “I have undergone 14 operations since a 1974 accident,” said the 73-year-old, showing a scar on his stomach from where his skin was grafted on his feet. “I may be the last person in the race, but I will go on. I want to win by completing whatever I can of this marathon today. These little things add spice to life.”
That and the Bambaiyya spirit. “I am here to show my sense of belonging to Mumbai and to salute the city’s spirit,” said Seema Nerurkar. The 57-year-old homemaker panted and puffed as she tried to keep up with her husband Charuhas, 63, a retired Central Railways’ engineer.
Keeping their spirits high with his wit and renditions of old Hindi songs was a 70-year-old, dressed in a bright red T-shirt. “We are old and we are like gold,” hollered Nashik resident PM Ahuja, who won the Nashik run a week ago.