Mohana Ganesh (52) and Ganesh Krishnan (58) have been visiting Marine Drive for 30 years. But the Sion residents can’t reconcile the Marine Drive they saw in the ’90s with the one they run on today.
The couple began running last year after signing up for the marathon. “Earlier, you’d hardly see anyone out in the morning. Today, Marine Drive is full of runners. More Mumbaiites have become health conscious,” says Ganesh.
And the marathon, which will be held on Sunday, has played no mean part in making runners out of us, Krishnan adds.
Dhananjay Yellurkar (45) took to running last year after undergoing bypass surgery. The Bandra resident joined a running group called Top Gear MIG that meets every day at MIG Grounds in Bandra (East). On Sunday, he will be one among the 11,000 Mumbaiites who will run the Half Marathon.
No urban community has perhaps grown as rapidly in Mumbai as that of the runners. When the marathon was first held in 2004, a mere 800 people ran the full marathon and 3,500 ran the Half Marathon. In two years, the participation for the Half Marathon had doubled.
Top Gear MIG began with 12 members in 2004. Now, there are 45. “Top Gear is more than a running group. We celebrate all festivals together and go for picnics and treks,” says P Venkatraman (52), one of the earliest members of the group. But the most significant gain of running with a group, he feels, is the motivation you receive from it.
“Marathon running is not about competing. Most run for the enjoyment,” says Ganesh. “They’ll pass you by and say, ‘Keep it up, you can do it’. Mutual encouragement is one of the features of the running community.”
Rajiv Bhatia discovered this during the Singapore Marathon last month. “I developed a cramp after the 15th km and couldn’t run. But my friend, with whom I have been running since 2006, ran with me to ensure I stay on track. He sacrificed his time goal so we could complete the marathon together.” The Cuffe Parade resident and his friend have been running with two other “gym buddies” thrice a week for more than three years.
“Running with a group makes you feel part of a fraternity,” says Natasha Ramarathnam (38), who is keen to start a women-only running group. The aim, she says, is to make more women comfortable with the sport, since running is a great way to reduce stress. “There are too many things that vie for a woman’s attention, but the time I take out for running is akin to meditation.”
One of the women Ramarathnam contacted, Roshni Rai (28), is excited by the idea. Rai honed her skills running with colleagues, after a disastrous first attempt in the 2007 marathon. Although that run left her injured, Rai was bitten by the running bug. The Powai resident set herself a goal last January: she told herself she would run six marathons starting and ending with the Mumbai Marathon. On Sunday, she’ll come full circle.