As a steady stream of participants made their way to the half marathon’s start line, they stumbled out of the electronic checkpoints of the Mhada grounds. No one noticed the cable jutting out of the makeshift wooden steps.
It was still dark at 6.45 am, so they could be excused their oversight, but the runners, myself included, had other important things to think of.
The anticipation showed on everyone’s face — this was the first time the Bandra-Worli sea link was part of the marathon route — and no one could quite imagine what it would be like running over it.
As the gunshot announced the start of the race, the lady next to me winced. She didn’t like loud sounds, she told me, ever since she had heard them standing in a nightclub outside the Taj Mahal hotel on November 26, 2008. Then she smiled and ran ahead.
As I approached the sea link’s cable-stayed bridge, an adrenaline rush set in. For citizens otherwise denied the chance of walking over the sea link, this opportunity gave runners as much a level ground to run on as it offered them a glimpse of our coastline that we otherwise only get to see through the bridge cables sitting behind tinted windows.
Till the Worli end, the sea link looked like a massive sea of bobbing heads. In the middle of the sea link a stage had been erected on which drummers hit a fast beat and volunteers surrounding them whistled and clapped.
In the distance, a participant held a rose aloft, like the marathon flame, and ran straight faced. Further ahead, a runner in a Superman costume shifted a bucket from one hand to the other. A paper stuck on the bucket read, “One person, One bath, One bucket.” “ I only hope he hasn’t had his bath this morning,” quipped the runner to my right, as Superman’s cape fluttered in the light breeze.
For many, the marathon ceased to be important, as they took out their camera phones and clicked photos of the rising sun standing near the railing of the sea link. Others got their own clicked under the awe-inspiringly tall suspension cable.
In the distant fog, dismembered heads of high-rise apartments floated among the clouds. Below the bridge, boats returned to the fishing colony bearing their early morning haul. The ripples crisscrossed on the sea, and the runners stuck to their lanes. And in case you were wondering, we were well within the 50kmph speed limit.
(Dhamini, who had been training for the half marathon since September, completed her run in 3 hours 29 mins, 38 seconds.)