Several participants training in running clubs during the year put their best feet forward in tandem at the Mumbai marathon, the "loneliness of the long-distance runner" becoming a shade less lonely on Sunday.
"Sometimes you get bored when running, sometimes it's lonely, but running in a group helps," said Hitesh Gutka, 51, whose group, the Shivaji Marathon Club, started out three years ago with four members.
The club now has around 100 members and 80 of them participated in the half-marathon. "We all train together and motivate each other; when someone falls behind, the others cheer him on," said Gutka.
A set of runners from a Bangalore running club - the Jayanagar Jaguars - also participated. A three-year-old running club, the out-of-towners made a field day of it in the city. "Running together helps keep up the motivation," said Jayaprakash Gowda, a member of the group.
A month ago Savio Coutinho, 41, joined the Nike Run Club, which was started a few years ago. Training under a coach has made all the difference, apart from the camaraderie of training with others, said Coutinho. "The trainer gave me useful tips before the race that helped me a lot, especially in completing the race."
The Mumbai marathon was first held in 2004 and has been growing ever since. A slew of running clubs have mushroomed since then, alongside a growing culture of running.
"You can see things becoming more formalised with more running clubs, and bigger clubs, especially in the south of the city, which has a bit more space," said Heath Matthews, head sports physiologist at the centre for sports medicine, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital. "The marathon has played some part in this, but also Indians are taking interest in their own health."