Thirty-year-old Praveen Gundi’s three-day leave note from office says, “Marathon Duty”.
The Mahim-based BPO employee has been sweating it out on the field three days before Asia’s richest marathon takes off on Sunday. “I’m literally eating, sleeping and breathing the marathon at this moment,” said Gundi, who has been actively volunteering for the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon for the last three years. “The task is far from easy, but it is the challenge and the excitement that gets me back on track every January,” he added.
Like Gundi, more than 600 volunteers comprising NSS students, NGO members, event management employees, and passionate sports enthusiasts have signed up for the volunteers’ jobs.
“An event as big as the marathon calls for a lot of planning, management and efficient administration,” said Amir Shandiwan, head of the marathon organiser, Procam International’s signage and route management department. “Right from reviewing our earlier errors, coming up with solutions, seeking necessary permissions, to eventually handling crisis situations on and off the course, is our job profile. We are ‘men with expertise’,” he added.
Vasai-based interior designer Rajendra Gaikwad, 37 has been staying back at the marathon base camp at Azad Maidan all night. “It’s my sixth marathon and I have become a professional at multi-tasking,” said Gaikwad. “The enthusiasm of the volunteers is contagious and I actually dread the thought of getting back to my mundane duties, post Sunday,” he added.
Owing to the late night work hours, the women volunteers have been assigned with the branding and registration work.
“It is an opportunity for me to interact with people and witness the marathon mania first hand,” said Juhi Rajpal, 18, a first year mass media student of CHM College, Ulhasnagar.
“During the course of the registrations, I came across this 73-year-old man, who was running the 25th marathon of his life. Such moments are priceless,” she added. Last year, participants had complained of lack of water booths along the five-km stretch of the Bandra Worli sea link. Some had also raised concern about the absence of portable toilets on the route. “We have addressed both these concerns this years,” said Mitesh Shiroya, 24, in charge of providing water, medical, and energy stations along the route. “This year we have 1.2 lakh litres of water and 12 medical stations (including two base camps) spread across the route to ensure that no participant is unattended,” he added.
Volunteer group heads from Procam International have been briefing and training the 600 volunteers for the last three days, by conducting mock drills and mock falls.
The young volunteers, comprising NSS students, NGO members, event management employees and students, have been going through a rigorous training programme that ends in the wee hours of the morning. “Even handling a water bottle and catching it at the right time, are skills that we teach and practise,” added Shiroya.