the last race i ran was the pune international marathon.. run against aids. describing it makes mme want to start with the love story song "where do i begin, to tell the story?" and at this point the lyrics change dramatically..
the marathon was on in winter- a pleasant time to run in pune, apart from all that lowlying smog. the start was on the garware bridge, leading on towards lakshmi road. i wont quibble about the giant tshirts airtel provided us with. i wasnt planning to run in it anyway, but it would be nice to have it for future runs.
(sometimes it seems like people do things just to get the free tshirts)
so 7 am on garware bridge. we're running the "celebrity run". so we had mahesh bhupathi, anju bobby george and bobby anju george. kader khan appeared but did not run. having seen him, i can tell how michael j will look if he puts on weight and reaches a ripe old age.
a band begins to play. rather pleasing. then a loudspeaker is turned on, with recorded music. the band tries to compete. the loudspeaker wins and the band sulks.
a moment of grotesque horror is introduced by the larger than life size mascots who appear. they are in animal suits- one looks like a tall, emaciated garfield, the other are unrecognizable to me. grotesque because they are lanky instead of being cuddly. they wave an arm occasionally, in an attempt to dance and get the crowd moving. all the animal suits are grubby! makes you wonder what these mascots get up to in their off hours..
i'll skip the bit about shaan singing the aids song.. the wheelchair race is flagged off. meanwhile a few serious marathoners are warming up. a little later, all 20 of them are off too.
then 10,000 school children run (hence the publishitty that 10,020 puneites are running against aids).
all this time we're not allowed to move from our seating area. suddenly we're herded out and suresh kalmadi in a trademark blue suit and white sneakers sends us off, while rati agnihotri smiles and waves. i promptly get separated from my mother who was also running. so i cling to mahesh bhupathi, assuming that if there's a stampede, he's the first one they'll save. a tall white guy who looks like a bouncer gets me out of 'hesh's way. later i learn that he's not a firang bouncer, he's aditya pancholi (panscholi?). that does it, i'm never watching any more of his films.
it's still a lil chilly, but the crowd thins out as the first mad sprinters are already slowing to a hobble. we run up lakshmi road, while children wave and brass bands play. this is the best moment - i dont usually get this reaction when i run.
there's a right turn on the road to go towards nehru stadium, where our 3k odyssey ends. a blue suited chappie with sneakers, cap and whistle (marathon official uniform) tells me to keep going straight. i point, mutter but shrug and keep going.
a jeep passes us with 'hesh, bouncer and 'resh. they wave and smile. apparently the jeep picked them up 100 m from the start.
the legs begin to tire. 3k have never seemed so long before. we run over a slippery area where the 10,000 kids from before have burst water packets.
i see a sign saying kilometre 5.
then i see people turning back.
i too turn back and start walking/ jogging from 7 loves chowk towards nehru stadium. since this isnt part of the marathon route, traffic is all over the place.
everywhere i see the same baffled expression on people's faces: why oh why did we leave our car keys/cellphones/money behind?
it is less amusing to see people running the veteran's marathon- one i met was over 70 and running barefoot. no organizer is around to transport him or some 8 year old kids to the stadium, as the heat rises.
i finally stumble onto nehru stadium, from behind the finish line, an hour after the last of the people who managed to take the correct route.
dad and i then wait for my mum. knowing her, we expect her to finish the 26 miles.. she arrives half an hour later in a rickshaw. she'd run down CDA, main street, ambedkar statue, and to nehru memorial where theyd told her a nehru bus would ferry em back to nehru stadium. the bus was there but without instructions, his hands were tied. as a special treat, boiled eggs had been laid out for tired runners. after running 8k, in the sun, boiled eggs would exactly hit the spot, no?
anyway, we shrug off the whole thing, go off for breakfast. on our way home, we pass the real marathoners nearing the end. loudspeakers blast "karu nahitar maru" ("we will do or die") at them.
ahhh, so was there cunning plan to rid pune of its pesky celebritites?