Mumbai Memoirs 2: Run Mumbai Run!
Usually Sunday mornings in Mumbai are pretty laid back. The city’s electrifying pace slows down as everyone wants to recharge their batteries for the next week that awaits them. But the Sunday morn of 19th January 2014 was different. All eyes were set on the 11th edition of the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon from as early as 5.30am! The marathon is an annual international event since 2004, which is largest of its kind in Asia due to the mass participation that it attracts. This year approximately 40,000 participants hit the Mumbai roads for the run. I thought of experiencing the event first hand this year. All these years I use to lazily watch the marathon on T.V while sipping my morning tea. The week long media promotion of the marathon had already created awareness in me about its 4 objectives namely, placing Mumbai on the international sports map, health & fitness, communal harmony and charity. As I headed to the starting point of the marathon, I was curious to tap the event fruitfully.
The marathon route covers areas of South Mumbai, Worli, Mahim & Bandra and back. But the starting and finish point of the Mumbai Marathon has always been nestled between two heritage buildings of Mumbai. One is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and the other being the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation building.
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is also a historic railway station. Built in a Gothic-revival style by the British architect Frederick William Stevens, the building proudly stands today as Mumbai’s pride.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation building is yet another heritage marvel built in Gothic style. Its foundation stone was laid in 1884 just opposite the present day Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus and currently is the municipal corporation office that governs the state of civil affairs of Mumbai city.
The Mumbai Marathon has been hosted at the same venue since its inception. As if the two iconic buildings, that overlook the proceedings of the Marathon, act as ‘grandfatherly’ warmth to the event.
When I reached the venue, I realized that the Dream run was about to start. Rest of the races, namely Full Marathon (42 km), Half Marathon (21 km), the Senior Citizen (4.3 km) and the Champions with Disability (2.4 km), had already commenced. The Dream run (6 km) attracts the amateur runners and masses who mainly participate to support the marathon and run for charity. I finally decided to capture the happenings of the Dream run race till my legs permitted me to do so. I started walking besides the ‘Dream runners’ as they set out with vibrant enthusiasm.
It was a spectacular sight when the race participants passed the Flora Fountain and the Hutatma Chowk (Martyrs Square) area. Flora Fountain depicts the Roman goddess of flowers and is made of Portland stone. The fountain elegantly ornaments the Fort area since 1864. In 1960, the Hutatma Chowk was built in memory of the 105 martyrs who laid their lives during the formation of the state of Maharashtra- which proudly calls Mumbai as its capital city. It seemed as if the torch bearing martyrs were boosting the morale of the marathon participants and the goddess of flowers was blessing the runners with abundance, as they ran for charity!
The Dream run participants included young kids, teenagers, youth, corporate representatives, senior citizens and volunteers of various Non-Government Organizations. Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon is now recognised as India’s largest charity platform for non-profit organisations to provide funds for their projects. This year 269 NGO’s were associated with the marathon who would be the beneficiary of the charity collected at the end of the event. It is estimated that the charity collection of this year’s marathon is approximately Rs. 20 crores! One wonders, how can the collection reach that much especially when there is enough poverty seen around? Well, its all about opening one’s heart and together contributing a little for a good cause that’s close to one’s heart. The Mumbai chapter of United Way Worldwide- a non-profit organization that endeavours to leverage corporate, employee and leadership talent for community development, had tied up with the marathon organizers.
For more details here’s their link http://www.unitedwaymumbai.org/ngo.htm
Participants were seen promoting various causes like Education, Health, good civic governance, animal welfare etc. A group of differently able youth too walked among the participants extending their support to the event. That morning had an air of assurance in bringing new hope to the lives of thousands of under-privileged kids, youth, senior citizens and differently able people who would be the beneficiaries of the collected charity. As I walked down the Marine Drive promenade, there were lot of fun activities happening around. Music, laughter and excitement floated in the air. Everyone present around were celebrating health, happiness and humanity as various ‘colours’ of Mumbai blended into one hue on the South Mumbai streets that day.
As I headed to the finishing point I saw a very touching sight which I would like to especially share with you. With a smile on her face, a little rag picker girl was extending her sack for the participants to throw litter into it. May be her mother, who sat by the footpath, intended to make few rupees by selling the empty water bottles and other recycle-worth stuffs that fell into her daughter’s sack. That may be her way of coping with her family’s poverty. I thought, “Who knows sooner or later the little girl may be one of the beneficiaries of the charity that the event was drawing?” But as of now, the girl’s apparent gesture to ‘extend help’ to clean the litter, already had made her a little philanthropist in her own small way & might!