Not since I was in Class 8 way back in 1974 when my Hindi teacher, the late Avanishpati Tripathi, sent me out of his class have I stood for so long in one place. But that was punishment and I had no choice, whereas my experience at SCMM 2014 standing near Flora Fountain was of my own volition, it was a pleasure too.
It was a PB for me. Never before have I ever stood for so long in one place, not counting queues for kerosene and what not under pressure from my parents, never before willingly.
I did this for Srivatsan. Infact, the only instruction I gave Parag was to shoot Srivatsan with abandon as he passes by and Parag did. He shot some fabulous pictures of Srivatsan and many others too.
Why Srivatsan? Because without him, there would be no NMR. He took the lead to make it happen. He mapped the routes, he called to people to run with him, he paced the slowest on days, he ran with the best on other. He is one selfless character who has kept the group growing. He is leaving Mumbai to go back to school and I don’t know if he will back in Mumbai after he is through. I am also not sure if in the middle of his course work, he will find time to run next year’s SCMM. So, thank you Dr Vatsan as I refer to him, a Vatsan who gets people out of homes (pun intended) to run. He kept improving, and today he is simply an outstanding runner and more importantly, an outstanding human being, whose leadership has caused hospitals to lose customers to gyms and sports shops. Pravin Gaikwad is rumoured to have confided to someone that he is happy that he is a Pediatrician and not a Cardiologist with Vatsan around. “Dhandha nahin banta,” he is supposed to have said. Now you know why we have no cardiologists in NMR.
This year, I did not run, not the FM, nor the HM, not even the dream run. But knowing the significance of this run of Srivatsan, atleast for me even if not for him, I made up my mind to land up to atleast cheer. To make myself useful, I offered to click some photographs. Before I could retract the offer, the die was cast with just too many people queuing up asking that they be clicked even as Shashi volunteered his camera. There was simply no going back.
Over the next 5 hours, Parag would click some 600 photographs. Here are the top 10 stories begging to be told.
1. Ogle Ogle
My favourite features Haridasan Nair. See the photographs in sequence. he is running past a lady who seems to be mesmerised by him. OMG, lady, the man is married. First she checks him out from the front, next thing you know she lest him overtake her and seems to be checking out the goods thoroughly, this time from the back !!
2. Ride, anyone ?
Another favourite is that of Michael D Souza. he reminded me of the dancing cop near Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi. Look at his photographs shot in quick succession, does it not seem that he is actually directing traffic ? long distance running puts you in a zone where you are spaced out. Which is perhaps why Michel does not realise that on that stretch of the road, no vehicular traffic was being permitted at that time. Or is he looking to hitch a ride on the next bus that comes along ?
3. Where did my followers disappear ?
This story is priceless. One moment, this pacer is shepherding his group, next thing he knows they have disappeared. He cant find them. Many of them had simply started walking and fell behind. It was a hilarious sight, coz it took him a while to figure it out.
4. Decoding the science of running
Move aside Tim Noakes, Venkat P is here. I did not know then that he was not just carrying the burden of carrying his herd in on time, he was also carrying an ECG machine which was recording his body vitals right through the race.
Some of us may recall his sweat rate study which focussed our attention on hydration and now this. Here he is with his bag strapped around his waist, I am told he was carrying an extra 4 kilos. But that is nothing, considering that I have to carry every living moment an extra 20 kilos, what is an additional 4 kg for a mere 3 hours. I am not impressed.
5. Hero of the day
This Savio is really amazing. First, he finishes his HM and gets a podium finish. then he sets out on the road to wherever his wards running the HM and later the FM were and runs with them to the finish. I must have counted atleast 10 people that he escorted in if not more. If you add that distance to his HM, he must have done atleast 50 k that day, if not more. Savio is also the coach of our own Don who missed the podium by a whisker. To the guru and the shishya, salaam.
6. We did an experiment with the runners, the results will be published soon in the International Journal of Voyeurs published by Harward University. Thrust a camera in front of anyone and the results will startle you. Look at Bhaskar, at first he does not see is, he is focussed on his running. then he sees us, may be hears me too screaming his name out. He smiles and waves. Then he realises that this is not the persona he wishes for the world to see. So he sticks his tongue out, the perennial jester that he portrays himself to be.
7. The marathon is a time to help each other. This photograph captures this woman asking someone to join her. This is about 600 metres from the finish line and it brought tears to my eyes. way to go, lady. People like you make this world a better place. It was also great to see Ram running with his brother, Anand. Ram would tell me later that Anand helped him through a particularly tough part of the run by staying with him. What are brothers for. A Kodak moment this.
8. Marathon couples
Spouses that run together stay together goes the saying. In this competitive world, the man is usually expected to finish ahead. Not so in the case of Amit and Neepa Sheth. Like the dutiful husband, he stayed atleast a hundred paces behind her. I am also finding that the prospect of marriage slows runners down, as I saw in the case of Jitu. he got a bout of pre marital cramps with 7 k to go, a marathon version of second thoughts on the 7th of the Saat pheres, I guess. But that is not the real reason why Jitu slowed down. As it happens, I had promised to buy him at the Taj, and invite an attractive lady friend too, if he finished with a sub 4:00 timing. Jitu knew I was serious but did not want to be seen in public with an attractive woman, just before his marriage, so you know what he did, he slowed down. The truth had to be told, Jitu.
9. The unfussed runner
Black was the most worn colour on race day, not many had caps or sun glasses on, some came with their garmins, others with their smart phones. But the unfussed runners certainly stole the limelight, there were so few of them after all. I want to add to this list the quiet runner, who, over the last couple of years, has emerged as a very very strong runner, without too much noise or fuss. Bravo, Mani, bravo. I know you give Pravin all the credit but it is you who did the running.
10. I call this the non picture, my favourite of all time but at the same time the one that causes me most concern. It is my protest picture. It is meant to register my protest at the absence of PYTs in the FM or the HM. How can you do this Procam ? There were many handsome men, there were many fat men, thin men, tall men, short men, white men, black men, portly men, skinny men, rich CEO men, poor working class men. But no PYTs. Alas. This is the most important photograph simply because it is the only picture I shot. 🙂