July 23, 2006

Thane Mayor's Half Marathon (Varsha Marathon)

Today, I walked the half-marathon organized by the Thane city mayor. It was supposed to be flagged off from the Thane Municipal Corp. headquarters at 8.30 am. I reached there on time, but the race start was delayed for multiple reasons. I also had not entered officially for the race. Thus, I started off along the race route on my own at about 8.45. I had already decided that I would walk the whole distance, may be run a little bit for fun.

The route was - TMC - Highway service road to Teen Haath Naka - LBS Marg to Mulund checknaka - Wagle Estate - Kores Colony - Vartak Nagar - Pokhran #2 Circle - Vasant Vihar - Ghodbunder Road - highway service road to Teen Haath Naka - Hari Niwas - Back to TMC. A big chunk of the route was new concrete streets, other parts were half done tar roads or roads full of potholes (or pot-wells or pot-lakes!). Along the route, there was the new Thane to see - the tall apartment buildings, with commercial security and the new stores that had replaced the old factories, mixed with older, smaller, dilapidated-looking buildings yet to be replaced, and some jhopdis. The route went all the way to the foothills of Yeoor and cut through a fair chunk of the new Thane across the highway.

Some sundry notes, in no particular order:

  • I was pleasantly surprised at how well the initial stretch of the marathon was set up. Road blocks had been erected, there were signs at every kilometer, and there was police presence at every major intersection, stopping vehicles from entering the route. There were also a lot of Palika Safai workers, who apparently had just finished cleaning roads along the route. Only some traces of the garbage that usually lines some of the streets could be seen. There were also several waiting spectators.

  • I walked the first 4-5 kilometers by myself, before the real participants in the race passed me, near the Yeoor foothills. The lead runner, and several others chasing him at that point were barefoot. There were quite a few women also running (I counted a total of about 25-30 that passed me).

  • The barefeet runners were easily identified by the slapping sounds their feet made against the roads. The runners with sneakers by contrast, made a much softer sound.

  • The course had way too many potholes, little stones, and other hazards along the road to be running barefeet. The hard surface of the tar and concrete couldn't have made it any easier. Kudos to all those barefeet runners!

  • I am quite sure thousands of rupees were spent on the huge banners all around the city, with huge images of Uddhav and Bal Thackeray, Anand Dighe, Mayor Rajan Vichare, all and sundry local sena leaders, and even, Matoshri Thackeray, and Matoshri Dighe. There were also two large shamianas at the starting point, a huge sound system to drum up enthusiasm, and so on. Why didn't some of this money go to support the lead runners who were running without shoes on? The stated aim of the marathon was to prepare state runners for national and international events. Couldn't proper gear be provided, at least to the lead runners? (It appears that the only group of elite runners that had some shoes on were from the Army). The money spent on erecting huge banners of people who in their entire lives have probably never participated in any significant athletic activity, let alone a marathon, could've been better spent that way. Shiv Sena, and Shiv Sainiks, are you listening?

  • Apparently, more than 50,000 participants had registered for the marathon. No more than 500 must've passed me by the time I finished the race. Where did all these people go? (Well, there are some answers: There were not 50,000 participants for the full distance - the women's race ended at the 15 km mark, the children's race was even shorter, the senior citizen's race was a couple hundred meters at best, and most vitally, the participation numbers were inflated by the compulsory registration of schoolchildren from the municipal schools. Again, the publicity needs of having organized the largest marathon ever triumphed any realities!

  • A big thank you to the much maligned and oft neglected civic workers - police personnel, safai workers and the numerous other city officials who contributed to the event. The police and safai workers had been out in the rain since 6 am, making arrangements.

  • Apparently there is another marathon this coming weekend (30th July). The Mayor's Varsha marathon was a Satish Pradhan promoted event for the past 16 years. Now that he has switched from the Shiv Sena to Congress, it seems he's taken the marathon with him. So one week after the Sena-sponsored marathon, there's going to be a Congress-marathon. Amazing that the civic authorities can be subjected to the stress of hosting two marathons, for such petty political reasons

  • By my obervation, the largest cheering crowds were in the lower middle class areas, where people were on the streets in huge numbers. They were enthusiastic, cheering everyone on with "Come on", "Bhaago", "Run" and so on. By comparison, near large apartment buildings like Kores, Runwal and Hiranandani complexes, hardly anyone noticed the runners.

  • Heavy rains started around the time I was near the 16 km mark, and continued for about a half hour. Incredible to walk in such rain! Fortunately, during most of this time, I was on the pothole-free stretch.

  • Around the 19 km mark, my thighs started cramping up. At this point, I had to start running, for that was the only way to avoid the pain in the thighs and keep going.

  • Oh, yes. My time for the half-marathon distance was 3 hours 5 minutes.

    CAR said...

    Good work Mihir. I remember walking 24 hours straight (21 if you count the nature breaks and food breaks) and then not being able to do anything the week after ;-)

    How are things, otherwise?

    KVSSNRAO said...

    Dear Mr. Mihir

    A good description of the half marathon. I was a spectator on Pokhran Road II to Brahmand road turning. I also saw many running barefoot. But those runners prefer running barefoot,I think. There is a barefoot running movement in the world.

    I ran (walked for substantial part of time) the mumbai marathon in 2 hours 36 minutes. I still continued running for some more time. I developed weakness in quadriceps and thereby pain in knees. Presently doing exercises to recover from the problem. I stay in Hiranandani Thane. So good to know you through your blog.

    This is MICHAEL Dsouza, said...

    DO visit my running blog



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