The internationally acclaimed Pune International Marathon (pioneered this event in India way in 1983) still exists but along with several other marathon’s that are organised to back a social cause or event.
When the Pune International Marathon, (awarded the status of National Marathon Championship’ by the Athletics Federation of India), began in the early 1980s, it was considered unique and was equally admired, albeit the complaints of it causing traffic snarls.
The winners often hailed from Kenya. I still remember how I was marooned in a traffic jam at Wadia College road for over 1.5 hours on my way to a wedding in the heart of the city.
Last Sunday, spurred by my young friends and one of the organisers of the event, Monaz, I promptly paid the fee of Rs.350 and enrolled myself for the 4km walk (the competitive stretches being the 10 km and the 21 km stretch).
Called the `Pune Women’s Half Marathon’ saw the Pune Rural Police grounds on Pashan Road adorned a soothing pink. From a five year old girl to the 84 year old Barbara, everyone came enthusiastically to spread a lot of cheer and laughter.
The mood was truly infectious and the energy was positive.
With immense self-discipline, the 4000 odd girls and women ran at varying speeds, some even walking to complete their target distance.
Marathons are not only about running nor is it confined only to athletes or sportspersons– they are about collective energy that reeks fitness and health. This adrenaline rush beats any morning walk beside it being a lot of fun too!
Much like a high energy party, they have a DJ belting music and volunteers on stage, showcasing dance steps to help you warm up. It’s unlikely that you will experience such joy and the spirit of fulfilment anywhere else. Post the Marathon, the organisers who had meticulously organised the event, had an exciting breakfast in store for all the participants.
I recollect a few years back, Model turned Walkathon Ambassador Milind Soman, was the chief guest for a Marathon in Pune. Soman, in a no-nonsensical manner, simply entered the park, to walk out within minutes, to lead the Marathon.
At that point of time, I still did not understand the need for large scale public participation for Marathon. I just came to see Soman and off I went back home. Marathon for social causes have become popular and to support that particular campaign or movement, you become a part of the runners. I did too, for the empowerment of women, which was the theme of the Half Marathon..
Pune indeed has become a popular hub of such Marathons. Just the March 2019 diary of Marathons will surprise you. I clicked on the website www.townscriptcom/Pune/Marathons and this is what I found.
There are seven more Marathons to be held in Pune in March 2019 itself!
The India Virtual Marathon, Nitrotthen Girl Child Marathon and Amibolt Marathon on `7th March; Men’s 10k Holi run, Women’s 5k Holi Run and HDFC Bank United Greenathon on 24th March and India Virtual Marathon on 31st March.
Do participate in a Marathon – it also gives you an opportunity to feel the freedom of space on Pune’s roads which are otherwise clogged with vehicles.
In fact, half the road space on Pashan Road was kept for vehicles to manoeuvre. Amidst the enthusiasm of the hundreds of participants who occupied the other portion of the road, I noticed anger and resentment amongst vehicle drivers and passengers who were stuck in traffic for a few minutes because of the Half Marathon. One of the ladies seated in the car shouted at the volunteer for keeping her waiting for so long. Understandable, for we are quick to blame VIPs when they hold traffic.
However, I felt that since this activity is for positivity and social affinity, the least those stranded in vehicles could have done was to wave out, smile, cheer or greet.
But no, they were grumpy, angry, bored and impatient! I really felt bad that most of us perhaps have forgotten to be appreciative and sensitive to all that’s happening around us.
After the results of Pune International Marathon, sometime in 2000, I had interviewed the winner who was a Kenyan and asked him why participants from his country, always win. He replied that his country is full of hills and it is a way of life to go up and down the hill slopes and hence they have natural stamina for running Marathons.
Perhaps if any Puneite takes to the hills like Kenyans do, we could have an international winner! Till then, take part in the Marathon even if it isn’t to compete. And yes, There are special training classes to get fit and ready for a marathon.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,