Ten thousand footfalls and slowly the dust settles over the Kanteerava. Ten thousand stirred souls, a cauldron of emotions. Joyous, euphoria, pride, relief, loathe, sadness. Some tear smeared faces, mascaras that run long after the race has finished. Tears of joy. Tears of pain. Ten thousand runners. Some have risen, some have fallen, personal bests broken, some agonizing finishes, many for whom the weight of the medal on their chest is a new surreal feeling and as the floodlights dim and switch off one at a time, it’s time to reset the clock, to countdown another year before we have the second edition of the Bengaluru Marathon. With the first we’ve taken off and given India a world class event, with the second we are gonna soar.But you look at the clock that’s been ticking away, the hands spinning endlessly in reverse now and you can’t help but marvel at the precision and effort to keep the clock ticking, the vision to execute at clockwork a race unlike any that Bangalore has seen. If you lift the glass off the face of the clock, move aside the hands, what you’ll see layered below are countless promo runs and runner parties. Nandi Hills, Decathalon, Kanteerva, Pipeline. The brashness of the 12 hour run at Kanteerva. No organizer across India has attempted that, attempt it as a promo run at least. A 6am to 6pm run. Big names, celebrities, ultra-distance behemoths, some young, some bare- feet, some topless, all runners alike, running on the 400 meters in an endless blur. It was just epic to stand on the sidelines, watching alone made one dizzy. The traffic commissioner flagged that run and ran a few laps himself, that reconfirmed what an epic race the Bengaluru Marathon was in the making and he returned in the evening to speak and give away medals to the twelve hour crazies.
On race day I ran the half marathon. A Bangalore run, in the middle of October? That’s a personal best run, no one can argue that. While most runners were gunning for a PB, I entered the race with the mind of savoring it. Savoring it like a large slab of chocolate. Nibbling it, stopping, sipping some coffee and nibbling it again. I ran relaxed, through Cubbon, Kasturba, around the lake, trinity, old airport road and back to Kanteerava. I didn’t heave and pant once, that was a first for a race. I ran the whole way along with Paroma. We talked how cool it was to finally have our own home run, run perfect weather, raced a dog that ran with us for a while and then took off, gunning for a PB. As we entered Kasturba road from cubbon, the drummers lined the road. Boom, boom, phack. Boom, boom,phack. I could run all day to that rhythm. The party just got noisier. We screamed ourselves hoarse at cheering stations that Runner’s High had placed through the city. We stopped at the cheering squad at Trinity. Armed with pompoms, posters and Caribbean headgear these guys were rocking the show. We refused to run and wanted to hang around a little bit more with a dear friend and a toddler.As pretty as the run was, Bangalore showed its ugly side as well. Mob mentality. The roads were blocked and the road users enraged. The same road users who, during a political rally at rush hour choose to play around with radio stations and sit out hours in their little cozy air-conditioned cars, suddenly turned savage on a Sunday morning. They bawled and cried their lungs out at us. The argument that the drivers were caught unaware is invalid. The routes were published, the traffic constraints announced, if people choose to just read page three every single morning on a commode, then sometimes they have to take a dump in the middle of a pile up. That’s the only logic I can apply, as gross and B-grade funny it is, someone missed their potty time and really threw their anguish at us runners and cheering squads. Then, the other tribe, the lesser we speak of Bangalore auto drivers, the better. On a day when they had no passengers to heckle, you could see them gang up on the hapless policemen and throw abuses at us. Two wheelers jumped the barricades and saw it perfectly fit to zip at 70kmph through runners, horns blaring. Few bystanders thought it was fine to heckle me with insults, am a local boy and I know the local tongue. All I can say was I wasn’t too choosy with the choice of words either. End result was that we runners did what we always do best. We endured. The honking, snidely comments, unruly crowds. We endured. The rest just screamed, soiled their pants, went pink in the face with rage and returned home puppy faced to a glass of water and pressure pills.
News Flash: “Bengaluru Marathon, stranded car occupant, screams his way to emergency. Overweight, anxiety prone victim advised rest, exercise and running”
We ran back to Kanteerva, racing the last kilometer which was downhill. I pushed Paroma to kick her legs, and kick them back hard; we cut across another RH cheering squad, berserk and screaming as usual, ran into the stadium and across the timing mat. Then the sweaty hugs. A runner here, a runner there, some acquaintances, many friends. We all hug. Sweaty and slimy, but we still hug. The metallic cling of the Bengu medals as our chests meet in celebration. Some group going crazy at the finish line. One’s holding a plank another’s knocking off push-ups. There are many lying on the tracks, exhausted and burnt. There are some who are already munching yummy food. I wander near the medical tent. The air is scented with pain relievers. Some moans and groans. I peep in suspiciously, just cramped up comrades getting a hard lesson on stretches. Funny sounds sourced, I wander back to the finishing line and the full marathoners are streaming in. I bump into Rahul Warrier, he’s jubilant; he’s cracked a formidable PB, slashing his old time with a huge stride. Steel in the hearth. I bump into Sid Sir, he looks like he’s just walked in the park. A minute short of his PB from Mumbai, that’s his timing. He’s a machine. That’s what he is. Anil Das comes in. Another machine. Man holds a seven minute plank and can hold equal number of beers. I meet him again in the evening at Toit, he’s been at the bottle longer than he ran.
We walk back to the stadium entrance to cheer the returning runners, scream ourselves hoarse. Ankush Sharma mans the gate with a walkie talkie; he wonders what the racket is about. Tough job he has there, keeping the path clear and also doubling up like a security guard, frisking people without BIBs entering the stadium and people are not being cooperative. I walk further to the coffee day square, the junction has been hijacked by Runner’s High , few other runners and we are manning traffic. Really. The cops have given up and stand aside, the traffic lights are functional but without consideration for the runners. We take turns. Stand in the middle of flowing traffic and stop the motorists as runners cross the junction. We do this for one and half hours and the motorists continue to bad mouth us. One car tries to scare Kiran by revving fast and breaking inches from his legs. Kiran stands ground and slaps down on the bonnet with a choice of expletives. I let the car drivers who won’t stop what I exactly think of them. A1 from RFL joins us, he’s dismayed as well. We join forces and work on the traffic. RH marathoners pass us. Happy to see them crack their fulls. Manju. Vishwa. Swamy. Aditya. Adarsh. Rajesh. Karthik. True hard work through the training sessions and now enduring through motor mouths and motorists to finish what they started. The 5:30 bus arrives with Chandra and Gang. Santhosh seems greedy. He’s paced the 5hr bus, he wants to run more and has caught up to the 5:30 bus and is running back with them. Another run machine, much different. Vylarian steel forged by the elves. Unique. But a runner still.This race has seen it all, from being scrawled across paper, to being molded to a perfect race that hosted Haile Gebrselassie. Whose brain child? Nagraj Adiga. A thousand words have been already told about him and a thousand thanks showered. I would just add to that and thank him for giving us a home race that makes us very proud and of course all the organizers, thanks again.
I didn’t run the full marathon this edition but I heard some awe inspiring stories from the marathoners. Stories from the Inner ring road; Five hundred soldiers, lined the road in their fatigues and cheered every run forward with words of encouragement. What a sight that would have been, running through desolate roads but for runners and chancing upon a hundred soldiers calling you out to give your stride forward. In the longish rhythm that distance runners have, these soldiers presence, a sweet little sweet note.The clock has been keyed, edition two will be in the making. More drums, more colors, more sweat and thousands of pounding feet. Till then, if you miss the race, go atop the last spectator row in Kanteerava on an early morning and look down on the field and track, the green center and the brown tracks enclosing it. Squint. Remember how your heart beat as you raced across. Recall that, squint and look down again. You’ll see the green pulsating, the tracks rippling to the outside, reaching out and racing towards you, you’ll see the heart of the Bengaluru marathon, the tracks racing you forever.