I have never been to a stadium during a live game my entire life. Back in 2014, as I struggled up Pedder road on my way to the finish line of Mumbai Marathon, a cheering crowd came to the rescue and those few moments remain etched in memory forever. There was no looking back and I haven't missed a single edition of Mumbai Marathon ever since. Ask me how many times I have raced in Mumbai, I will calculate and reply. I don't keep a count, it doesn't matter. Its become my annual pilgrimage, where I soak in the energy and test my progress in a sport that I love so much. My secret to remaining injury-free all these years, is probably nothing but FOMO. All my faculties are focused towards reaching the start line of Mumbai safe, sound and fresh. Inspite of all my efforts, I have had my fair share of gaffes just minutes before reaching the start line. One particular year, I was awake all night, on standby due to a mission critical activity at work. At 4 AM, I had to drop an email declaring my unavailability for unavoidable reasons before heading to the start line sleepless (dont try this, no bravado in doing so).
In the 2018 edition, I tried helping a local citizen by giving him a lift in my cab on the way to the start line. This gentleman hijacked the car by asking the driver to disregard the GPS and follow his directions. By the time I realised that he had steered us towards the Half Marathon start point it was too late. I saw myself caught up in a traffic snarl on the wrong start point. Still kilometers away from the Full Marathon start point, I abandoned the cab and ran faster than race pace to beat the traffic. When I finally cleared the traffic, it was deserted, no cabs or vehicles to get me to the right location. Managed to get a lift forward to some unknown location., kept running forward to find a cab driver, who hadn't started is day yet, but kind enough to help out. Off the cab, continued running through the road closures right upto the start line where the race had already commenced. The longest and fastest warm up one could possibly do, paid the price with a rather clumsy finish. Even though I had beaten my previous best by 6 mins, it was a horrid experience that I wasn't looking for. A few hiccups aside, Mumbai Marathon has given me some of the best racing moments thanks to the crowd support in the final stretches.
Fast forward to 2019 Boston Marathon, at the start line of what is considered as the world cup of amateur runners, it was a great sense of satisfaction that overrode the anxiety around unpredictable weather, the heartbreak hill, and the ambitious target time I was aiming at. But the magic began after the gun went off - maddening cheers on both sides of the course, uninterrupted for 42 kms; it was like Pedder road all the way . Start to finish, it was a chain of emotions - excitement, anxiety, adrenaline rush, thrill, hint of pain and finally a sense of fulfillment. Spent the rest of the evening with friends sharing the incredible experience. But it wasn't until the next morning that more emotions hit me in full force. Sitting up on the bed, trying to think about the day ahead, I could sense the lull brought on by a lack of immediate purpose. Right then, out of the blue, tears rolled out, then almost bursting out, continuing uncontrollably for a few good minutes. I have never really understood how and why I felt that way, but I am certain I have never experienced it before or after that morning.
If its so special, wouldn't it be a natural choice to go to Boston again. Yes, but there are many practicalities that come in the way, namely time, effort and resources. I was still in two minds, until I had the privilege of attending the screening of Boston: The Documentary. Even though I had run the course in 2019, my research and analysis was more focused on the terrain and weather, completely missing out its rich history. As the scenes of the aftermath of 2013 bombing rolled out, it left me tears again. But this time I recognized the feeling, and what Boston Marathon stands for now. When a race brings you to tears on two different occasions in a year, you have to go back .... Boston Stonger!!
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