Being a journalist, I meet a lot of people. So, when I write articles about unsung heroes, they become good friends.
Back in September, I wrote about Yasir Sultan who took part in the 42-km Berlin marathon.
As a token of appreciation, Yasir made me sign up for the 7th edition of Chennai Marathon, one of the largest in the country where over 22,000 people participate.
“You’re in! All the best for training. Go for casual walk, jog three times a week,” Yasir said. Previously called the Wipro Chennai Marathon, now the amazing race is organised by Skechers Performance and Chennai Runners, an NGO, run by passionate runner-volunteers.
On 6 January, at 5 am, 19,000 Chennaiites, in green-tees, flooded the streets by the gates of YMCA at Nandanam for the 10-km run. Energy, laughter, songs filled the atmosphere. As the clock moved towards 6 am, the crowds swelled. Waves of laughter, shouts of encouragement, runners taking selfies multiplied.
And bang! Game on… 19,000 participants ran towards the finish line. From Nandanam to CPT ground at Taramani, near OMR. Several jogged, several ran while some walked. Almost everyone laughed, all having a wonderful time under a dull cloud and chill air. I huffed and puffed my way towards Chinnamalai. My brother had advised me to brisk walk for half the distance. I did that, one step at a time.
Then by the entrance of Anna University, nearly three dozen volunteers were distributing water bottles and lime juice. They danced to the beat of drums and loud music. The volunteers kept cheering, clapping and whistling so hard, so loud that I had goosebumps.
That little motivation kickstarted my heart and I started jogging. As I ran over the bridge at Sardar Patel Road, a few differently-abled participants on wheelchair struggled to climb the steep road. But many runners offered to push them. It was so heart-warming to witness this simple act of random kindness and my heart filled with pride that I was a happy resident of this incredible city.
Yet again, three more groups of volunteers were seen distributing juices, water. They were all dancing and cheering every runner. They flanked the OMR Road and opposite the Ascendas Building in Taramani.
My energy was nearly gone as I trudged the final leg of the race. At CPT ground, I was overwhelmed to see hundreds cheering as I struggled to run towards the finish line. Final, one step at a time later, the race was done. Eighty-three minutes to finish my first 10-km run. I felt incredible and very happy.