R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

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The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2013. Has come and gone. Chennai was a ‘Sea of Orange’ according to reports. The Adyar Bridge was covered in the orange TWCM tshirts. Young and old, lean and fat, took to the streets on Sunday Dec 1st. Mark your calendars, people. The first sunday of December, every year, this is it. TWCM.  We will be back next year, and every year after that! Till there is breath in these bodies…

We talked to a few behind the scenes folks to understand, somewhat, what it takes to put on a show like this. 10000 runners. 1500 women. 1000+ volunteers. Blade runners. Wheelchairs. Visually challenged groups. NGOs. Special needs kids. Charity. Prize winners. Photographers. Cheering masses. Police. Doctors. Physiotherapists. An endless list words can’t do justice to.

“Strangely enough, although I was the megaphone wielding start-line official, I didn’t see the full marathon flag off” says Ashwin. Who shouted himself hoarse shepherding over-enthusiastic runners and audience and general hangers-on into allocated areas, so the race could take off smoothly. And on time. On the dot at 5 am. Bosco, a veteran and a very accomplished Chennai Runner, did the honours. “You didn’t have a celebrity?” someone asked us, incredulous.

Bosco is one, as far as we are concerned. His characteristic pink and black singlet, his smiling face, his long loping gait are what we look out for, every race. Currently recovering from a minor calf niggle, this railways man is guaranteed to bounce back to the podium at the Mumbai Marathon. Not that that matters much to us. He is a super nice person, and every participant ought to feel honoured that he was there on stage on Sunday, for Chennai.

“I was in charge of volunteers and route marshals and my duty kept me away from the Start point” admits Mani. Mani, who uncomplainingly carried the burden of a million tiny details related to the race. From guiding the team directing the lead runners through our winding course, to allocating volunteers at strategic locations, to dealing with a few citizens irate at the road closures. Gentle and modest, we have much to thank Mani for. Oh yes, he slept for a grand total of 50 minutes on Saturday night.

Meanwhile our lifetime photographer Ramani sir was up at the highest point in the Indranagar MRTS station, for an aerial view of the race. Wearing an old, ratty, Chennai Runners Tshirt (cause he didn’t get the brand new green one in time), this gentleman has given us many sights and sounds of TWCM. And die-hard Chennai Runners like Mani, Shankar, Hari, Aravind, Kavitha, etc. – who missed the festivities at the start line are immensely grateful for this view through Ramani Sir’s lens.

“It was a humbling experience and I wore the Chennai Runners Official badge with much pride” says Soundarya. With Maha and others, Soundarya was at the Finish line. Watching the finishers – jubilant, feeling accomplished, cramped, in pain, at the point of collapse, being part of the medical team was an emotionally taxing responsibility. Experienced runners always say ‘Respect the distance’ – and on Sunday, this team learnt exactly what that means, right there, within 10 meters of the Finish line.

“10k to the left, 10k to the left, Half marathon to the right” – this dialogue on loop was going through Hari’s mind, hours after the race. Standing rock steady at the Finish point this tall Chennai Runner felt a roller-coaster of emotions. Little did he realise that he would serve as a confession box for many finishers – who poured their hearts out to him, relieved, happy, ecstatic, surprised, and overwhelmed by what their body had led them to achieve. Having recently run his own emotionally charged full marathon at Berlin, and looking out for his wife who was running in her first half marathon, perhaps it was fitting that this stoic man was at the receiving end here!

Ram Viswanathan. Who doesn’t know him? Quiet and unassuming, Guru Ram, is our founder and is a beloved running partner to many in Chennai, always goading us to ‘Do more’. On Sunday, standing there in the CPT ground, for maybe the first time, we noticed tears in this eyes. As his mother, Meenakshi Aunty, finished her 10km race, completing a promise made to her 74 year old self, raising more than Rs.30000 for charity, and fueled entirely by her love for her son and his passion….

Our marathon lasted 7 hours (at least). We are not a professional organisation. What we are is a bunch of passionate runners who are working on realising a common vision. To make Chennai a marathon destination. And all we have going for us is a lot of heart and miles of good intentions. We are grateful to the immense support we have received from you citizens, the police, and our virtual army of volunteers (who are more selfless than one can describe – the trials and tribulations they faced on Sunday, the toil they put in – just mind boggling…).  We are thankful to our sponsors for the faith they put in this motley group of crazy runners.

Most of all, we bow to you, our runners, who overcame many odds to come out there on Sunday to make our vision a reality. To ensure that our windmills are not just mirages glistening in the Chennai sun….

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8 Responses to R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

  1. usha rani says:

    Preethi…I was a part of the volunteers and I indeed missed the start and finish…but what was more satisfying was catering and cheering the full marathoners…and seeing them smile and whizz past…run past…jog past. Walk past and even crawl past…that was the most satisfying moment…as we were in the 40-41 mark…

  2. Aravind says:

    As always, excellent write up, Preeti. Before TWCM 13, I never knew what happens behind the scenes. On Sunday, I understood the amount of work involved and what it takes to organize a marathon. We run so many races and all these races have such volunteers. It is high time that we give back to them. So I decided that I will volunteer for all forthcoming TWCMs. For the pride of Chennai, For the passionate CRs, For the selfless volunteers ;-)

  3. Geetha Shankar says:

    Nice write up Preeti. I have been a big fan of Chennai running group for the past couple of years and have been following up through the Google group. This is my first time taking part in TWCM. A big kudos to the TWCM organizing group and the volunteers for staging such a great event that was very much up to international standards. From the Expo, BIB collection, Route plan, start and finish line festivities, post finish refreshments, prize distributions, we could see that there was so much dedication and hard work put into it. The organizing committee had given up their own participation in the run to help 10,000 people realize their dream. The volunteers stood relentlessly in the rain with a smile on their face and handed over the refreshments. What a selfless act by both the teams! Well said about celebrities – for us Bosco and all passionate Chennai runners like Ram, Krishna, Shahid, Neville, Balaji, Anandselvan, Anbu, Venu, Bib Bala, Ramani, Preeti, Ridhima, Kavitha etc are all celebrities. Way to go.

  4. Harishankar says:

    Super write-up Aunt Aghalayam! Respect to you and to Chennai!!

  5. ASHOK KUMAR S says:

    Wonderful write up Preeti Madam. I am following Chennai running group for the past three years through the Google group. In the last TWCM 2012 I took part in Half Marathon. The motivating words from Chennai running group made me to take part in Full Marathon for first time and I achieved it in 4 hrs 49 min. Special thanks to the TWCM organizing group and the volunteers for making such a great event a grand success. I am looking forward to TWCM 2014……

  6. Excellent piece Puyalamma.. Your style reminds of me the Tamil writer I respect and adore – Sujatha. The only difference being the language..

  7. Sangeeta Sumesh says:

    Preethi, U not only have a way with running but also way with your words! Superb writeup! Thanks for enlightening us with the unrelenting work of all the volunteers….Kudos team…..it was a great show!

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