How do you know if someone is a marathoner? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. For all the calming effect that runners claim, an equal (and opposite) amount of exasperation is felt by their peers who have to suffer their endless talk about shoe-drops, upcoming races, tapering, hydration, PBs...oh they drone on!
Contrary to what you may imagine, running isn’t a social sport. It is social if you run at a slug’s pace. Then you can talk to everyone, from others slugs to the sabjiwala but if you’re the kind who pushes for a PB every time (Personal Best, in case a runner friend hasn't already repeatedly bored you with it) then running is as self-obsessed and narcissistic as a kitty party luncheon.
But I don’t blame them entirely; imagine you’ve trained for months, put everything you had into the race and then to have to stop just inches before the finish line to help someone who wasn’t as fit to cope with it, is just too much sacrifice for one human life. Even Jesus would pardon one who manages a PB after trampling on a fallen or two along the way.
Well, my day of reckoning came at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2017 where I, for once, was out to merely have a good long run backed by the energy that is the never-failing and ever-cheerful Mumbai crowd.
|In retrospect, that surprised even me for on any other day in a faster race, I may have chosen to first finish before turning back to help.|
No record finishes for me; given how Mumbai had suddenly turned awful hot that morning, any attempts at going all out could have been disastrous.
Which is perhaps what happened to a gentleman who I caught from the corner of my eye as I approached the finishing line. The last 50m or so of any race have a mat and at the very start of this mat said gentleman was staggering to the side of the track, arms flailing and legs giving way.
My immediate reaction (thankfully) was, "Must help".
In retrospect, that surprised even me for on any other day in a faster race, I may have chosen to first finish before turning back to help.
However, this was my slow run and his lucky day. I tried to help him back up (I was assisted by an official helper and between her and me, we got him standing.) He held my hand tight even as she tried to prop him up and we began to slowly advance towards the finish line.
A few steps later he almost seemed to collapse, as if the pain of it was all too much and he was maybe two blinks short of a blackout.
We slowed our progress further and I put my arm around him to get a better grip all while trying with my other hand to egg the crowd on for an uproarious cheer to help him reach his goal. Yeah, what a hero!
Anyhow, we got him across the line and as he slipped out of my grip and onto the rubber timing mat, the boys with the stretcher arrived and caught him. I went on to finish my race, no more than a minute later I would have otherwise, but a lot happier at the prospect of having helped someone else finish theirs successfully.
I am no everyday Samaritan but circumstances made me one this time and it felt good. It also made me remember why we run.
Sure we must go all out and beat our records, but ever so often, it is better to simply run to have a good time and to spread the joy, minus the catatonic talk about nutrition supplements, race-day gear, and reflective vests.