The trepidation is over, and so are the misgivings if I'm up to it. I've looked over my stats of the past year and they look ok. Picked up my running bib from the Tata Mumbai Marathon centre at BKC this morning, one hour each way by motorbike through Mumbai's crazy traffic, the reverse of the route that I'll be running tomorrow.
The hall was already packed at 11.30 and by the time I left an hour later there was a 200 metre queue of people trying to get in, (mostly) grey haired and well - heeled runners. The hall itself was an Indian bazaar as only Indian bazaars can be, packed to the brim and focused on doing brisk business. Young girl DJ's working microphones from booth to booth, exhorting men to take up ludicrous exercises on some virtual running machine. Shoes, running gear and health food change hands briskly.
The mood has shifted and the excitement has set in. The half marathoners will gather at 4.30 am at Worli Dairy and at 5.30 we'll be let out like bulls from the pen, running in eery silence for the first 45 minutes, up and down the sea link in darkness. Not until we get back to Worli Sea Face will we hear the first shouts of encouragement, local residents wrapped in shawls against the morning chill shouting and clapping, "Come on!! Go Mumbai!!", as if the city itself is running past, and in a way it is.
Up towards Haji Ali with the sun slowly rising over Mahalaxmi Race Course. The climb of Peddar Road looms, the crowds thicken and the first trays with fruit and biscuits appear. Hope that the pace doesn't slow too much on Peddar Road until the downhill part, right past Babulnath Temple, quick deferential nod to Balaji and then left onto Marine Drive, overcome with the thought that you're on the home stretch. Except that you're not and the realisation usually hits half - way on the 4 km stretch of Marine Drive, somewhere along Taraporewala Aquarium. It's after that that the loud part of the party that this city puts on every year starts, Punjabi bhangra dancers and drummers making synchronized moves on a temporary stage. The music overwhelms my playlist and makes it superfluous and so the earphones come off.
Truth be told this is why I run, or at least why I sign up for this annual race and why I try to do those stay-in-some-kind-of-shape runs in Mumbai's unbearable and repressive summer in April and May. For this all - out communal crazy running fest. Where else are you going to have Punjabi bhangra bands, Maharashtrian folk bands and EDM DJ's cracking out beats side by side, egging you on?
On to Veer Nariman Road, the real home stretch, with the senior citizen and disabled participants of the Dream Run already moving in the opposite direction, by foot or in their wheel chairs. And after it's all over, the walk back home from Azad Maidan, past the Oval Maidan, where boys from the suburbs are already lining up the pitches for their Sunday cricket game, past the art deco buildings, in time to head for breakfast at Mondegar or The Pantry.
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.