Yes, Hubli Passenger has been promoted or shall I say kicked upwards! My good friend Jagdish Damania ably assisted by his better half Sindhu Naikh overruled all my objections and got me to agree to do the honours for the Chennai leg of the run which takes the team to 13 cities in 13 days running 13.1 miles (21.1KM, Half Marathon) to raise money for their cause ‘Rejuvenate India Movement’. Another reason was their irresistible argument that this event combines trains and rural development (my Gandhi imitation gives me a credential in this direction!).
My reservations for this senior role is that this seems to me to be a polite way of saying one’s running career is over and one must make way for youngsters, something akin to calling a star of the yesteryear to give away the award on an awards nite. So, my only condition was that I too should be allowed to run the event.
I was looking forward to the run and had taken a precautionary day off the previous day so that my leg does not play the spoilsport.
Fate had something else in store for me, what was a slight swelling of the gums in my molars since yesterday morning became a full blown case with the entire right side of my face throbbing in pain by the time I got back from office. Fearing my wife showing red flag to my maiden venture of waving the green flag the next day, I made a two pronged attack. Cloves and a pain killer tablet and earlier to bed praying for the pain to subside in the morning.
I woke up with the pain having reduced the area of influence if not the intensity. I also tried the ‘Oil pulling’ technique for added effect the first thing in the morning. Luckily the start of the run being 6:30 AM from Kannagi statue meant I could have a later start than usual. I got in one Banana and some green tea during the spinning session. During Biscuit’s walk I realized that a bigger crises in the other antipode (Kashmir/Peshawar) had made the Lankan crisis (read my recovering feet!) take a back seat. Biscuit (my six and half year old Labrador pet) co-operated in quickly completing the rounds and we were back in the hut with the same alacrity as the Indian cricket team at Gabba. The show room with the beautiful mannequins was steeped in darkness even as the adjoining bungalow in the railway colony across the colony seemed to flaunt elaborate serial lighting secure in its official cover.
I was back at 4:30 AM and with the start of 5 AM being enough to reach the start point in time, I spent the time in doing stretching and plank exercise to keep my mind off the throbbing in the jaw. I trusted the endorphins delivered during the run to counter the pain.
I was at the gate at 5 AM and started with a very leisurely pace. My plan before the tooth ache episode hit me was to try and complete a marathon with the Half marathon planned by the runs before and after the event. That is why I had refused the kind offer of Gerald Martin Joseph to give me a lift to the start point. I did not encounter any runners on the way to the Light house, presumably due to my late start. The throbbing in the jaw reduced in intensity and the leg was as good as new. I reached Lighthouse at 5:41 AM.
I was only carrying one banana peel with me for the cows as our trusted Jeeves had cleared the previous accumulation. I was dreading to meet the duo of Ramu and Shyamu fearing that I may set off chain events of brotherly strife (like what a mango did to the Lord Siva’s family!). I need not have bothered, the lone black cow of ample proportions took the offering without as much batting an eyelid.
After reaching the Kannagi statue and looking to the time available I reckoned that I would be able to run my usual loop and still be in time for the start (with a little help from Indian Railways!). I was near Munroe statue when I got a call from one of the organisers that the team has landed are on the way to the start point straight from the station. I pressed on the accelerator so as to not be seen as behaving like the usual Chief guest arriving late for the event at my first promotion itself. There was not many army men also on the run today, a touch of winter? I was cheered by my group of admirers who sit on the bridge near the start of the Mount Road with a cheery ‘Thalaiva’. I reached the start point at 6:29 AM, more punctual that what Indian Railway could manage with the Ernakulam Express.
Warm welcomes and hugs to the team and a quick warm up by them made us start at 6:46 AM. The sun had taken advantage of the late start and climbed a few notches on the eastern horizon. The memento giving and welcome address was thankfully short and sweet. I did admirably at flagging off my first train full with cap, flag and whistle. I quickly handed over the gear and the memento and joined the runners. It felt the station master changing uniform and climbing on the last coach of the suburban train after completing his duty!
The Police team which I thought had come to assist us in running instead hustled us and advised us to run in smaller groups, I think most runners being in same T-shirt must have scared them of the likely disruption to the traffic. We started on the inner Tar road instead of the walkers pavement, now, this road is bad for the bare foot and I knew the effect on my sole would make it give competition to my now asserting jaw.
I ran at a steady pace and tried mingling with runners by stopping for each of them, but, by the time I crossed Lighthouse and eased into the main road, my instinct to go at my natural pace took over. I met Manish Suri of Marina Minnals near the Lighthouse. Initially I had the company of Ranjini and Brijesh Gajera (who was pacing her on her first HM!). I was asked by more than one person about my running partner Sundar Purush, yes you were missed!. Later Elumazhalai, a youngster who was also running barefoot gave me company for the entire run. He is studying in 12th standard and had come all the way by bus to participate in the run just by having seen the facebook post about it. I felt good about asserting my youth my matching pace with him all through the run. I felt like I did during my Nilgiris Ultra run when I ran with Kieren Dsouza.
We avoided the water points, but, the Sun coming out in full glory made me regret refusing a drink particularly when we were at the last stretch in Beasant Nagar. I did have a few water breaks on my way back. We met Jagdish, Patrick Pitchappa and a few others on our way back and had an impromptu photo session.
The traffic on the way back was choc a block and some stretches particularly near the school and Ayyappa temple were negotiated by walk only. There was a little jockeying between Elumazhalai and me near the end (from Light house to Kannagi statue) when we were on freeway of the walkers pavement. Neither had the energy to beat the other and both of us fittingly ended together at 8:53 AM. He was magnanimous in letting me have the first drink of water. Such competitions within the event keep me young and I really ended up with a lot of respect for the youngster. But, what the burst in the end and the fully blazing sun had done was putting paid to any of my dreams of planning to run back home.
The other runners came back in a little time and seeing them running topless made me take of my top again and join them in a victory lap. A few group photos later, I gladly accepted Gerald’s offer of lift back and was home before 10 AM. Hope the home remedies work and I don’t have to visit a dentist!
All the best, team Mera TerahRRRun for the remaining legs of your journey, I really envy you and wish I could join you all for the remaining 10 days of companionship and running together!