For one thing, the article seemed too lucid. The facts about running a marathon were kept that way - as bare facts. There was no sugarcoating, nor was there any attempt to show this as a soft activity. Frankly, the call to Amdavadis to get trained and attempt either a half or the full Marathon seemed preposterous.
Lihas and I concluded this was going to be a dud. We estimated a total of 10 calls between us; we would consider ourselves extremely lucky if one out of those ten calls materialized into a runner. Thus, the purpose of the meeting - planning today's run, seemed non-existent. Handling at the most one or two persons who would come for running after reading the article did not need any planning at all. Meeting over, back to residence.
At about 10:15am, I got a call from Lihas. His count stood at seven calls, five persons confirmed. My count was five, three confirmed. At this time, both of us, still skeptical, had told one person to wait at Helmet 4 Rasta, someone else to wait at the Sola flyover and so on... different points along the route we would take in our normal course of running. By 1:30pm, after having exchanged a few calls, we had figured out this was exceeding our expectations by a long, wide margin. By about 5:30pm, we decided we needed to meet if we wanted any semblance of order for today's run. When we met at 7:00pm, we had a count of about 40-50 in total. Some were going to join us at Keshavbaug at 5:45am today morning, others wanted to reserve their place since they would be in a position to join in the next few days.
We felt to manage things well, we would need to create divisions. Lihas would do a short run with those who had not run before. I would take the experienced ones on a slightly longer run. Lihas and his team would run from Keshavbaug to Andhjan Mandal 4 Rasta and back. I would go up to the Drive-in Road Flyover and return.
And today at Mansi there was Rohan persons waiting with Lihas when I reached. At Keshavbaug, the venue for the 'event' of starting the training for the Marathon, we were greeted by another six, Parth, Jayesh, Dr. Jagat, Lagarez, Rudraksh and Himanshu. A quick round of introductions later, what emerged clearly was that this was not going to be a group of 'also ran'. These were guys who were all set for the rough and tumble of running a Marathon; whatever it takes.
Since it was day 1 and we did not want overworked bodies for tomorrow, we decided to run from Keshavbaug to the Sola Road Flyover, take a U-turn under it and run back. And we began jogging. Lihas kept pace with the faster runners, I brought up the rear. We climbed over the Drive-in Flyover and climbed down. We reached Sola Flyover and instead of going under it, the runners began climbing it. So up and down. But no turn around still. The runners kept running and turned back at Naranpura Cross Roads. Some runners had started the walk-run technique to finish the run. Near the Valinath Chowk BRTS stop, we stopped for water. A 3-4 minute break later, we were on our way again. Everyone reached Keshavbaug running. Very impressive. The fact that everyone was there at the specified time. The fact that everyone was confident that they would run. The fact that everyone ran. The fact that everyone ran more than what was originally planned. The fact that everyone exceeded their own limitations of physical endurance. The fact that in spite of all of this, no one gave up till the end. I get the feeling that this group is going to be fun to run with. They all seem to have the mental tenacity that it takes to be a distance runner.
After some stretching and cooling down at the AUDA garden near Himmatlal Park, the days routine was closed. Tomorrow, we all shall be running individually. There will be a few who might be joining us tomorrow. So Tuesday is when we all will be running together again as a group.
Just as we started, I told Jayesh that he would not be able to run in his chappals and would need sneakers. He would also need shorts and a t-shirt; He told me he had come from his village only yesterday for admission and when he happened to read the newspaper, he wanted to be a part of this. So sneakers or the lack of them was not going to prevent him from joining us. And he was there. Shorts/t-shirts/trousers/shirts/sneakers/chappals - Jayesh made all these things sound so frivolous. He demonstrated by action what one could do if only there was the will. Kudos to his spirit.
And that is also a sad comment on all the other Amdavadis who have found some excuse or the other to not run.