After receiving positive feedback, and glowing inputs from fellow-runner friends, Salaj and I decided to take up the The Great Monsoon Marathon Challenge by Runbuddies – which includes 5 running events spread over 4 months (June-September). Training continued through the summer months, and we were looking forward to enjoying these races at scenic locations of Prabalgad, Durshet Forrest, Matheran, Baner, and Brahmagiri.
After a short dry spell, the Monsoon arrived in all its glory just a day or two before the First Monsoon Marathon. It continued to pour through the night, and the next morning when we left for Atasa Resort in Nere Village, Panvel at 4 AM. Reaching way before time at 5:15, we spent the time chatting up other runners Hiral Thanawala, Jane D’souza and Michael, who had taken the Organizers’ Bus from Mumbai. We had a hearty laugh over how they had to start from Borivali at 2 AM, to catch the 3 AM bus from Dadar TT. All of us wanted the rains to grace us during the race, but not before in the Holding Area. Furthermore, we were wishing for a slight non-intrusive drizzle, and not cats and dogs – talk about being ‘ready for running anytime, anywhere’, haha!Register for Durshet Forrest Marathon! Register for NIO Vision Marathon 2017! Register for Matheran Endurathon 2017!
Soon, more runners starting showing up, and it was nice to see familiar faces from Mumbai-Pune running community. After the meeting-greeting, we moved towards the Holding Area near the swimming pool with mountains in the backdrop. Oh my, it was beautiful and luckily the rain Gods had also obliged us with a clear sky as everyone got ready to run.
After a short Zumba session, announcements, and singing the National Anthem, we proceeded to gather at the starting line up. At 6:45 AM, we took off and started to make our way from the Resort to the roads ahead. It was more or less 10.5 KMS and back. After 1 KM, I was surprised to see Purnendu Nath steadily over-taking me, as I had earlier spotted him being way ahead along with the other speedsters. That’s when Amit Yadav appeared from behind and told me how they had taken a wrong L turn. Disadvantages of being faster, I guess.
It had started to rain again, and I was enjoying the drizzle with the lush green surroundings. Admiring the numerous Snake Gourds (Padwal) hanging from their creepers in the nearby fields, I moved on to find carcasses of a snake and some frogs, probably run over by vehicles in the dark. Reality intrudes even in the midst of joyous nature, doesn’t it?
Cruising comfortably, I managed to keep my fluid-level in check by drinking water, and Enerzal from the strategically placed Hydration Stations every 2 KM. The Route was fabulous with its ups and downs that presented every now and then as we ran towards majestic Prabalgad. I moved along taking in the amazing weather and scenery, bowing my head in gratitude at the Gamdevi Temple on the way.
At about the 8 KM mark, I met Kamlesh Shrikhande from Pune. His shoes were getting heavier, thanks to the rain and puddles. I encouraged him to just look around and keep going. I was happy to run together talking back-and-forth with fellow-runners, and also met another friend Gagan Khatri from Ulhasnagar as we moved further. Soon, we spotted Amit Yadav on the opposite side and were thrilled as this meant the U-turn was close by. Puru told us it was 750M. We came across Sunil Lahigude further down, who mentioned we were 300M away from the turn, as he ran past us. Now my favorite part had begun. Yup, I had a splendid time cheering other runners as I ran back.
Kamlesh and I moved ahead back and forth and spoke whenever we ran together. Turned out we had quite a bit in common. From running at more or less the same pace, we both also ran for Breakfast in the morning and had been Flamingo-watching at Airoli and Bhigwan.
I kept on while enjoying the greenery all around, listening to the ribbit-ribbit of the frogs, pitter-patter of the rain and distant clap of thunderclouds. Thanking the volunteers as I went ahead, bidding adieu to the Snake Gourd Fields, I entered Nere Village. With about 2 KM more to go, I cheered Jane who was doing 15 KM on my way ahead. Upping the ante, I ran and crossed Kamlesh on my way. encouraging him to push in the last bit. Splashing through the small puddles and wading through some deep ones, I moved cautiously almost twisting my foot.
Finally entering the Resort, I was greeted by the sight of a Police Van passing by with the cops cheering us on. Just ahead Sunil Lahigude urged me to pick up pace and I promptly complied. It felt wonderful to cross the finish line amidst loud cheers and applause. I had finished First in Girls Open Category in 2:03:47 . We had a total blast clicking pictures, bantering around, dancing and swimming in the pool. All in all, the First Monsoon Marathon totally lived up to its name.
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This post has been adapted from Manasi Samudra’s blog.