By 4 PM on Sunday, August 13, 2017, Usha Soman had surprised herself with her performance at the Mumbai Ultra: 12 hour run.
She had completed a distance of 44 km covering four loops of 11 km each.
At 78, she was the oldest participant among the 500 runners who enrolled for the run.
Kamalaksha Rao, another septuagenarian, also surprised himself by running 60 km against his expectation of 50 km.
The chaos of vehicles and the mix of rainy ambiance and blazing sun appeared daunting but the runners seemed enthusiastic notching up mileage.
“Heavy traffic was a bit of a downer but otherwise it was an amazing event,” said Chetan Pujary, who was attempting an event of this nature for the first time.
The 11 km loop that commenced from Shivaji Park in Mumbai and went on to Worli Sea Face and back offered a mix of roads buzzing with traffic and peaceful seafront. The occasional drizzle offered some respite to the runners, who were on their feet from 5 AM to 5 PM.
Milling among the crowd of runners at the finish line was Lt Col Sundaresan Renganathan (Retd), who completed his 36th marathon at the Mumbai Ultra. His aim was to run 50 marathons at 50 locations over 50 weeks. His project ` Run with a Soldier, Run for a Soldier’ aimed at raising funds for the families of martyred soldiers. He started his endeavour on December 11, 2016.
Mumbai Ultra’s absolute flat route and great support lend some respite to Sundaresan, who has been travelling across the country and running on varying terrain including at the Kargil International Marathon.
At the event, volunteer and medical support came in for frequent mention by most runners Outrigger spoke to. Seventy two-year old Primla Hingorani, also known affectionately as Aunty 72, had turned up to volunteer for the event at 5 AM. At 5 PM, she was waiting at the finish line to welcome runners with medals.
Among the many accomplished runners doing the loops were Satish Gujaran, Sunil Lahigude, Shibani Gharat and Preeti Lala. It was easy to spot Preeti Lala with her characteristic bandana.
Preeti had won the 12-hour Mumbai Stadium run held in June 2017. She had then notched up a distance of 89.2 km. Here she topped the distance by another four kilometres to end at 93 km.
“I was able to run quite strongly. The experience was awesome. Except for having to cope with the traffic everything else went smoothly. Fantastic support by many runner groups,” she wrote in later.
At the finish line, there was a constant refrain one heard from runners: it was an awesome event with great volunteer support.
Most runners milling at the finish line said they would continue participating in this event next year too.
(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)