In November 2012 an Indian couple walked into my bookshop and as things happen before long they were my new best friends in life. Here we are, 13 months later and I ‘m here in Mumbai with my middle son Peter and we are preparing for the Mumbai Half Marathon next Sunday.
Let me explain more. We talked in my shop, as old book lovers talk, and Monisha mentioned in passing that she was a runner and was running every day whilst in Sydney in preparation for her second Mumbai half marathon to be held in about 8 weeks time. Well this was music to my ears and soon I had organised for her to come and run with Sean Williams Sweat group in Centennial Park. In fact we ran together most days while she was in Sydney. Her husband Kuleep is a computer guru who works for an Australian company and he was in Sydney for business and Monisha had come with him for 8 weeks. Now Monisha works in the film industry in India and soon she made a short film of my bookshop ( Cornstalk Bookshop) and she accompanied me running and then on business during the day all the while filming.
It turned out that we were of similar ability (or similar lack of ability one may say!). Her best time for the half is a shade over 2 hours and mine is 2 hours and 5 minutes. Not bad for a 66 year old I think. Over the next 12 months we kept in touch with irregular phone calls and emails and she encouraged – no demanded – that I come to Mumbai and run with her. Of course I didn’t need much encouragement and when I mentioned this in the family circle my 32 year old son Peter announced that he had a need to run in Mumbai with us as well.
So here we are 4 days out from the race. In this crazy wonderful city of perhaps 20 million people. A city dubbed the gateway to India and where Muslims and Hindus and a few Christians and Sikhs and other religious groups live mostly in harmony and chaos. We landed here about midnight on Saturday night and are staying at The Oberoi Hotel which is opposite where the race finishes. This hotel was the scene of a terrible terrorist attack just a few years ago and over 100 people were killed in the region that day.We have had 4 days of sightseeing and have experienced great hospitality from the locals. The sights, sounds and smells are fascinating. The race is well publicised here with billboards all over town. And about 16,000 people are running in the marathon, the half marathon and the 9km event. The pollution is heavy and I am nervous about how I will cope with this.
I have had a few 5 km runs on the treadmill to see if my legs still work after a tiring aeroplane trip via Bangkok. I feel fit and am well prepared for the race as I’ve been running 6 days a week lately and with my longer runs at 18kms I feel strong and know (well, I think I know) that I can complete the distance. Its not too hot, nor too humid – in fact it being mid winter here is about the same as Sydney in mid summer.
Monisha and myself plan to run the race together but perhaps part with 6 km to go. I have no chance of keeping up with Peter as he is an 80 minute half marathon runner but he has been injured lately and I have dropped the idea into his head that I may beat him. However I don’t think that my psychology will work.
I’ll let you know how the race pans out!