Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Face of the Race

When I think back on the run I did at the Mumbai Marathon last year the things I remember most vividly are two things that were not even there. The more prominent one was the absence of traffic – intersections where I have spent hours in cabs, busses and cars took only minutes to cover on foot. But far more memorable was the sheer absence of litter.
Think about it- roughly three thousand people ran the half marathon. Even if they slowed down at an average of five drink stations each, that is a minimum of fifteen thousand bottles of water discarded around the 21.092 km route. Which works out to about 70 bottles that should have been found discarded on any 100 meter stretch. Taking into consideration the fact that there would have been people running slower than me, the number may have been lower– maybe even as low as only around 50 bottle per 100 meter stretch.
How many bottles did I actually see – never more than seven or eight bottles at any point of time, even at the drinks stations where most people were tossing in the water and tossing out the bottle. What I did see were dozens and dozens of BMC workers picking up bottles from along the route and either chucking them into bins, or putting them in the sacks they carried on their back.

Running along Marine Drive, I finished the water in the bottle I was carrying and finding a BMC worker there, I slowed down and handed the bottle over to her instead of chucking it down for her to pick up. I was stunned by her response – in heavily accented English, she said, ‘Thank you.’
It was she that I had to say ‘Thank you’ to.
Thank you, each an every BMC worker for individually and collectively ensuring such a clean track for us to run on.
To me, the person who most deserves to be the Face of the Race is not the event sponsor, or the event ambassador, or even the event winner. To me, that Face is the face of the lowly paid worker who performed her job with such dedication despite perhaps not understanding the significance of any of it.
And this is a picture of the mob at the start of the Delhi half. Having started late in Mumbai, I missed the excitement, and the pushing and shoving that went with the official start.

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