If I’d known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself. ~Leon Eldred
Yesterday, September 26, was World Heart Day. I decided to do my bit by taking part in the Kochi Marathon. Since I am fond of living, I decided to stick to the safe 4 Km run instead of the main event – the 21 km mini-marathon.
Though I registered early, I was still worried about how well the run would be organized. If Delhi can goof up, why not my small home-town Kochi? So I got up well ahead of time, stretched my sleepy muscles and headed for the grounds by 6:30 AM on sunday morning. An amazing feat considering that the last time I woke up this early on a Sunday was when my 12-year-old was a colicky infant…
I was in for a very pleasant surprise though. When I walked in, there were millions, sorry thousands, sorry hundreds of energetic men and women ready to do their bit for their Heart. What was even more surprising was that the event started on time.
The first batch to be flagged off were the mini-marathoners – fit athletes, mostly cadets from the Southern Naval Command. Ladies, sight for sore eyes indeed! If nothing else, waking up early was worth it for this breath-taking view alone!
Ahem. Moving on, I found out that individual women were clubbed with senior citizens and children under 15. While my friend was grumbling about this “ranking” I was grateful since it meant I would not be the last one at the finish line. But let me tell you this, I was no match (not even close) for the bubbly children and the even bubblier and competitive senior citizens who almost crushed me in their haste to get going.
Imagine my horror as I found out that the ambulance (crawling at snail’s pace) was always right behind me. To heck with cramps – I picked up my pace and started leaving the ambulance behind when this senior citizen bounded past me. Adding insult to injury, he turned and waved to me and said, “Come on, buck up!”
I drew satisfaction from the fact that at least my 79-year old dad was way behind me. Ha, that should teach him for making fun of my walking habits all these years. (He walks 5-6 kms everyday from 5 AM to 6 AM. Without fail. Ever since I can remember).
The last stretch was over this beautiful, old drawbridge (Venduruthy Bridge) that connects mainland Kochi to the Wellingdon Island and the Southern Naval Command center. I have gone on this bridge thousands of times, but this was the first time I was running (well, crawling!) over it. As the sun rose on another beautiful day, construction workers banged on the new train track coming over the bridge, the fishermen were returning from the sea after their early morning fishing session, and the world looked beautiful. I completely stopped in awe when I saw this white-beaked eagle swoop down to the waters and carry away a wriggling, pink fish. This is what they mean by poetry in motion.
I waddled in through the finish line exactly 7 minutes before my dad (who had his quadruple by-pass surgery 4 years ago) sauntered in. I nearly had my first heart attack! While he chatted with his friends and exchanged time/duration/speed statistics, I ran towards the snack counter and downed a couple of gallons of lemonade. Luckily for me, everyone else seemed to prefer water!
As I said goodbye to my fellow-runners, we promised to do more for our hearts. And our health. A retired teacher (who ran the 4 kms) dropped us back to the grounds so my dad and I could pick up our cars. As I waved good bye to my dad and limped back to my car, I prayed for everyone to have a healthier and a nicer heart in the coming years.
So what did I learn from the race yesterday? Apart from the fact that you can never underestimate a senior citizen’s zest for life? Apart from the fact that there is something about being with a group of like-minded that energizes you instantly?
As I watched the laborers race to catch the bus so they could reach their work place (on a Sunday), this is what I learnt. While I am one of the lucky few who gets to run for their hearts, there are still millions out there in this world who HAVE TO RUN (or fly or swim) for their lives. My measly 4 km walk is dedicated to their health.