The fifth edition of the Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon which was flagged off Sunday finished with a lot for Indians to cheer about.
Among the over 33,000 participants who took part in the event carrying a prize money of $1 million, India's Surender Singh outran Finnish rival Jitsi Utiranen in thrilling finish to win the 21-km race or the half marathon in one hour, five minutes and 39 seconds. Fellow Indian, Santosh Kumar, came third . The half-marathoners set off from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus at 6.45 am.
The half and full marathon courses traced the city's west coast to Worli and Bandra respectively, and back. With no cars in sight, the roads were filled with color and the sound of music from roadside brass bands.
Among the women, Kavita Raut won the first slot after stiff competition from Preeja Sreedharan , clocking one hour, 16 minutes and 32 seconds. Preeti Rao ended third.
The event consisted of a 42-km-long marathon, 21-km-long half-marathon, senior citizens' run, wheel chair event and a six-km-long "dream" run meant for plain citizens.
Actors John Abraham and Bipasha Basu, city Mayor Shubha Raul, Municipal Commissioner Jairaj Phatak and city police commissioner DN Jadav were among the dignitaries present on the occasion.
The theme of the marathon this year was conservation of the environment, and the organizers asked people to pledge their support for the cause.
Meanwhile Kenyan John Kelai and Ethiopian Mulu Seboka dominated by winning the 42 km-long race for men and women respectively.
Kelai won the men's title for the second year running with a time of 2:12:22:21 .
Seboka set a new race record and won the women's category with a timing of 2:30:03:19.
Yet the marathon laurels did not belong to these star athletes alone. Sonal Sheth was diagnosed with a heart murmur two years ago ( her heartbeat tends to rise faster than the average person's). Many would not even dream of running since it makes the heart rate soar up to 180 beats per minute and puts one at the risk of a heart attack.
But the 50-year-old determinedly ran the 42-km Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon on Sunday. Even when her knees had swelled up three days ago, her spirit didn't flag.
"The marathon is like life, in a way. You have a goal; there will be problems, but you have to rise above them," the Churchgate resident was quoted.
Alike her, many have conquered health barriers to take part in the run and have, in turn, broken the stereotype that only fit people run marathons.
Mahim resident Satish Vaidya (63) had two bypass surgeries in the last four years, yet he was confident his regular practice would help him complete the 7-km Dream Run, for the fourth time. "Why should I participate in the senior citizens' marathon? I don't think I'm old," he said. "My family stops me, but I am confident", he smiles.
For the bystanders meanwhile, Sunday morning was about getting a slice of Bollywood.
Within a VIP enclosure, John Abraham and his girlfriend Bipasha Basu, pulled maximum crowds ; one as event ambassador , the other proffering cheers and encouragement to the participants. Actor Arshad Warsi too volunteered whistles and enthusiasm.
Sagarika Ghatge of Chak De! India fame was kept awhile by fans who queued tirelessly for pictures with the soft-spoken actor. "Having studied in a boarding school, athletics has been an integral part of my childhood. I gym and do cardio daily so that keeps me prepared for any sporting activity," says Ghatge.
Other events included the 4.3-km senior citizens' race and the 2.5-km wheelchair event . Most of the participants were first-timers for whom training, rewards or recognition did not quite matter.
"I have not practiced for the marathon," said Amar Inamdar, a student of Agripada's Society for Education of the Crippled.
"I do not know how many kilometers I will run, but I know that I want to participate," said the young teen who has been afflicted with polio and has a speech defect.
Next to Inamdar was 17-year-old Riddhi Gala on a wheelchair. She completed the 2.5-km race in 30 minutes. Wheelchair-bound since the age of seven, Gala, who has cerebral palsy, has reconciled herself to the fact that she needs a wheelchair for a lifetime. "The only thing I regret is being unable to rise when the national anthem is sung," says Riddhi.
Angad Dugal too suffers from cerebral palsy. His two sisters encouraged him to keep going while his mother trailed with his molded chair so he could rest. "In life, one must forge ahead," the 21-year-old bravely said.
Ghatkopar resident Champaklal Upadhyaya tried his luck in the senior citizens' race as he ambled with the support of a walking stick and an escort. "I have undergone 14 operations since a 1974 accident," the 73-year-old said. "I may be the last person in the race, but I will go on. I want to win by completing whatever I can of this marathon today. These little things add spice to life."
Mumbai has now entered the record books by hosting India's biggest ever marathon .
Mumbai wore its spirit and diversity on its sleeves in this race meant for seniors, the disabled and ordinary citizens among others.