MUMBRA, a town with one of the largest clusters of Muslim population across India, woke up to its first ‘winter marathon’ on Tuesday morning with children from schools and madrassas participating in various races. The event organised primarily by the Thane Police along with the Mumbra Marathon Trust was an “image building exercise” for a town that has in the past been associated with crime. In addition, it provided a healthy platform for “the talented youngsters who lack opportunities to showcase their talent”. For the students and their parents, it was all about having fun early in the morning and a breather from lectures at school.
Over 2,000 boys and 1,000 girls had registered for participation in the race that started from the Reti Bandar area of Mumbra and ended after a six kilometre stretch at the Mumbra bypass junction. There were six races, three each for boys and girls, in the under-17, under-15 and under-16 categories, that were followed by cash prizes. Zonal Deputy Commissioner Sachin Patil and Mumbra Senior Police Inspector Ravindra Tayade were involved in the planning and execution of the event. “I take a lot of heart from the fact that parents ensured so many girls participated in the races,” said Patil.
Several girls, some of whom donning head scarves, participated with much enthusiasm with their parents cheering them along the way. Sakina Khatun, a Kausa-resident, whose daughter ran in the under-17 category race, said she was excited about the race as soon as her daughter told her about it a few days back. “Mahol badal rahan hain Mumbra ka (The way people think in Mumbra is changing),” she told The Indian Express. “Hume ladkiyon ko thoda sa support karna hain bas. Yeh bohot door tak jayengi (We just have to support these girls a bit. They will go far),” she added. Her only complaint was her daughter did not get enough time to practise.
The races were flagged off at 7 am following announcements of “the next PT Usha from Mumbra who will win India accolades at the world stage”. When it was the boys’ turn to run, songs from the film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag started blaring from the loudspeakers at the starting point. To add to all the excitement among the participants was the drone that had been permitted by the Thane Police that was used to take photographs. The races were flagged off by Joint commissioner of Police (JCP) VV Laxminarayan apart from Patil.
Talking to The Indian Express, Laxminarayan said, “People of Mumbra often feel that they are left out. Hence, when the Mumbra senior inspector and DCP came with the plan to organise a marathon, we all readily agreed.” Patil said that a few months back, when they had raided a hookah joint, they found 83 youngsters there. “This set the alarm bells ringing. There are also problems of these youngsters getting into drugs. The teenagers here are quite talented and we had to find a way to use this energy and channelise it for better purposes. That is when Tayade suggested that we organise a marathon during the police raising week celebrations.”
Students who participated had two words to say, “mazza aaya” (had fun). “There is only one Thane monsoon marathon that takes place. We are so happy that now even we have a marathon. Normally, we do not get a chance. Also, it ensures we wake up early and exercise,” Shaheen Shaikh, who participated in the race, said. “Also it helps us to skip lectures in school,” said her friend before running away.
Later at the award ceremony, Thane commissioner Param Bir Singh, along with Guardian minister Eknath Shinde were also present and added that the marathon will be held every year.