From solitary pursuits to a mission to help others, running for marathons has undergone a transformation globally.
Sunday’s Tata Mumbai Marathon was no different, with activists from across the country running alongside professional marathoners to raise awareness about various sociopolitical issues in the country. While awareness against substance use, fitness, cleanliness and girl child protection dominated the share of themes projected in the run, volunteers also spoke up against political concerns and socioeconomic disparities.
For a group of 25 participants from Darjeeling, Sunday’s Tata Marathon was a platform to highlight their concerns. Encouraging increased participation by young sportspersons in the Northeast and voicing a demand for a separate ‘Gorkhaland’ were the issues that they felt were needed to be highlighted.
“We have been running for different marathons for many years. While we use protests and bandhs to demand our needs back home, we want to use this marathon to highlight our concerns. We hope the event brings to the fore our two major demands — the underprivileged in the Northeast get to participate in major sports events, and the need for a separate state for us,” said Roshni Rai, former lawyer who runs a foundation to encourage participation of youth in marathon events in Darjeeling. “Four of the runners from our team bagged medals for finishing second or third in different races . We have got the potential to lead the game and we want to highlight it,” Roshni said.
There were groups that ran to create awareness about rising substance abuse. “We want to highlight the need to avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, substances for people across ages. People should understand that they can have a better life in this way,” said Joe Pereira from Kripa Foundation at Bandra.
NGO Vastav put up a paper collage of a lion naming it ‘Fake in India’. Meant to take a jibe at the ‘Make in India’ concept of the government, the participants tried to highlight the issue of men getting implicated in fake cases. “The laws and regulations are partial and are against the interests of men in the country. Laws relating with protecting females against domestic violence, marital rape do not focus on the concerns of men at all. In fact, rising issues of prostate cancer among men, male suicides fail to get the necessary limelight. We wish authorities begin discussion on these concepts for which we participated in the Dream Run for marathon,” said Amit Deshpande from the organisation.
Following their association’s tagline, ‘Converting Disability to Ability’, the war veterans hoped to send out the message that disability doesn’t mean the end of life. They ran to express support for 10,000 of such veterans who became disabled after wars.
“Our objective is to gain self-confidence and create awareness among people so that they know about our foundation which helps war disables to live as better soldier citizens,” said Lieutenant General Vijay Oberoi.
For the eighth year in a row, a team of retired war veterans led by former Army vice-chief Lieutenant General Vijay Oberoi participated in the Mumbai Marathon. A total of 12 war veterans, including three senior officers from the War Wounded Foundation, participated in the ‘Dream Run’ (6 km) category at 8.20 am at Azad Maidan, CST.
“We all would be running together to show solidarity with other disabled soldiers, and to give them hope that they can achieve anything despite the obstacles they face,” said Subedar Satvir Singh (54), who served in the 19 Rajput Regiment, Manipur, in 2005 and had lost leg due to an IED blast. Singh added that he hoped other youth would join the military.
Lance Naik Ashok Kumar lost his leg due to a bomb blast at the age of 23 while serving during the Kargil war. “The doctor had said you would never be able to stand after this, but after meditating and practicing Yoga for three to four years, I could again stand on my feet,” said Kumar.
Nearly 70 officials from the Regional Transport Office too joined the marathon with a message of, ‘No honking’. Wearing T-shirts with a slogan, “Raise your voice to lower the noise’, written on them, the officials ran in the dream marathon category. “The RTO has been actively campaigning to reduce noise pollution in the city. The marathon was just a step further to promote the message among the masses,” said an official.
Members of NGO Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care (SRLC) participated in the marathon wearing different costumes and carrying a model of the Bandra Worli Sea Link (BWSL). Through the marathon, they raised up to Rs 2.75 crore for building a 200-bed multi-specialty hospital for the tribal population of south Gujarat. “Our theme is ‘Be the Bridge’ to affordable medical care and we have made BWSL as our symbol. The costumes represent the sections of society we care for — animals, women, emergency services, etc,” said Bhavin Rupani, head of public relations at SRLC.