This was the 7th year of the Auroville Marathon but it was my first. No, I didn’t run – I was a time-keeper. But I enjoyed every minute of it.
I was up at 4.30 in the morning because I had to be there at 6 at the latest. I was out by 5.30, all wrapped up in a shawl and the half hour ride on my scooter didn’t seem so long as the road was filled with cars and motor-cycles, all the way from the East Coast road. The air was chilly and it was still very dark.
Once there, I was really surprised to see the huge crowd of people, all getting ready for the race. The parking at the Visitors’ Centre was packed with cars – most of them were from Bangalore and Chennai. Soon I found my friends who were all getting ready for the complicated job of noting down the timings of the runners. Until 7.00 am there was such a thick mist that we could barely see beyond 10 metres.
In actual fact, there were three separate races – the full marathon of 42 kms, the half marathon of 21 kms and the 10 kms run. There were more than two thousand people doing the half marathon while about 500 were doing the 10 kms. Only 200 were doing the full marathon. The runners started in small batches with a gap of 15 minutes each so that there would be no crowding on the narrow paths.
The air was charged with such an enthusiasm that it was difficult not be carried away by it. Men and women, old and young, fat and slim, the urban types with the villagers, all were full of an extraordinary energy. I was moved to see all these people, 3000 of them, who had taken the pains to be there, to participate in an event which was being held for the pure joy of running. Even though there were so many people everything went off smoothly and in peace and harmony.
By the time people finished running breakfast was being served. Hot pongal rice with sambar and vadai. And tea with cardamom. It was such a pleasure to eat sitting next to total strangers who were all beaming with satisfaction at having achieved something that morning.
This is the new India, a country of young people, ready to do something for the joy of it. It all seemed so appropriate that it should have taken place at the place on Earth which is trying to embody human unity.