Have you heard ‘The Fling at Mallow’? The song goes like this. Now the sun is shining brightly, young and old and stiff and sprightly, treading swiftly treading lightly…. That song repeats itself in my head as I wait to take off. I fall into the ‘old and stiff’ category. I am at the start line, heart fluttering, goosebumps everywhere, waiting for the countdown. …3, 2. 1…and we are off with a surge. I am running the 10K in the seventh edition of the Coimbatore Marathon.
As always, the staggering number of people notwithstanding, the event unfolds with clockwork precision. The Half Marathon has already set off, as we take up position. We stretch, smile at strangers and, of course, there is the selfie.
This year, the run has come to mean something special to me because I saw for myself what Coimbatore Cancer Foundation (CCF) did with the funds raised by the marathon. All editions of the marathon raised money for CCF but, this year, besides screening camps and awareness drives, there is an added dimension to the fundraiser. A part of the money will go towards palliative care. Watching the CCF team at work in faraway villages, dressing wounds, conducting health checks and providing emotional support to patients and their families was an unforgettable experience. Running for a cause was never so worth it. And here we were; Coimbatoreans in our thousands turning up to show support and contribute to CCF’s exemplary work.
Managing Trustee of CCF, Dr T Balaji, is heartened by the response. “It is obvious the event belongs to the people of Coimbatore. Look at the camaraderie, discipline and enthusiasm for the event!” He is grateful that the event raised the visibility of CCF . “It allows us to dream bigger and take on bigger challenges and deliver more. It allows us to bring about positive change in the lives of so many more people.”
It is that thought that keeps me running. School kids are running, and big gangs from corporates whiz past. Then there are those a little older who run, walk, look around and run again. Encouraging signboards are held up by volunteers. I can’t remember the exact messages, but “don’t give up” is the gist of it. Aid stations offer bananas, lime wedges, water and biscuits. Fellow runners share glucose from crumpled packets, strike up random conversations, and slow down and applaud the many school bands that play rousing music for us. It feels like the Mardi Gras.
Fifteen-year-old Kimaaya Vikram is also running the 10K. She says, “When my father sent me my bib number, was I excited! The night before I barely slept at all.” Kimaaya makes it clear that she does NOT run to stay fit or win medals. “I run because I love the feeling. It makes me feel invincible; the world around me ceases to exist and it’s just me. That is all that matters in the moment. Running is a beautiful thing if you don’t think of it as a task,” says the high school student. Kimaaya is aware that she is also running for a cause. “ It is such an amazing thing to watch so many people running for something so meaningful. And so many hardworking people have ensured the event was a success!”
The marathon excitement actually began the day before at the Codissia Grounds at the pre-marathon expo where we picked up our running bibs. There was a special awards ceremony where runners who had participated in at least five of the Coimbatore Marathon events were given a badge of appreciation. People could shop for running paraphernalia. A stall displayed and sold fitness trackers and another sold nutritious kanji maavu. There was music, games and photo ops galore. One side of the venue had a huge map showing the route for the following day.
Post event, Race Director, Vodafone Coimbatore Marathon, Ramesh Ponnuswami is elated. “The seventh edition was a huge success, with a record 16,000 participants, supported by more than 1,500 volunteers.” He was particularly chuffed that the number of runners in the 10K run had grown at twice the the rate of the 5K event. “It is a clear indication that people are switching to higher distance category once they have tasted the high of completing their first 5K event. This is great for the health and fitness of participants.”
Ramesh acknowledges the strong connect to the cause of CCF. “We are pleased that the proceeds from this year’s edition is expected to be the highest ever, thanks to the support of participants, corporates and various partners.” He is particularly grateful to the tremendous support of the Coimbatore City Police and Coimbatore Corporation in planning and executing the event. Best of all, he says, “is the support we received from the citizens of Coimbatore. That is ever increasing and has made a huge difference to us.”