"You came first?"

Uploaded 25 Jan 2011
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© Etan Doronne
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Photo license: © All rights reserved

Maybe because I couldn't pay for a longer stay at my guest house, the owner told me about this community Marathon. It had a prize of Rs. 1000 ( a thousand Rupees) waiting for the winner.

The registration closing date was the day before my arrival to this little town on the Konkan shore of Maharashtra state. However in rural India nothing will stop locals from making sure a guest feels at home.

So on the next morning we went down to the market street (the one and only street lined up with 'front loading' stores (cubicles with only front access, a type of transparent/self explanatory shops).

My guest house owner was pedaling and I was sitting on the bicycle carrier behind him. With no cushioning, I added some background vocals with every bump on the road.

The registration office was a local photo shop, a simple and compact hole in the wall.

7:00 AM was set for the race to begin, so we both woke up early and bicycled our 3km way down to the local school where the runners should gather.

An unanswered question is why do Indian show up on an official time when nothing really starts by then... maybe it is that this extra time is used for socializing, high on the local's "to do list" anytime.

Roses were given to various community member activists, some part of the ASTA volunteers who create and manage community events such as this one. Then I was asked to follow to the podium, and with my name/ foreigner/guest title announced on the speakers was handed a rose (Gulab in Hindi).

2Km was the longest I ran to that date. I had no special intention to finish the race or pick a prize. it was good enough to mingle with locals rather then remain an observing tourist.

11am, the run begins, after the children 2km and the teens 5 km races were completed.

On our marks, I am standing in the last row of the runners crowd but then am asked to move to the middle front as a journalist photographer is up in front of us.

The signal is given and the whole herd blazed into a sprint more in line with a 100 meters race. I stay behind while my guest house owner is escorting me on his bicycle in a slow running pace.

Professional is more of a joke when defining how the next minutes looked like. Some had quit, some had later shifted to a walk. some spectators come up and ask their questions to the odd bird on the track.

The path is lined with a few drinking water bags delivery points and then someone driving by threw me a whole bottle full which I caught in the air while running. Other water sprinkled me and some residence offered chilled glass cups of water.

About half way into the race, while in the outskirts of town lined with the beach and some lagoons, I too shifted to walking. I felt that about 3 km is good enough and was tired enough as well.

Joined by my walking peers, I didn't have to feel beaten or incompetent, we were all walking in various positions under the tropical blazing noon sun.

To be continued as a Feature Story here on JPG Magazine

In the story 'Did you come first?'.

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