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Hungama in Manama: Eka Lavya’s vivid Mumbai Marathon 2014 race report

[Editor’s Note: Most race reports are a sequential recounting of the race, some more interesting than others. And then you have THIS race report. A vivid portrayal of the race (of course) but also a very humorous description of key events that occurred the day before the race. The author is Eka Lavya (his assumed name though most people have forgotten his real name). The ‘group’ in question is BHUKMP, of which I too am a member. Some people have recently referred to BHUKMP as a cult – can’t say I disagree. In future missives on this blog, yours truly shall try to shed light on the myriad cast of characters referenced in this post. For now, dim the lights in your room and settle down in your overstuffed couch as Eka transports you to.. Act 1 Scene 1.]

Lesson 1 : Never call hotel owner and tell him that his reviews in Trip Advisor suck
Lesson 2 : Having done that, don’t tell him you are providing positive reinforcement for his self-esteem by booking 20 rooms despite the reviews
Lesson 3 : Perhaps advancing the dosh for 20 rooms is a bit much, just to show you believe in him
We will come back to the hotel bit in a while.

Took the Indigo 1020 departure from Bangalore, and true to murphy’s law this was the only flight that got delayed that morning by an hour. Thankfully I caught Shantanu in the que-up for the previous flight and handed him my docs for bib collection. Met the guys at Moshe’s on landing in Mumbai, I had never been to this outlet though I was living quite close to this one for a while. The discussion at Moshe’s was mainly around logistics & room facilities with none of us having a clue as to where we were going to sleep that night, we were an optimistic bunch.

Bahuja had already started his marathon early that morning & was reasoning it out with the hotel management. Manama is apparently the capital of Bahrain, once called the Paris of the Middle East, which basically meant anywhere outside Saudi where Arabs could go to let their hair down. I had dozed off in the flight dreaming up images of camels, tents, belly dancers and hookahs , and was surprised to note our rooms turned out to be just a mirage, I mean all rooms, not just a few. The receptionist had a very simple explanation, he could not be blamed for someone entering the reservation in the computer three months ago as he did not know how to switch that on, the reservation was not written down in the fat register in front of him.

The conversation goes something like this…
Receptionist (He is wearing a jacket & tie btw): Saab humko computer nahi aatha, hamare upar kyun chilla rahe hain?
Rishi: Dekho… computer ke andhar trip advisor karke cheez hai, hum usme dekhne ke bhawajoodh Manama hotel me aaye (ends sentence with a definitive nod, like that’s supposed to seal the issue)
Chandra Katuri (bursting into the scene) This is not acceptable , computer operator ka naam kya hai?
Receptionist: Divya madam
Chandra: (in an impatient tone) Divya madam kidhar hai? uska mobile number abhi dho, she should get an immediate feedback of where she has gone wrong… (earnestly) so that it does not happen again.
Rishi: (now angry), Hum tripadvisor me likh dhenge
Receptionist: (blank stare, & a gentle, inquiring tone) Aap computer ka baath kar rahe hain …shayad?

We also had our little revenge by confusing the receptionist a bit- he had never seen anything like 20 guys hanging in the microscopic Manama reception making calls in front of him to other hotels like Trident and Vivanta to check for spare rooms; his exasperated look told me this was definitely new. Some of us finally found alternative, modest accos by evening, while Bahuja ultimately triumphed in snatching back most of the rooms; Rishi’s tripadvisor threat must’ve pushed the lodge-keeper bloke over the edge.

Meeting that night for dinner at Gaylord, we were a much relieved lot with the sleeping issues sorted out.. also managed to run into some Runners High folks at Gaylord who could not resist ribbing me about my milk supply for the next morning (another story from a different time, SCMM 2013, which involves someone blaming his tragi-comic running display on the quality of milk he had had that morning).

The line up the next morning that started together from the hotel clarified the BHUKMP hierarchy, broadly– Sid, Sampath, Pankaj, Vishy, Rajesh, and couple of others up ahead and out of sight – never saw them during the run; Shilpi, Amrita, Nari, & the two Chandras slightly ahead where I could see them from time to time, with Sanjay, Anjana, Gurmeet and I bringing up the rear.

I remembered my prayers in SCMM 2013 only at 30K after it was a bit too late, so as I crossed 10K I turned to pay my respects to Haji Ali in the darkness . This is a dargah built in the 1400’s for a saint whose coffin was dropped in the Arabian sea. People come here to pray for whatever (timing in my case) by tying a red thread to one of the pillars, I did not have time to do that during the run. I also turned a bit more to my left to nod my respects to the silhouette of Mahalakshmi temple. This is a crucial point on the race where one sees three places of worship – and finally a confirmatory prayer to please take care of me until 42.2K with a nod to the Maa Hajjani dargah in front of me as I was leaving this point.

This was a very important part of my race preparation – considering the previous few times when I had got mauled by this very course. (I was going at a pace of 10.7 Kmph and kept this up , it was 10.65 KPH by 31.5 K – as per timing info available for the 6 checkpoints between these two markers). I would also make a final petition at SiddhiVinayak at ~ 25K. Trust me, this was far more important than salt pills. I could almost sense Anjana running next to me in the darkness wondering what the hell I was up to, as I was looking backwards & fervently nodding my prayers.

Crossed worli sea face and entered sea link and got excited (as usual) seeing the numbskulls with equipment from I tried to run away from the crowd and in erect posture, striding a bit higher than what was necessary hoping my huaraches would catch their attention. I also tried not to look directly at the camera as I did not want to appear too earnest.. just one click you buggers, against the sea link backdrop. I had tried this the last two times but these guys just won’t click me.. same story. While the last time I got zero photos of myself, this time there were a handful but all at the finish line, & no sea link. I will try harder next time or even stop and ask one of those jokers, screw the timing.

At 28K I was alone and suddenly Shilpi appears from behind. I couldn’t believe I had been ahead of her all this while, but the excitement was short lived, I fell behind at 34K. At the 35 K mark I crossed Haji ali back again, and realized my strength was waning & after this my speed slowed. Kalpana crossed me after this, the African elites at ~ 36K, as did Rishi, and finally Nari at 39K. By the time I finished my average speed overall for 42.2 had dropped to 10.01 kmph. So the last 8 K turned out to be real slow. But still I think my prayers were answered, I did far better compared to any other full that I had ever run – hopefully not a one off.

The scene at Leopold post run was something like this: Imagine Madiwala wholesale market with baskets of beer bottles in front of the screaming shop keepers instead of veggies. I got the feeling they had stopped printing bills and were just recycling them. No matter what table you sat in, or what you ate you got a bill of 10K for that table if it had enough people. But who cared, I was on a high even before I got in there, the beer was lovely, but a formality. We finally moved to Starbucks and then ate some more at Shivsagar at the airport before finally polishing it all down with strong filter coffees.

Here’s to Manama!!