Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Dream Run Is Not A Race

On Sunday, my wife, son and I took part in the Dream Run which is part of the Mumbai Marathon. Armed with the yellow and white number bibs, the white Kingfisher sipping bottles and the shoulder sling bags, we marched along with thousands of others for 6kms of the actual race plus a few more just to get to the start line and then back home.

This is the first time I have taken part in a sporting event where the objective was not to win, but merely to take part. Made me wonder why we were all there in the first place.

The Dream Run seems to be designed to make us feel good about ourselves. We are happy that we were able to complete the Dream Run. Of course, don’t tell anybody that the Run was more of a slow walk than a real run. In fact, you couldn’t run even if you wanted to.

Then there were the spectators to cheer you on. When was the last time you had hundreds of people cheering you on. Strangers. I guess Sachin Tendulkar is used to this. For most of us this was a new experience or a long forgotten experience. It didn’t really matter that they weren’t cheering specifically for you or even knew your name. People were cheering and waving from the road side, from balconies and roof tops. As if we were the next big Olympic hopes for India.

Many of us were running for a cause. Now you may ask how we were helping any cause by burning a few calories. Well the relevant calories are burnt before and after the actual event when you sign some cheques and also request your friends and relatives to sign more cheques. All these are pledges made to the charity of your choice because you have completed the Herculean task of walking 6 kms. It’s quite a silly and roundabout way to give to charity if you ask me. But still, it makes you feel good about yourself and that, as I said, is the primary reason for having the Dream Run.

The Dream Run is also meant to help you belong to a small tribe. Typically your work tribe. Several companies had fielded company teams for the run. Each team had a uniform that they all wore. The teams consisted of employees and their families. Some people had even brought along babies and small children. Many carried placards that announced who they were or their attitudes to life. Some had banners that simply advertised their company or brand. The Air India team had a couple of people dressed as Maharajas, while their rival airline, Jet Airways, had people carrying inflated airplane shaped balloons. I guess the people who walked in their corporate groups, felt happy that they belonged. The team that runs together works together.

The Maharaja wasn’t the only one in the fancy dress. There were so many others. More than one Gandhiji. One of them accompanied by a Circuit! Throw in a Tilak, a few brides in traditional outfits and some in outlandish costumes that defy description or tags. All of them getting their fair share of attention and photographs. Sure made them feel good. Though it must have been hot too.

There were some real heroes too. People in wheel chairs. People on crutches. One woman carrying her baby on her back. All of them got a lot of admiring looks and cheers. From spectators and participants alike.

That summed up the spirit of the Dream Run. An event designed to make you feel good about yourself, your fellow humans, your city. And hopefully the organizers and advertisers. That is why Standard Chartered has stayed with this event over the last four years. Quite a Dream Run, they are having.

For more pictures of the Dream Run, please click here.