The Mumbai Marathon is an event that is looked forward to by participants not only within India but worldwide. The enthusiasm felt here over the years is infectious. The city welcomes you with open arms and Mumbaikars have an amazing spirit that bespeaks resilience and passion. As they say, nothing binds a city together as a marathon does and the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2020 did just that on the 19th of January.

Mumbai Marathon’s journey for the past 15 years has been transformational – from starting a fitness revolution that has spawned over 1000 road races in the country, to creating a springboard for Indian long and middle-distance runners; people coming together – beyond politics, religion, race, colour, a beacon of humanity and compassion for the nation and the world. The feeling of unity felt here goes beyond boundaries.

Today, the Tata Mumbai Marathon is amongst the top 10 marathons in the world and has truly put India on the global map of distance running. The event has six different race categories – Full Marathon (42.195 km), Half Marathon (21.097 km), Dream Run (6.6 km), Senior Citizens Race (4.7 km), Champions with Disability category (2.1 km) and a newly added Open 10K run. Over 55,000 participants including amateurs, fitness enthusiasts and the world’s best distance runners, took to the streets in the wee hours of the morning.

The event is not only the biggest participative sport in the country, but also the single largest fund-raising platform for Civil Society Organisations. Since its inception, the event has raised in excess of INR 266 crores benefitting over 700 NGOs, supporting myriad causes and helping millions in our society, live a better life. People walked for a cause and did so in style. Thousands of participants congregated at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, the starting part of the marathon, early Sunday morning. The marathon has become a platform to highlight causes as diverse as educating children to saving the environment to women/men’s rights and raising awareness about disabilities. The event in essence is about ‘many causes, one run’ and showcases the spirit of Mumbai.

This is my second time here in the Dream Run category…supporting the War Wounded Foundation - a cause very close to my heart. The Foundation has been set up for the long-term rehabilitation of war-disabled personnel of the defence forces. In my mind they are all indefatigable and invincible reflecting the true spirit of die-hard ‘Faujis’. For the last several years, they have been participating in the marathon and slowly but surely the Mumbaikars have started recognizing them.

These are men who have lost their limbs and organs, fighting the enemies of the nation, in different wars that have been imposed by nations inimical to us. There are others who have become disabled in other war like operations, like counter insurgency operations in different parts of the country. These are the men, belonging to the Indian Military, who may have lost a leg or an arm or an eye or more than one limb or organ, but whose spirits continue to soar.

They participate in the marathon so that the people of our country see for themselves that even the loss of a limb or an organ of these brave warriors has no effect on their fighting spirit. The aim of the foundation is to ensure that war disabled persons become productive citizens by participating in the economic development of the Nation, besides being able to supplement their meagre income from pension, and lead a comfortable and respectful retired life.

The war disabled President (Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi) and the Vice President (Maj Gen Ian Cardozo) of the Foundation are senior citizens themselves and always participate with the team but were unable to do so this year due to ill-health. This was naturally a cause for worry but did not put a dampener as family members and friends rose to the occasion and came forth to support the team led by Col. Gulshan. We had Priscilla Cardozo, Zarine Singh, my husband and I in full support. The women marched forward in solidarity, reinforcing the old adage that the key to endurance and strength is a family standing together. Though we don't all wear the uniform, we are all members of the same unit. For those that don't know: both Generals Oberoi and Cardozo lost a leg each in the war, both rose to be 'Generals' in the Army… Always leading their men from the front.

The war disabled hail from all states and union territories of the country. The brave hearts that need mentioning have injuries/amputations ranging from 30% disability to 100% disability: L/Nk Chandrakant Gaikwad, Hav Ashok Kumar, L/Nk Ashok Kumar, Nk Ganpati Jotiba Kharade, Hav Jugraj Singh, Sub Satbir Singh Chauhan, (Hony) Capt Sub P Dhayalan, Sep, Hardayal Singh, Nk Naresh Kumar, Nk Chiranji Lal, and Sep Durga Ram.

It was heart-warming to see people cheering the War Wounded team, interviewing them, thanking them for serving the nation, saluting them and also stopping by to take photos with the team. There were even people who made on the spot enquiries on how they could support the foundation in the future. A nation that doesn’t forget its soldiers will go a long way!

The Mumbai Marathon is not just about running but it is about great triumph, amazing stories, defeating odds and many people, who put everything behind to just run. The spirit of Mumbai on the day of the Marathon was simply electrifying. It is all about the runners, the bystanders, the cheering brigade, the various podiums, bands, performers and the police force in strength that deserve a pat on their backs for carrying out their duties with patience, fortitude and a smile.

For the marathon, people left the confines of their home early in the morning, disregarding the fact that it was a Sunday, just to support the ever enthusiastic and energetic participants. While I am not a runner per se, I would walk any day for however long by the side of a wounded warrior. My batteries are charged and that feeling of exhilaration will keep my spirits high for days to come even in these dull and dreary times of today.

The rush of emotions, the pulsating heartbeats, the vibrant positive energy and the smiles on everyone’s faces are truly symbolic of the triumph felt within the soul of a wounded warrior. An unforgettable event, that left an indelible mark on everyone around.