'Round Midnight

On Saturday I joined the fray, the great Indian madness and celebration of the Bengaluru Midnight Marathon. This was a sporting event like none other I have ever even heard of. And trust me, I have tried a lot of sports and have been to a lot of meets, matches, games, and "heads" of various rivers. I have flipped, twisted, swam, cheered, run, thrown, rowed, and skiied competitively.

The Midnight Marathon is in just its fourth year of existence. It starts (and finishes) outside an office park just steps away from the housing development where I live. It is several miles east of the city, and not a place that people who don't live here like to come. We are very suburban (sigh). There are several different races throughout the night, the first being the IT City Fun Run, a 5K I convinced about 20 other people to join me in. Some brought their families, some ambled, some strolled, some ran slowly (like me) and some ran like the wind. There were more than 3,000 of us in the event and my friend Malle came in second. Who knew? Her husband was likewise in the top 7 and he RAN the entire thing pushing their baby in a STROLLER. It wasn't even a jogging stroller.

Yet in many ways, Cliff Young had been preparing for this event his whole life, “See, I grew up on a farm where we couldn’t afford horses or four wheel drives, and the whole time I was growing up– until about four years ago when we finally made some money and got a four wheeler– whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 head, and we have 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I’d catch them. I believe I can run this race; it’s only two more days. Five days. I’ve run sheep for three,” he said. His diet for the race was a high carbohydrate intake of ice cream, pumpkin, potatoes, pears, oatmeal, honey and beans.

On Friday night, there were 1500 people signed up. The organizers expected a few more late entries, but not the additional 1500+ who joined up on race day. Fortunately, they were very well organized and come the 8pm start, all was well and we were off with the gun! For those participating in the later events,( and those who finished early), there was live entertainment. Various musical acts performed on a stage at the center of the office park to the thousands who were standing about or sitting in the red plastic chairs that were thoughtfully provided. And of course no marathon would be complete without the traditional opening parade of stilt walkers, drum corps in dhotis, and puppets--at least not in India.

The performers and musicians continued to entertain until well after twelve. And the runners were serenaded with very LOUD pop music every time they finished a 5K lap or were waiting at the Start/Finish as part of a relay or to congratulate a runner. This was still going on when I left at 4:45am. So in case you haven't guessed, the marathon actually DID begin 'round midnight, and I waited as long as I could to support my friend, Asha, who ran it. She lost track of her laps and actually did an extra 5K finishing up shortly after 5am. Even I think that is nuts.

Asha at 4am

But this is India. And if I have learned anything in my nearly year here, it is that Indians do everything their own way. And always in a BIG way. Why should a marathon start at 8 or 10am like so many other places? Midnight, now that is fun! And why not live entertainment, it makes all that hanging around enjoyable. Of course it was catered, fried samosas or spicy curry, anyone? A little coffee before you head out? How about some beetle/pan?

So here's to the Rotary Club of Bengaluru, IT Corridor. You organized an amazing event and gave me an opportunity to try something COMPLETELY different. And even found a way for me to enjoy running, I love parties! You created an event that brought people together to support their less fortunate neighbours and raised a few million rupees in the process. A completely mad event that was madly successful! I can't wait to see what you will pull off next year.