Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mumtaz Qureshi conquers the distance - 100 kms

Mumtaz Qureshi and Apurba Dass two runners from Mumbai completed an arduous feat of running 100 kilometres across Mumbai and parts of Thane on Sunday, 8th April 2012.

Starting off on Saturday at 11.00 p.m. from the Bisleri junction at Andheri east on the western express highway, the duo started with Kavin, Atul Tuli for company alongwith Mahesh Gune on the bicycle. Mayank and Aishorjyo were on a car which was carrying supplies like water, Gatorade, bananas, oranges, wafers, boiled eggs, chikkoos along with ice. They ran the whole night upto NCPA in South Mumbai where they were joined by Anand. There was a brief half at NCPA for recouping supplies of water, refreshments etc. and then they started running back along the same route back to Sidhivinayak Mandir. At the Mandir, Mumtaz got the divine presence of his coach Giles Drego who joined him at Prabhadevi along with Mehamood Anwar. From the Mandir, they took a right turn to go past Plaza cinema, Tilak Bridge and Dadar T.T.

At Dadar T.T. which they reached in the early morning on Sunday, they were joined by Mani Iyer, P.V. Subramanyam, Jitendra and Kartik Suresh and here the second car with Mohan Kumar gave company. The second car was also similarly stocked with supplies. By this time the team were running at least 90 minutes late as per the scheduled chart and route map which was carefully planned and made into a nice little booklet by Vikas.

Running down the Eastern Express highway now, they went past Sion and Chembur where they were joined at Chembur by Kshitij Sharma, Sunil Gwalani, Haridasan Nair and a couple of their friends. Giles Drego was running barefoot on that day and being his coach, was constantly encouraging him and guiding Mumtaz. Apurba of course was an old hand at running 100 kms and this was to be his 4th 100 kms run.

I joined at Chedda Nagar, Chembur at around 6.30 a.m. when the weather was still okay and the sun was not out yet. By then the duo had already completed 50 kms and looking fresh as ever. Mani’s mother had got up at 3.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning to prepare a big tinful of delicious idlis with chutnies. This was savoured by the runners at this junction. There were also vadas, wafers, boiled eggs to carbo load for the runners.

Mani had arranged with few of his office friends to come at specified venues at specified timings with fresh supplies of lime juice, water, dates, Gatorade etc., and the first of his friends Pandarinath Savanur and Satyadev Singh came at Kanjur marg junction with fresh & cool lime juice.

The sun was out by then and early morning highway was replete with Sunday cyclists who were puzzled to see a bunch of runners determinedly running – one of them enquired what this was all about and when told that a 100 kms run was on, he said he would have joined the run for 20 kms but not for 100 kms. Mumtaz was looking good at this stage while Apurba was going strong with a good pace.

The lead vehicles were stopping at every 2 kms to give the runners refreshment which was required at this stage because of the heat and humidity. Mayank who was driving the car all night long expressed and got his wish fulfilled of cycling a while on Mahesh Gune’s cycle which refreshed him a lot from the all night stress. It was a good team work going all around.
When we entered Thane, Dinesh Langauni had come with a photographer from Thane Plus to click some pictures and he enquired whether we needed anything specific in terms of supplies and quickly went round and bought a block of ice. The pace had dropped by then because of longish stretches of road with very little tree cover or shade whatsoever along the highway.

When we entered the dreaded Ghodbunder road it was choc-a-bloc with traffic and the space for running was very less what with lots of construction activity going on in the beginning portion of the GB road. By then Varun Joshi had joined us on his bicycle after doing an arduous 60 kms the previous day at Kharghar. Swami joined somewhere along the GB road with Venkat Krishnan for company and he had fresh supplies in his car. So now we had three cars going along and Swami decided to keep the cars at 1 kms distance each because the conditions for running at GB were very tough to impossible. But impossible is not a word which runners understand so there they were running along at slowish pace but the breaks at each water station were getting shorter. There were again few gentle enquiries from people and stares from few others because it was past mid-day and people were probably wondering what we were upto.

Sridhar B came on GB road with lime juice water, dates and brought his mother along for blessings, which was very kind of him. GB road took its toll on the runners because coupled with the hot noonday sun, there was no tree cover anywhere along the road and the road was brutally climbing at few places and to top it all, macadam work was being carried out on one section of the road which was emitting hot fumes from the tar being burnt.

When the runners finally hit the Western Express highway there was relief all round but it was another 16 kms to go for the finish line. W.E. highway again teeming with traffic on a Sunday afternoon but the going was okay at this stage. There was a determination to complete the distance against all odds which prompted both Mumtaz & Apurba to keep going on their feet by taking short breaks.

Pramod Pai appeared somewhere along the Mira Road with fresh supplies of water and most importantly beer cans which was for savouring after the run. So now we had four cars along with the runners. Another of Mani’s friend Nitin More and his brother came at BNP gate with orange Gatorade. There was only 7 kms to go for the finish line and the urgency of the runners were apparent in the determined looks on their faces.

Finally at 4.30 p.m. Mumtaz Qureshi and Apurba Dass reached Aarey check naka at distance of 100 kms from the starting point at Andheri, a staggering 17 ½ hours on their feet. It was a feat of endurance of unparalleled proportions in the deadly heat of April in Mumbai. Both the guys had showed that they were made of steel and the grit, composure and determination showed by both the runners was worth emulating.

The support for this run was magnificient right from the planning stage to vehicles, supplies, co-runners, friends, well wishers etc. coming out to support them. It was a daring plan to run across Mumbai and parts of Thane, so the logistics were to be meticulous, which it was. Exemplary efforts by the entire team of support runners for this event.