The Bengaluru Midnight Marathon was held Saturday Night. It had been due to be held in December, shortly before my mom had arrived from the US, but had been postponed due to security concerns after the Mumbai attacks. We did not run this year. So for the first time ever, we were water crew members rather than runners.
For those of you who have never participated in a large, organized run before, I’ll explain water crews. Periodically, the runners will come across tables that have paper or plastic cups filled with water (and if the runner is really lucky, Red Bull). They come more frequently as the mile numbers mount higher and in a marathon can come every kilometer or two towards the end. The volunteers running them often stand at the roadside and hold out cups for the participants. As a participant, I have been grateful to them in the past. In fact I must confess that my taste for Red Bull was acquired at km20 of the half marathon event during the 2003 Dresden Marathon. The run route included Whitefield road and there was going to be a water station manned by Palm meadows residents. If we were not running, it was only natural that we would volunteer to be there. We did not stick around all night, but we were there when the 5k community race participants passed.
It was quite an experience to be the guy holding the cups of water for once. It was quite an experience to be doing this in India. I’ll discount the onlookers as swarms of them occur in any case and they are old news:
Firstly, there was the tent at the water station. It was a typical Indian event rental tent with lots of colors, embroidery and a decidedly medieval look. In the west, about the only place you would find tents that look even vaguely like it are at renaissance fairs or a Society for Creative Anachronism event. I see a nice little business opportunity selling Indian event tents to SCA members at a hefty markup.
Secondly, there was the generator. The event was held late at night, so the tent had to be lit up. Naturally this required a generator. The generator involved was a hulking, black monster with something written in Kannada script on it and a phone number (Kannada speakers always write and say numbers in English, but that is a post for another time). Naturally, this hulking, black monster was loud and helpfully emitted a cloud of diesel fumes for the volunteers and runners to breathe in.
Thirdly were the street dogs. Dogs get aroused by the sight of running people. Hordes of running people send them into a tizzy. One of the duties of water crew members at a race in India is to chase, harry and intimidate street dogs that harass runners. It quickly becomes a cat and mouse game. Dog barks and runs into the street to nip at runners’ heels. You yell, it tucks its tail between its legs and retreats. It moves thirty meters away and tries again. Someone throws a rock at it. It moves around to the other side for round three. Daniela chases it into a side street. It sneaks around the water tent and tries a fourth time and becomes a rock target again. Eventually it gives up, sullenly lays down and goes to sleep.
Fourth were the runners. Charlotte was the most popular water distributor on the crew. She was pushy, cute and not distracted playing whack-a-mole with street dogs. She took a couple observations about them that stood out.
- A Sikh man took a cup of water from her and dumped it over his turban.
- One runner took a cup of water from her, stopped, took out his camera and photographed her before continuing. I don’t know whether to be more amazed by the act, or the fact that he was running with a 35mm camera handy.