Kolkata Marathon-Royal Bengal Style

When I asked a Bengali friend of mine about Amity Kolkata Half Marathon- he had one response “ Hobo Na”.  I was confused- I protested- what do you mean? I have an online registration for the event, there is spanking new website up and running and inviting registrations. Amity is a known institution backing the Kolkata Half Marathon with scores of other well respected names – so why this “ Hobo Na”.

Like the typical Bengali “Bhadra Lok” he just his moved his head to signal  “hobo na”  and moved on.

3 days to Marathon:

I have stated organizing my running gear. There is still no news from Amity Kolkata Marathon about where I’m supposed to collect my running bib number. The panic is just around the corner.

1 day to Marathon:

I’m yet to hear from Amity Kolkata Half Marathon team. I have reached Kolkata.I have bought ORS, raisins, and banana’s and I’m all set to run but where the hell is my running bib. Panic sets in fully. I go to the website find out a number and call. After perpetual busy signal someone picks up the calls and tells me that I should come 30 minutes early and collect the bib on the race day from the starting point. And “don’t forget the goodie bag” she mentions.

I can’t believe this. Are you joking?

Marathon morning:

The marathon is supposed to start at 7 AM. I get to the location full 1 hour early and guess what. There is a massive queue for the bib- finally I get to the counter and get a bib only to realize that I have got the bob for the wrong race. The guys at the counter had no idea that there are two races today-dream run and Half Marathon.

Finally I get to the right counter only to be handed a timing cheap (god knows how it works) and then shoved me to another queue for the bib and the goodie bag. And these are massive queues. In Kolkata everyone loves to stand in line and coming from Delhi it’s a bit strange.

Its already 7 and the race is yet to start- and now I’m thinking about “ Hobo Na”. Its 7.30 and the race has not started yet.  Some poor guys are still in the line waiting to collect their running bib.

Finally the race starts and oh my god- someone forgot to take care of the traffic. There are buses and yellow ambassadors ready to mow you down and make you part of the tarmac.

I ignore the danger, dodge the traffic and get in my running grove. I had set my mind to finish 14 kms in less than 75 minutes.  Scores of people are overtaking me but I’m so I’m pacing myself- I will give everything in the last 4 kms.

The marathon route is less scenic than I had imagined. There is no victoria memorial or “maidan”  on the way only some weary road and tram tracks right into the middle of it. There are scores of people wearing monkey cap and woolens on the side of the road- no one claps or encourages you as run. They have this look on the face- why are you running and blocking my way. I’m getting late for my “Maach” shopping.

Finally I’m at the 11 km mark and I can’t believe it. Only 50 minutes have passed since I started running- this can’t be true. I’m now on the last stretch called Red road. I’m thinking another 3 kms to go so let me give everything to this. And before I could actually pick pace I can see the finish line and its over. What the heck?  It’s a different matter that there is no finish line just scores of people blocking your way.

Something is not right- I walk over to a group of people who look like runners and one of them takes out his Garmin and declares that we have barely done 10 kms.

I’m heartbroken on being cheated twice- first a half marathon, which is only 14 kms and even that 14 is 10 km. It almost feels like that someone has put more water and less whisky in my Patiala peg.

As I walk back to my hotel trying to comprehend what just happened- and suddenly the true meaning of “Hobo Na” hits me.

This is Royal Bengal run and I’m in Kolkata.


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