On your mark, get set... and bang went the gun shot around 6.15 am. The gleam of sunshine was yet to appear but the gala mood had set in. The air above MG Road turned electric when over 10,000 people kick-started the maiden International Kochi Half Marathon from Maharaja’s College Ground on Sunday.
Around 3,000 persons of all ages participated in the event. Besides, the fun run had about 7,000 participants testing their stamina.
A timer vehicle and biking group, ‘Bullet Buddhas’ formed the pilot.
It took a minute for the people sipping their tea and reading newspapers at ‘chai kadai’ on MG Road to realise what the early morning fuss was all about. At once they began to cheer up the runners. This was the spirit throughout the stretch. Receptions were organised for the runners at many spots.
At Thoppumpady, receptions were accompanied by ‘chenda melam’ while bands set to jazz music welcomed the runners at other spots. People thronged the streets to know what was happening.
The runners made their way through Pallimukku to Mattanchery and back in spectacular speed. They reached half-way through at Mattanchery in around 31 minutes. For most part of the run, the Kenyans dominated. Edgar de Veer, director of the Kochi Marathon, was more than delighted on seeing the enthusiasm of the crowd on the street. Women dressed in Kerala saris were seen waving the Indian flag to the Kenyans. Hundreds of labourers of other states at the Matsyapuri colony looked on curiously.
“Usually, such events are conducted in cities like Amsterdam or New York. Kochi has entered this league with this event. The ambience here was just wonderful, with receptions accompanied by drums, DJs and dance. After all, it’s not just about running, it’s about engaging people from all walks of life. There’s reason for the city of Cochin to be proud of today,” he said.
“Internationally, marathons are part of a cosmopolitan culture. We are levelling ourselves to such a league of cities in India. The marathon was chiefly conceived to raise a voice for many causes. Further, a large cross-section of the city participated. I could see people queuing up from 4 am,” said Hibi Eden MLA.
Deputy Mayor B Bhadra said that though the marathon was one of her budget announcements, the support it garnered from the public was amazing.
Kenyans Bernard Kipyego and Helah Kiprop bagged the first prize in the men’s and women’s category respectively. Television personality Rahul Easwar won the celebrity run in which MPs, MLAs, police officials, the Mayor, the District Collector and Corporation councillors took part. Yes, the marathon won the hearts of the city.