BENGALURU: Over 13,000 km separate Bengaluru and Boston. But the city in the United States and the IT capital of India share a common connection – a passion for running. On Monday, when the 123rd edition of the Boston Marathon flags off, Bengaluru will have the highest representation from India as 10 out of 55 are from the city.
Apart from the fact that Boston is the oldest annual marathon (first conducted in 1897), what is so special about the race that some wait years to qualify, while some can’t wait to go back every year? Ask any runner and the person will have a clear answer: The experience surrounding the event. The marathon, organised by the Boston Athletics Association in Massachusetts, has such a demeanour in attracting amateur runners from across the globe.
Take for example, seasoned runner Ashok Nath. The 56-year-old will be running his eighth Boston marathon and was there even when the event was marred by bombings in 2013. Yet, this didn’t deter Nath from going back again and again.
“I have run many marathons across the world but Boston is different. You can feel the vibe three-four days leading up to the event. Boston comes to life; restaurants, roadside kiosks and streets will have signages and special discounts,” says Nath.
“People also wear the Boston marathon jacket. They might not have qualified for the current event but that they have done so in the past makes them proud,” he adds.
However, it’s not easy to find a place among the thousands of runners who take part every year. One of the world marathon majors (besides five others), Boston has qualification standards set for every age group. Runners still don’t get a guaranteed start in the race as they are sorted as per their best-recorded timings (Nath’s qualification timing was three hours and 12 minutes at the Berlin marathon last year).
Even if one does manage to get a spot, the extreme weather conditions test a runner’s body to no extent. “But this difficult aspect of the marathon makes it all that more exciting. One has to be ready for anything,” says Nath.
The other alternative to getting a slot is to run for a social cause. Bhumika Patel will be one among those. The 44-year-old IT employee will be running her first Boston marathon as a sighted guide for Erich Manser, a visually impaired runner. Patel has run all but two major marathons – Boston and New York City.
“I had a special place for Boston in my mind. But I always aspired to go there as an official guide to a visually impaired. This way, I can not only fulfil my dream but of someone else as well. This is something I have always wanted to do as this is one of the races, where you can do something more than getting your personal best,” says Patel.