2020 VIRTUAL BOSTON MARATHON / POST RUN ROUND UP

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

The 2020 edition of Boston Marathon, originally slated to be held in April and later rescheduled to September, was held as a virtual race over the period September 5 to 14. Runners who had qualified to run at the actual event and registered for the same, were given the option of running the virtual Boston Marathon. The Covid-19 pandemic prompted the organizers of the event, Boston Athletic Association (BAA), to convert it into a virtual race.

We spoke to some of the runners from India, who participated in the virtual race. To mention in particular are two points given the run happened in the shadow of pandemic and lockdown had hampered the regular training of runners. The timings reported are decent despite above said handicaps and at least in Pune and Bengaluru, running groups scouted a good location for the virtual run and backed it with hydration support, even some cheering.

Himanshu Sareen (Photo: courtesy Himanshu)

The virtual Boston Marathon was an opportunity for Himanshu Sareen to run a marathon after more than a year. His last marathon was in April 2019. The Mumbai based-amateur runner was set to participate in the Tokyo Marathon, Barcelona Marathon and Boston Marathon in 2020. All these events were cancelled and Boston Marathon was converted into a virtual race. Had the actual race taken place, it would have been his third Boston Marathon.

Himanshu’s training in the months preceding the virtual Boston Marathon was focused on two aspects – general fitness and improving speed. “ My coach Ashok Nath drafted a multi-pronged training plan that incorporated speed, fitness and participation in virtual races,” Himanshu said.

For the virtual event, he chose to run close to his place of stay. “There are two roads of one kilometer each in my neighborhood. My plan was to run on these roads in a loop,” he said. The window for the virtual run spanned September 5 to 14; you could run anytime within these dates.

Syed Atif Umar (Photo: courtesy Syed Atif Umar)

Running on September 13, 2020, Himanshu commenced his marathon a little after 6AM. Initially he had to restrict himself to a 500 meter-loop as overnight rains had resulted in puddles on one of the roads.

“ I ran quite strongly till the 26 kilometre mark. After that I slowed down as I was going too fast. Mumbai’s weather is not conducive for running fast. The second half of the run was tough,” he said. In the early phase of the run, he supported himself with water and energy drinks stationed along the loop. But soon some runners, the security guards of his building and his wife Shweta joined in to help; they handed out hydration. Himanshu completed his marathon in 2:58. He is now set to run the virtual New York City Marathon.

Bengaluru-based Syed Atif Umar had registered to run his first Boston Marathon this year. Like many others he had to eventually opt for the virtual race. Atif has been running for the last 10 years. He has participated in many races including marathons and the occasional ultramarathon.

Tanmaya Karmarkar (right) with Amod Bhate (Photo: courtesy Tanmaya)

He chose to run the virtual Boston Marathon on his treadmill. “ I created a playlist with 42 songs,” he said. He completed the marathon in 2:56:42, a new personal best for him. His previous best for the marathon was 3:01 early this year.

Pune-based runner, Tanmaya Karmarkar had planned to run at a pace of 4.40. She was going as per her pace plan but around the 14th kilometer, she started to feel sick after she consumed her second gel. Her pace progressively declined. Tanmaya switched to water and began to feel better.

A running group in Pune had chalked out a route for the virtual Boston Marathon runners. It entailed running along a flat 10 kilometer-loop. “ Weather was quite hot and humid. We had to keep pouring water on ourselves to stay cool,” she said.

Muthukrishnan Jayaraman (left) with Kavitha Reddy (Photo: courtesy Muthukrishnan Jayaraman)

According to her, the support of other runners and friends was invaluable. “ Many people went out of their way to help me. Even people I met for the first time were all out to support us – I am really grateful and touched by this gesture from fellow runners,” she said. She finished the run in 3:27:43.

Army doctor and recreational runner, Colonel Muthukrishnan Jayaram, decided to run the virtual Boston Marathon in Pune. The city’s weather and the fact that a local runners’ group had organized support for those participating in the virtual Boston Marathon prompted him to travel to Pune from Delhi for the run.

Kumar Rao (Photo: courtesy Kumar Rao)

He started the run at 4.30AM running along the earlier mentioned flat 10 kilometer-loop. After the first loop, he was paced by runners Krishna Sirothia and Kavitha Reddy. “ Although tired, I was happy I did not have any aches and was able to gather pace through the last miles to finish within my intended target,” he said. He finished the marathon in 3:47:43.

Septuagenarian Kumar Rao had trained moderately well for the virtual Boston Marathon. Running on his treadmill, he had a good run over the first 25 kilometers. But subsequently, some stomach discomfort and cramps forced him to mix the running with walking. “ After about 33 kilometers, I began to have difficulty in running tall. I changed my shoes. However it gave me just minor relief,” he said. He covered the distance in 4:24:36.

A notable aspect in Pune and Bengaluru was how runners approached the virtual run in a structured way, finding a good loop that they can run on and then backing it with hydration support and fellow runners to extend the occasional need for pacing and motivation. They even had bibs, banners and an element of cheering. In Pune, a group of runners decided to organize a support-run for those running the virtual Boston Marathon. Kavitha Reddy, one of the country’s best recreational runners, was among those helping out with this informal arrangement. “ It was a small gesture to make it a memorable run for those participating in the virtual Boston Marathon,” Kavitha said. Some of the runners helped in printing flex tapes to impart the feel of a real race. “ It was easy to manage the logistics for this run as the number of runners was small,” Kavitha said.

Deepti Karthik (Photo: courtesy Deepti)

In Bengaluru, Pacemakers, a marathon training group, had been organizing training runs with hydration support for its runners periodically. In August, the group had organized a 21 kilometer-training run for its members. “ These runs were organized primarily to keep the runners motivated,” Deepti Karthik said. Five runners from the group were running the virtual Boston Marathon. The team at Pacemakers thought it fit to organize a similarly supported training run that would also cater to the Boston Marathon runners. “ A couple of runners from outside Bengaluru who were running the virtual Boston Marathon also joined in,” Deepti said. Members of Pacemakers volunteered to manage the hydration support. “ We followed all safety norms needed for this pandemic. We ensured that there was no contact during the handing out of hydration. Also, we chose a route with wide roads and minimum traffic to help maintain adequate physical distance between runners,” she said.

Running in Bengaluru, Deepti commenced her virtual Boston Marathon at 4:45AM on September 13, 2020. Weather was conducive with light drizzle throughout the duration of her run. But she had some stomach issues during the run. Runners were slated to run along a 5.6 kilometer-loop; the loop was later extended to 10.5 kilometers. “ Every 2.5 kilometers, there was a hydration station. Also, volunteers and even people to cheer you on made the entire experience a happy one,” she said. She finished the run in 4:13:31.

Bengaluru-based runner, Murthy R K, decided to run the virtual Boston Marathon near his place of residence at Kanakpura Road.

Murthy R. K (Photo: courtesy Murthy)

He had scheduled his run for September 12, 2020. Founder of Ashva Fitness Club, Murthy and his team created bibs and posters for the run. On September 12, Murthy ran the marathon, supported by many of his team members. But cramps during the run forced him to pause for breaks; he finished in 3:28.

Unhappy with his timing, Murthy decided to make one more attempt two days later, on September 14, the last day of the virtual Boston Marathon. He set out early and opted to run in a new residential area close to his home. He took a break every 10 kilometers.  “ At the 36 kilometer-mark, I began to feel the cramps coming on. I just told myself I have only six kilometers to go,” he said. He finished the run in 3:10:09, a new personal best.

(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)

THE SOCIAL DILEMMA

This image was downloaded from the film’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

It is often said in journalism that the best stories are those that were right before our eyes but missed being told and therefore stayed unknown till reported.

This line of perception works magnificently for the 2020 documentary The Social Dilemma.

We know its subject and core argument well but decline to examine them because we are too immersed in digital world to wish for an autopsy of that existence. You can blame the avoidance of close inspection on convenience, benefits (including monetary ones) accruing from networking, personal benefits outweighing concerns of damage – whatever you want. Fact is the avoidance of seeing our digital world as exactly what it is has created an even greater dearth of articulation around the problems it poses. It is a case of not desiring to talk and therefore, not possessing the means for it. All communication in this regard is still born or ritualistic.

Compounding the issue is the tyranny of life by business model. Business models bring their own compulsions partial to monetization and are often dismissive of humaneness and human interface. Not to mention, the generation bridging world without furious digitization and the one born to it, hasn’t arguably respected its intuition or spoken up enough. Later generations are therefore growing up with the phenomenon of digitization internalized; they are increasingly bereft of alternative perspective.

As some would argue, the core issue in the wake of world swept by technology and money is brutal dominance by one type of imagination. It has become such a plague that countering it is a massive challenge; the challenge begins with the very format for questioning dominance – it isn’t enough that you complain, you must speak the language of those inflicting the damage and present the case for correction in their idiom. This has for long been the gap between problem and solution; the ones experiencing the problems are wired one way, the ones authoring the problems and who are also expected to fix it, are wired another way. The gap has also eroded the merit of intuition, reducing what you feel in your bones to the status of an evolutionary discard. The only way out in this battle of competing convictions is if whistle blowers and other such concerned individuals in the technology-money establishment speak up. They know how their edifice works, what its wiring and jargon are. Getting such folks to speak up and anchor the documentary is this film’s biggest strength. You hear it from the horse’s mouth. Revelations like successful technology managers ensuring that their children have only limited access to mobile phones while the rest of the world bundled as market is encouraged to do the opposite, exposes the hypocrisy.

Not surprisingly, their articulation wouldn’t seem entirely complete in establishment’s eyes. The troubles dissidents nurse about the establishment and the absence of comprehensive solution they hint at betray potential dead end. We are too deep into the tunnel to withdraw; plus let’s not forget – the technology explosion provided real benefits too. So, where do we draw the line and how? Except in the case of one or two of those interviewed, solutions are not forthcoming. But that isn’t bad at all for the questioning and the reluctance to blindly toe establishment’s line that it inspires, are the missing link, the long awaited check. Will it work? Or will it be another call in the dark? Only time will tell. The Social Dilemma is one of the best documentaries in recent times about our digital, networked world and the problems it poses.

This is a very timely film; available on Netflix.

Watch it.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)            

AS PREMIUM BICYCLE SALES GAIN, SCOTT LAUNCHES NEW MODELS IN INDIA

SCOTT Spark RC 900 (Photo: courtesy SCOTT India)

SCOTT Sports India has launched the SCOTT Spark series of mountain bikes in India.

According to an official press release made available on September 16, 2020, the launch includes the SCOTT Spark RC 900 Team, one of the most decorated full-suspension bikes, ridden by the likes of Nino Schurter, a winner at the Olympics, and Kate Courtney, a World Cup champion. “ The bike is a super light, super-aggressive steed that pedals with incredible efficiency and is priced at INR 369,900,’’ the statement said.

The launch follows an increase in demand for performance-oriented premium bikes in the price range of two to ten lakh rupees. When contacted, an official spokesperson informed that while the Spark RC 900 Team is currently available in India, the rest of the models in the range are available on request.

“ We’ve seen unprecedented demand in premium bicycles over the last few months. While fitness is the key driver, a lot of demand is specific to performance and high-quality components, and these bikes cost anywhere between 2 lakhs to 10 lakhs. At SCOTT, we always believe in bringing the best in innovation, technology, and design to someone equally passionate. And that’s why we are planning to introduce a higher number of performance-oriented bikes in India over the next few months,” Jaymin Shah, Country Manager, SCOTT Sports India, was quoted as saying in the press release.

“ We’ve seen an increase in demand for performance-oriented cycles, not only in the mountain bike category but also for road and gravel bike category. For instance, we received multiple orders for the SCOTT Addict RC series that are priced between 5 lakhs to 6 lakhs,” he added.

In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic there has been an increase in bicycle sales globally. Cycling is environment friendly personal transport; it is also an exercise contributing to good health.  Many cities overseas have actively encouraged citizens to cycle and walk instead of taking out motor vehicles.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

C U SOON

This image was downloaded from the film’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

For some time now, Malayalam films have played around with new topics, engaging characters and different styles of narration.

Still I wasn’t sure how I would weather C U Soon, despite the 2020 movie being repeatedly recommended by a good friend. I had heard of its narrative style dominated by computer and mobile phone screens and its largely indoor ambiance. None of this works with me. It’s the sort of blend that triggers a mental claustrophobia. Not to mention, I would be watching it in COVID-19 times after months of being confined to one’s apartment and the immediate neighborhood. Would I want the same restricted ambiance and submergence of life in things digital, served up on screen for my entertainment too? Paradoxical as that may seem, it sums up life over the past several months. If there is anything I want, it is to get out and magically go back to the life I once had.

So it was with much trepidation that I got around to sampling C U Soon one day. As it happened – I watched it in one go. It held my attention. The idiom worked – it was something I didn’t expect; the experience left me amazed. In retrospect, I think it was the novelty of the format, a plot good enough to sustain viewing and a particularly good performance by Darshana Rajendran with Fahadh Faasil, Roshan Mathew and Amalda Liz anchoring the rest that did the trick. It was a taut film with little flab; it sped along under its own steam.

Wikipedia provides the production timeline of the film, described as India’s first “ computer screen film.’’ According to it, in June 2020 Mahesh Narayanan (he wrote the film’s screenplay) announced that his next venture would be an experimental film. The movie would be shot on a mobile phone and the location would be an apartment. Filming was completed in August; the film released on Amazon Prime in September. It is thus very much a child of pandemic and the progressively relaxing phase of lockdown; a milestone of sorts in domestic film making, I would imagine.

That’s more than one reason to see it.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

BLACKKKLANSMAN

This image was downloaded from the Facebook page of the film and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

BlacKkKlansman tells the real life story of an African American undercover detective of the Colorado Springs police department who, along with his colleagues, manages to infiltrate and expose the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). That’s the film’s summary as gleaned from the Internet after I watched it. I saw the movie with no idea of what lay ahead, except curiosity to know what a film with Adam Driver in the lead cast, held. The incredible story was therefore a complete discovery.

Directed by Spike Lee, the film – it won the Grand Prix at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay – is well made with a sense of underlying tension running all through. It features John David Washington in the role of Ron Stallworth, the undercover cop. Although based on the book by Stallworth, the script has plenty of departures from it; there are liberties taken. So what we end up with is a blend of fact and fiction, none of which however, takes away from the utter audacity of the main plot. This is a film about racism; it is also one that exposes the ridiculousness of presumptions and stereotyping. Plus it is a reminder that notwithstanding exposes of this sort, racism continues to tarnish human society.

My first instinct after watching BlacKkKlansman was to search for the 1988 film Mississippi Burning. It happens – you watch one film and then you develop this urge to revisit something similar you watched years ago. My memory of the Alan Parkin classic starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe was frayed at the edges; refreshing it seemed apt. Unfortunately I couldn’t locate it on any of the streaming platforms I have access to. But based on what I remember, my assessment is – that is a film with a more serious, gripping ambiance. It deals with an incident but equally highlights the issue. Spike Lee’s film is more specific to incident and has its moments of abject nervousness and statement of things as they are. But the overall delivery is accompanied by a stylized swag, which even if it is ephemeral and fleeting, tends to somehow sap the gravity of the whole. But it’s an interesting film overall; not to mention – Harry Belafonte in what should to be his first appearance in a feature film since Bobby of 2006.

This is a film worth watching; available on Netflix.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)