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At 6.30 am on Sunday morning, J M Road, Fergusson Road and the other connecting roads that allow traffic to flow towards Deccan Gymkhana, were blocked. Excitement filled the air as thousands of Puneites, all in a variety of tracksuits and sport shoes, rushed to get to Khanduji Baba Chowk for the 27th Pune International Marathon. From toddlers being carried around by their parents to young at heart senior citizens, everyone geared up with orange caps and white T-shirts to run in unison. From a hundred meters afar, one could hear the thumping beats of the dhol, like a call to the marathon. The Shivmudra dhol tasha troupe livened up the atmosphere with their adrenal pumping beats as the runners gathered at various points to get ready for the flag off.
A big stage was set up at the chowk where announcements were made about the flag offs and celebrities like Chunky Pandey, Sai Thanhankar and more waved at the runners as they took off. There was a chaos about where to assemble because the races were divided into different categories on the basis of age and gender.
While some serious runners prepared themselves with quick warm up sessions and stretching exercises just before the race was flagged off, others took it rather easy and jogged as they chit-chatted. It did not matter if you won the marathon or not, what mattered was only that you participated. The marathon was a demonstration of the city's solidarity as thousands of citizens ran together for a common cause.
The charity race, which was a three and a half kilometer run, was the last race of the event with over ten thousand runners. Some of them held posters with slogans and pictures themed on saving the girl child. As the race flagged off, people were still clicking photographs of each other, probably a new 'display picture' or a tag with a check-in update for Facebook. There were announcements made for the crowd to stop clicking and get on with the marathon by a rather pushy announcer for the last race.