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Vol. XXIX No. 1, April 16-30, 2019

Chennai – capital of marathons and walkathons

by our Sports Correspondent

A walk to remember those who can’t remember’ screamed a banner carried by a few senior citizens as a part of a campaign by the Dignity Foundation to commemorate the World Alzheimer’s Day, recently. Terry Fox Run is an annual non-competitive charity event held over 600 cities in 53 countries exclusively for funding cancer research. Then there are half marathons, full marathons organised by various bodies to create awareness about some issue or the other. There are also ‘Cyclothons’ and ‘Swimathons’ besides ‘Alertothon’ conducted by an NGO called ALERT devoted to first aid and emergency care training. I am sure there are many other ‘thons’ about which I am not aware of. However, a few weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised to see a small group of tiny tots in their baby tricycles going up and down the Besant Nagar beach holding tiny placards with some slogans. It was appropriately called ‘Kiddathon’ organsied by EuroKids Preschools, a popular play school for kids. It was a cute sight to behold!

As a regular walker at Bessy, as the Elliots beach front in Besant Nagar is popularly known, I witness such events almost every other weekend. Bessy is used either as a starting point or finishing point or both.

When I was going through a recent issue of a local newspaper, I read about seven such events over one weekend in Chennai. Yes, the number of Walkathons, Marathons and Runs have grown by leaps and bounds in the last couple of years that almost every other weekend, Bessy is crowded with enthusiastic citizens of Chennai from all walks of life, of all age groups and all income levels. Chennai can be truly described as the ‘marathon/walkathon capital’. Many come from distant suburbs to participate in such events. The causes for which such events are held are as varied as the kind of people who participate. For most of them it is an interesting outing on a weekend morning coupled with a service objective. After the event many of them, who come with families also spend some time on the beach and patronize the food stalls nearby.

While the events are for worthy causes, the regular walkers who use the Bessy for their morning constitutionals find the events disturbing. Not only the beachfront but also the approach roads leading to the beachfront are blocked by the traffic police for all kinds of automobiles – both the two-wheeler and four-wheeler varieties. The locals, many of them senior citizens, find the events of great nuisance value. They don’t like the invasion of their privacy by ‘outsiders’. Many activists in the area have started protesting to the police and Corporation against granting permission for such events not only because it upsets their routine but also because the crowd leaves the beach front dirty. Bessy becomes ‘messy’!

As one of them, while I have my sympathies with the locals, I do feel that the ‘locals’ cannot claim exclusive rights for using Bessy. It belongs to all Chennaivasis. If some of them want to use it as a venue for group activities, we should not object. They have a right to do so. After all, these activities happen only for 40 to 50 days in a year- the rest of the days Bessy remains the exclusive privilege of the locals. While there is scope for the traffic police to manage the crowds better, I feel we should not object to such events being held at Bessy.

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