The kindness of running strangers

You know Blanche Dubois’s classic line from “A Streetcar named desire” – “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”?

Well, paraphrasing it a little, I have often depended on the kindness of running strangers, and it is one of the aspects of running that impresses me no end.

Never, in my short running career, have I encountered meanness or hostility from another runner.

By and large, people are kind and courteous and, in the big showpiece Indian races, such as last week’s Tata Mumbai Marathon, fellow runners are amazingly supportive.

Take my new friend – now no longer a stranger – Sujit Kurup.

In the final stretch of that long, hot, gruelling 42.195km I did my usual thing.  Ran out of steam agonisingly close to the finish line.  Just could not force those legs to run any faster, felt like throwing up, and then a kind voice at my side started talking to me.

Come on, you can do this, we’re going to finish this together.

A young man I had never met before.

He stuck with me and when I slowed down to a walk, too knackered to run, he slowed down too.

I urged him to go on since I was slowing him down, but he was having none of it.

“I need to walk,” I gasped.

“So we’ll walk,” came the calm reply.

“I feel nauseous,” I whimpered, a few hundred metres further on.

“No worries, slow down, breathe,” came the reply.

Sujit knew the route – which had been slightly altered at the end – and said at one point, “Right, Christine, when we turn this corner, there are less than 300m to go and we are going to run them together.”

But even then, I needed to slow down at around 200m.

So he slowed down, too.

THIS is what I mean by the kindness of strangers.

This delightful young man compromised his own finish time, slowing down in order to steer a wobbly old lady across the finish line – and I rewarded him by sprinting the last couple of metres.

I have NO idea where that last gasp of energy came from, but it was along the lines of “Oh, what the heck, let’s just go for broke,” and so leaving the side of my gallant escort I dashed ahead.

Such is the nature of the man that – as you can see in the photo below – he has a happy grin on his face at my antics.


Happy birthday to a kind no-longer-stranger 🙂

Sujit, you made the end of my marathon memorable.

Thank you.


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