| SPIRITED STRIDE: The marathon torch is held aloft as the run begins on Red Road. Picture by Pabitra Das
It was one Sunday morning not meant to be lazy. For thousands, the early hours of February 19 were all about being on the move ' for Calcutta.
The Telegraph Kolkata Marathon 2006, presented by Exide in association with CII and Athletic Coaches Association of Bengal, saw over 20,000 participants turn Red Road into a sea of white ' clad in the Marathon's official T-shirt ' which flowed through the streets of the city.
Some were there to run, the rest were there for fun. Though the mood was more carnival than competition, there was no escaping the overriding message ' Calcutta's marathon movement is fast catching up with the other metros.
'No one can match the spirit of the Calcuttan,' observed actor Prosenjit, a star attraction at the starting point.
Some who couldn't make it to Red Road stepped out of their homes to cheer the participants as they passed by ' CR Avenue to Salt Lake, EM Bypass to Rashbehari Avenue and Diamond Harbour Road to Strand Road.
The Main Marathon wound through 42.36 km of Calcutta thoroughfares before K.C. Ramu (2:26:09) bagged the crown and the Rs 2.40 lakh prize. 'I am participating in the Calcutta Marathon for the first time, and I am happy to have won it,' said the 29-year-old, who runs 240 km every week.
Last year's winner Bimal Mahato came in fourth, and collapsed from exhaustion at the finishing line.
The Women's Marathon was 10.5 km, with Reena Das (44:40) emerging victorious for the third time in a row and taking home Rs 60,000. The four-km Fun Run was more about being part of a mega event of and for Calcutta that is growing by the year.
The runners were flagged off from the Basketball Grounds on Red Road at 7.15 am. It was all action at the start-and-finish point, with artists led by Shuvaprasanna capturing the mood of the moment on canvas, actors Prosenjit and Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Roopa Ganguly and June, making their presence felt and, finally, Sandeep Vyas rocking the crowd.
'It was as if Calcutta had stopped moving for a while. This Marathon has breathed life into the city now,' smiled Shuvaprasanna.
Police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee added: 'This year's Marathon seems better organised than last time's. We are doing our best to make the run smooth for contestants. We had to make a lot of diversions and a huge force has been deployed.'
But Sunday morning belonged not just to the winners but to every participant. From a five-year-old girl who complained to Prosenjit that she was not being allowed to run by her parents to 23-year-old fashion design student Garima Agarwal, who struggled to finish her first Marathon but promised to be back next year.