Submitted by alvin on Sat, 2016-07-30 11:30 The moon was still up when we began the race. It was 4.30 am and Chennai had turned into a sea of scarlet, as runners took their places sporting deep red jerseys, already sweat drenched even before the sound of the gong. And I was one of the hundreds of half- marathoners that took the scenic route that snaked along the second longest beach in the world. Dream runners half-marathon was definitely on my wish list of races, but, honestly, I was not prepared for the race this time, not that it is a particularly difficult one but because I was way behind in practice. Then again, life can surprise you. A week before the race, I was down with an awful throat infection and fever thanks to my trip to Goa and getting drenched in the rain. My friends and I were there to surprise a friend on her birthday, and she was indeed delighted that we danced our way into the wee hours of the morning. But high heels and dancing never suited me ever since I embraced running as a sport. By morning, I had to pinch my toes to see if they actually worked, and when I dragged my feet all the way back home shuddering in the rain, my marathon plans were slowly inching its way out of the door. So it was no surprise that my pace had considerably slowed down halfway through the race. The important thing was that I didn’t chicken out on D-day though I knew I couldn’t beat my previous race time. I was still running and wanted to keep running till I crossed the finish line. I had about five more kilometres to go when my toes decided to remind me of the high-heeled dancing I indulged in the previous week. My toes were on fire. ‘I will never wear heels again,’ I decided, though it was a resolution that I was quite sure I would break. I was almost ready to stop running when something happened – something that restored my faith in humanity. A few feet ahead of me was an old man watching a band of runners dash past him. His scrawny frame was the very picture of neglect. Clad in a blue lungi, soiled and torn, he was trembling. But using the strength left in him, he was picking up rubbish from the road just to make sure that the runners would not be disturbed. He saw me and smiled. ‘Run madam. You can do it,’ he said in Tamil. I was touched by the gesture that I least expected and most needed. I ran. And I didn’t stop till I crossed the finish line. I don’t know who the man in the blue lungi was. I don’t know if he has a place to sleep at night. I don’t know whether he gets to eat three meals a day. I don’t know if he is homeless or just abandoned. All I know is that there are still some angels in the world. And sometimes they live on the streets.