They are all running at different speeds and are constantly egged on by bystanders as they approach one milestone after the other: ...1999, 2000, 2001, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and now 2007. While they are running, the bystanders throw in goodies: water, eatables, energy bars and what not. Some are lucky to have things thrown directly at their hands, some grab them, the rest keep running, making do with whatever little comes their way -- if at all.
The bystanders are faceless, formless people but they have names: God, Luck, Destiny, Chance, Kismat. If they are kind to you, you are likely to run the race comfortably. But even they can't guarantee if you will reach the finishing point, for the simple reason that there is no specified finishing point for an individual runner. You could drop down at any point, in which case four co-runners will carry you off the road on their shoulders. Then they will return to the road to resume their run.
This is also the only road where sex happens in the open, amid people who are running and in between people who are running (what fun!). A baby is born, which begins its race in the arms of its mothers and then goes on to run on its own tiny feet. Years pass, and the tiny feet grow while in motion (like the feet of the hero in some of the 1970's Hindi movies), and they too join the race in a full-fledged manner.
Since there is no fixed finishing line, who is the winner?
The one who runs 90 miles slowly and steadily without the help of energy bars? The one who runs through the crowd with dazzling speed, forcing others to slow down and look, but who collapses only after 50 miles? Or the one who somehow gets thrust with lot of energy bars that keep him ahread of the rest of the crowd throughout the 70 miles that he runs? Or the one who manages to snatch some energy bars and chocolates and goes on handing them down to the deprived, without bothering how long he is going to sustain the race?
No easy answer to that. It is like asking if for the small New Year party that you are throwing, whether you would prefer the food to be cooked by your mom or by celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor. But the race must go on. And for the race to go on, each runner must consider himself or herself to be the potential winner, if not the winner.
These thoughts came to my mind because I've been running for exactly 36 years now, and yet another milestone is approaching. Have I fared well enough so far to consider myself a potential winner, or am I a loser? Worse, am I just an average guy?