One look at Ashok Patil and you'd say he's just another running enthusiast eager to get going at Sunday's Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon. However, Patil's tale is one of grit and determination.
Ashok Patil uses half the money he gets from selling tea
to invest in his passion running
The marathoner is a chaiwallah for the rest of the 364 days of the year. His tea stall in the busy bylanes of Crawford Market earns him about Rs 4,000 a month half of which he invests back into his hobby running. The other half he sends back to his ailing mother in Sangli.
Patil came to Mumbai to earn a living after his father, Shyamrao went missing in the communal riots that shook Mumbai in 1992-93.
"I was nine when my father went missing. We're still not sure if he is alive or dead. My mother then began doing odd jobs back home to support me and my two brothers.
But as she is an asthma patient she couldn't continue for long and began falling ill often. Being the eldest son, I realised it's my time to come to Mumbai to earn and support my family," said the 26-year-old who doesn't have a roof over his head, but sleeps outside a godown at Crawford Market.
Patil was an exceptional athlete in his school days back home and continues his passion even today. He does his training at Marine Drive as early as 5.30 in the morning.
He runs across the Queen's Necklace for over an hour after which he cleans a near by gym before heading straight to his stall where he serves piping hot cutting chai right up to 8.30 pm. Patil has participated in the half marathon across the last three editions of the Mumbai marathon.
He graduated to the full marathon last year. He even won a cash prize at last year's Vasai-Virar Marathon. "I won Rs 7,500 after I finished eighth in the open category of the (Vasai-Virar) full marathon.
I saved that money and used it to participate in the Delhi and Hyderabad half-marathon thereafter. Though I didn't win any money in Delhi, I'm glad I clocked 1 hour, 20 minutes, 11 seconds there," Patil told MiD DAY.
There has been a steady improvement in his timings with each marathon. In the last edition of the Mumbai Marathon he clocked 1:27:53 while at the Delhi Half Marathon he crossed the finish line at 1:20:11. "This time I'm hoping to finish in the Top 10 of the Mumbai Marathon," he signed off.