From boot camps, run clubs, quirky fitness accessories to hi-tech gadgets and shoes, nomination challenges, sugarcane shots and much more — as the Capital gears up for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, the organisers are keeping no stone unturned. Sangeeta Yadavspeaks to experts who say that India is emerging as the fitness sport nation and marathons have become a fun activity
Running has become an exciting sport in the country and when you do it for a cause, it makes it even more exciting. From schoolchildren to college-goers to parents, grandparents to specially-abled people, everybody is wanting to come together to support the cause of their choice be it Save the Girl Child, or promoting education.
“There are amateur runners aspiring to have a personal achievement, experiencing a sense of satisfaction of completing the run and some come to test their fitness potential. Lot of people come to support the cause and getting a bib (serial tag) and a participation goody bag makes it even more exciting. Then there are professionals for whom winning is a ticket to international marathons. In the process of doing something good for yourself, you end up doing good for others,” Sanjay Swamy, member of Rotary Bangalore IT Corridor, organiser of Bengaluru Midnight Marathon (BMM), says.
Agrees Daniel Vaz, head coach, Nike+ Run Club.
“The reason that more people are taking an interest in marathons is because they see running as a fitness activity which doesn’t entail a gym membership. The only investment is in a pair of shoes and clothes. Most significantly, what people look for is the appreciation in social circles. Completing a 21 km race is a huge feat and this gives people points to talk about in a social gathering,” he adds.
So, be it Ironman Milind Somen, Bipasha Basu, Gul Panag, Neha Dhupia, Tara Sharma, Rahul Bose or Anil Ambani — celebrities have been roped in to promote how to lead a fitter and healthier life and why there is need to participate in such activities.
“Celebrities are not the major reason for which people come to participate in marathons. They simply want to support a cause and if they get lucky to meet a known personality, it’s icing on the cake. It just takes one Sunday to wake up early and unite for a cause,” says Dino Morea.
Such is the enthusiasm to be part of these runs that participation in annual Mumbai marathon has gone up to 50,000. According to research on marathon runners, the worldwide growth from 2009 to 2014 saw an increase of more than 13 per cent, with women taking to running faster than men with a growth of 26.9 per cent as opposed to men’s at 7.8 per cent. Within Asia, India saw an increase of a whopping 154.78 per cent.
“Four years back, there were merely 1,000 marathon runners but, today there are at least 5,000-6,000 full marathon runners. Registrations for half marathons have risen too to 14,000-15,000 participants,” Vaz says.
Meanwhile, a lot of fitness centres have started their own boot camps and run clubs to train the amateurs and with various fitness applications and gadgets, it has become easy to track the progress.
“Run clubs which work with amateur runners and train them have also mushroomed. These are conducted by seasoned runners and national-level athletes. With various apps available for runners like measuring distance, time and option to sync the runs to the GPS enabled fitness watches, running has become fashionable,” Dilip Jayaram, CEO, Procam International Pvt Ltd, tells you.
Today, is the opening of Gurgaon’s first community marathon — Millennium City Marathon — which is organised by engineer-turned-athlete Abhishek Mishra along with Somen. What is exciting about this marathon is that a charity funding for war widows has been introduced. This, the organisers feel, will encourage more women to participate as the registration for them is free.
Interestingly, the organisers are all geared up for next year and planning to involve villagers.
“We want to make the next run more local and introduce Hariyanvi food at every five to 10 km with people standing on the sides playing dhol nagade and dancers grooving to the music,” Mishra says.
Then there is the first midnight marathon BMM, scheduled for December 5. It will run from 6 pm to 6 am the next day and has been certified by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races, besides the International Association of Athletics Federations. This means that the time clocked by runners here will serve as a qualification to run in other international marathons.
To keep up the spirit, organisers are planning a lot of fun and engagement activities.
“At BMM, there will be live music and dance performances, people dressed in cartoon costume, stalls selling lip smacking healthy food, etc. We have introduced a nomination challenge where participants can nominate their friends and family members to run for a cause. We also have contests where the participants will get a chance to have a one-on-one with Mary Kom and PT Usha,” Swamy says.
Adding the fun element to the run means that cities around India have introduced marathons of various hues and every month, there is a different marathon taking place.
“Running is the fastest growing fitness activity with 250 plus races being organised across with distances from 5 km to ultra marathons. The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) and the TCS World 10K Bengaluru are considered as the holy grail of the sport. New destinations have also started coming up like the Goa river marathon, Satara Hill run, Kannur 10K Beach Run, Ladakh Marathon, etc,” Jayaram tells you.
Talking about ADHM on November 29 and what makes it special this time, Jayaram says:
“We will see Michelle Kakade, a 47-year-old from Pune, who has just started the Golden Quadrilateral run which is a Guinness record — a run of 6,010 km across India in 186 days participate.”
He adds that running marathons is a great way to explore a city on foot.
Marathons help set goal oriented fitness targets for runners. The ADHM is one of Delhi’s biggest community events where people from all walks of life come together with a single agenda of completing the 21 km run. The fact that everyone cheers each other the moment one thinks of stopping is just amazing. Marathons are also great levelers as no matter what’s your background, where you come from, whether you are a millionaire or a commoner, everyone’s struggle to run the 21 Km in their target time is a shared battle of will power
– Gul Panag
(The article was published in the Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/backpack/runs-to-remember.html)