In this conversation, Dr. Manoj Soni talks to Deepthi Velkur about the trust and how they went about organizing the Cairn Pink City Half-Marathon.
“Mens sana in corpore sano” – a Latin phrase that translates to “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. Keeping this phrase in mind, the “Anybody Can Run” trust aims to develop a running habit among the rural community of Rajasthan. They plan and organize training camps and events across villages to help build a robust and healthy society.
‘Anybody Can Run’ is a Jaipur based trust set up in 2016 by ace marathoner Dr. Manoj Soni who has been running since 2010 participating in 51 official HMs (including 11 outside India), a few FMs and multiple 10Ks. An ex-banker with multiple leading banks (ICICI, HDFC, HSBC), Dr. Manoj aims to complete 100 HMs by the end of 2020.
In this conversation, Dr. Manoj talks to us about the trust and how they went about organizing the Cairn Pink City Half-Marathon.
FM: By your own admission, you were not the sporting kind in your younger days. What made you choose long-distance running 8 years ago?
Dr. Manoj: In today’s world being healthy is a priority. To stay healthy, I had to do some kind of physical activity – an easy and convenient way was running. Initially, I started with short distances and through training plus taking part in multiple events, I gradually improved my speed, endurance and the will to achieve more. For most runners, all of these factors will ensure you move on to longer distances such as full marathons and ultimately ultra-marathons.
FM: Running is such a popular way for most people to stay healthy. What benefits does running offer that attracts so many people?
Dr. Manoj: As a form of cardio exercise, running is the most easily accessible and is a straightforward way to get the important benefits of exercise. Since it improves aerobic fitness, running is a great way to help improve cardiovascular health. Furthermore, it improves mental fitness, pulmonary efficiency, enhances immunity, weight loss, increases bone density, joint mobility, and stability.
FM: When did the thought of establishing the Jaipur trust “Anybody Can Run” come about? What is the idea behind starting this trust?
Dr. Manoj: The conceptualization of the idea happened about 4 years ago and we finally established the trust in 2016. The main idea was simple – I always felt that running is the simplest form of endurance exercise and can be done by anyone, anywhere and anytime. Hence the name of the trust – ‘Anybody Can Run’ and the tagline – “Chal Daud!”
FM: You are the main organizer for the Pink city Jaipur Marathon. This being your 3rd edition, have you seen an increase in the number of participants 3 years since its inception?
Dr. Manoj: Oh yes! There has been an incremental increase in the number of participants each passing year. The awareness of taking up running as a part of cardiopulmonary fitness has made both men and women across age categories come out in huge numbers and it’s interesting to see people wanting to experiment with all sorts of distances and paces. This year’s edition saw many international, national and Paralympic runners from 30 different states and 12 countries.
FM: For the 3 runs – Half Marathon, Cool run(10K) and Dream run(5K) do you have a cap in terms of registration for each run?
Dr. Manoj: As of today, we don’t. We are still within manageable numbers for each run but with the numbers growing, there will be a time in the not-so-distant future where we will have to put a cap depending on the venue capacity. At the Cairn Pink City Half Marathon, our utmost priority is runner safety and security which means we also want our runners to enjoy the run apart from the health benefit and competitive running.
FM: What measures do you put in place to ensure that all goes well on race day?
Dr. Manoj: Every good running course needs to have some minimum requirements – an AIMS certified course which is closed to traffic, timed runs, a good dry fit t-shirt, and aid stations all the way that stock the necessary items.
I ensure that all requirements for a race such as the pre-race bib expos, race day, post-race refreshments and the medals are in order.
In addition, all registered participants get a t-shirt, timed bib, medal, certificate, and post-race refreshments. On route – hydration, food, medical and sanitation services were offered. An early bird registered participant also got a customized name T-shirt delivered at their doorstep. Our second edition medal secured a place for a lifetime display at AIMS World Running Museum in Berlin.
There were multiple fitness challenges, in addition to stalls from various running-related firms in the BIB expo. In addition to the race kit, all female participants were given an Indian traditional style Kurti along with a gift voucher from “Rama’s”.
FM: Do you run any promotional activities with respect to promoting the event?
Dr. Manoj: Yes, we do have a number of promotional activities all year around. These are related to training, actual races and cycling events. Some of the activities done:
- AU Bank Pink City Great Run organized to promote the Cairn PCHM. The run started from the epic Taj Mahal and ended at Hawa Mahal on December 14th, a distance of 250K ran by 3 super athletes.
- A 750K cycling event organized through the golden triangle in October.
In addition, we do support a lot of social causes especially related to women and children and we are associated with the Swachh Bharat movement. For e.g: we had given 1720 Reebok running shoes to the needy. Along with this, we tied up with Akshaya Patra foundation where every registration meant one free meal for a kid. This ensured thousands of kids will be fed free of cost.
FM: Funding and sponsorship are a challenge for most events – how do you manage to secure this? Who are your key sponsors?
Dr. Manoj: Our event is at par with world standards. What this means is that, be it the race day strategy, pre-race strategy, t-shirts or medals, sponsors are quite willing to be associated with us. Our title partner is Vedanta oil and gas, powered by SBI life insurance and co-powered by Kotak Mahindra Bank. In addition to this, Jaipur Nagar Nigam, Income Tax department and the Rajasthan police also extended their support. Our medical partner was Manipal Medical College who ensured that the runners get the best medical support if needed.
FM: Who are the key team members involved in making this event happen?
Dr. Manoj: The race director of the event is an American investment banker Mr. Roop Betala. He started running at the age of 52 and in five years, he has run a total of 138 marathons across 40 different countries. The running mentor is Tarun Walecha who is a marathoner par excellence and is a great motivator. The brand ambassador of the event was Dr. Leena Baldwa who is a doctor, marathoner, ultra-marathoner and Rajasthan’s first female and India’s second medical practitioner to become an Ironman.
There were female running ambassadors from different states and each one had an inspiring story to share. They all were invited to participate in the event. This is in line with our effort to increase women participation in running events.
Additionally, we had pacers for 21.1K and for 10K categories. All the pacers were spot on as far as the timings were concerned. Pink city runners’ group is a group of like-minded runners with admins like Namit Sharma, Neeraj Parnami and Jinender Soni, where group runs are coordinated and fitness camps are organized in central park free of cost to benefit beginners and get more people motivated to run and adopt a healthy lifestyle.
FM: What advice would you like the runners to heed so that they enjoy the course while staying safe?
- Be consistent
- Choose your race distance appropriately
- Run the pace you are trained for
- Take care of your hydration and nutrition