Featured Comments Off on The Elite Athletic talent at the Tata Mumbai Marathon |

The Elite Athletic talent at the Tata Mumbai Marathon

Our Guest Columnist, Pramod Deshpande writes about some of the Elite Athletes who ran the iconic Tata Mumbai Marathon.

The “Maha Kumbha” of running in India, the “Tata Mumbai Marathon” (TMM) is just round the corner. Any endurance runner in India, amateur or elite, always dreams of participating in the Mumbai Marathon at least once in life and many make it their yearly pilgrimage.

The iconic status of this event has multiple reasons to its credit – the legendary support and encouragement runners get from the Mumbaikars, the magnitude of the event itself, the meticulous planning and execution of the event by the organizers and it is also the qualifying event for major events like Olympics, as it is IAAF Road Race Gold Label certified and therefore attracts great running talent.

However, majority of us are not aware of the great athletes who have participated in the event over the years, even the amateur runners who share the space with these great athletes are oblivious to them. I take this opportunity to write about some of the great athletes and their back stories who have participated in the TMM (in no particular order!).

The running standards followed by the TMM are a close match to that of the major global marathon standards. For example, the biggest marathon in the world is the New York Marathon and the course record in the Men’s category stands at 2:05:05 whereas in Mumbai it is 2:08:35. The same holds good in the Women’s category with the course record standing at 2:22:31 in New York and 2:24:33 in Mumbai. Incidentally both these Marathons are sponsored by The Tata group!

With respect to the Indian context, this event has provided a major platform to enhance the standards of marathon running in India. In 2012, the Indian runners managed an unprecedented feat wherein Ram Singh Yadav qualified for London Olympics and in 2016 for the Rio Olympics. In total we had 6 runners breach the qualification mark for Rio Olympics at the TMM event. This included 3 male athletes- Nitendra Singh Rawat, Gopi Thonakal and Kheta Ram and 3 female athletes – O.P. Jaisha, Lalita Babar and Sudha Singh. Just to put things in perspective, the only Indian who qualified for the Olympic Marathon prior to 2012 was the great Shivnath Singh in 1976.

With every edition, Mumbai Marathon has attracted the best international talent right from it’s inception.

In the second edition of the event, we saw Christopher Isegwe who secured the second place went on to win a silver medal in the IAAF World Championships at Helsinki the same year.

The first women to break the 2 hours 30 minutes barrier, Mulu Seboka of Ethiopia has been the most successful women athlete in the Mumbai Marathon winning the race in 2005, 2006 and in 2008. Her illustrious carrier spanned around 12 years, during which she won more than 30 Marathons and half marathons worldwide.

In the 2009 edition, we saw two great runners take the  podium – the winner, Kenneth Mburu Mungara(2:11:51), a great runner who over a decade from 2007 to 2018 has won 17 Marathons across the globe and a hat trick at the Gold Coast Marathon with a PB of 2:07:57. Then there’s John Ekiru Kelai who came third that year but by that time he was the most successful male athlete at Mumbai winning two editions back to back (2007 and 2008). He has achieved 10 podiums across various countries. India is a happy hunting ground for him as he became the Commonwealth champion during the Delhi commonwealth games in 2010.

Dinknesh Mekash is another great marathoner, who has won many marathons across the globe and started her Mumbai chapter by securing the second spot in 2013 and also won two titles in the year 2014 and 2015.

The Mumbai Marathon has had its fair share of maverick runners as well. Evans Rutto of Kenya, is one of them, as his entry into the marathon circuit was quite sensational. In 2003, as a debut runner he won the Chicago Marathon and established the fastest debut world record title by finishing the race in 2:05:50, which remained unbroken until 2017. He went on to win the London Marathon and Chicago Marathon for the second time. Unfortunately in 2005-06, an injury threatened his running career but he bounced back in 2014 with a fast race at the Mumbai Marathon missing the course record by just 1 sec.

Another remarkable female runner, Judit Földing-Nagy of Hungary , stood second at the inaugural edition of the event. She continued running into her latter years as an Ultra-marathoner and at the age of 48 in 2012 secured the 3rd place in the 100 km European Championship and 6th place at the 100 km World Championship in Seregno, Italy.

The Mumbai Marathon has participation and winners from across many countries and like any other marathon world-wide, it was no exception with East African runners dominating the running scene. Interestingly at the Women’s race in the 2011 edition,  we had the Ethiopian runners bag the first 12 positions excluding the 8th position which was bagged by a Kenyan runner.

The story of Indian runners at the Mumbai Marathon has also been quite impressive. From the first edition in 2004, the Indian male athletes have been striving hard to achieve their best results and have improved by  a whopping 11 minutes with Nitendra Singh Rawat leading the pack with a timing of 02:15:48. The women have surpassed the men by 22 minutes with O.P. Jaisha topping the list with a timing of 02:37:29.

The most decorated Indian male runner at the Mumbai Marathon is Binning Lyngkhoi who achieved the first position in the Men’s category in 2010, 2011 and 2013 and a third place in 2014. Among the women athletes, Lalita Babar has been the dominant player at the Mumbai Marathon for years and the fastest among Indian runners in 2013, 2014 and came second in 2015 and 2016. Despite her success in the marathon, she was determined to win a medal across multi-disciplinary events at the Asian Games, Commonwealth and Olympics and switched quite successfully to 3000 meters steeplechase by winning a silver medal at the 2014 Asian Games and a Gold medal at the Asian Championships by setting a record at the Asian and Commonwealth games. She became the first Indian woman to qualify for the steeplechase final at the 2015 World Championship and also became the first Indian in 32 years to enter a final in any track event at the Rio Olympics.

Besides her, other women athletes like Sudha Singh, O.P. Jaisha, Kavita Raut have dominated this event and have also put India on the global map at various international events.

The trio of Nitendra Singh Rawat, Gopi T and Kheta Ram who qualified for the Rio Olympics at the 2016 edition of the Mumbai Marathon, have been interchanging the podium spots between them for the last 3 years. At the Rio Olympics, they have managed to achieve quite respectable positions- 24th and 25th respectively.

It’s unfortunate, that I could cover only some of the champion runners of Mumbai Marathons but I’ll save the rest for another time.

With such a great event in place, I have no doubt that the organizers will have no problem attracting great talent from across the globe.

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

A reputed coach and mentor for the Jayanagar Jaguars and a technology innovation head with a leading MNC who over the past 4 years has trained more than 2500 athletes complete Half-Marathons, Full-Marathons and Ultra-Marathons

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Featured Comments Off on The experience of competing in the Deccan Cliffhanger Challenge |

The experience of competing in the Deccan Cliffhanger Challenge

Our Guest Columnist, Sagar Baheti talks about his experience of completing the Deccan Cliffhanger Challenge.

 

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

This inspiring line from the former first lady of the United States certainly comes to mind every time I think of the ‘Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF)’.

The ABBF is a non-profit organization that promotes inclusivity through adaptive adventure and sports activities for all people (with and without disability).  They achieve this by creating opportunities for people to come together, experience the adrenaline and camaraderie that only sport has to offer.

The ABBF helped bring me and 7 other fantastic individuals come together so that we could have the privilege of competing in the ‘Deccan Cliffhanger Challenge’  this year and I would love to share my journey on this incredible adventure.

A precursor

The Deccan Cliffhanger challenge is a cycle ride that covers a distance of 643KMS between Pune and Goa and all of it to be done in under 30 hours – simple enough, isn’t it? Hardly, but the gorgeous scenery, verdant greenery, and picturesque locales more than make-up for the challenges this ride has to throw at you.

I was looking forward to the day of the race and also to share this journey with 7 other riders who came from Pune, Mumbai, and Bangalore. Four of us had vision disability (Divyanshu, Sanket, Manasvi, and Sagar) being stokers and four captains (Bharath, Nupur, Kailash and Raju).  Despite the lack of adequate practice, we were all super excited to take part in this ride.

Before the race

November 24, 2018. 04:45 AM

I (and the rest of us) stood giddy with excitement at the start point of the Deccan Cliffhanger ultra-cycling race. I was nervous beyond measure as it was my first tandem cycling event and it mattered a lot to me. But, the excitement of being part of a team trying to attempt such a stupendous task quickly overshadowed my nervousness. We were the only inclusive cycling team in the race and I did not want to let my team down.

Race strategy

Divyanshu and Bharat, the most experienced riders started and the goal was to maintain our speed at 25 kmph and we hoped to achieve this by making quick changeovers.
It was also my first experience of a relay race, which requires you to do your assigned part but also being mentally ready to back-up your team members if need be. The crew and support team play a significant role in making sure that we don’t lose time during changeovers and be alert to handle any unforeseen situations that may come up.

The trail and the terrain

This route can be divided into three parts, 

  1. The toughest of all – maximum elevation
  2. Mostly highway with rolling terrain and
  3. Downhill into Goa with a few small climbs.

The good thing about this course is that the most difficult piece is right up front and you can get done with it when you’re fresh. It is key to maintain a decent pace but also, we needed to be careful that we didn’t push too hard as it is a long race.

For the second part of the race, we had to focus on improving our average speed because this is mostly rolling terrain. However, there is a small challenge – it has to be at night! Your tired muscles aside, the chill of the night makes it really easy for you to fall asleep during the short breaks.

The final leg of the race is mostly downhill which is less demanding but after riding all night, staying on the bike is a challenge itself. As the sun comes out, it makes it even harder but you push on knowing that the endpoint is only a few hours away.

So, how did we do?

Our strategy worked pretty well throughout the race. In the first part, which is the toughest, Nupur and Sanket did especially well despite the steep hills and the sun beating down on them. It was extremely demanding on the legs and it left our bodies severely dehydrated. Divyanshu and Bharat kept the pace up as well and supported Nupur and Sanket. In the second half, Kailash, and Manasvi did a great job while Raju and I kept pushing on to improve our the average speed.

There were times at night when some pairs had to continue longer and we had to make changes in pairs to fill in for each other. Our tired legs and minds wanted to rest and sleep, but we backed each other, the crew motivated us and we also had a speaker held out by one of the crew members playing peppy tracks to keep our spirits high. We held on as a few rested so they could come back in the morning for the last part.

It took a near superhuman effort for us to get through the night part of the race but when we turned off the highway from Belgaum to Goa, there was a sudden burst of energy from us. It was almost like the rising sun had healed our tiring minds and bodies.

With the end point a few hours away, we really pushed on and despite being on track for an under-30 finish, we wanted to achieve our best possible timing. We made some quick changeovers and with each passing kilometre, we felt enthusiastic that we were going to achieve something awesome. We finished in 29hours and 38 mins with Nupur, Sanket, Kailash and our youngest rider Manasvi riding past like they were just getting started! Not a single rider or support crew looked like they had been up for the last 30 hours!

It was finally over and time to celebrate!

In closing

In ultra-cycling and relay racing, the crew and support play an important role. Vaishak, Swamy, Tanya, Nikunj, Sandip, Pavan, Jon and all the drivers who formed the crew and support played an equivalent role in helping us achieve this result. We didn’t have to bother about anything other than riding. Nutrition, bikes and our tempers were all managed perfectly.

I enjoyed every bit of it and was happy to play my part. Like any endurance event, it was mind over body and I think that’s why training your mind is as important if not more as physical training. Being part of a team in an endurance event was new to me and was a great experience.

Tandem cycling is very new in India and we have a long way to go. For many serious solo cyclists, tandem cycling still seems like leisure cycling. It requires coordination between two people and that’s probably more challenging in a race setting. ABBF has been and continues to do a great job in promoting inclusive tandem cycling. And with this achievement, it sure will be taken seriously by all other cycling organisations in India.


So, where do we go from here?

This timing helps our team qualify for the greatest amateur cycling event in the world – RAAM – Race across America. It is a 3000-mile race literally all across America!

Will we go for it? Something for us to ponder about?

GUEST COLUMNIST

Sagar Baheti, an amateur runner and cyclist from Bangalore runs a successful import and export stone business. In 2017, He was the first ever visually impaired runner from India to successfully complete the Boston marathon.

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Featured Comments Off on Record Breaking Running |

Record Breaking Running

The TCSW10k saw some new records this year and Deepthi Velkur gets the insights from Procam. 

Bengaluru hosted the 11th edition of the TCS World 10K which is completing a decade this year and is quite a sought-after race in the running world. Approximately 27,000 runners took to the roads to participate in five different race formats. The event offers an unmatched race experience for elite and amateur runners alike. The race was also special because of the all-woman pacer team that was leading the runners.

The Elite Athlete 10K saw 105 athletes from India and all over the world competing for the gold. It included 63 male runners and 42 female runners.

The Elite International Men’s category saw Geoffrey Kamworor (Kenya), securing his third win with a timing of 28:18 mins. Followed by Ethiopian’s Birhanu Legese (28:38 mins) and Mosinet Grimew (28:39 mins). The Elite Indian Men’s saw Suresh Kumar and Man Singh (both at 30:12mins) lead the pack followed by Shankar Man Thapa at 30:41 mins.

The real stars of the show were the female athletes, with all the three international elite podium finishers breaking the previous course record that was set by Lucy Kabuu in 2014. Kenya’s Agnes Tirop and Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi broke the course record with a time of 31:19 mins and 31:22 mins, and a close third was Kenya’s Caroline Kipkirui bagging the bronze at 31:28 mins.

The Indian sensation was Sanjivani Jadhav, who broke the course record after a period of 9 years, with a time of 33:38 mins.

Swati Gadhave and Kiranjeet Kaur took silver and bronze, completing the race with times of 35:08 and 35:25 respectively. The last course record amongst the Indian elite women was set by Kavita Raut in the year 2009 clocking a time of 34:32. All three women showed immense passion and a quest for victory that propelled them forward.

Overall, the runners actively talked about how much they love the TCSW10K as an event. Monika Athare, a former winner of the run and a veteran athlete mentioned that the facilities and the treatment the athletes received at the TCSW10K is unparalleled and that she loves coming to Bangalore to run. Geoffrey Kamworor, who bagged his third win at this year’s race stated that he needs to fall in love with the marathon and the course to do well, which is why Bangalore is one of his favourite cities to run in. Additionally, Sanjivani Jadhav talked about how she specially spoke to her coach and asked if she could come run this year, because she loves the city and the course.

Commenting about the record breaking timings, Procam representatives said, “Having all three women smash the event course record shows the dept of the elite field and the fact that Bengaluru is a flat and fast course for athletes to clock their personal best.  What Sanjivani Jadhav has done today by creating a new course record and a national record is truly remarkable. Her zeal and determination is something that’s wonderful to watch and it motivates other runners to do better and come back stronger. We hope to see her and all the other athletes come back next year, where hopefully more records get shattered, because that is what they are there for.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

 

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