Everybody likes a supported event.

A run with adequate water stations en route attracts us all.

A supported event is however different from an event that is supportive.

Photo & imaging: Shyam G Menon

Photo & imaging: Shyam G Menon

While ` supported’ sails strong courtesy its natural drift to commercial format, ` supportive’ rings of relevance that is more central to what you set out to do. The idea of a supportive run acquires dimensions of aiding passage in a way that is directly related to the act you are engaged in. All the support – from gear and facilities to human encouragement – dovetails to enabling the chosen challenge comprehensively. A good mountaineering expedition exceeds being merely supported to being supportive of the quest. `Supportive’ has a touch of attempting experiment; it empathizes with the core pursuit.

From a participant’s point of view, the annual Mumbai Ultra, for instance, could be called a supportive run. Even as it is supported with water stations and snacks like regular organized events, it is additionally set up so that it supports runners seeking to experience an ultra marathon. With medical teams at hand and mandatory check-up after every loop, it provides you a relatively safe environment in which you can conduct the personal experiment of discovering how far you can push your body. And should the ego override common sense and the fool in you take over, somebody assigned the job of remaining sensible stops you. The Mumbai Ultra is thus useful hand-holder. It provides people already into running, an idea of what it means to run for a long time covering long distances. Critically, it does not subject you to stage cut-off times or prefixed ultra distance. Apart from an overall 12 hour-duration, it leaves you to explore.

One good question doing the rounds in the context of ` supportive’ is the relevance of having supported runs across distances other than the regularly heard 10km, half marathon and full marathon. The 10km is a tidy distance; the half and full marathon are known, defined entities. But from 10km to 21km is a leap; it is another leap from 21km to 42km. While purists may have it no other way, are these prefixed distances the only respectable way to graduate from short distance to long? Won’t intermediate distances be a fine way of hand holding aspiring runners in their progression of choice?

Well known ultra runner, Satish Gujaran mentioned this during a recent conversation. According to him, when he was introduced to running in South Africa and starting out as a distance runner, the context he found himself in was rich in a variety of distance races. There were plenty of organized outings offering intermediate distances bridging the gap between the better known, established distances. Further, many events in running also featured an associated event in walking. Back in Mumbai, Satish felt, such bridges were missing or at the very least, not adequately represented in the races / events / simple outings the running community has. While training for long distance runs, Mumbai’s runners have evolved private runs in which atypical, odd distances, which are suitable stepping stones to an eventual long distance in mind, are run with support. However as organized events, these odd distances – or bridge distances – rarely find fancy despite their relevance to the running community. Some events exist but they are a minority compared to the twenty ones and forty twos.

How about some bridges?

(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)

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