Anubhav Karmakar (Photo: courtesy Anubhav)

New York City Marathon (NYCM) is one of the six World Marathon Majors. It has the highest number of full marathon-participants. There were over 53,000 runners in the 2019 edition. The NYCM course passes through the five boroughs of New York city. It starts near the approach to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Staten Island. The route then goes along four other bridges – Pulaski Bridge, Queensboro Bridge, Willis Avenue Bridge and Madison Avenue Bridge – before finishing at Central Park. Kenyan runner Geoffrey Kamworor was the winner of 2019 NYCM, covering the distance in 2:08:13. Among women Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya won the race, finishing in 2:22:38. We spoke to a few of the runners from India who participated in the marathon.

Anubhav Karmakar

Anubhav Karmakar was the fastest among runners from India at New York City Marathon this time. He finished the run in 2:41:07, a new personal record. It was however tad short of his target; 2:39-2:40.

“ My training was much better than the race,’’ he said. Anubhav’s training is focussed on improving in every race. He trained 15 weeks for NYCM.

At the start of the race, there was some confusion about where the start line mat was. “ There was no space to move because of the huge number of runners. Then I found my rhythm. But around the 15th kilometer, I had to take a loo break. That once again broke my rhythm,’’ he said.

NYCM, according to Anubhav, cannot be tackled with an eye on the clock because it is a challenging course. “ The bridges are fairly long, sometimes not so steep; sometimes steep. The second half of the race can be run only through feel,’’ he said.

Anubhav pushed hard in the last leg of the marathon. “ I did not feel strong through the race. But when I entered Central Park, I found my pace and went for a very strong finish,’’ he said. Anubhav believes he may have fallen short on nutrition during the race. “ I feel, I had a stronger finish at Boston Marathon earlier this year, although I have a new personal record at NYCM,’’ he said.

In the weeks ahead, he will be racing at Tata Steel Kolkata and Tata Mumbai Marathon. He has an entry to Boston again but his decision will depend on securing a berth at the London Marathon. “ I have also been accepted for Comrades but I have yet to freeze my decision to do the race. I thoroughly enjoy the marathon format and I don’t know if I want to break the momentum and go in for an ultra-marathon at this point,’’ he said.

Vijayaraghavan Venugopal (Photo: courtesy Vijayaraghavan)

Vijayaraghavan Venugopal

Vijayaraghavan Venugopal, 44, started running well before he became the CEO of Fast & Up, a sports nutrition company. He is known to follow a stringent training plan primarily aimed at sub-three-hour finish in the full marathon.

With Fast & Up on a trajectory of growth, the CEO’s schedule has been getting tighter with work and work related travel. “ My preparation for New York City Marathon went off fairly well, though work and travel took up a lot of my time,’’ he said.

At the 2019 edition of New York City Marathon, Vijayaraghavan finished the race in 3:16:07, outside his target of a sub-three-hour finish. “ Up until 30 to 32k I was on track for a sub-three-hour finish but lost the momentum thereafter. I did not have the energy to push for my targeted finish,’’ he said.

Had he maintained momentum till 35-36k, it would have been possible to push for said finish. When he realized that he wasn’t going to get his targeted finish, he took it easy. “ I started walking, though walking a distance of 500 meters felt like 5 kilometers,’’ he said.

Among the six World Marathon Majors, the New York City Marathon’s course is relatively tough. “ It is a technical course with five bridges. Each bridge has a different level of difficulty,’’ Vijay said.

According to him, a couple of factors at NYCM can be testing for runners. The wait before the start of the race can be tiring. Runners are required to arrive at the holding area three hours before the commencement of the race. Also, NYCM has the highest number of full marathon runners. Because of the sheer number of participants at NYCM, you are constantly running with a crowd of runners from start to finish. “ During the first two to three kilometers you are running with a huge crowd of runners, something you see in the half marathon segment of Mumbai Marathon. As the miles go by you run with new groups of runners,’’ Vijayaraghavan said.

At the same time, several other factors make NYCM one of the most coveted marathons. What truly stands out at the event is the massive spectator support with loud cheering. Further in 2019, the weather was quite good with temperatures in the range of 9-11 degrees Celsius. “ It was cold and windy but manageable. There was no rain either,’’ he said.

Analyzing his performance, Vijayaraghavan said his training probably fell short of what was required for NYCM. “ The last eight marathons went as per my plan. I trained well for NYCM but probably my training fell short of requirement,’’ he said. According to him, the key is to train specifically for a marathon.

Tad disappointed with his performance, Vijayaraghavan now wants to enroll for NYCM again to ensure a sub-three-hour finish. With his schedules getting busier, training and racing for a sub-three-hour marathon is a challenge that keeps him going.

Shailja Sridhar

During her school days in Lucknow, Shailja Sridhar never lost an opportunity to participate in sports. She kept her contact with sports alive in the years that followed too. Her foray into running happened seven years ago while she was residing at Gurgaon.

“ My friends asked me to enroll for Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in 2012. Prior to the race, I had done just two runs,’’ Shailja said. In 2013, she enrolled for the half marathon segment at Mumbai Marathon. That year, she also did the Amsterdam marathon. But training was negligible. “ Then I applied for Berlin Marathon through the lottery method. I got through. At this point I realized I must train. I contacted lifestyle coach Purnendu Nath for advice on training,’’ she said. She was able to finish Berlin in 3:52 hours.

Subsequently, she heard about Boston qualifier timings and that engaged her mind. “ One thing about running is that new goals keep emerging all the time. I started training for Boston qualifier levels. I read a lot about various training methods. I also traveled to Kenya to find out how elite runners train,’’ Shailja said.

New York City Marathon went off fairly well, according to Shailja. “ I went with zero expectation. I had no plan,’’ she said. Prior to NYCM, Shailja ran the full marathon at Bengaluru Marathon and Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. At the latter race, she finished in 1:35 and that gave her confidence for NYCM.

She finished New York City Marathon in 3:20, a new personal record for her. She was also the fastest among women runners from India at NYCM. This was her fifth World Marathon Major with London Marathon being the only one left for her, to complete.

Ramesh Kanjilimadhom (Photo: courtesy Ramesh; this picture is from the New Delhi Marathon)

Ramesh Kanjilimadhom

New York City Marathon was his third marathon in three weeks. On October 20, 2019, Kochi-based runner, Ramesh Kanjilimadhom, ran the Niagara Falls Marathon finishing it in 3:28:46. The marathon starts at Buffalo, runs along Niagara River and ends on the top of the falls. “ This one is truly an international marathon. It starts in the US and ends in Canada,’’ Ramesh said. He was completing this marathon for the fourth time.

A week later, he ran the Marine Corps Marathon finishing in 3:30:38. “ Marine Corps Marathon is my favorite. I was running it for the seventh time this year,’’ he said.

The following week he was at the start line of New York City Marathon. “ I had no time target for New York City Marathon. This was the third of my three marathons in three weeks. My training was not adequate,’’ he said. But the run went off quite well for him. He finished the marathon in 3:21:41 and his splits were evenly paced.

“ It was cold at the start of the race but it did not bother me. Later it was quite sunny,’’ Ramesh said.

New York City Marathon is a huge race with over 50,000 runners, all of them running the full marathon distance. Every participant ends up running with a large group of runners all through the 42 kilometers.

There are several hydration points along the route but because of the huge crowd of runners you may miss them. The fact that the next hydration point is not far off keeps you going, Ramesh said. Also, there are crowds of spectators all along the route except at the bridges. “ As you get off the bridges you can see the crowds along the route ahead,’’ he said.

Ranjini Gupta (Photo: courtesy Ranjini)

Ranjini Gupta

Bengaluru-based Ranjini Gupta went through a perfect training plan of 18 weeks in the run-up to New York City Marathon. The training plan was executed to perfection with intervals, tempo runs, fartlek and long runs including hill runs along with strength training. Hill runs were critical for NYCM, according to her.

“ I wanted to train well because the distance should not be a challenge. I initially did most of the runs at base pace and then ran at race pace closer to the event,’’ she said.

But she suffered hamstring tendonitis barely six weeks ahead of the race.  “ I had to do away from hill runs as they were aggravating my injury. I had to rework my training plan,’’ Ranjini said.

New York City Marathon starts on a bridge. “ As soon as I started running uphill, I felt the pain but I was mentally prepared to manage it well. I held my pace and when the pain got worse I would slightly ease my pace but not drop it drastically,’’ she said. She ended the race in 3:39:32 managing a negative split in the process. This was her fourth World Marathon Major with Boston and London Marathon next on the cards.

Sunil Chainani (Photo: courtesy Sunil)

Sunil Chainani

A member of the Ultra Running Committee of Athletics Federation of India, Sunil Chainani, had travelled to Albi, France, along with a nine-member Indian team for the 2019 IAU 24-hour World Championships, held on October 26 and 27. Sunil was part of the support team.

Once done with his work at the championships, Sunil travelled to New York to participate in New York City Marathon.

A former national level squash player, Sunil’s training for the marathon was not adequate because of his tight schedule. “ I came to New York with no expectations whatsoever. I haven’t had a good marathon run in a while because of my Achilles injury,’’ he said.

Though his training was inadequate, Sunil put in a lot of time in strength training. New York City Marathon was his third World Marathon Major. He has run Berlin Marathon twice and Chicago once.

“ At New York, the weather was great and the atmosphere was fabulous. It was a perfect running day. My approach was to run easy. I did not want to put any stress in terms of timing,’’ Sunil said. He cruised along fairly well for much of the distance but started to get cramps in the last 7-8 kilometer-stretch. He then opted to walk and run the remaining distance. Sunil surprised himself with a personal record of 4:12:53 hours. He had improved his timing by 90 seconds.

“ I am pleased with my run. My confidence is back,’’ he said.

(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)


Illustration: Shyam G Menon

Steeplechase, discus, triple jump – not glittering enough for Diamond League

Among the most grueling track disciplines out there, the 3000m steeplechase won’t feature in the 2020 IAAF Diamond League final.  Other disciplines in similar situation include discus throw and triple jump.

This follows the largest consumer survey by the League, which found that the top three most popular disciplines in the Diamond League are the 100m, long jump and high jump followed by pole vault, the 200m and 400m.  “ Popularity of athletes, head-to-head competitions and excitement of the individual competition were cited as reasons for the choice of the most popular events in the largest consumer survey into the disciplines hosted in the IAAF Diamond League. Representative online research carried out in China, France, South Africa and the USA; post-event surveys in Belgium, Great Britain and Switzerland and click-throughs on Diamond League social media videos during 2019 helped guide the Diamond League General Assembly, made up of all meeting directors, to decide which disciplines will be part of 2020 season,’’ an official statement dated November 6, 2019, available on the website of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said.

According to it, as a result of the research, and the decision taken earlier in the year that only 24 disciplines (12 male / 12 female) will form the core disciplines at all meetings, eight disciplines (4 male and 4 female) will not be contested during the 2020 Diamond League season. These disciplines are the discus, triple jump and 3000m steeplechase – three events that currently sit towards the bottom of the research conducted – and the 200m, which the Diamond League organizers felt would be too congested alongside the 100m, particularly in an Olympic Games year.

Following a detailed review of the schedule for the 90-minute broadcast window of the Diamond League, both the 200m and the 3000m steeplechase will be included in 10 meetings (5 male and 5 female) in the 2020 Diamond League season, including Oslo, Rome, and Doha. Two meetings will also feature discus and triple jump (1 female and 1 male). However, none of the four disciplines will feature in the Diamond League Final in 2020, the statement said.

“ Our objective is to create a faster-paced, more exciting global league that will be the showcase for our sport. A league that broadcasters want to show and fans want to watch. However, we understand the disappointment of those athletes in the disciplines not part of the 2020 Diamond League season,’’ the statement quoted IAAF Diamond League Chairman Sebastian Coe, as saying.

“ We want to thank the 10 Diamond League meetings which have found a way to include the 200m or the 3000m steeplechase (male and female) during the 2020 season and the four meetings hosting a discus competition or a triple jump competition. The Continental Tour, an enhanced global series of one-day meetings supporting the Diamond League, will integrate these eight disciplines to ensure athletes get opportunities to compete extensively and earn prize money. We will also work more closely with the athletes in these eight disciplines to help promote them and their events,’’ Coe added.

The highest scoring athlete in each of the eight disciplines named above will win a wild card into the World Championships. All disciplines will be reviewed at the end of the 2020 Diamond League season and decisions on the 24 disciplines for 2021 agreed.

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

The full list of events in each Diamond League meeting will be released shortly. All meetings also have the opportunity to feature additional disciplines outside the 90-minute international broadcast window to cater to their domestic fans and athletics, which will be carried by domestic broadcasters. All meetings, including the final in Zurich, are also looking at innovation around disciplines that can be taken into city centers to attract new fans to the sport.

Details of the Continental Tour will be released later this month.

According to the statement, Diamond League disciplines 2020 (12 male and 12 female) are 100m, 100m/110m hurdles, 400m, 400m hurdles, 800m, 1500m, 3000m, long jump, high jump, pole vault, javelin and shot put.

Earlier this year the General Assembly, made up of all the Diamond League Meeting Directors, had agreed to bring together the very best one-day meetings in a high quality annual international circuit which gives athletes a compelling and rewarding reason to compete; a more consistent, action packed format for broadcasters; and provides fans with a persuasive reason to come back to the sport week in and week out to follow the star athletes as they gain points to qualify for an exciting end of season-final. At the General Assembly on 21 October it was agreed that 14 meetings and a final will make up the 2020 season, rather than the 12 plus a final originally envisaged, given the significant improvement that all meetings had achieved over the past two years and the signing of a title sponsor Wanda Sports, the largest sponsorship in athletics’ history.

Kenyan athletes disappointed

On November 8, the media reported that current world champions in the 3000m steeplechase, Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto and Beatrice Chipkoech, have expressed disappointment in the Diamond League’s decision. They said that the move could affect their career. At the Olympics, Kenya has been the most successful nation in steeplechase.

New world record in 5km-run

Kenya’s Robert Keter upstaged a quality field to win the Urban Trail Lille 5km on Saturday (November 9), taking seven seconds off the world record with his winning time of 13:22, the weekend round-up of road races (report dated November 10, 2019) available on the website of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said.

Lille is a city at the northern tip of France. According to the report, although the race organizers had hoped that Lille’s flat course may see a world record, such expectations were stacked higher well known athletes in the line-up, like world U20 5000m silver medallist Stanley Waithaka, world U20 cross-country champion Milkesa Mengesha and world indoor 3000m finalist Davis Kiplangat. The old mark was 13:29.

Nobody expected “ Keter to sprint away from the field in the closing stages to triumph in a world record time,’’ the report said. The new record is subject to the usual process of ratification. Keter was followed to finish line by Kenya’s Gilbert Kwemoi (13:28) and Stanley Waithaka (13:28), also of Kenya. In the women’s category, the winner was 17 year-old Mercy Jerop of Kenya who covered the distance in 16:21. France’s Fanny Pruvost, 23 years Jerop’s senior, was a distant second in 16:47.

As per the report, the 5km road distance was introduced as an official world record event in November 2017, with the inaugural record to be recognized after 1 January 2018 if the performances were equal to or better than 13:10 for men and 14:45 for women. “ If no such performances were achieved in 2018, the best performances of 2018 (13:30 by Bernard Kibet and 14:48 by Caroline Kipkurui) would be recognized on 1 January 2019. Seven weeks into 2019, Julien Wanders and Sifan Hassan bettered those marks in Monaco by clocking 13:29 and 14:44, times that have since been ratified as world records. Two months later, Edward Cheserek equaled Wanders’ mark at the Carlsbad 5000. Many athletes, however, have gone quicker than 13:22 before the 5km became an official world record event. The fastest time ever recorded for the distance remains Sammy Kipketer’s 13:00 clocking in Carlsbad in 2000,’’ the report said.

Lelisa Desisa, Ruth Chepngetich get 2019 AIMS Best Marathon Runner award

Lelisa Desisa (This photo was downloaded from the athlete’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

World marathon champions Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya are the male and female recipients of the 2019 ` Best Marathon Runner’ award from the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS), a statement dated November 8, available on the website of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said.

“ Their achievements were given global recognition on Friday (8) in Athens, the birthplace of the marathon, at the seventh annual AIMS Best Marathon Runner (BMR) Gala. Desisa and Chepngetich were chosen by the AIMS athletes’ nomination committee as the outstanding candidates for the 2019 awards based upon their performances over the past 12 months,’’ the statement said.

Desisa won the 2018 New York City Marathon before winning the marathon at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 with timing of 2:10:40. Chepngetich is also a world marathon champion, having won in Doha with timing of 2:32:43. In the past year she also added wins at the Istanbul Marathon, the Dubai Marathon (in 2:17:08, the second-fastest time of the year), the Istanbul Half Marathon, the Seiryu Half Marathon and the Media Maraton de Bogota.

According to the statement, the Xiamen Marathon was presented with the AIMS Green Award, becoming the first Chinese race to win the accolade. The race organizers have demonstrated significant effort regarding climate change, waste reduction and environmental awareness. Since 2015, the Xiamen Marathon has donated more than 130,000 saplings to be planted, creating the ` Xiamen Forest of Love.’

This photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of the IAAF World Championships and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

The Harmony Geneva Marathon for Unicef was the 2019 recipient of the AIMS Social Award in recognition of their charitable efforts. Since 2010 the Harmony Geneva Marathon has been in partnership with Unicef, supporting the program ` WASH: Water, Sanitation, Hygiene’ and their sustainable development goal of ensuring access to water sanitation for all. To date the race has financed the installation of 1000 water pumps in different countries. From 2020, the event will support UNICEF Malawi to provide solar water pumps – a reliable, sustainable, user friendly and green technology solution for rural communities. In addition, the race manages a clothes collection point in its marathon village in association with the organization Bilifou to benefit young people in Burkino Faso. This partnership has seen more than 1000kg of clothes collected. Other activities with disabled people and refugees are managed by the organization in order to include everyone in the event.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)


Photo: courtesy Nihal Baig

Mumbai-based triathlete, Nihal Baig, is not new to Ironman 70.3. The Goa edition of this triathlon – it was held in October 2019 – was his fourth outing in that line. He finished second overall including second place in his age category, 25-29 years.

Less than a month before Ironman 70.3 Goa, Nihal participated in Ironman 70.3 World Championships, Nice 2019. Prior to the event in Nice, he participated in Ironman 70.3 Bahrain and Ironman 70.3 Colombo. Of the three disciplines forming the triathlon, Nihal’s strength is in running. Earlier this year, Nihal had finished overall ninth and second in his age category of 18-24 years at Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM).

Here he recounts the training for Ironman 70.3 Goa and how things unfolded on race day.

During my B.Tech and M.Tech days at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mumbai, I was part of the athletics team. I used to participate in races over distances ranging from 400 meters to 5000 meters.

I finished my M.Tech in 2016. But I did not stop running. I continued it on the IIT Mumbai campus thanks to my being alumni. I moved to exploring longer distances, starting with half marathons. Around this time I took up employment in Mumbai. I work as Risk Associate at MSCI Inc. I started cycling to work, a distance of about nine kilometers from where I stay. Over time, I started to go for long rides.

At that time, I had heard about the Ironman triathlon. I was keen to explore it and began learning to swim. In October 2017, I did my first half Ironman distance-triathlon in Hyderabad.

What attracted me to the triathlon was that I got to do three sports in it instead of the usual one. And triathlon is all about fitness and endurance. I love how I get to push myself in these three disciplines. I have a lot to learn. I will keep doing that and try to get better with time.

The Ironman 70.3, also known as Half Ironman, is one of a series of long distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation. Following the event in Hyderabad, I went on to do Half Ironman in Bahrain and Colombo.

Less than a month before Ironman 70.3 Goa (it was the first Ironman event in India) I took part in the Ironman World Championships, held in Nice, France on September 8, 2019.

Photo: courtesy Nihal Baig

I started my training for Nice Ironman in March focusing mainly on swim technique. I trained under coach, Ashutosh Barve. Our weekly training sessions were done at the pool at IIT Mumbai in Powai. Swimming is my weakest sport in triathlon.

I also had to do most of my cycling sessions indoors. I did a couple of outdoor sessions in Pune. My priority for Nice World Championships was building power and learning technical bike skills. After the World Championships, I had all of five weeks to train for Goa Ironman. Of these, the first week was lost to recovery. In the available time, I decided to concentrate on getting more comfortable riding in aero-position. I had struggled with using the aerobars on my bicycle in previous races.

Running is my strong sport. I put in a lot of volume though I was not able to do track sessions because of rain. I was also unable to do speed workout because of a hip abductor injury. I acquired the hip abductor injury ahead of the Nice World Championships. Few weeks before the event, it was quite unbearable. However I recovered considerably as the world championships drew close. The cycling segment was tough, very technical and hilly. There were many sharp turns along the route, not to mention much elevation gain packed into the 90 kilometer-distance. I finished the World Championships in 5:29:02.

I did my training runs for Goa at the IIT Mumbai campus. I am aware of the road conditions there. So it was not difficult training outdoors during monsoon. In Goa, on the day of Ironman 70.3, I woke up early to have my breakfast two hours before the start of the race. At 7:30AM, the race commenced. When we got into the water for the swim segment, we realized there was a lot of sideways current. We were getting thrown towards the rope. Also, it was so crowded that our limbs were getting entangled with the rope. For quite some time I was stuck in one place. The swim segment of 1.9 kilometers was split into two loops. During my second loop I fared better. I did get stuck but I was prepared. During the first loop my pace was 2.35 minutes per 100 meters. In the second loop, the pace improved to 2.12 minutes per 100 meters. I finished the swim segment in 45 minutes and 16 seconds against my target of 40 minutes.

From the swim to the bike segment, the transition distance was about 900 meters. We had to sprint to get to our bikes. But the crowd and volunteer support was so good. Many of them were calling out my name and cheering me. That helped me a lot. I was in a positive frame of mind when I got on to the bike. Suddenly, the disappointment of the swim seemed like a distant past.

I had got myself a Cervelo P4. During the cycling segment, I chose not to use any HR or power devices to track my effort. I just went by feel. We had to cover the distance of 90 kilometers in three loops. I pushed a lot on the bike segment. I stuck to a uniform pace for most part of the race though the road condition was not great. For about 30 kilometers at the end of the bike leg race, I rode with only one aerobar. But the cheering by volunteers and the crowds was awesome. I finished the cycling segment in two hours, 31 minutes and 57 seconds. Although I had done better at Colombo Ironman earlier this year, I would rate the cycling I did at Goa my best so far. Further, Colombo was a flat route with roads in much better condition. My training for Nice certainly helped me at Goa.

Photo: courtesy Nihal Baig

When I finished the swim portion, I was 15th in my age category and 118th overall. At the end of the bike segment, I was second in my age category and seventh overall.

I decided to go hard on the run segment. I was confident of maintaining my position. I started at 3:55 pace and when it started to get hot I slowed down slightly. My pace was between 3:55 and 4. We had to cover the half marathon distance of the run segment in three loops and in each of these loops we had to negotiate a steep and a long climb. At the start of the third loop, I was in fourth position. The person who was leading had to slow down as he had hit the wall.

I finished the Goa Ironman in 4:47:47, placing second overall and second in my age category of 25-29 years.

Going forward, my focus will shift to training for the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon.

(Nihal Baig spoke to Latha Venkatraman, independent journalist based in Mumbai.)


Geoffrey Kamworor (This photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of New York City Marathon and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

Kenyan runners took top honors at the 2019 New York City Marathon held on November 3.

In the men’s category, Geoffrey Kamworor triumphed covering the distance in 2:08:13. He was followed to the finish line by fellow Kenyan, Albert Korir (2:08:36). Girma Bekele Gebre of Ethiopia placed third with timing of 2:08:38. Also finishing in the top ten were Tamirat Tola of Ethiopia (2:09:20), Shura Kitata of Ethiopia (2:10:39), Jared Ward of US (2:10:45), Stephen Sambu of Kenya (2:11:11), Yoshiki Takenouchi of Japan (2:11:18) Abdi Abdirahman of US (2:11:34) and Connor McMillan of US (2:12:07).

Defending champion, Lesisa Desisa of Ethiopia, pulled out at mile seven owing to tightness in the hamstring, a report in New York Post said. Less than a month before, he had become world champion winning the men’s marathon at the 2019  IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha; a race held in very warm conditions and therefore likely physically draining. Kamworor is the current world record holder in the men’s half marathon, a mark he set at the 2019 Copenhagen Half Marathon in September. He had won the New York City Marathon in 2017. Interestingly, according to news reports in September, he consciously traded participation at the Doha world championships for a shot at the half marathon world record in Copenhagen.

Joyciline Jepkosgei (This photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of New York City Marathon and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

Among women, Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya emerged victor completing the race in 2:22:38. Mary Keitany, also of Kenya, placed second at 2:23:32. Ruti Aga of Ethiopia finished third with timing of 2:25:51. Other runners in the top ten segment included Nancy Kiprop of Kenya (2:26:21), Sinead Diver of Australia (2:26:23), Desiree Linden of US (2:26:46), Kellyn Taylor of US (2:26:52), Ellie Pashley of Australia (2:27:07), Belaynesh Fikadu of Ethiopia (2:27:27) and Mary Ngugi of Kenya (2:27:36).

Jepkosgei’s win was noteworthy for the fact that it was her first attempt at the full marathon at a major event. She has been a world record holder in the women’s half marathon and, according to Wikipedia, is the current record holder in the women’s 10 kilometers. Fellow Kenyan, Mary Keitany, who she beat to second spot, was racing for a fifth title in New York.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)


Apoorva Chaudhary (File photo: courtesy Sunil Shetty / NEB Sports)

Apoorva Chaudhary’s performance a new national best for women

Early days yet in the discipline, the Indian team’s participation at the 2019 IAU 24-hour World Championships over October 26-27 at Albi in France was a case of improved outcome featuring new personal benchmarks and learnings.

In the men’s category, India finished in 13th position at the championships; among women, the team placed 15th. “ The team’s performance was reasonably good, overall,’’ Sunil Chainani, member, Ultra Running Committee of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), said. He had accompanied the team to Albi as part of the support crew.

Prior to the 2018 IAU 24-hour World Championships held in Taipei, only one Indian athlete – Ullas Narayana – had covered a distance exceeding 200 km. At the Taipei event that grew to two – Ullas and Sunil Sharma. This number grew further at Albi besides new mark set for women.

At the 2019 World Championships in Albi, among Indian women runners, Apoorva Chaudhary covered a distance of 202.212 km, creating a new national best. She beat her own record of 176.8 km set during the NEB 24-hour Stadium Run in New Delhi in December 2018.

Further, five athletes – three women and two men – achieved their personal bests at the Albi Championships. Apart from Apoorva; Priyanka Bhatt (192.845 km) and Hemlata (173.178 km) among women and Pranaya Mohanty (211.956 km) and Kanan Jain (211.157 km) among men, achieved new personal bests. Altogether five Indian runners – four men and one woman – covered distance in excess of 200 km at Albi.

According to Sunil, Pranaya twisted his ankle but continued to run despite the pain. For Kanan Jain, this was his first international event. Twenty one years old, he did very well for his age and limited exposure at the international level. Sunil Sharma ran very strong at the end of the race though he finished tad short of his personal record.

The 2019 IAU 24-hour World Championships course at Albi, France (This photo has been sourced from the IAU website and is being used here for representation purpose)

Prior to the 2018 Taipei Championships, Ullas Narayana was the sole runner from India covering distance of over 200 kilometers. He had finished with 250.3 km to his credit had secured a bronze medal, India’s first international medal in ultra-running. Unfortunately at Albi, Ullas experienced some difficulties towards the last part of the race. He ran very strong for most of the race and was in 13th position till he had to stop during the last two hours due to cramps. Binay Sah too had to stop running half-way through the race after he felt unwell. “ In a 24-hour race, the possibility of things going not as per plan cannot be ruled out. Other international runners also faced similar issues,’’ Sunil Chainani said.

“ Two of the women runners – Apoorva and Priyanka – were outstanding. Our women athletes garnered much attention from international participants and coaches with their strong running,’’ he said.

At Albi, the runners were required to run in loops of 1.5 km as opposed to 400 meters. “ This had its advantages as well as disadvantages. The larger loop meant that participants did not have to stop often and there was space between runners. But the loop had many sharp turns,’’ Sunil said.

Overall, the Indian team’s performance has been encouraging. Focussed approach to training, nutrition and a camp for ultra-runners held earlier this year may have contributed to the improved performances. Still, there are lessons to take home from these international events. Going forward, a scientific approach to nutrition during the training phase is one element that needs to be looked into more seriously, Sunil said. Also, race strategy must be planned and executed well to improve performance, he felt.

“ In 2019, the presence of Tobias Lundgren, Swedish ultramarathon runner, as a member of the crew supporting the Indian team, helped a great deal in planning the race strategy,’’ Sunil said.

At the Albi Championships, ultramarathon runner from the US, Camille Herron, set a new world best of 270.116 kilometers in the women’s category, breaking her own previous record of 262.193 km. “ Herron’s performance was absolutely outstanding. She was just over eight kilometres short of the winner in the men’s race,’’ Sunilsaid. Aleksandr Sorokin of Lithuania won gold in the men’s race covering a distance of 278.972 km.

Among Indian runners in the men’s category, Ullas Narayana was at 40th position covering a distance of 229.717 km. Sunil Sharma placed 63rd covering a distance of 213.744 km. Pranaya Mohanty finished at 67th position with a distance of 211.956 km and Kanan at 68th with 211.157 km. Binay Kumar Sah finished at 178th position with a distance of 123.856 km covered.

The Indian team at the world championships in Albi (Photo: courtesy Sunil Chainani)

From Indian women runners, Apoorva Chaudhary finished 47th covering a distance of 202.212 km. Priyanka Bhatt finished 59th with a distance of 192.845 km. Hemlata finished 85th with a distance of 173.178 km and Shyamala Satyanarayana 106th with 154.577 km.

In the team championship, US took gold in both women’s and men’s categories. In the women’s category, the US team covered a distance of 746.132 km to secure gold. Poland took silver with a distance of 721.124 km. Bronze went to Germany with a distance of 696.846 km. In the men’s category, the US team covered a total distance of 799.754 km to win gold. Silver went to Hungary with 782.241 km covered while France (779.076 km) took bronze.

According to IAU, the 2019 edition was the biggest championship so far with 45 member federations participating in the event.

(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)