Kavitha Reddy (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

In 2019, Pune-based marathon runner, Kavitha Reddy, ran two World Marathon Majors – the London Marathon in April and the Chicago Marathon in October. She finished London Marathon in 3:23:01, a new personal best. Six months later, at the Chicago Marathon, she surprised herself with a finish of 3:14:19, yet another personal record. With these two runs Kavitha has qualified for the inaugural Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group Championships, slated to take place as part of the 2020 London Marathon on April 26, 2020. Its the latest chapter of a story that commenced in 2013 with jogging around an apartment complex.

April 16, 2018. Hundreds of runners wearing several layers of clothing were struggling to cope with the elements in the holding area of Boston Marathon. The weather was dismal. There was lashing rain and strong wind. It was the worst weather in 30 years. Ahead lay 42.2 kilometers of the iconic race. Among the runners assembled, was a homemaker from Pune, getting her first taste of genuinely cold weather.

Born 1974, Kavitha Reddy is currently among the fastest woman full marathon runners in the amateur category in India. Her progress has been impressive considering she had no previous exposure to sports during her years in school and college at Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh. Studies were soon followed by matrimony and Kavitha became a homemaker, traveling with her husband Deepak and residing in various places – Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Gurgaon, Mumbai and finally Pune.

Photo: courtesy Kavitha Reddy

Her foray into fitness happened eight years ago in Pune. It was driven by health reasons. She had a thyroid condition; it ran in the family. “ My mother suffered a lot on account of arthritis and thyroid problem. I did not want to go through that. I therefore enrolled at a gym to keep myself fit,’’ Kavitha said. Life chugged along. Kavitha stayed engaged in her role as homemaker, taking care of Deepak (he currently heads the HR department at Bajaj Finserv) and their two sons. But she longed for something that would be her own, giving her distinct identity apart from the homemaker she already was. When one of her husband’s friends chanced to mention a half marathon in Malaysia, she decided to give it a shot. “ I did not even know the distance. I just felt I should give it a try,’’ Kavitha said.

A half marathon is roughly 21 kilometers. Kavitha wasn’t a runner; she would have to start from scratch. The year was 2013. She started jogging around the apartment complex she stayed in. Next she checked online and found that groups of runners were meeting at Pune’s race course. “ It was sometime in September. Training had commenced in the running community for the annual Mumbai Marathon. I met the runners at the appointed place and time. They were getting ready to do a five kilometer-warm-up run. They asked me to join. I ran the distance and found myself feeling quite comfortable,’’ Kavitha said. She was encouraged to run another loop. “ I went ahead. I didn’t know that someone starting out shouldn’t run so much on the first day,’’ she said. The bug latched on. Running became a part of her routine. She ran with the group once or twice a week; over time she began joining them for Sunday long-runs. Like the popular Bandra-NCPA run in Mumbai held on the first Sunday of every month, Pune has a monthly counterpart reserved for the last Sunday. In January 2014, running in that event, Kavitha covered 19 kilometers. Her first race was a half marathon in Goa in February 2014, availed when there on a holiday. She crossed the finish line in two hours and four minutes, timing that would generally be considered very good for a first time racer. By now, she was training regularly with the runners she had met at the race course. They called themselves Pune Marathoners Club. Started by the late Michael Francis, it has since changed name to Pune Road Runners.

Photo: courtesy Kavitha Reddy

As the 2014 running season progressed, Kavitha attempted her second half marathon – this one organized by Running and Living – at Aarey forest in Mumbai in June. “ There I heard about Hyderabad Marathon. I asked Michael Francis if I would be able to do the full marathon there. I was keen also because Andhra Pradesh is my home state. Michael didn’t say no but he warned me that it would be tough,’’ she said. Kavitha commenced her preparations with a modest training schedule of running three days a week. But she diligently put in the mileage Michael had recommended she do. “ On race day in Hyderabad, up until 30-35 km, the run was good. I had the company of a fellow runner. However the last 10 km was lonely as he had to move ahead,’’ she said. Kavitha finished the run in four hours, 19 minutes and 38 seconds, a fairly good time for somebody running a full marathon for the first time. Although attracted more and more to running, Kavitha had continued her strength workouts, hitting the gym thrice a week. That year, after the Hyderabad Marathon, Kavitha’s foray into running got deeper and toward the latter half of 2014, she participated in four races – Pune Running Beyond Myself, Pinkathon, Pune International Marathon and Goa River Marathon.

The relentless series of races was to prove her first major lesson in running. She completed Goa River Marathon in 2:02:29 hours. “ At Goa River Marathon, I ran the first 16 km well. Then I felt pain in my Achilles tendon and had to walk,’’ she said. Kavitha understood that overdoing things extracts a toll. She had to stop running for two and a half weeks after that incident. She resumed her training for the full marathon as the 2015 edition of the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (now Tata Mumbai Marathon) approached. She did her first run post-injury, in the first week of January 2015. She finished that year’s SCMM in 4:13:06 hours. Now back in the game, her training continued unabated. Her next major outing was the 2015 edition of Bengaluru Marathon, which she completed in three hours, 53 minutes, her first sub-four-hour finish. That race was important from other angles too. It was here that Kavitha first heard about `BQ’ (Boston Qualifier) timing. Bengaluru Marathon was also where she first heard of Pune-based runner and coach, Atul Godbole. The very next month she joined Atul’s Motiv8 Coaching with the aim of getting her BQ, which at that time, was 3:45 hours for her age category. The coaching helped (she has been with Motiv8 since November 2015) but at the 2016 SCMM, she finished in 3:48, missing the BQ narrowly.

Photo: courtesy Kavitha Reddy

In 2016, Kavitha enrolled for the Amsterdam Marathon due that October, aiming to run it alongside a family holiday in Europe. “ Here, I got my BQ with timing of 3:38. That was a new high. I never had any goals. Things just kept happening. I was also learning something new, each time I ran a marathon,’’ she said. By the time she had her BQ in place registration for the 2017 edition of Boston Marathon had closed. So she decided to give New York City Marathon 2017 a try. It would be the first of her World Marathon Majors. This time Deepak’s office pitched in for her; Bajaj Finserv forwarded her application to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), main sponsor of the New York City Marathon. Life as runner has its ups and downs. Kavitha’s outing at the 2017 Mumbai Marathon failed to meet her expectations. She experienced cramps; she completed the race in 3:53. But there was improvement coming up. In November 2017, running in New York Kavitha completed the annual city marathon in 3:33. She followed it up with the half marathon at 2018 TMM where she finished first among women in the age group of 40-44 years (since 2018, she has been running the half marathon at Mumbai Marathon). It was now time to attempt Boston’s iconic marathon. That was how on April 16, 2018, she found herself among the many fighting off the bitter cold at the start line of that year’s Boston Marathon.

At the 2018 Boston Marathon. Photo: courtesy Kavitha Reddy

As the race progressed, many runners gave up. The bleak weather not only forced the large African contingent out of contention but resulted in the slowest winning time of three decades. That year, completing the race was a test of human endurance. Japanese marathon runner, Yuki Kawauchi, was the winner among men; American Desiree Linden topped among women. Kavitha stepped on the race course with several layers of clothing and yet she felt chilled to the bone. She had no previous experience of cold weather conditions apart from India’s winter. “ The wind and the rain were so bad that I actually felt like I was running in the same place and not moving forward. The last mile felt like a marathon in itself. Even though I could see the finish line, strong winds kept pushing me away,’’ she had told this blog then.

Kavitha finished the race with a timing of 3:34:26, a little over a minute slower than her personal best of 3:33:05 set at the New York City Marathon of November 2017. Most runners finished the race way behind their personal best. Many were forced to quit. Kavitha not only completed the race but also got close to her previous best timing. Later that year, she ran the Berlin Marathon, finishing the race in 3:28:29 hours, a new personal best. The streak didn’t end there.

Photo: courtesy Kavitha Reddy

In April 2019, Kavitha ran the London Marathon completing it in 3:23 hours, a further improvement in timing. Roughly six months later, in October, it was time for the Chicago Marathon. She had trained well under Atul Godbole for the race. Her target was 3:15-3:17 hours. During the Chicago Marathon, GPS devices do not function well because the route passes through the vicinity of tall buildings. Kavitha trusted her intuition and internal clock. She had prepared for it. In fact, before leaving for Chicago, her coach had made her run a half marathon in Pune without looking at her watch. In Chicago, till the 27th kilometer, she ran fast and in the process set a new personal record for the half marathon distance, covering that segment of the course in 1:36 hours. “ I felt strong even after I crossed the 35 km mark. I continued at the same pace. The last 600 meters were my best,’’ she said. She completed the run in 3:14 hours, yet another improvement to her PB.

Kavitha acknowledges that the road ahead in terms of running economy will be difficult, though not impossible. “ She is extremely dedicated, focused and disciplined in her approach to running. She follows the training plan diligently, to complete perfection,’’ Atul Godbole, her coach, said. A resident of Pune, Atul was exposed to sports, primarily football, during his school years. He took to running and triathlon in 2003 following his return to Pune from the U.S. He coached amateur runners initially on an informal basis before he set up Motiv8 Coaching in 2014. Atul’s training plan for amateur runners tracks their fitness levels and goals. He also trains runners for the ultramarathon. Atul, 39, believes Kavitha can improve her running economy further. “ She will definitely improve her timing. The progress from here onward may be slow but it is not impossible,’’ he said.

Photo: courtesy Kavitha Reddy

On her part, Kavitha chooses her races carefully. “ I try and ensure that I race only two full marathons every year. After my Achilles tendon injury, I don’t race at all the events. I treat many of them as training runs. I am able to control myself. Podium finishes are not my focus. I don’t want to jeopardize my running career,’’ she said. Of all the distances out there, the marathon is her favorite. She doesn’t think much of the ultramarathon given the decent spot she finds herself in, in the marathon. At the same time, she knows that further improvement in her timing may now happen in frugal increments. Although her personal best is up there with the best woman amateur runners from India, she isn’t young. At the time of writing, Kavitha was gearing up for the Tokyo Marathon of March 2020. Once done with the World Marathon Majors, her next goal would be running marathons on all seven continents. “ I have already covered some of the continents in the process of running the World Marathon Majors,” she said.

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


Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM) is the biggest event in India’s calendar of running events. The 2020 edition was held on January 19. The weather on race day this year was perfect. However the number of runners was high. Soon after the 2020 TMM got over, we spoke to some of those who got podium finishes at the event.

Prahlad Singh. This photo is from the Vasai Virar Mayor’s Marathon (Photo: courtesy Prahlad)

Prahlad Singh

Originally a resident of Pali, Rajasthan, Prahlad Singh took up running as sport to focus on, after he joined the Indian Army.

He has been running regularly for the past four years. The 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon was his first attempt at the full marathon. “ I had a target of finishing in 2:30-2:32. I managed the first half of the race very well finishing in 1:16:51 but could not repeat the performance in the second half because of the crowd of runners. There were too many runners on the course,” he said. This year over 55,000 people were expected to participate across categories in TMM including 9660 runners in the full marathon, 15,260 in the half marathon and 8032 runners in the 10 km-race (actual numbers on race day are usually less than the numbers registered).

Prahlad finished in 2:35:32. He won the amateur category for men and also secured the top podium position in his age category of 30-34 years. Prahlad trains with his army colleagues. His coach is his teammate, Vijender Malik, who completed the full marathon in 2:54:50 to place third in his age group of 40-44 years.

Preity Rai (Photo: Chetan Gusani; photo provided by Preity)

Preity Rai

Twenty-two-year-old Preity Rai, a resident of Darjeeling, West Bengal, had previously participated in half marathon and 25 kilometer-races.

The 2020 edition of Tata Mumbai Marathon was her first attempt at a full marathon. She had worked out a rough plan on how to tackle the race, a new distance for her. Her idea was to do the first half in one hour and 25 minutes. “ I started too fast and then had to slow down. About half way through the race, I found somebody racing ahead of me. That propelled me to push my way through,” Preity said.

Towards the end of her race she looked at her watch and found that three hours and 10 minutes were already past and she had 1.5 km still to cover. “ Volunteers on motorcycles encouraged me to speed up,” Preity said. She finished the race in 3:16:26, emerging overall winner among amateur women.

Preity participates in races primarily for the prize money. “ I was working in a showroom but the long hours impeded my training,” she said. She lives in Dilaram, Darjeeling, with her father. Her only other sibling, a sister, is married and stays away with her family. Preity plans to return to Mumbai to participate in the Maharashtra Police International Marathon to be held on February 9, 2020.

Deepak Bandbe (Photo: courtesy Deepak)

Deepak Bandbe

On November 23, 2019 Mumbai based-ultramarathon runner, Deepak Bandbe, had secured a bronze medal at the IAU 100 kilometer Asia & Oceania Championship held in Aqaba, Jordan. Thereafter returning to India he had been running easy short distances with a view to eventually commence training for the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon.

However, in December he came down with dengue and ended up spending a week in hospital. “ I was in hospital from December 12-18,’’ Deepak said. That was exactly a month before 2020 TMM. Dengue typically leaves people feeling weak. It takes a while to recover.

Deepak’s preparation for TMM was therefore making the best of what he had. In the brief period he had to train, he could manage only one long run – a run of 37 kilometers. “ I felt I can give TMM a shot and so decided to go ahead,’’ he said. He kept a target of 2:35-2:37 hours. On race day, he had a decent run for much of the course and along the Bandra Worli Sea Link. “ The last eight kilometers was tough. It was additionally rendered difficult by the fact that the number of runners this time was high and I had to weave in and out of crowded situations,’’ Deepak said. He completed the race in 2:43:52 to place first in his age group of 25-29 years and tenth overall in the amateur category.  In 2019 he had placed third overall in the amateur category and first in his age group with a slightly better timing of 2:41:38.

Going ahead Deepak will be running the half marathon at the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Kolkata Marathon of early February. After that he will be seen running the 50k at Tata Ultra in Lonavala. He also plans to attempt this year’s Comrades Marathon (despite the name it is an ultramarathon) in South Africa.

The Run Meghalaya team with friends in Mumbai (Photo: courtesy Gerald Pde)

Run Meghalaya

Going home with four podium finishes from the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon, was the six person team from Run Meghalaya. Tlanding Wahlang finished first in the 40-45 years age category of the full marathon for men. With timing of 2:39:09, he was winner by handsome margin. In the 45-50 years age category for men, Gerald Pde secured second place; he finished in 3:01:04. Swonding Mawlong (3:22:30) finished fourth in the 55-59 years age category for men. Snora Lyngkhoi (3:55:14) finished third in the 45-49 years age category for women while 72 year-old grandmother, Kmoinlang Wahlang (4:44:09) retained her first position in the 70-74 years age category for women. Last year, Kmoinlang had completed the race in 4:33:56. Except Gerald, all the runners are from Meghalaya’s Mawkyrwat region, which plays host to the annual Mawkyrwat Ultra. “ This time owing to funding issues we had a small team come to Mumbai. But the performances have been quite encouraging,’’ Gerald said. For Gerald, 2020 marked return to the Mumbai Marathon after a gap of eight years. In 2011, when he first ran it, he had covered the 42km-course in approximately three hours 23 minutes. In 2012, he brought that down to 3:03. “ Sunday’s 3:01 is a personal best,’’ Gerald said adding he seemed to have finally figured out what training and diet worked for him in long distance running. According to him, upcoming races for the runners from Meghalaya include the marathon in Kolkata and February’s Tata Ultra in Lonavala. At the latter, a team of six runners from Meghalaya is expected to participate. For more on Gerald Pde and Run Meghalaya, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2018/03/30/run-meghalaya/

Nupur Singh (Photo: Chetan Gusani)

Nupur Singh

On January 6, 2020, Nupur Singh crossed the finish line of Vadodara International Marathon in a personal best (PB) timing of 3:10:22. She won the women’s open category race.

She was expecting to get close to that timing and maybe even improve it at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM). But that was not to be. “ The first 18 kilometers went off very well. But soon after fatigue took over and I had to slow down my pace,” she said. She completed the marathon in 3:20:59, securing second position overall among amateur women runners and topping her age group of 30-34 years.

In November 2019, returning to running after a short hiatus, Nupur had participated in the 100 km IAU Asia and Oceania Championships at Aqaba, Jordan, in the open category. Following that, she was racing back to back for four weekends before TMM. During the weekend prior to TMM, Nupur attempted the 60km race at The Vagamon Ultrail in Kerala but she had to quit the race at the 32nd kilometer after she lost her way.

“ This was my first experience at TMM. I had heard so much about this event. It was absolutely spectacular with so many people – volunteers, supporters and runners. I have never enjoyed a race so much as this one,” Nupur said.

Over the next two weeks, Nupur will take on the role of an organizer. She will be busy with Deccan Ultra, a trail based ultra-running event organized by Grand Indian Trails (GRIT), of which Nupur is an integral part. In terms of running events, her next attempt will be the 50km race at Tata Ultra on February 23, 2020. For more on Nupur, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2019/12/14/an-aqaba-to-remember/

Anjali Saraogi (left) with Tlanding Wahlang, ultra runner from Meghalaya who was also podium finisher in his age category at 2020 TMM (Photo: courtesy Anjali)

Anjali Saraogi

Anjali Saraogi stood at the start line of the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon with barely two and half weeks of training done for the race. Less than two months earlier, in November 2019, the Kolkata-based long-distance runner had set a national record in 100 kilometers at the 2019 IAU Asia and Oceania Championships held in Aqaba, Jordan.

Beset with health issues, her overall training had suffered through much of 2019. Still, 2019 turned out to be a major year in Anjali’s running career with personal best (PB) timing of 3:14:33 at the Boston Marathon, a robust comeback in the Berlin Marathon after setbacks caused by health and injury and a national best in 100km at the 2019 IAU Asia and Oceania Championships.

“ I had not done any long runs for Mumbai Marathon. I had a target of 3:20-3:25. I was strong till the 22nd kilometer; after that I suffered,” Anjali said. She finished in 3:24:53, emerging first in her age category of 45-49 years and fourth overall among amateur women runners.

“ Mumbai Marathon is my favorite event in India. The atmosphere here is absolutely astounding with so many people on the streets, music bands and live music. The arrangements were excellent and the volunteers did awesome work,” she said. Anjali will be participating in a few running events over the next couple of months until her next major race – the 2020 London Marathon.

Thomas Bobby Philip (Photo: Chetan Gusani)

Thomas Bobby Philip

In 2019, Bengaluru-based amateur runner, Thomas Bobby Philip, had topped his age category for men at the annual Tata Mumbai Marathon, covering the 42 kilometer-course in 2:59:52. In 2018, he had placed second in his age category with timing of 2:57:17.

Bobby’s focus for a while now, has been maintaining the streak of sub three-hour finishes he has enjoyed in the past few years. As with chasing any target, there is an element of favorable circumstances converging for this to happen. The weather in Mumbai on January 19, 2020 – race day – was perfect. Unfortunately for Bobby, a week before TMM, he started experiencing cold, chest congestion and throat irritation. “ I was not keeping well. Things improved a bit by Thursday-Friday and I decided to proceed with my plans for Mumbai. But I wasn’t recovered fully,’’ he said. Result – he finished first in the age category of 50-54 years for men but with timing of 3:07:49. “ When you look at a race, there are two aspects – there is the quality of organization and your personal experience. At a personal level, I didn’t get that sub-three. But the race organization was done well. The overall experience was very good,’’ he said.

Notwithstanding Sunday’s outcome, Bobby believes that maintaining sub-three is a reasonable goal for him. He does not take part in many races. He has been relatively injury-free. “ If all goes well, there is nothing to stop me from pursuing sub-three as goal,’’ he said. Right now however, given the bout of ill health he faced ahead of 2020 TMM, his coach has advised him against participating in the next marathon he had signed up for – the 2020 IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon.  He will be giving that a miss and instead focusing on regaining his health. Once recovered, Bobby’s attention will revert to the annual calendar he has traditionally kept – Bengaluru’s TCS 10K in May followed by a bunch of half marathons to steadily work one’s way up to the annual TMM; and along with that, chasing sub-three. For more on Thomas Bobby Philip, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2016/03/10/in-the-right-sport/

Kavitha Reddy (Photo: courtesy Kavitha)

Kavitha Reddy

Given she is heading for the 2020 Tokyo Marathon, Kavitha Reddy chose to take the Mumbai Marathon of January 2020 as a training run. The Pune-based runner did not have a time target for the race. She also chose to do the half marathon instead of the full. “ I decided to go by feel. It was a good run. I was comfortable throughout the run,” she said.

Kavitha crossed the finish line in 1:36:11, a new personal best (PB) and securing the top podium position in her age group of 45-49 years. “ I deliberately decided to not race this one as I did not want to jeopardise my training for Tokyo Marathon,” she said. In October 2019, she had participated in the Chicago Marathon, where she secured a finish timing of 3:14:19 in the full marathon.

According to her, the arrangements this time in Mumbai were good but there were too many runners at the finish line. “ The finish line shouldn’t be the same for runners of various distances. The organisers need to segregate the finish line for 10 km and half marathon runners,” she said.

Mahipati Sankpal (Photo: courtesy Mahipati)

Mahipati Sankpal

After he turned 45, Kolhapur-based Mahipati Sankpal, turned to walking as means to stay fit. “ I was doing it only for fitness,” he said. Soon, he found a way to make walking more interesting. Every Sunday, he would walk from Kolhapur city to the well-known and popular Jyotiba temple, a distance of 19 kilometers by road and 13 kilometers via a dirt track through undulating terrain.

Over time, he got introduced to race walking and participated in a few local and international race walking events of five kilometers. Some of these were Masters Athletics Association events. Race walking is a technical sport and the rules specify that the athlete must have one foot in touch with the ground at all times so that the action does not become running. Mahipati spent some time understanding the rules of the sport. Done well, race walking speeds are comparable to the progress of amateur marathoners. Along with his race walking Mahipati also started running distances of around five kilometers.

In 2013, Mahipati did his first 10 km race at the Satara Hill Marathon. In the following year, he did a half marathon at the same event. On both occasions he secured top podium position in his age category. In 2015, Mahipati attempted his first marathon at the Bengaluru Marathon. “ I made a major mistake during this race. I did not drink a sip of water or energy drink during the entire 42.2 km. I also did not eat anything. When I crossed the finish line, I was in a completely dehydrated state,” he said. Nevertheless, he finished second in his age category of 55 years and above.

With that edition of the Bengaluru Marathon, Mahipati learnt a lesson about the importance of nutrition and hydration. In 2016, he again participated in the Bengaluru Marathon and finished in top position in his age group of 55 years and above with timing of 3:24:54. That year, he took part in the full marathon at the Vasai Virar Mayor’s Marathon (VVMM) and finished third in his age group of 50-60 years; there was also a slight improvement in his timing to 3:24:25). Retired from Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB), Mahipati continued with his appearances at Satara Hill Marathon, Bengaluru Marathon and VVMM.

Thanks to his growing experience, at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM), Mahipati was well-prepared in terms of nutrition and hydration. He decided to tackle the race in four segments with the aim of covering each of these segments in 50 minutes. He covered the first segment in 45 minutes and covered the half marathon length of the course in 97 minutes. “ I usually get tired after 30-35 kilometers while running a marathon. But this time I did not feel any tiredness. The weather was also much better. I kept sipping water, eating oranges and pieces of jaggery. I finished the last five kilometers very well,” he said. He crossed the finish line in 3:24:16, a new personal record ensuring top podium position in his age group of 60-64 years.

Mahipati, 61, is now well settled into the rhythm of marathon running. However he is unsure whether to continue his journey in running or not. His family is not very keen that he continue racing.

Amar Chauhan (Photo: courtesy Amar Chauhan)

Amar Chauhan

Septuagenarian Amar Chauhan is a regular podium finisher in his age category at running events across India, including the Tata Mumbai Marathon.

He divides his time between Chandigarh and Canada, where his sons live. He arrives in India sometime in September, in time to be ready for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. After a string of races across India, including the annual Mumbai Marathon, he heads back to Canada where he participates in a few races.

At 2020 TMM, Amar Chauhan completed the marathon in 5:04:54, winning his age category of 75 years and above. This time, he finished the run nearly an hour later than his 2019 timing at TMM (4:12:03). “ I ran slowly this year because of health problems. Sometime in December 2019, I had faced heart palpitations and had to undergo treatment,” he said.

Worried that he may run fast, his wife had arranged for a pacer from Chandigarh to ensure that Amar ran slowly. “ The pacer kept asking me to slow down and take breaks at some places. I could have finished the run in 4:30,” Amar – now 77 – said, seemingly amused at the idea of running with a pacer. He had no complaints about the arrangements at 2020 TMM. He carried dates and picked up water and energy drinks along the route from volunteers. This was his fifth age category win at Mumbai Marathon.

Monika Athare (Photo: courtesy Monika)

Monika Athare

Elite athlete Monika Athare, was out of action for over a year due to knee injury. She has just resumed racing. At the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon, she finished third in the women’s half marathon segment. She also placed first in her age group of 25-29 years. A national level athlete, Monika crossed the finished line in 1:18:31. It was not her best timing but was she happy to be running and back in contention. “ My performance at TMM 2020 has helped me regain my confidence. I was laid low by a serious injury in my knee,” Monika said.

The Nashik-based athlete has been actively involved in sports from childhood. She commenced her journey attempting 400 meters and 800 meters. She later moved to 3000 meters, 5000 meters, 10,000 meters and eventually shifted to the half marathon and the marathon. She represented India at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London.

It was in December 2018, that she was hit by severe knee injury and was put out of action completely. “ I have been actively involved in sports for the last 18 years. Marathon training entails a lot of running,” Monika said. She was advised strengthening exercises as remedial measure. “ Strength workout helped me a lot and I have been able to get back to running,” she said. Monika trains at Ekalavya Athletics and Sports Institute in Nashik.

She will now focus on training for the Federation Cup National Senior Athletics Championships to be held in April 2020. She will be attempting the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters at the competition.

Mohamed Idris (This photo was downloaded from the runner’s Facebook page)

Mohamed Idris

“ The weather was fantastic. Coming from Chennai, I really felt it,’’ Mohamed Idris said of race day at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon. In 2019, he had topped his age category for men (50-54 years) in the half marathon with timing of 1:24:38. This year he covered the distance in 1:24:33 but placed second, three seconds behind the category winner. “ It was a good race. I was feeling strong. Running the half marathon in Mumbai is always a privilege,’’ he said. Someone known to race a lot every year, Idris has a few races coming up in Chennai. But he is making a change to his aspirations. “ I want to focus on the triathlon. I did one in 2010 and haven’t gone back to it since. I plan to attempt the newly introduced Melbourne Ironman in November this year,’’ Idris said. For more on Idris, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2016/12/30/life-retired-and-reinterpretted/

Nishu Kumar (Photo: courtesy Nishu)

Nishu Kumar

Twenty-four-year-old Nishu Kumar was a bit late to start his first full marathon at the 2020 edition of Tata Mumbai Marathon.

“ I got caught behind a big crowd of runners at the start of the race,” Nishu, a resident of Vadodara, Gujarat, said. At 2020 TMM, Nishu had a target of 2:36 hours for finishing time. But he ran into a wall of runners at the end of the race too and completed the run in 2:42:55. He won top honors in his age group of 18-24 years and eighth position overall among amateur male runners.

Nishu got into running about five years ago and has mostly been running 10km and 21km races. He was into cricket during his school years and later took up sprinting, participating in 100 meter and 200 meter-races. He trains under ultra-runner Sandeep Kumar, who has represented India in a couple of international ultra-running events. Having finished his graduation in electrical engineering, Nishu wants to do his MBA in sports management.

Dnyaneshwar Tidke (Photo: Chetan Gusani; photo provided by Dnyaneshwar)

Dnyaneshwar Tidke

Towards the end of October 2018, Dnyaneshwar Tidke felt discomfort in his right knee after a training run. An initial diagnosis had indicated the problem as ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injury. MRI scan later identified it as a meniscus tear and Dnyaneshwar had to undergo surgery in November 2018.

In January 2019, he started jogging slowly and over the next few days slowly increased his mileage. “ In February 2019, I did a 20 km run and felt quite comfortable. I decided to attempt the 2019 edition of Boston Marathon as I had already registered for the event,” But shortly thereafter, Dnyaneshwar met with a road accident resulting in a fractured scapula. He was out of action again.

“ I resumed my jogging in May. It was not easy as I had gained some weight due to lack of physical activity. It was a difficult phase for me. During my runs, I could feel niggling pains and aches,” he said.

Although he resumed his running, the overall volume was low. Despite that he got a podium finish in the 10k run at the 2019 Navy Half Marathon, held in November. A month later, he ran a half marathon in Pune and felt fairly confident to go into a full marathon.

“ At 2020 TMM, I had no target. I just wanted to go by feel. I ran the first half of the race comfortably in 1:29 hours. But during the second half I felt tired. I was low on energy,” he said. Dnyaneshwar finished in 3:06:56, getting third position in his age group of 45-49 years. “ It was overall a satisfactory performance as it was my first full marathon after surgery and fracture,” he said. For more on Dnyaneshwar, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2015/04/11/the-constant-runner/

Kamlya Bhagat (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Kamlya Bhagat

We are back at Visava Restaurant opposite Panvel bus depot, a longstanding assembly point for hikers and for this blog, venue to catch up with Kamlya Bhagat and his story in running. It is the Monday following the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM). According to Kamlya, he has run the half marathon at the event four times and ended up on the podium on all four occasions; twice first and twice second in his age category. The latest on January 19 saw him place second in the 35-39 years age category for men. Hailing from financially challenged circumstances and running to make additional money, Kamlya – he now works at a local school – races 3-4 times a month.

Race day this year began at roughly 2.30AM, which was the time he left home 10-12 kilometers away from Panvel town to join his friends driving to Worli in Mumbai for the half marathon’s start. They reached the venue around 5AM; Kamlya did a little warm-up and at the appointed time of 5.15AM commenced running. On his feet was his trademark improvised footwear – a pair of socks, each with an insole inserted inside. Kamlya had a good start. He recalled being out front for some time before a runner from a younger age group joined him. Together, they struck a fairly fast pace. Past 13 kilometers, Kamlya’s pace began to slacken. At around kilometer 16, a runner from his own age group caught up and progressively took the lead. Kamlya finished in 1:18:25 placing second in his age category. “ The race was good. The weather was apt for running and the new start time 15 minutes earlier than before worked well,’’ Kamlya said. The timing was an improvement over the 1:23:09 he registered in 2019, when he had placed second in the 30-34 age category. His personal best (PB) in the half marathon is 1:10, which he earned at a race in 2010 in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai.

Going ahead, Kamlya will participate in the 2020 edition of Tata Ultra Marathon in Lonavala, where he will run in the 35km race. He ran at Tata Ultra in 2018 and 2019. Both times, he got a podium finish in the 35km race; he was first (2:34:50) in 2018 and third (2:30:44) in 2019. Running in the 35km segment, Kamlya is slowly addressing a long held fear that his competence in the shorter distances (where he earns his prize money) may be compromised if he transitions to the longer races. While training for 35km, he puts in a few runs of 30-32km. But he is still hesitant to touch 40km although he suspects he is developing a desire to eventually try a full marathon. He holds himself back because committing to the full marathon typically entails greater expense. “ It calls for good training and a better diet. I eat what is made at home. I have no special diet; I don’t go to the gym. So far, whatever racing I have managed is within the parameters of what I can afford,’’ he said. Still, having come as far as 35km, who knows what the future holds? Meanwhile he is on the lookout for minimalist footwear (size 8) for running; something like Vibram Five Fingers. “ Regular running shoes weigh me down,’’ he said. For more on Kamlya, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2016/01/19/kamlya-runs-his-first-scmm-and-gets-a-first/

Tim Tim Sharma (Photo: courtesy Tim Tim)

TimTim Sharma

Before she got into running, Bengaluru-based fitness trainer TimTim Sharma was into equestrian sports.  Starting at the age of nine, she stayed in the sport for ten years including participating in the Junior National Equestrian Championships. She lost her connection with sports when she moved to New Zealand for studies. A victim of unhealthy lifestyle – erratic eating and lack of physical activity – she had to take control of her life when laid low by digestive issues and multiple stress fractures.

Once she embraced fitness, it was running that helped her get back on track. But she ramped up distances too fast moving from 10k to half marathon and full marathon in a very short period, resulting in injuries. That put her out of action for some time. She chose that time to get into organizing sporting events as a consultant at Neb Sports. She also got involved in cycling and swimming, participating in bicycling events and Olympic distance triathlons.

TimTim is also into traveling. During a journey along the course of River Teesta, she got to spend time at Gangtok. “ From the place where I was staying I could see Kanchenjunga. There was something fascinating about the mountains. I ended up doing my basic mountaineering course from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling,” she said. She followed it up with the advanced course in mountaineering.

She resumed running with the 2019 edition of IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon. She topped her age category (30-35 years) in the half marathon with timing of 1:39:11. In May, she ran the TCS World 10k in Bengaluru and secured a second position in her age group of 35-39 and overall 11th place among women runners with timing of 44:54 minutes.

At TMM 2020, she completed the marathon in 3:30:21 winning her age category (35-39 years) and finishing overall eighth position among women runners. In the weeks ahead, TimTim is likely to participate in the Maharashtra Police International Marathon and Tata Ultra, both events slated for February 2020.

Ashok Nath (Photo: courtesy Ashok)

Ashok Nath

Based in Bengaluru, runner and coach Ashok Nath is a regular podium finisher at races. At 2020 TMM Ashok finished the marathon in 3:13:34 securing second position in his age group of 55-59 years. “ I neither train too much nor do I push too hard in a race,” he said. Given his responsbilities as coach and the time that role consumes, it is not always possible to put in the apt mileage and effort in his own training.

Ashok has been running for several years and has participated in the Boston Marathon and Comrades Marathon multiple times. He has already earned the six-star World Marathon Majors medal. At 2020 TMM, Ashok was not affected by the crowd of runners cited by many as a problem. “ At the start of the race, I did find some crowding and may have lost a minute negotiating passage between slow runners. But I did not face unusual crowds through the route until the last 500 meters. It was extremely crowded after the finish line,” he said.

The post-race management was executed badly, he pointed out. “ So many runners were finishing at the same time. The organizers should have foreseen this and managed accordingly,” Ashok said adding that such arrangements were totally unacceptable at a World Athletics Gold Label race.

Ashok is likely to attempt the New Delhi Marathon in February. Following that he will head for the London Marathon as he has qualified for the Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Championships.

Shilpi Sahu (Photo: courtesy Shilpi)

Shilpi Sahu

A barefoot runner, Shilpi Sahu commenced her race at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon, at a slow pace. She did so because of the big crowd of runners. “ Once midway I picked up speed as I felt quite good,” she said.

The Bengaluru-based runner had a target of 3:30 hours but well into the race she realized that she would not be able to achieve it. She finished the race in 3:32:21, a personal best (PB) for her. It fetched her the top podium position in her age group of 40-44 years and tenth place overall among amateur women runners. “ I also managed a four minute negative split,” Shilpi said. As a barefoot runner, she did find the road surface tough because of the ongoing metro construction work.

According to her, the organization of the race was very good but the use of plastic remained high. “ I hope TMM organizers think seriously about reducing single use plastic bottles for the 21 km, 10 km and the Dream run by at least 50 per cent and by 100 per cent at the venue. I saw many runners take a sip and throw away the bottle. In the process, there is plastic being dumped and water being wasted,” she said.

The refill option should be encouraged, she said.

Chitra Nadkarni (Photo: courtesy Chitra)

Chitra Nadkarni

At the Adani Ahmedabad Marathon held in November 2019, Mumbai-based Chitra Nadkarni had secured top podium position in the age category of 51 years and above with timing of 4:09:11.

For 2020 TMM, she decided not to have a timing target as the race she is focused on is the 2020 Tokyo Marathon to be held in March. “ At TMM, I decided to run between the 4-hour and 4:15-hour pacers. The 4-hour pacer, Anirudha Athani, was very good. I kept pace with him for most part but could not manage to do so during the last two to three kilometers,” Chitra said. She finished in 4:01:12; it fetched her top podium position in her age group of 55-59 years.

“ I had a good run but the post-race arrangements were bad. It was chaotic and crowded at the finish line,” she said. She will now head for the Tokyo Marathon – it is one of the six World Marathon Majors – to be held on March 1, 2020. “ I am looking forward to my six-star medal,” she said. For more on Chitra Nadkarni, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2017/04/08/starting-line-50/

Kumar Rao (Photo: courtesy Kumar Rao)

Kumar Rao

Kumar Rao, 70, chose to make the 2020 TMM 2020 a training run for his upcoming participation in the 2020 Boston Marathon.

“ My plan was to run the first five kilometers as warm up, the next 30 as tempo run divided into three segments of 10km each and the last 7.2km as cool down run. Of the three segments of tempo run, I ran one of them at Boston target pace,” Kumar said.

He stuck to the plan for most part but stepped up the pace during the last two km.

Kumar had set a target of 4:15 as per his plan but finished in 4:12:28, securing the top podium position in his age group of 70-74 years. “ The podium has come as a bonus. I did not expect it,” he said. In December 2019, Kumar Rao had participated in Tata Steel 25k and won an age category podium with timing of 2.12.39. “ With TMM 2020, I have completed the Procam Slam,” he said.

In April 2020, Kumar will be running Boston Marathon for the second time. Last year, Kumar secured his personal best timing of 3:59:33 at Boston Marathon. He had followed it up with Big Sur International Marathon in California. Later, in September, he secured his six star World Marathon Majors medal after he completed all six marathon majors at Berlin Marathon.

Tanmaya Karmarkar (Photo: courtesy Tanmaya)

Tanmaya Karmarkar

In the run up to the annual Mumbai Marathon, Tanmaya Karmarkar’s training was largely focused on the 2020 Tokyo Marathon. Nevertheless, she managed to put in some dedicated training for TMM. “ For the last one month, I focused on half marathon training,” the Pune-based runner said.

At Mumbai, she hoped to finish in around 1:38 hours, her personal best in the half marathon. She finished tad outside that mark in 1:39:26 and secured second position in her age group of 40-44 years. Her run progressed well but at the seventh kilometer she lost the cap of her water bottle and got distracted managing a bottle with water splashing out of it.

“ I could have done better but I goofed up a bit on hydration,” she said. Tanmaya found the arrangements at 2020 TMM fairly good and did not have the difficulties that many runners, who finished later, faced at the finish line. She will now focus her attention on training for the Tokyo Marathon.

Dr Arati Gaikwad (Photo: courtesy Arati)

Arati Gaikwad

Sometime in May 2019, Dr Arati Gaikwad felt a tingling numbness in her left leg. “ I could not get up from my bed the normal way. I had pain in my right hip and a tingling feeling in my leg. I knew that the tingling feeling was not a good sign. It meant some nerve was getting pinched,” she said.

Arati and her husband, Dr Pravin Gaikwad, pediatricians and amateur runners (Pravin is also a coach; he is prime mover at Navi Mumbai based-Life Pacers), decided to consult an orthopedic surgeon for correct diagnosis of the problem. Following x-ray and MRI, it was diagnosed as congenital spondylolisthesis of L4 over L5. This is a spinal disorder in which the vertebra slips forward on to the bone below it.

Arati was distraught as she had to stop running. “ The first half hour after waking up was torture for me. I was worried if this problem would completely impact my physical activity,” she said. Thankfully, she was allowed to go for walks.

Typically, this condition is diagnosed in the thirties. The fact that Arati’s condition came to the fore in her fifties is a measure of her fitness level. Arati has been quite focused on physical fitness since her medical college days and has been actively involved in endurance sport including running, triathlon, cycling and swimming for the past several years.

The recommended line of treatment for this condition was strength training, core workout, stretching and a healthy lifestyle. “ Initially, I had to do half hour of stretching while lying on the bed before I got up,” she said. With consistent strength training, Arati was able to mitigate her pain.

“ At the time of registering for Mumbai Marathon, I was not sure if I could run a half marathon. That’s the reason I registered for the 10km race,” Arati said. She finished the 10km race at 2020 TMM in 58 minutes and 20 seconds, securing top position in her age category of 50-54 years.

“ I decided to go by feel and I enjoyed the run immensely. At some point during the race, I was overtaking many runners,” Arati said. To feel confident for 2020 TMM, she had attempted the 10km race at the Navy Half Marathon and a half marathon race in Navi Mumbai in December. She secured age category podium positions in both these races. For more on Arati and Pravin Gaikwad, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2017/02/12/the-diligent-and-the-fun-loving/

Seema Yadav (Photo: courtesy Seema)

Seema Yadav

In October 2019, Seema Yadav was the first runner-up in the amateur women’s category at the 2019 edition of Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. Already plagued by injuries, Seema’s condition worsened after the Delhi run.

In April 2019, Seema had run the Boston Marathon with several injuries. She finished the race with a personal best timing of 3:26:46 but had to go off running for a while and focus on healing. Through most of 2019, Seema was battling injuries in her glutes, hamstrings and abductor muscles. She also suffered from extensor tendonitis. Her training for TMM 2020 was far from adequate. Tracking the advice of her physiotherapist, it was also intermittent.

“ I had to take this run easy so as not to aggravate my injuries any further,” Seema, a resident of Faridabad, said, adding. “ I ran at a very comfortable pace. I did not push my pace at any point during the entire distance of 42.2 km.” She finished in 3:32:38, securing second position in her age group of 40-44 years and finishing overall 11th among amateur women runners.

Seema believes she has potential to do much better in terms of timing. She also pointed to the emergent difficulty in Mumbai, navigating one’s passage through a sea of runners towards the last part of the race. “ The number of runners for the full marathon also increased this time,” she said.

Sheran Mehra (Photo: courtesy Sheran)

Sheran Mehra

Sheran Mehra prefers to run the full marathon but her coach, Ashok Nath suggested that she opt for the half marathon in Mumbai and treat it like a training run for her upcoming race at the Tokyo Marathon.

“ I don’t like to run with targets. I just decided to go by feel. I started running comfortably and kept going on with a consistent pace,” she said. She was able to execute the second half of the race much better than the first half at TMM 2020. Sheran crossed the finish line in 1:43:24, a new personal best for her in the half marathon. She placed second in her age category of 45-49 years for women.

Sheran has been running for over 12 years. She was into sprinting during her schooling days at Bhopal and participated in district level events. “ I was active in sports through my school and college years,” she said. For a brief while sports came to a grinding halt because of injuries.

She resumed her fitness pursuit by joining a gym. “ My husband, Chandramohan Mehra, who is also a runner, is a fitness freak. Both of us were gym junkies,” she said. Her foray into running commenced when a colleague at her workplace prompted her to join him for a training run. “ I ran a distance of 7.5 km then. That’s how I got into running,” she said.

For many years she trained with Striders, a training group for long-distance running. Recently she also signed up with Bengaluru-based runner and coach, Ashok Nath. “ Initially, my focus was just running. Ashok Nath’s approach is more holistic. The accent is on overall fitness with adequate attention to strength training and nutrition,” she said.

She and her husband Chandramohan will be participating in the Tokyo Marathon in March this year.

Anil Korvi (Photo: courtesy Anil)

Anil Korvi

Anil Korvi, an employee of Indian Railways, has been running for over 12 years. He started running during his college days commencing with cross country races. Later he moved to running the marathon.

His best timing in the marathon was 2:39:28, set in 2017 at the IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon. “ I had a target of achieving sub-2.40 here at TMM. I started well and continued strong until about 33-34 kilometers. But I started to feel weak even before Peddar Road,” Anil said. He finished the marathon in 2:46:39, securing third position in his age group of 25-29 years and finishing overall 11th among amateur male runners. Over the last four to five kilometers, he too ran into a crowd of runners, a problem many sub-three-hour marathon runners faced this time.

Anil’s training for TMM was not adequate. “ I was training for a 10 km cross country race and followed it up a week later with the Vasai Virar Mayor’s Marathon,” he said. Anil has got Boston Qualifying (BQ) timings at the past few marathons that he has participated in but has not been able to travel overseas for a run. “ I have not yet found a sponsor who will support my travel for the Boston Marathon,” he said. That aside, he has been supported by brand HRX and more recently by Unived, a vegan sports nutrition brand.

Next month, Anil will be participating in the IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon.

Anubhav Karmakar (Photo: courtesy Anubhav)

Anubhav Karmakar

Two days prior to Tata Mumbai Marathon 2020 Anubhav Karmakar sprained his ankle. He was in pain. He was not sure about joining the starting line of runners on the morning of January 19. Eventually he decided to go ahead.

Anubhav finished the marathon in 2:38:41, missing his goal of 2:36. He also missed the podium by 30 seconds. His overall position among amateur runners was fourth.“ I wanted to run faster splits in the final few kilometers. But I was not able to. There was a wall of runners and it was quite frustrating dodging between people through the last part of the course,” he said.

At the finish line, Anubhav did not feel spent as he had not been able to push as much as he wanted to because of the crowds. “ I am shocked that the organizers did not pay attention to this aspect,” he said.

For Anubhav, running a marathon helps him grow as a runner. He trains meticulously, tweaking his training plans as he nears race date. “ I am at that stage of running and training when I can definitely expect more gains in my timing economy,” he said. His attention will now turn to IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon and later to the Boston Marathon, where he will be making his second appearance.

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


Srinu Bugatha (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Meeting Srinu Bugatha, winner among Indian men at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon

At his hotel room, Srinu Bugatha and his training partner A. B. Belliappa studied the former’s splits.

Hours earlier on Sunday (January 19), Bugatha had emerged victor among elite Indian men at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM). He had clocked 2:18:45. The course record for Indians held by fellow army runner Nitendra Singh Rawat is 2:15:48. Paced by two Kenyan runners, Bugatha had commenced his run hoping to have a crack at the course record. Mumbai’s annual marathon is not exactly record-friendly. Its course includes an uphill segment and the weather can be warm and humid. On Sunday however, the weather was supportive and early start for the amateur categories appears to have ensured relatively smooth progression for the elites. It could have been a day of new course record for the Indian elites. Overall for the race, Ethiopian runner Derara Hurisa did set a new course record of 2:08:09.

Armed with his findings from the splits, Bugatha turned to his mentor and motivator, Vickrant Mahajan seated nearby. He had run at fine pace for most of the way. By his own account till around 35 kilometers he was targeting the course record. But the Peddar Road uphill took a toll. Past that, his leg muscles felt tight. “ I was very slow over the last two kilometers,’’ he said, the realization overshadowing his sense of accomplishment.

“ Don’t forget, we nevertheless have several positives in there,’’ Mahajan reminded.

“ Still, it’s like getting out on 93 or 94,’’ Bugatha said resorting to cricket for metaphor.

A middle distance runner specialized in 5000m, 10,000m and cross country for most part of his career, the Bugatha of 2020 TMM is a comeback story. In 2018 he had placed third behind Gopi T and Nitendra Singh Rawat with timing of 2:23:56. His timing of 2020 is therefore a new PB (personal best). What makes it interesting is that those are the only full marathons he has run. He had been on the podium in half marathons and 25K runs but that 2018 podium in Mumbai was the only precedent in the full marathon before Sunday’s victory. In 2018, Bugatha was in the national camp for marathoners ahead of the Commonwealth Games. The training then had timing of 2:12 hours (Shivnath Singh’s still standing national record) in mind with weekly mileage sometimes hitting 220 kilometers. That proved tough for Bugatha to handle and he came off believing track events – the middle distance disciplines he was used to – were his forte.  He stopped running marathons. According to Mahajan (he is the person behind Superchampions Foundation), in April 2019, he chanced to give motivational talks at the Army Sports Institute (ASI), where Bugatha trained. Slowly Bugatha warmed up to him and started to share his thoughts. The subsequent drift back to the marathon, Mahajan said, was “ partly’’ Bugatha’s decision.

In December 2019, Bugatha participated in the 5000m at the South Asian Games in Kathmandu. As per information on the website olympicchannel.com, he placed fifth. At the 2019 Tata Steel 25K (an event where he has had several podium-finishes before) held on December 15, he topped among Indians with timing of 1:18:31. From December 18, 2019 onward he started training for TMM. In other words, the first place finish and PB of January 19, 2020 was the product of a mere month of preparations, in which time the longest training run he did was a 40km-run on January 2. “ Imagine what someone like him can do with proper training. I believe today’s win is the beginning of a journey,’’ Mahajan said on Sunday. Both he and Bugatha outlined the changes already put in place. A typical middle distance runner’s weekly mileage (that is, over six working days) aggregates to around 120 kilometers. As he geared up for TMM, weekly mileage went up to 180-200 kilometers, Bugatha said. Then, there has been the instilling of self-belief that targets like Shivnath Singh’s national record in the marathon are not beyond chasing; “ mental calibration’’ as Mahajan put it. Finally, there was the weeding out of distractions. For the past six months, Bugatha hasn’t been using a smartphone.

A. B. Belliappa (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Hailing from Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh, Bugatha’s career in running started after he joined the Indian Army in 2010. “ I have been running for the last five years,’’ he said. After a long time spent tackling the middle distances, he said, he is now resolved to focus on the marathon. Joining him in the transition is his training partner, third place winner among Indian men in the half marathon at 2020 TMM and a familiar face at half marathons and 25K runs in India – Belliappa. On Sunday, Belliappa was racing after a phase of injury. Although targeting course record and since introspecting where he got it wrong, Belliappa’s finish in 1:06 hours wasn’t far off his PB of 1:04. Like Bugatha, he was thinking of focusing on the marathon now on. It seemed mutually supportive. Mahajan believed that a reasonable target in the marathon for Bugatha, 27, would be qualifying for the 2024 Olympics. Given qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics requires breaking the longstanding Indian national record in the marathon, the qualifying mark for 2024 will be likely stiffer. Mahajan said that there may be an attempt to qualify for Tokyo too; towards that end Bugatha hopes to participate in the Barcelona Marathon of March 2020.

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


Jigmet Dolma (left) and Tsetan Dolkar; after 2020 TMM (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Sunday could have been better for the runners from Ladakh visiting Mumbai every year for the annual marathon.

However even as podium finish eluded them at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM), the team’s outing of 2019-2020 has been fruitful overall with Jigmet Dolma’s participation in the 2019 South Asian Games, Tsetan Dolkar’s triumph at the 2019 Vasai Virar Mayors Marathon (VVMM) and the duo’s fifth and sixth place finishes in the Indian elite women’s category at this year’s TMM.

The two runners’ performance at 2020 TMM is a repeat of tradition; not only are the timings close to each other (Jigmet -3:05:10; Tsetan – 3:05:14) but the splits are also very close right through. With PBs (personal best) of 3:01 hours and separated by mere two seconds, both have been on a quest to go sub-three. They came to Sunday’s race in Mumbai with a plan in place but unfortunately its execution wasn’t to the dot. “ Our strategy was to run the first 21 kilometers in about 1:27. But we were a bit slow and it became 1:30,’’ Jigmet explained. In a race, particularly when chasing a mark like sub-three, the seconds and minutes count. Otherwise, 2020 TMM was “ a good run.’’ They faced no difficulties, the weather was much better than what it was last time and their training had been good in the run up to race day.

Aside from Jigmet and Tsetan in the elite Indian women’s category of the full marathon, the team had one participant in the men’s marathon and the rest in the half marathon for both gender categories. This year, according to Jigmet and Tsetan (who this blog spoke to), they return without a podium-finish in any segment at TMM. In 2019, Jigmet (3:10:43) had finished third among Indian women and Tsetan (3:13:13) had placed fifth. On the bright side, there is improvement in the timing of both runners at TMM, from last year to now. Further within the space of their 2019-2020 outing, Jigmet’s timing at 2020 TMM is better than the timing she returned at the South Asian Games of December 2019 (3:07) while that of Tsetan is an improvement over her timing at VVMM (3:10:27), also from December 2019.

They now have the IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon as last event to attend before heading back to Ladakh. They hope they are able to get that sub-three in Delhi. Asked if the mark seemed formidable, Jigmet said, “ it is not a big challenge. It is possible.’’

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


Elite runners at the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon. Eventual winner Derara Hurisa of Ethiopia can be seen, right of center (Photo: Chetan Gusani)

Srinu Bugatha, Sudha Singh winners among Indian elite

Ethiopian athlete Derara Hurisa set a new course record at the 2020 edition of Tata Mumbai Marathon, topping the men’s category with a finish time of two hours, eight minutes and nine seconds.

The previous course record was 2:08:35, set by Kenyan runner Gideon Kipketer in 2016.

Ayele Abshero and Birhanu Teshome, both of Ethiopia, also finished in timings better than the previous course record. Ayele, in second position, crossed the finish line in 2:08:20 and Birhanu, in third position, in 2:08:26.

In the women’s race, Ethiopian Amane Beriso was the winner with timing of 2:24:51. She missed the previous course record of 2:24:33, by 18 seconds.

Amane Beriso of Ethiopia who topped among women runners at 2020 TMM (Photo: Chetan Gusani)

In second position was Kenyan runner Rodah Jepkorir, who finished in 2:27:14. Haven Hailu of Ethiopia came in third in 2:28:56.

Barring the Kenyan runner in second position in the women’s race, it was an Ethiopian sweep of the top podium positions.

Among Indian elite runners, Srinu Bugatha and Sudha Singh were winners of the men’s and women’s races respectively.

Bugatha of Indian Army finished the race in 2:18:44. In second place was Sher Singh with timing of 2:24. In third position was Durga Bahadur Budha with timing of 2:24:03.

Srinu Bugatha at 2020 TMM (Photo: Chetan Gusani)

Defending champion Sudha Singh maintained her title with a winning finish of 2:45:30. Jyoti Gawate came in second with timing of 2:49:14. Shyamali Singh finished in third position in 2:58:44.

Jyoti Gawate had finished second in the 2019 edition of Tata Mumbai Marathon with timing of 2.45.48, which was her best timing at the race. “ There was a change in the route and that resulted in a wide gap between the winner and me,’’ Jyoti said.

Across various categories of races, over 55,000 runners participated in the 17th edition of Mumbai Marathon, held on Sunday, January 19, 2020.

(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai. Thanks to Chetan Gusani for permitting the use of his photographs.)


Illustration: Shyam G Menon

Controversy over running shoes: World Athletics amends its rules

World Athletics (formerly International Association of Athletics Federations – IAAF) has amended its rules governing competition shoes.

The move is “ to provide greater clarity to athletes and shoe manufacturers around the world and to protect the integrity of the sport,’’ a press release dated January 31, 2020, available on the website of World Athletics said.

According to it, “ from 30 April 2020, any shoe must have been available for purchase by any athlete on the open retail market (online or in store) for a period of four months before it can be used in competition. If a shoe is not openly available to all then it will be deemed a prototype and use of it in competition will not be permitted. Subject to compliance with the rules, any shoe that is available to all, but is customised for aesthetic reasons, or for medical reasons to suit the characteristics of a particular athlete’s foot, will be allowed. Where World Athletics has reason to believe that a type of shoe or specific technology may not be compliant with the rules or the spirit of the rules, it may submit the shoe or technology for study and may prohibit the use of the shoe or technology while it is under examination. Further, with immediate effect there will be an indefinite moratorium on any shoe (whether with or without spikes) that does not meet the following requirements:

  • The sole must be no thicker than 40mm.
  • The shoe must not contain more than one rigid embedded plate or blade (of any material) that runs either the full length or only part of the length of the shoe. The plate may be in more than one part but those parts must be located sequentially in one plane (not stacked or in parallel) and must not overlap.
  • For a shoe with spikes, an additional plate (to the plate mentioned above) or other mechanism is permitted, but only for the purpose of attaching the spikes to the sole, and the sole must be no thicker than 30mm.

The competition referee will have the power to request that an athlete immediately provide their shoes for inspection at the conclusion of a race if the referee has a reasonable suspicion that the shoes worn by an athlete do not comply with the rules.’’

The media statement said that the rule amendments the World Athletics Council approved this week were recommended by its Assistance Review Group, an internal working group containing technical, scientific and legal experts as well as athlete representatives. “ The Assistance Review Group has concluded that there is independent research that indicates that the new technology incorporated in the soles of road and spiked shoes may provide a performance advantage and there is sufficient evidence to raise concerns that the integrity of the sport might be threatened by the recent developments in shoe technology. It has therefore recommended that further research be undertaken to establish the true impact of this technology and that a new working group, comprising biomechanics specialists and other qualified experts, be formed to oversee this research, and to assess any new shoes that enter the market, where required. Shoe manufacturers will be invited to be part of this assessment process,’’ the press release said.

Friday’s announcement by World Athletics follows months of controversy about Nike’s Vapourfly range of shoes, which many users had said improved their timing. Reporting on World Athletics’ decision, BBC noted that while the Vaporfly has been spared, that may not be the case with Alphafly, the prototype shoe worn by Eliud Kipchoge when he ran a marathon in under two hours in Vienna last year.

The World Athletics press release quoted its president Sebastian Coe as saying, “ it is not our job to regulate the entire sports shoe market but it is our duty to preserve the integrity of elite competition by ensuring that the shoes worn by elite athletes in competition do not offer any unfair assistance or advantage. As we enter the Olympic year, we don’t believe we can rule out shoes that have been generally available for a considerable period of time, but we can draw a line by prohibiting the use of shoes that go further than what is currently on the market while we investigate further. I believe these new rules strike the right balance by offering certainty to athletes and manufacturers as they prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, while addressing the concerns that have been raised about shoe technology. If further evidence becomes available that indicates we need to tighten up these rules, we reserve the right to do that to protect our sport.”

World Athletics will now establish an expert working group to guide future research into shoe technology (and consider any regulatory implications that that research might have), and to assess new shoes that emerge on the market. This group will report to the Competitions Commission, and ultimately to the Council. World Athletics remains open to continued dialogue with shoe manufacturers and other interested stakeholders regarding the amended rules and their impact as well as the broader question of how to balance shoe technology and innovation with World Athletics’ legitimate interest in preserving integrity in its sport, the press release said.

2020 World Athletics Indoor Championships postponed

The 2020 World Athletics Indoor Championships, due to be held in Nanjing over March 13-15, has been postponed to March 2021.

This follows the ongoing disease outbreak related to the new Coronavirus in China and since found to have surfaced in some other countries too.

“ It is with regret that we have agreed with the organisers of the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing (13-15 March 2020) to postpone the event to March 2021. We know that China is doing all it can to contain the new Coronavirus and we support them in all their efforts but it is necessary to provide our athletes, member federations and partners with a clear way forward in what is a complex and fast-moving set of circumstances.

“ The advice from our medical team, who are in contact with the World Health Organisation, is that the spread of the Coronavirus both within China and outside the country is still at a concerning level and no one should be going ahead with any major gathering that can be postponed.

“ We have considered the possibility of relocating the event to another country and would like to thank the cities that have volunteered to host the championships. However, given concerns still exist regarding the spread of the virus outside China, we have decided not to go with this option, as it may lead to further postponement at a later date.

“ The indoor season for athletics falls within a narrow calendar window (up to the end of March) and we believe we will be able to find a suitable date in 2021 to host this event. We would like Nanjing to be the host given the extensive planning and preparation they have put into this event,’’ a press release from World Athletics (formerly IAAF), dated January 29, 2020, said.

Kipruto sets new world record in 10K

Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto has set a new world record in the 10 kilometer-road race. On January 12, at Valencia Ibercaja, he clocked 26 minutes, 24 seconds to win the World Athletics Gold Label road race, a report on the website of World Athletics (formerly IAAF) said.

The 20 year-old took 14 seconds off the yet-to-be-ratified mark set just six weeks earlier by Joshua Cheptegei in the same city, on a different course.

“ Only the legendary Ethiopian duo Kenenisa Bekele (26:17.53) and Haile Gebrselassie (26:22.75) have recorded faster times on the track, while Paul Tergat holds the Kenyan 10,000m record at 26:27:85,’’ the report said.

Sheila Chepkirui, also of Kenya, won the women’s race in 29:46.

Bouldering facility coming up in Nerul, Navi Mumbai

Work in progress at the climbing facility coming up in Nerul, Navi Mumbai (Photo: Prashant Venugopal)

In tune with the growth of sport climbing in the Mumbai region, Nerul in Navi Mumbai is set to get its first artificial climbing wall accessible to the public. At a park, roughly five minutes-walk from the Nerul railway station, the municipal authorities have installed infrastructure capable of hosting an indoor climbing facility. A large protected shed has been created with space adequate for at least three walls. At the time of writing, two walls had been installed and painting work was underway on the walls; the climbing holds were yet to be fixed. The main wall is an imported climbing wall fabricated by the French company, Enterprise. It was shipped into the country for use in the 2016 IFSC World Cup in bouldering that was held in Vashi, Navi Mumbai. Following that edition of the event, at the 2017 IFSC World Cup held in Vashi, it was used as a warm-up wall.

Both these world cups organized by Girivihar, were sponsored in the main by Tata Trusts. There was an understanding then that the club would find means to give back to society; in the world of climbing that typically means making the sport accessible to the public. The Nerul facility helps address that, a recent Girivihar circular to its members, said. The Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) “ has given tremendous support and has built a structure for the wall in Nerul NMMC park. We continue to work with NMMC for setting up the wall in the premises and hopefully make it operational in the next two months,’’ the circular dispatched in January 2020, said. In Mumbai, the club has been involved in installing bouldering walls at Poddar College in Matunga, IIT Mumbai in Powai and YMCA in Colaba. When officially commissioned, the Nerul facility will likely be the biggest one so far, supported by Girivihar, those in the know said.

Ethiopian sweep at Dubai Marathon

Debutants Olika Adugna of Ethiopia and Eric Kiptanui of Kenya outwitted seasoned marathoners to finish first and second in the men’s race at the 2020 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, held on January 24.  They won in 2:06:15 and 2:06:17 respectively. The top ten finishers among men were separated by narrow margins. In the women’s race, Worknesh Degefa of Ethiopia won clocking 2:19:38, a report on the website of World Athletics (formerly IAAF) said.

Save Kiptanui’s place on the podium for men and Risper Biyaki of Mexico who placed tenth among women, it was an Ethiopian sweep right through to tenth place in both gender categories. The top ten positions as available in the report were: Men – 1. Olika Adugna, ETH 2:06:15 / 2. Eric Kiptanui, KEN 2:06:17 / 3. Tsedat Abeje, ETH 2:06:18 / 4. Lencho Tesfaye, ETH 2:06:18 / 5. Yitayal Atnafu, ETH 2:06:21 / 6. Yihunilign Adane, ETH 2:06:22 / 7. Aychew Bantie, ETH 2:06:23 / 8. Seifu Tura, ETH 2:06:26 / 9. Chalu Deso, ETH 2:06:29 / 10. Zewudu Hailu, ETH 2:06:31 Women – 1. Worknesh Degefa, ETH 2:19:38 / 2. Guteni Shone, ETH 2:20:11 / 3. Bedatu Hirpa, ETH 2:21:55 / 4. Tigist Abayechew, ETH 2:22:45 / 5. Dera Dida, ETH 2:22:52 / 6. Hawi Feysa, ETH 2:23:36 / 7. Bezunesh Deba, ETH 2:26:59 / 8. Obst Abdeta, ETH 2:29:30 / 9. Buze Diriba, ETH 2:30:18 / 10. Risper Biyaki, MEX 2:30:59.

Avinash Sable, Srinu Bugatha, Rashpal Singh, Sudha Singh, Jyoti Gawate lead Indian competition at 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon.

Over 55,000 people expected to participate.

Srinu Bugatha winner of the 2019 Airtel Delhi Half Marathon and Tata Steel Kolkata 25k, and Rashpal Singh, silver medalist at the 2019 South Asian Games, are among Indian elite runners scheduled to participate in the 2020 edition of Tata Mumbai Marathon, due January 19, 2020. Also in the fray is Rahul Pal, winner of the 2019 Pune International Marathon.

According to a statement available on the race organizer’s website, Indian elite runners in the women’s marathon include defending champion Sudha Singh and Jyoti Gawate, bronze medalist at the 2019 South Asian Games.

In the men’s half marathon race, Avinash Sable, national record holder in 3000 meter steeplechase (he turned in a gritty performance at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha) and Shankar Man Thapa will be among contenders. Swati Gadhave and Monica Athare will spearhead the challenge in the half marathon for women.

Nitendra Singh Rawat, course record holder among Indian runners and a popular face at TMM, won’t be running this year. In a Facebook post on January 13, he informed that after winning TMM in 2019 and giving his best at the London Marathon, “ it is very disheartening to say that I will not be able to participate in the upcoming TMM 2020 and Tokyo Olympics because of my fractured knee. I am advised to give complete rest to my knee.’’

A record number of 55,322 people are expected to participate in 2020 TMM. The 17th edition of this World Athletics Gold Label Road Race, will have 9660 runners running the full marathon, 15,260 runners in the half marathon, 8032 runners in the 10 kilometer-race, 19,707 participants  in the Dream Run, 1022 runners in the Senior Citizen Run and 1596 participants in the Champion with Disability, the earlier mentioned statement said.

According to it, women’s participation has increased to 35 per cent. Outstation participation has grown by 22 per cent and full marathon participation by 15 per cent.

Shoe war heats up

The controversy over Nike’s Vaporfly shoes worn by Eliud Kipchoge during his record breaking sub-two hour marathon in Vienna last year, has gathered momentum with recent media reports indicating that World Athletics may soon rule on their legality and share prices of shoe manufacturers responding accordingly.

On January 16, leading wire service Bloomberg informed that shares of Japanese manufacturer Asics Corp, a rival to Nike, “ surged as much as eight per cent before paring gains to 4.7 per cent as of 11:41 AM that day in Tokyo, after the Times of London and others reported that World Athletics was mulling a ban for Nike’s Vaporfly shoes in professional competition. Mizuno Corp, another Japanese maker of running equipment, rose as much as 1.6 per cent.’’

Nike’s Vaporfly Next % model was the shoe of choice for Kipchoge in Vienna and Brigid Kosgei, when she broke the women’s world record in the marathon, last year in Chicago. According to the Bloomberg report, the shoes gained popularity in Japan too resulting in a fall in share price for Asics at the start of 2020.

However, thick soles, the use of carbon fiber-plates and runners who used it confirming that the shoes contributed to improving their performance rendered the Nike model controversial. There have been calls since to restore a level playing field.

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



Flashback: elite runners at the 2019 edition of Tata Mumbai Marathon (Photo: by arrangement)

Defending champions Cosmas Lagat and Worknesh Alemu will be back for the Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM), due January 19, 2020, a report dated January 4, available on the website of World Athletics (formerly IAAF), said.

In 2019, Kenya’s Lagat, breaking away from the rest of the pack at around kilometer 29 and running alone for almost a third of the race, had won in 2:09:15, the second fastest winning time in Mumbai. It was just 40 seconds outside the course record of 2:08:35, set by his compatriot Gideon Kipketer in 2016, the report said. To date only one man has won TMM back-to- back; Kenyan runner John Kelai did that with victories in 2007 and 2008.

According to the report, for the 2020 edition of the race, TMM organizers have signed up no less than 14 men who have run faster than 2:10:00, “ making it the strongest marathon ever to be staged in India.’’ Of them, nine have run faster than the course record during their careers and six have run under the super-elite benchmark of 2:07:00. The four fastest men in the field are all Ethiopians, led by Ayele Abshero who has a personal best (PB) from eight years back at the Dubai Marathon, of 2:04:23.

Ethiopia’s Alemu had won in the women’s category at TMM in 2019 with a PB of 2:25:25, which was also the second fastest winning time in the race’s history. She subsequently improved her best to 2:24:42 later in 2019 when finishing sixth at the Amsterdam Marathon in October, the report said. In 2020, Alemu heads a very strong women’s field that has eight women who have run under 2:28:00. The fastest woman in the field is another Ethiopian, Amane Beriso, who clocked 2:20:48 for a second place finish in the 2016 Dubai Marathon, placing her third on that year’s world list. She took a break from competitive running last year. The course record at TMM for women is 2:24:33, set by Kenya’s Valentine Kipketer in 2013.

In addition to the marathon – which has a total prize fund of US$ 405,000 – there is a half marathon, a 10km race, a Dream Run (5.9km), Senior Citizens Race (4.2km) and a Champions with Disability Race (1.5km). About 50,000 runners are expected to take part, the report said.

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