Illustration: Shyam G Menon

A second team representing AFI has also been announced

Nine men and nine women will run for India in the IAU 6 Hour Virtual Global Solidarity Run scheduled to take place from 6AM to 12PM on August 29, 2020.

The event put forth by the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU), features member federations worldwide nominating teams to participate. In its outline for the event, available on the IAU website, IAU has said that athletes may run indoors or outdoors but would need to record their performances on one of the many sports platforms like Strava or Garmin. Federations or their nominated team manager would need to verify and check their athletes’ performances and then submit the tabulated results to the IAU. “ There will not be a ranking list as this is a run signifying global solidarity among the ultrarunning family,’’ the IAU write-up said.

Among other details it informed member federations, “ athletes must run at any time in one continuous six-hour block over the weekend August 29th / 30th in your own time zone. Results will not count for publication if they are done outside of these designated dates. If your country allows athletes to compete together, you may have your own race and / or virtual race with a specific start time. Otherwise athletes can compete either indoors or out in their own space but must record the activity and give your nominated team manager those results.  The results should be submitted to the IAU no later than September 1st.’’

According to a press release from the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), the Indian runners selected to participate are: women – Anju Saini, Aparna Choudhary, Ashwini Ganapathi, Bindu Juneja, Darishisha Iangjuh, Deepti Chaudhary, Hemlata, Nupur Singh and Shyamala S; the men’s team includes Abhinav Jha, Amit Kumar, Binay Sah, Geeno Antony, Hemant Singh, Pranaya Mohanty, Sunil Sharma, Suraj Chadha and Tlanding Wahlang.

While IAU had offered each member federation the possibility of their run taking place in one location if required, Sunil Chainani, member of the committee appointed by AFI to oversee the selection of Indian ultra teams, said that given the ongoing pandemic, Indian runners will be running at their respective locations.  “ We decided to give priority to safety,’’ he said of the decision not to assemble in one place. COVID-19 cast its shadow in other ways too. Some runners who wished to apply and participate couldn’t do so because their locality had containment zones limiting the space available for them to run. Others were concerned about running for six hours in their respective locations because running outdoors – in the form of daily exercise – is allowed only for lesser duration during the pandemic. The selectors also did not want anyone pushing themselves unnecessarily. “ The lockdown has affected everyone’s training and we don’t want runners straining themselves. We wish to keep our athletes safe,” Sunil said.

According to the IAU website, there will be a category within the run called President’s Club. It encompasses the leadership of member federations and select personalities who have contributed to the sport.  “ The Presidents Club team signals to the global ultrarunning family that we are all in this together. It also serves as a motivation to all our athletes to see their federation leadership participating with them in this endeavor. The team also includes selected personalities who have done an outstanding job promoting the sport globally,’’ Nadeem Khan, president, IAU has been quoted as saying on the association’s website. Adille Sumariwalla, president, AFI, features in the President’s Club list.

Also running on August 29 will be a second team of ultrarunners, this one representing the AFI. The corresponding virtual event’s name is AFI 6-Hour Solidarity Run. The revised criteria for applying to the team (as available on the AFI website), was: for women – 155 kilometers covered in 24 hours, 100 kilometers done in 10:45 or 500 trail-ITRA points accumulated as of date; for men – 195 kilometers covered in 24 hours, 100 kilometers done in 9:45 or 600 trail-ITRA points (any one of these norms had to be satisfied to apply). The idea of a second team was to increase participation in the event and generate greater interest in the sport, Sunil said. As per a recent AFI press release (essentially an update to the earlier one), the members of the team for the AFI 6-Hour Solidarity Run are Ajit Singh Narwal, Badal Teotia, Manoj Kuthupady Bhat, Nishu Kumar, Sandeep Kumar, Santosh Gowda, Sikander Lamba and Velu Perumal.

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