AT A GLANCE / FEBRUARY 2021

L L Meena (right, with the Indian flag) Photo: courtesy Sunil Chainani

Ultra-runner L. L. Meena passes away

Noted ultra-runner, L. L. Meena, passed away on February 10, 2021, following a battle with cancer.

Meena, who worked with the Indian Army had turned 39 on February 1. He had been running ultra-distance races for the past several years and had represented India in both the 2018 100 kilometer IAU World Championships in Croatia and the 2018 24-hour IAU Asia & Oceania Championships in Taipei.

“ He was running ultra-distance races much before India started sending teams to represent the country in international championships,” Sunil Chainani, member of the Ultra Running Committee of Athletics Federation of India, said. At the Taipei event, he pushed himself over the last couple of hours to help India secure the bronze medal. He was among the three top Indian finishers, the others being Ullas Narayana and Sunil Sharma, Chainani said. The team medal is decided on the performance of the top three runners. The Indian team was represented by six runners at that event.

Many ultra-runners remember Meena as a kind, genuine, compassionate, extremely helpful and down-to-earth person. He was known to be very supportive of runners. “ In Croatia, we had rented a large apartment for the event. Meena would cook for all of us,” Sunil Chainani remembered. “ He was extremely supportive and a very positive person. You won’t find another ultra-runner like Meena. We ran together at many events,” Pranaya Mohanty, ultra-runner, said. 

“ He was a very selfless individual,” Anjali Saraogi, ultra-runner, said. Meena used to call people without fail, on festival days and their birthdays, to wish them. She remembered in particular the support he offered at the 100 kilometer IAU World Championships in Croatia. Anjali came into this event as a comparative novice. “ Meena had already done many ultra-runs and stadium runs. He used to call me and provide tips and suggestions on how to prepare. He was protective and encouraging,” she said. In the run up to the event Anjali came down with dengue fever. Result – on the day of the competition, as the run got underway, she found herself really challenged. “ I was suffering. The competition in Croatia was held on a loop. There were many instances when Meena and I passed each other on that loop. At each instance, he would overlook his own suffering and encourage me,” Anjali said, pointing out how Meena never lost sight of the team. “ His passing is a big loss for the Indian ultra-running community,” she said.  

According to those who knew him well, the type of cancer Meena suffered from was tough to overcome. It was detected in the second stage. Both the news of Meena’s ailment and his eventual passing, reached the running community late. Chander Kandpal is among those who knew Meena well. He comprehended the situation obliquely at the 2020 New Delhi Marathon. At one of the hydration points en route, he came across Meena cheering and supporting the runners. Chander noticed the typical signs of chemotherapy on Meena; that was how he got to know of the predicament. “ He used to come to Delhi for treatment. After the diagnosis, which I think was sometime in August 2019, Meena didn’t participate in any event. But he would turn up to cheer and support others,” Chander said, adding, “ anybody can be a good runner but being a great human being, that is not possible for everyone. Meena was just that. He was the finest human being in the ultra-running community.”  

New national records in 20km race walk

Sandeep Kumar (Haryana) and Priyanka Goswami (Uttar Pradesh) became the first Indian athletes to qualify for next year’s World Athletics Championships Oregon22 when they broke the national record in the 20km race walk for men and women respectively, a press release dated February 13, available on the website of Athletics Federation of India (AFI) said.

The event concerned was held on a 1km-loop on Morabadi Road in Ranchi.

“ Together with Rahul Kumar, who finished second in the men’s event, they also qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games to be held later this year. Both men are athletes from the Army Sports Institute They took the number of Indian race walkers who have made the grade to five, joining K T Irfan and Bhawana Jat.  Their efforts have raised the number of Indian qualifiers to 14 so far,” the release said.

Results:

Men 20km walk: 1. Sandeep Kumar (Haryana) 1:20:16 (new national record / old: 1:20:16, K T Irfan, London, 2012 and Devender Singh, Nomi, 2016); 2. Rahul Kumar (Haryana) 1:24:41; 3. Hardeep (Haryana) 1:47:47.

Women 20km walk: 1. Priyanka Goswami (Uttar Pradesh) 1:28:45 (new national record / old: 1:31:29, Baby Sowmya, Delhi, 2018; awaiting ratification 1:29.54, Bhawana Jat, Ranchi, 2020); 2. Bhawana Jat (Rajasthan) 1:32:59; 3. Sonal Sukwal (Rajasthan) 1:36:05.

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

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