AT A GLANCE / OCTOBER 2021

Elisha Rotich; this photo was downloaded from the Paris Marathon website and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright violation intended.

Kenya’s Rotich sets course record in men’s race at 2021 Paris Marathon

Elisha Rotich of Kenya set a course record in the men’s race at the 2021 edition of Paris Marathon, crossing the finish line in two hours, four minutes and 21 seconds on October 17, 2021. In the process, he broke Kenenisa Bekele’s course record of 2:05:04 and also achieved a personal best.

Ethiopia’s Tigist Memuye won the women’s race in 2:26:12.

The Paris Marathon was slated to be held in April this year but was rescheduled because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Agnes Tirop death: Kenyan police allowed to hold her husband in custody for 20 days

Agnes Tirop; this image was downloaded from the Twitter handle of World Athletics and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright violation intended.

A Kenyan court allowed the police to hold the husband of long-distance runner Agnes Tirop for 20 days in custody, on the suspicion of killing his wife.

The 25-year-old athlete – she was world record holder in the 10 kilometers women’s only event – was found stabbed to death at her home in Iten on October 13, 2021. The world record of 30:01 was set just weeks earlier in September.

Among the world’s most promising runners, she had won bronze medal in the 10,000 meters race at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships. She finished fourth in the 5000 meters race at Tokyo Olympics. In 2018, she had set a course record for women at the 2018 TCS World 10K in Bengaluru.

Athletics Kenya issued a condolence note on the demise of the athlete.

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

KENYANS KIPRUTO, KIPYOGEI WIN AT 2021 BOSTON MARATHON

Benson Kipruto; this image was downloaded from the Twitter handle of Boston Marathon.

Flanagan gets her fourth sub-three of the current World Marathon Major-season

Kenyan elite runners took top honours in the men’s and women’s race at the 125th edition of the Boston Marathon held on October 11, 2021.

Thirty-year-old Benson Kipruto of Kenya won the men’s race in two hours, nine minutes and 51 seconds. Diana Kipyogei also of Kenya, won the women’s race in her first appearance in a World Marathon Major event. She crossed the finish line in 2:24:45.

Diana Kipyogei; this image was downloaded from the Twitter handle of Boston Marathon.

In the men’s race, Lemi Berhanu of Ethiopia came in second with timing of 2:10:37. Jemal Yimer, also of Ethiopia, finished third in 2:10:38.

Podium finish in the women’s race was a Kenyan sweep with Edna Kiplagat finishing second in 2:25:09 and Mary Ngugi placing third in 2:25:20.

India’s elite marathoner Nitendra Singh Rawat finished the race in 2:22:01 securing 31st position overall as well as in the men’s segment.

Shalane Flanagan; this 2019 image was downloaded from the Facebook page of the athlete and is being used here for representation purpose only. No copyright violation intended.

This year, the six World Marathon Major events are jammed into a six-week window. American runner Shalane Flanagan, on a quest to run all the six road races in sub three-hour timing, finished the Boston Marathon in 2:40:34, a day after she completed the marathon in Chicago in 2:46:39.

It has been sub-three so far for the 40-year-old Flanagan. Starting September 26, 2021, she completed the Berlin Marathon in 2:38:32 and seven days later, the London Marathon in 2:35:04 followed by Chicago and Boston.

According to a report in the New York Times (dated October 9, 2021), Flanagan who recovered from two major knee reconstructions in 2019 and has hamstring tendons from cadavers, plans to do the virtual version of the Tokyo Marathon.

Her last World Marathon Major of this crammed season will be the New York City Marathon scheduled for November 7; Flanagan had won its women’s category in 2017 (2:26:53), the first American woman to win the event since 1977.

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

TURA, CHEPNGETICH WIN 2021 CHICAGO MARATHON

This image was downloaded from the Twitter handle of Chicago Marathon.

Ethiopia’s Seifu Tura and Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich won the men’s and women’s race respectively at the 2021 Chicago Marathon, held on October 10.

Chepngetich, the former half marathon world record holder and first runner-up at the 2020 London Marathon, took an early lead in the women’s race and stayed ahead until the end, to finish in two hours, 22 minutes and 31 seconds.

Emma Bates of the U.S finished in second position with a personal best timing of 2:24:20. In third position was Sara Hall, also of the U.S., finishing in 2:27:19.

This image was downloaded from then Twitter handle of Chicago Marathon.

In the men’s race, Tura won after breaking away from Galen Rupp of the U.S. and Kenya’s Eric Kiptanui. Tura’s winning time of 2:06:12 came amidst warm, humid conditions. Rupp crossed the finish line in second position in 2:06:35 and Kiptanui in 2:06:51 to place third.

American runner, Shalane Flanagan, finished in 2:46:39, securing 34th place among women runners. Flanagan had announced plans to run six World Marathon Majors in 42 days. The 2021 Chicago Marathon was her third since she started with the year’s Berlin Marathon held on September 26.

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

KENYA’S JEPKOSGEI, ETHIOPIA’S LEMMA WIN 2021 LONDON MARATHON

Joyciline Jepkosgei. This image was downloaded from the Twitter handle of London Marathon.

Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya and Ethiopia’s Sisay Lemma emerged winners of the women’s and men’s race respectively, at the 2021 edition of London Marathon held on October 3, 2021.

Jepkosgei, 28, finished the race in a personal best timing of two hours, 17 minutes and 43 seconds. She warded off competition including from the race favorite Brigid Kosgei, to storm to victory.

Kosgei, the world record holder at 2:14:04 set at Chicago Marathon in 2019, had to settle for the fourth position.

In the women’s race, Degitu Azimeraw of Ethiopia finished second with a timing of 2:17:58. In third position was Ashete Bekere also of Ethiopia with a finishing time of 2:18:18.

In the men’s race, Lemma crossed the finish line in 2:04:01. He was followed by Kenya’s Vincent Kipchumba (2:04:28) in second position and Mosinet Geremew (2:04:41) of Ethiopia in third position.

2021 London Marathon; this image was downloaded from the Twitter handle of the race.

Defending champion Shura Kitata of Ethiopia finished in sixth position.

As reported by BBC, an estimated 80,000 persons took part in the 2021 London Marathon in person and via an app. More than 40,000 people participated in the physical race. “ It is 889 days since the colourful charity spectacular in front of cheering crowds last took place. A number of changes were in force this year to try to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. Those running in central London had to show a negative lateral flow test for Covid-19,” the report said.

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

HARI OM PASSES AWAY

Hari Om (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Ultra-runner and mountaineer, Hari Om, was among personnel from the Indian Navy who lost their lives in an avalanche near the Himalayan peak of Trishul in early October 2021.

At the time of writing, the bodies of four climbers – including Hari Om – had been retrieved. Search operations were on for another two expedition members, reported missing. According to the Indian Express (report dated October 2, 2021), a team of ten was caught in the avalanche.

Located in Uttarakhand, Trishul (7120m / 23,360ft), is among peaks that form the protective wall around Nanda Devi (7816m), the highest mountain wholly in India and noted worldwide for its magnificent setting.

Trishul (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

It is believed that back in 1907, when it was first ascended by mountaineers, Trishul was the first peak above 7000m to be climbed so. In 1951, the peak hosted the first Indian mountaineering expedition following the country’s independence from the British.

The early climbing route on Trishul was from within the Nanda Devi sanctuary. Given the sanctuary has been closed for long, the route currently used lay outside the sanctuary. To approach this route one has to proceed via the village of Sutol. While the old route, which was a relatively straight forward climb had given Trishul the image of being a doable 7000m-peak, the route used at present is not in that league. “ Compared to the old one, it is difficult,” an experienced mountaineer, who has been on the peak, said. None of these technical aspects, however affect the image of Trishul on a photograph. Seen from select angles, it remains among the most beautiful peaks in the Himalaya.

Hari Om at the 2016 edition of La Ultra The High (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

This blog met Hari Om for the first time in 2016 in Leh, at that year’s edition of La Ultra The High. He was part of the Indian Navy’s ultramarathon team, participating in the event; he went on to finish third in the 111km category of the race.

In May 2017, he was among climbers reaching the top of Mt Everest as part of an Indian Navy expedition to the peak. He was among those selected for the Nao Sena Medal (devotion to duty) in 2018.

For more on Hari Om, please click on this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2018/03/22/sailors-dream/

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

NOLS: GETTING BACK IN PHASES

N. Ravi Kumar, Director, NOLS India

NOLS is among the world’s biggest outdoor schools. Its headquarters are in the US; it has its India operations in Ranikhet, Uttarakhand. For years, practices evolved at NOLS have served as a benchmark for the outdoor industry especially the segment therein focused on outdoor education.

When the world slipped into the grip of COVID-19 in early 2020 (the disease was first reported in late 2019) and normal human life got disrupted, NOLS too was impacted. But characteristic of it, the school worked on new, safe means to conduct its courses and by early 2021 was back to operating many of its outdoor programs in the US.

N. Ravi Kumar, Director, NOLS India is currently in the US, working outdoor programs and first aid courses there. He spared time to answer a few questions on NOLS, NOLS India and outdoor programs in the midst of a pandemic. The exchange was via email.

Broadly speaking, how has the pandemic affected the operations of NOLS globally?

The impact has been significant. In spring 2020, NOLS was forced to shut down the following locations abruptly: India, Tanzania, Patagonia, Scandinavia, Mexico and all its locations in the US.

The school had to let go of a large portion of employees and retain only essential workforce to help with restart when things are under control.

When did operations resume and in which all geographies?

Spring 2020 everything was shut. In the fall of 2020, we did a few courses with COVID protocols in place and by spring 2021 we had most of our operations in the US going with limited course offerings. The response was very good. All courses were full in no time and we have had the least number of evacuations in the school’s history as everyone wanted to be out in the woods after a year of staying indoors.

This summer we had enrolment beyond what we could accommodate and had to cut back significantly due to staff shortage.

NOLS uses the expedition model to teach its courses. How has the structure of NOLS expeditions changed to handle the precautions and protocols required in these times of COVID-19? In one of our conversations, you briefly touched upon a multi-phased model that is being used. Can you give us an overview of this model?

Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and variants are an evolving hazard. The risk of contracting the illness, COVID-19, on NOLS field courses cannot be eliminated. But we have identified mitigation strategies based on guidance by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to reduce that risk, which can be used in concert with testing and vaccines. With those strategies in place, we believe the risk can be managed appropriately.

The cornerstones on which, we have based our approach include informed consent, reducing the risk of virus transmission, hygiene with emphasis on hand washing or sanitizing to prevent flu-like illness and monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19.

NOLS has put in place COVID-19 risk management strategies for each of the outdoor activities it is associated with spanning land and water.

Our field practices are divided into phases depending on the documented vaccination status of course members. A course starting in Phase 1 will follow the recommended practices of that phase for the first ten days of the course. After ten days, if there are no significant breaches and if no one becomes symptomatic, we can reasonably assume that the risk of COVID-19 transmission within the group is reduced and the group can move to Phase 2. A course that is fully vaccinated can start the course in Phase 2, which is normal course operating routines with continued attention to hygiene. This is the broad paradigm.

Besides detailed protocols on hygiene, daily health checks, physical distancing, masking and cooking, the first phase features a few other key elements. For instance, in Phase 1, the tents used are of the sort that are roomier and capable of better ventilation. Models like the Mega Mid are finding increased use in the quest to have less confined, better ventilated shelters. Tarps, flies – they are staging a comeback. To provide adequate physical distancing, the number of persons per tent is kept low in Phase 1. Groups are also encouraged to use their shelters such that there is spare shelter capacity within the group, for flexibility. The Phase 1 model has the quality of a protective cocoon. If during this phase or at a later stage, somebody does show symptoms, then in addition to isolating that individual and preparing for further steps thereof, the Phase 1 model may be continued or returned to for the rest of the group.

The above is an overview. It is only meant to provide a broad idea of how things have changed.

WMI first aid courses are now an integral part of NOLS. How has the onset and spread of COVID-19 affected the WMI curriculum? Has measures around the avoidance, detection and field management of COVID-19 / infectious diseases become a part of contemporary WMI curriculum?

All WMI courses start with an hour-long class on infection control, right after introductions. The class covers a wide range of infections and devotes ten minutes to Covid related infections and how to mitigate the spread. This addition has forced the removal of the lightning class in WFA courses, and altitude illness. Now we direct students to watch videos on the topics as homework.

The WMI courses are full and busy. They even started running courses partly online and partly with classroom presence. We are still adapting to norms and restrictions in large classrooms and how we run practical patient care with minimum exposure to each other.

How did COVID-19 affect NOLS India? What is the short to medium term plan for India operations? Do you anticipate any changes to how you run courses here as a consequence of the pandemic?

NOLS has decided to close a few international locations for good. India is not one of them. I hope it continues so. Most of the students on our programs run in India, are from the US. Although the US itself has struggled to deal with the pandemic (even today the number of people succumbing to the disease is high) the combination of what happened in India and how it got portrayed, has been such that a proper perspective of the reality in India is absent in the US.

Hence the school has decided to take a conservative wait and watch approach as regards restarting India operations. It is imperative that when in India, our students should get proper medical care if required. We cannot restart when the health care system is overwhelmed or there are indications, it may be.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai. The WMI first aid courses offered by NOLS are WFA, WAFA and WFR of which WFA is the shortest.)