Kavitha Reddy (Photo: courtesy Kavitha)

Few races represent running like the Boston Marathon does.

As the 2022 edition of Boston Marathon returns to its April schedule, long-distance runners around the world are getting ready to travel for international road races. They hope the upcoming race – it is being held on the race’s traditional date – signifies the return of normalcy to running events worldwide after the calendar of races was upset by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Boston Marathon, in its 126th year, is scheduled to be held on April 18, 2022, its first rendezvous with Patriot’s Day in three years. Held every April, the event inspires hundreds of runners around the world to qualify for it and participate. The 2020 edition was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and was held in a virtual format later in the year. The 2021 edition was held in physical format in October 2021 with Kenyan elite runners taking top honors.

This year, over 100 runners from India have found a place in the entry list and are travelling to Boston to participate in the event, which is a World Marathon Major and among the globe’s most iconic races. “Getting back to international running events is something to look forward to after two years of pandemic,” said Pune-based Kavitha Reddy. She couldn’t think of a better way to execute the return than to run the Boston Marathon.

Hemant Beniwal (Photo: courtesy Hemant)

Kavitha had participated and completed the Boston Marathon in 2018, the year the marathon encountered its worst weather in 30 years. Faced with howling winds, rains and snow and the weather deteriorating as the race progressed, many runners had to quit, including the African elite contingent.

Memories of the 2018 race continue to engage her as variations in weather conditions is an issue with the Boston Marathon. All the same, her training went off quite well especially in the final stages. She lost a couple of weeks in January 2022 to coronavirus infection. “When I got back to training after COVID, it was tough initially. But slowly I got my energy back,” she said. On March 13, 2022, she ran a half marathon at the Jaipur Marathon, finishing in one hour, 30 minutes and 47 seconds. Kavitha is one of the best recreational runners in India in terms of time efficiency.

Gurgaon-based Hemant Beniwal, is headed to Boston for his first attempt there. In 2019, he ran the Berlin Marathon, finishing it in 2:59:30, as per data on the Berlin Marathon website. “It is a privilege to run the Boston Marathon as the bulk of the runners are chosen on merit. Also, the energy level in Boston is incomparable to any other running event. The city celebrates every runner’s presence,” said Hemant. He had qualified for Boston Marathon in 2018 but did not make it. He attempted another qualifying run in 2021 to secure the timing required for his age group (35-39) and make the cut. This was even as the time for qualifying got tougher.

Hemant is also an ultra-marathoner. He represented India at the 2019 100 km IAU Asia & Oceania Championships held at Aqaba in Jordan. The Indian men’s team had secured gold at the event. Hemant finished the distance in 8:12:11.

Rajeev Singh (Photo: courtesy Rajeev)

Srividya Ramnath from Navi Mumbai has already done two of the World Marathon Majors – Chicago Marathon and Berlin Marathon. She has been training diligently for the Boston Marathon for the past four months, helped by a training plan designed by her coach, Ankita Gaur. “I resorted to speed runs even during my long runs and that approach has helped,” she said. She has been an age-category podium finishers in some of the events in India.

Rajeev Singh, also from Navi Mumbai, has run several international races. This will be his second outing at Boston, the first one having been in 2019. Rajeev has been running barefoot for about six years. But recently he shifted to minimalist footwear. “I have been running quite regularly. My preparation, I think, has been good,” he said.

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