Ultrarunning may have reached India late but in the short span of time since, Indian athletes have registered improvements in their performance and done well at the international level, senior officials connected with the sport said at a press briefing in connection with the IAU 24H Asia and Oceania Championships, in Bengaluru on Friday, July 1, 2022.
“ The qualifying standards have gone up significantly,’’ Dr. Nadeem Khan, President, International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU), said, illustrating the steadily improving performance of Indian athletes and the corresponding upswing in performance parameters deciding entry to the national team. Later the same day, in his address at the inaugural function of the championships, Adille Sumariwalla, President, Athletics Federation of India (AFI), highlighted the podium finishes Indian ultrarunners have achieved. This includes an individual bronze in the men’s 24-hour run (won by Ullas Narayana) at the IAU Asia & Oceania Championships at Taipei in December 2018, a bronze medal for the Indian men’s team at the same event, an individual bronze (won by Deepak Bandbe) at the 100K Asia & Oceania Championships held in November 2019 at Aqaba in Jordan and a silver medal for the women’s team and a gold medal for the men’s team at the same event.
The 24-hour championships in Bengaluru over July 2-3, is the first event under the auspices of the IAU and belonging to its annual calendar, being held in India. It was declared open Friday (July 1) evening by Rajender Kataria, Principal Secretary (transport, horticulture and sericulture), Government of Karnataka. The competition will commence on Saturday (July 2) morning at the city’s Kanteerava Stadium.
“ It is a dream come true,’’ Adille Sumariwalla said of the Bengaluru event. For the IAU, it is the first major event since suspension of races during the pandemic period (the championships underway in Bengaluru was also originally announced for 2020 and then postponed due to COVID-19). “ The last major event the IAU held was the African 50K championships held in Lagos in December 2019,’’ Nadeem Khan recalled. India is slated to host the 100K Asia Oceania Championships in 2023. Given the steady growth of the sport in India and the performances returned by Indian ultrarunners, the AFI president suggested (at the opening ceremony) that India should perhaps bid to host a future world championship as well.
The Bengaluru event features four categories in all – 24-hour run for elite athletes and national teams, 24 hour-run in the open category, 12 hour-run in the open category and a 12 hour-relay for teams of runners. National teams from four countries – Australia, Lebanon, Chinese Taipei and India – will take part in the flagship race. They will compete for both individual and team medals. A minimum of three runners representing a country must participate, for that nation to be in the running for a team medal. Besides the national teams in the elite category, there are runners from Poland and the UK participating in the open category, the organizers said. According to an associated press release, the 24-hour run in Bengaluru will act as a qualifying event for the IAU World Championships in Chinese Taipei next year. Explaining the process at the press briefing, officials said that while each country will have its own qualifying parameters, the performance of athletes at the Bengaluru event will be among factors taken into consideration.
The names of elite athletes who have reported at Bengaluru and their personal best (PB) in the 24-hour run, are as follows:
Stephen Redfern (PB: 245.566km), Daniel Symonds (237.006), Matt Griggs (244.087), Joe Ward (242.627), Nikki Wynd (221), Allicia-Grace Heron (204), Cassie Cohen (204.923).
Shin-Gwo Tsay (223.735), I-Chen Liang (221.880), Bih-Shii Wu (218.156), Ching-Hua Lin (217.722), Ming-Hua Yu (206.124), Cheng-Yen Tai (205.233), Jung-Hsi Fan (204.734), Sui-Ni Cheng (181.965), Kuan-Ju Lin (180.336), Wen-Ya Tsai (189.721), Hsiu-Fang Tai (178.347).
Anju Saini (191.2), Aparna Choudhary (182.4), Asha Singh (178.8), Ashwini Ganapathi (180.8), Preeti Lala (193.6), Shashi Mehta (184), Amar Shiv Dev (218.8), Amar Singh Devanda (240.8), Badal Teotia (216.4), Velu P (224), Geeno Antony (227.2), Saurav Kumar Ranjan (230.16).
Kathia Rached, Ali Kedami.
The women’s world record in the 24-hour run is held by Camille Heron of the US (270.116km); the men’s world record is held by Aleksandr Sorokin of Lithuania (309.4km).
(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)