Illustration: Shyam G Menon

Man Singh, Jyoti Gawate win 2023 New Delhi Marathon

Indian elite runners, Man Singh and Jyoti Gawate, won the 2023 New Delhi Marathon held on February 26, in the national capital.

Man Singh finished the distance in a personal best of two hours, 14 minutes and 13 seconds. He also qualified for the upcoming Asian Games for which the qualifying time set by Athletics Federation of India (AFI) is 2:15.

Jyoti Gawati defended her 2022 title, winning the race in 2:53:04 but way outside the qualifying timing for women at 2:37 set for the Asian Games.

In the men’s race, A.B. Belliappa won the silver in 2:14:15 and Karthik Kumar, the bronze with timing of 2:14:19. Both of them qualified for the Asian Games due to be held in Hangzhou, China in September-October 2023.

In the women’s race, Ashvini Jadhav won the silver in 2:53:06. Jigmet Dolma secured the bronze with timing of 2:56:41.

The race went off well for Man Singh. “I was able to get a personal best and also qualify for Asian Games. I could have done better but I continue to carry the fatigue from the Tata Mumbai Marathon, which was held on January 15, 2023,” he told this blog.

His training for the 2023 New Delhi Marathon went off well. His training was mostly in Ooty. “ The weather was very good and the route was conducive for a strong run,” he said.

Belliappa shifted to the full marathon in October 2021. In December, he had participated in the marathon in Valencia covering the distance in 2:16:51. He failed to manage the pace evenly there, he said. For the New Delhi Marathon, he too trained in Ooty. “ I trained well and had faith in my training. On race day I was able to more or less sustain a 3:10 pace throughout,’’ he said.

He nolw plans to take a brief break and then  return to training, where his focus would be on the next edition of the Asian Games. According to him, the quest is to cover the distance in anywhere between 2:14 (hours and minutes respectively) and 2:13.

The 2023 New Delhi Marathon commenced at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. It was flagged off by well-known Kenyan middle-distance runner David Rudisha.

Abhilash Tomy (This photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of GGR and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

Abhilash Tomy rounds Cape Horn

Indian sailor, Abhilash Tomy, got past Cape Horn on February 18, 2023, an update on the website of the 2022 Golden Globe Race (GGR), said. He continued to be in second place. As of February 28, he was well past Falkland Islands and steadily reducing the gap between his boat and that of race leader, Kirsten Neuschafer of South Africa. The GGR entails a solo, nonstop circumnavigation of the planet.     

2022 GGR / Kirsten Neuschafer is first to get past Cape Horn

A tight race is on in a remote part of the world.

On February 15, 2023, South African sailor Kirsten Neuschafer became the first participant in the 2022 Golden Globe Race (GGR) to sail past Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America and enter the Atlantic Ocean for the final long stretch home.

Abhilash Tomy of India was not far behind. He continued to be in second place and by February 18 (in India), the live tracker of the race showed him quite close to Cape Horn. However, the long voyage – the participants have been sailing since early September 2022 – along with the testing weather systems encountered therein, have taken their toll on both boats; Kirsten’s and Abhilash’s. The last storm they tackled was in the southern Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Chile. According to the race website, Abhilash had thereafter informed of a failed wind vane pendulum rudder on his boat, ` Bayanat.’ Options for repair onboard were limited. Given he had been facing wind vane issues since the Atlantic, he had used up all his spare blades and had ended up cutting the boat’s chart table to make blades.

To compound matters, during the most recent instance of wind vane trouble, his course was taking him towards the Chilean coast; he needed to make repairs in time and veer off to the path he should be on. Consequently, there were some anxious moments during which, Abhilash is said to have wondered whether he may have to seek repairs on land and thereby join the Chichester Class. Eventually, he managed to do the necessary repairs by cutting a blade from the boat’s main emergency rudder, the race website reported. Although close to three quarters of the GGR’s circumnavigation appears done by the leaders (a race update of February 7 said that 70 per cent of their voyage stood completed), a good distance still remains from Cape Horn to the race’s start / finish line at Les Sables-d’Olonne in France. Both Kirsten and Abhilash will have to manage the remaining portion of their voyage keeping in mind the state of their sail boats. The afore mentioned GGR update from February 7 had informed that Kirsten suffered a broken spinnaker pole and could no longer fly her twin headsails.

What made the race seem a tight contest by was that Austrian sailor, Michael Guggenberger, sailing in third place was also just 1100 miles away from Cape Horn as per the race update of February 16, 2023. Importantly, he had faced mostly fair weather all through, implying his boat was likely in good shape still. At the time of writing, that made for three boats not significantly apart from each other, in the vicinity of Cape Horn. With a big stretch of the Atlantic remaining, anything can happen in that pecking order.  

The GGR entails a solo, nonstop circumnavigation of the planet.

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


Joanna Zakrezewski; this photo was taken in July 2022 at the IAU 24-Hour Asia & Oceania Championships held in Bengaluru (Photo: Sunil Chainani)

British ultramarathon runner Joanna (Joasia) Zakrezewski has set a new world record for the 48-hour run.

She covered a distance of 411.458 kilometres in the stipulated time, at the 12th Taipei 48-hour Ultra Marathon on February 12, 2023.

She broke the previous record of 403.32 km set by Polish runner Patrycja Bereznowska.

Patrycja had set the record at Poland’s UltraPark Weekend 48-hour race on May 15, 2022.

Patrycja, running in Taipei this weekend, was able to cover a distance of 363.728 km during the 48 hour period.

In July 2022, Joanna was among participants at the IAU 24-Hour Asia & Oceania Championships held in Bengaluru.

At the event, she ran in the open category and placed first in the women’s segment.

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


Bharat Pannu; from 2022 RAAM (Photo: courtesy Bharat)

It was the tenth day of his participation in the 2022 edition of Race Across America (RAAM) and things were not going well for Bharat Pannu.

He had developed a mild fever and was feeling chilly during daytime. It wasn’t a sudden onset. A vague sluggishness had been threatening to derail plans since race commencement. It wasn’t the predicament Bharat Pannu deserved. Since 2017, the ultra-cyclist had been trying to participate in and complete the 4800 kilometers-long Race Across America (RAAM). He had done the needful diligently, including crewing for the participating team in 2018 so that he would understand what went into a successful completion of the iconic race. In 2019, with much preparation done, he reached the US for his shot at RAAM. Unfortunately, he suffered an accident while cycling in the US, ahead of RAAM. It left him with a broken collar bone. His plan to race had to be abandoned.

Late 2019, the first cases of what would eventually come to be called COVID-19 were reported. By early 2020, it was a full-blown pandemic, and the world was forced to shut down. Sport went into hibernation; sporting events dried up. The year’s RAAM was cancelled. However, a major development of the pandemic phase featuring people loving the active lifestyle trapped indoors, was the spurt in virtual formats of sport. In cycling, the use of trainers (the device replaces the rear wheel of the bike and allows it to be used as a stationary bicycle that can be pedaled indoors) was already a reality. High end trainers, computers and digital apps used in combination allowed races to be simulated. RAAM debuted a virtual race. Bharat who had been training for RAAM, grabbed the opportunity. Pedaling from an apartment in Pune and enduring the challenges of covering simulated ultra-long distance from a parked bike, Bharat achieved something remarkable – covering 4086 kilometers, he placed first in his age category and third overall in the competition.

The virtual RAAM was followed by attempts to set new records, cycling along India’s highway system called the Golden Quadrilateral and the popular high-altitude road linking Leh and Manali. In both instances, he made it to the Guinness Book of World Records. Beneath the record-breaking effort, there was a niggling worry. Bharat knew that his performance could have been better. In the happiness of podium finish in virtual RAAM and new Guinness records established, introspection got postponed. Correction happened in the 2021 edition of Ultra Spice, among prominent endurance races in India. “ I did this self-supported race and had a good time,’’ Bharat said, adding that the run up to the event and the actual race gave him space to rectify the shortcomings he had noticed in 2020.

By now he was feeling good and ready for another shot at RAAM. But COVID-19 was still out there haunting the world in repeated waves of infection. Overseas travel continued to be plagued by uncertainty and the requirement for extra care and quarantine. RAAM is a supported race; every cyclist has a crew. Anyone of them falling sick would suffice to upset plans; worse, if that happens in the US or during the race, it could mean much investment wasted. For participants from India, RAAM is a costly affair. “ In 2021, RAAM didn’t appear viable to me owing to the restrictions still in place,’’ Bharat said. So, he rolled over his eligibility to participate, to 2022. Following the decision to postpone his RAAM attempt; in October 2021, he cycled in nine days from the west of India to the east – from Koteshwar in Gujarat to Kibita in Arunachal Pradesh.

Within India, events in sport were slowly regaining tempo and normalcy. Bharat had his basket of events to choose from and stay busy. But there were other developments to cope with. An army officer, Bharat’s interest in endurance cycling and his competence in the sport, was noticed by the establishment. In July 2021, the aeronautical engineer aligned with the Indian Army’s aviation wing, was transferred from Bengaluru to Ahmednagar (a major base for the army’s armored corps) and put in charge of the Indian Army’s Cycling and Rugby teams. While that no doubt ensured a scenario in which, a person’s favorite sport became the stuff of his regular work, the new responsibilities – he was now overseeing the training and performance of whole teams – may have deprived Bharat of the level of attention he should have shown himself to be in good shape for RAAM. “ I got involved in so many things,’’ Bharat said. He made the best of what his predicament offered and reported to RAAM’s starting line in California in June 2022. There was no shortage of confidence, he and his crew were looking forward to a good outing, he said.

As its name denotes, RAAM entails a ride across the United States, spanning its east-west sprawl. In races, Bharat is known for his ability to fare strongly in the second half. When in the initial part of 2022 RAAM, Bharat trailed other participants, it didn’t bother him or his crew. It seemed to fit his style and known pattern of performance. On the fifth day however, it suddenly struck home that the team may find itself in trouble. Till Durango, the progress hadn’t been too bad; the lag was manageable. Then it began to get warm impacting Bharat’s progress. Decisions were taken and a sincere attempt made to improve progress. It yielded result. The rest of day five wasn’t bad. Day six too was good. “ At this point, I was only slightly short of the average speed required to complete the race within the stipulated cut-off period of 12 days,’’ Bharat said. The turnaround in fortunes was short-lived. Four days later, on day ten, that mild fever manifested and along with it, chills, and shivering.

Bharat Pannu; from 2022 RAAM (Photo: courtesy Bharat)

Bharat’s performance started to fall. His average speed began to decline. His crew got worried. It was clear that if Bharat didn’t rest adequately, he risked damaging his health. The team decided to exit the race. It was a tough decision to stomach. “ I didn’t have any saddle sores. My fingers were fine. My nutrition was perfect,’’ Bharat said. He thinks that the initial lag may have cost him dearly. Aside from requiring him to push later to make up for the lag, it also brought him to some of the portions of the course susceptible to bad weather, just when the conditions turned bad. He got hammered. “ I now understand that you must push from day one itself,’’ Bharat said.

Another reason for his disappointing exit from RAAM in 2022, could be the deficit in training. It wasn’t as good as it was for the races, he previously participated in. And yet, it isn’t all about likely deficit either. In the best of times, to be good in ultra-cycling and fit enough for RAAM, Bharat was training at least 20 hours a week. That is three to four hours daily atop regular office work. “ For the body, office time and sleep time became the only periods for recovery,’’ he said. So, was there an element of too much done over several years, also contributing to the outcome at 2022 RAAM? That’s a tricky slope to set cyclist’s drive, on. Bharat admitted that he had been physically active and challenging his limits for a long time. He maybe in need of a break. On the other hand, too long a break may make return to form, a longer haul. On the question of returning to RAAM, he said, the mind must decide on that subject. “ All said and done, it is a race that requires a fit mind above everything else,’’ Bharat said.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai. This article is based on a conversation had in October 2022. Its publication got delayed. Apologies for the delay.)