Wish you a very happy New Year
Thank you for visiting this blog
Please continue to do so
Wish you a very happy New Year
Thank you for visiting this blog
Please continue to do so
Very rarely has the demise of a judge assumed such proportions of loss and anxiety over what next, as the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.
RBG, as she was popularly known, was a champion of women’s rights and her work in the field, sustained for decades, was instrumental in ensuring gender equality before the law, in the US. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; in 1993 President Bill Clinton nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Her demise in September 2020 has left liberal political groups nervous given both the nature of conservative politics visible since the last US presidential elections and attempts to enhance the conservative element in the country’s Supreme Court. The latter assumes importance because in the system of checks and balances that is democracy, the judiciary plays a major role – it is often the final corrective force – and its dominance by any particular social, cultural or political flavor provides scope to change the character of a country temporarily. On the other hand, judges are human too.
Uniquely, the exploration of what makes judges what they are is as much fleshed out as the life of Ruth Bader Ginsberg in RBG, the 2018 documentary film on her, currently available on Netflix. It is an excellent film about a journey in law and women’s rights, commencing in times when American law firms rarely hired a woman lawyer and the approach of law reflected society’s treatment of women, as subservient to men. This was despite the constitution promising equality. Starting with the case of a woman air force officer denied housing allowance for no reason other than her gender; RBG worked her way through several cases – including those seeking gender equality for men – to help lay the legal framework for a more just society. The documentary sheds light on her personal life; family, the professional rapport she shared with colleagues holding opposing political views and her eventual rise in old age to the status of an icon, a strong supporter of equality. We learn of not merely the cases she won but also the cases in which her opinion was minority and she registered her dissent. The words of dissent help us understand her position. Don’t miss this film. There is no better time to watch it than now when world over, the gains of liberal politics and diverse society are being undermined by conservative forces. Not to mention – it doesn’t matter if the subject is from another country; when it comes to democracy, the experience of one democratic nation is lesson for itself and others.
(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)
Although scaled down to an elites only affair, this year’s London Marathon, due October 4, promises engaging action as it pits the world’s fastest marathon runner, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya against the second fastest, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia and a host of other top runners. In the women’s race, world record holder, Brigid Kosgei of Kenya will be participating.
On September 29, The Guardian reported that race director, Hugh Brasher, believed records may fall on the fast course selected for the 2020 London Marathon provided weather stayed supportive. According to the report, all Kenyan and Ethiopian runners arrived for the race cleared COVID-19 tests, save a runner (Degitu Azimeraw) and a coach (Haji Adilo) – both from Ethiopia – who tested positive before boarding the flight to London. There are COVID-19 tests before athlete leaves his / her country, tests before checking into the hotel in London and tests ahead of actual race.
This year’s edition of London Marathon, originally scheduled to be held on April 26, 2020, was postponed to October 4, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Later, it was changed to an elites-only race. London Marathon is the second event to be held this year from the clutch of races constituting the World Marathon Majors. In March, the Tokyo Marathon was held as an elites-only race. The London Marathon course will also be markedly different this time with runners racing along a contained course around St. James Park. Participants will do 19.6 laps of this loop.
For the large number of amateur athletes who had signed up for the event, this year’s London Marathon will be accessible as a virtual event. Participants of the virtual 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon have 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds to complete their marathon. They will have to enter their race details on the official race app, London Marathon said on its website.
Some of the amateur runners participating in the virtual event in India
In India, runners registered for the virtual London Marathon will be running in their own cities in small contained loops as lockdown norms still prevent any gathering of people.
In Bengaluru, Bhadresh Shivashankar will be running the virtual London Marathon at Hesaraghata, on the outskirts of the city. Bhadresh was on course to do the six World Marathon Majors having already run Berlin Marathon in 2018 and Chicago Marathon in 2019. This year, he had registered for London Marathon. Following outbreak of COVID-19 worldwide, he joined the ranks of those running the event’s virtual format. Bhadresh has been running for over 15 years now. Beset with health issues, he took to running when he was working in Dubai. Over the years, he has participated in many races of varying distances, including several marathons.
“ On Sunday, I will be running on a loop of 15 kilometers at Hesaraghata. Support will be provided by the marathon training group, Pacemakers and Active Holidays, a travel company that organizes trips to run marathons,” he said.
Harish Vasista, also from Bengaluru, will be running the virtual London Marathon at the same venue as Bhadresh. Training with Pacemakers, Harish has been following his coach K.C. Kothandapani’s customized training plan. “ My training for the virtual run has been good although I could have done better,” he said. Harish too was on course to do the six World Marathon Majors, having already done New York City Marathon and Berlin Marathon. This year, he was to do London Marathon and Chicago Marathon. While London Marathon was postponed and later changed to the virtual format, Chicago Marathon’s 2020 edition has been cancelled. “ I plan to start at a slow pace for the first 20-22 kilometers. Depending on how I feel, I will step up my pace for the rest of the run,” he said. Weather in Bengaluru has been quite good these past few days.
In Mumbai, recreational runner Himanshu Sareen will be running the virtual London Marathon barely a fortnight after he ran the virtual Boston Marathon. He plans to run along the same route that he chose for Boston Marathon, a route close to his place of residence. Each virtual marathon appears to have its own unique approach to overall rules. The virtual Boston Marathon held over September 5 – 14 was amenable to the use of treadmill. The virtual London Marathon is not. Himanshu had initially thought of running 30 kilometers outside and 12 kilometers on the treadmill at home. He had arranged for a foot pod to ensure seamless transition. A foot pod is a device that is tied to the foot and is very accurate in measurement while running indoors as well as outdoors. He has since abandoned the plan and decided to keep his run fully outdoors.
Kamalaksha Rao, also from Mumbai, will be attempting his virtual London Marathon on a route close to his place of stay. “ I will be carrying water and some nutrition bars. There are shops along the route. I can buy water from these shops to replenish my supplies,” the septuagenarian said. Kamalaksha will be running at a very slow pace as roughly two and a half months earlier, in July, he had come down with COVID-19. Both Kamalaskha and Himanshu hadn’t originally registered for the London Marathon. They registered later for the virtual format. The virtual version of major running events has been finding acceptance in India. Amidst lockdown blues and life that continues to be hemmed in by COVID-19, it has provided goals that runners can focus on. Not to mention – in their own small way, amateur runners deprived the ambiance of running events by the pandemic, tweak these virtual events to create a microcosm of enjoyable event. During the virtual Boston Marathon for example, running groups in India had created special loops, banners and finishing tape, provided hydration support and even some cheering – all this with safety protocols in place.
A backdrop of inspiring performances despite virus hit-world
This year’s London Marathon is happening against the backdrop of an unexpected improvement in distance running by some elite athletes despite circumstances still plagued by COVID-19. The spread of COVID-19 worldwide, the lockdown it caused and the way in which it upset athletes’ training plans (not to mention, how the pandemic caused the 2020 Olympic Games to be postponed) were expected to impact athletic performance. While that may be the general trend, on August 14, Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda stunned the world when he scripted a new world record in the 5000 meters on track. Later, over September 4 – 5, three world records tumbled. Elite runners, Mo Farah of UK and Sifan Hassan of Netherlands set one hour-world records in their respective gender categories while Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya broke the “ women-only race world record in the half marathon.’’
The attention now shifts to the London Marathon of October 4. Eliud Kipchoge, 35, holds the official world record in the men’s marathon: 2:01:39 set in September 2018 in Berlin. In October 2019, he was in the news for covering the same distance in 1:59:40 at a special event in Vienna (it did not count as a new record). Kenenisa Bekele, 38, has a personal best of 2:01:41 in the marathon, set at the 2019 Berlin Marathon. Brigid Kosgei’s world record in the women’s marathon is 2:14:04; it was set at the 2019 Chicago Marathon.
(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)
From Manali to Shillong and Thiruvananthapuram, 25 ultrarunners participated in India over two days
The IAU 6-Hour Virtual Global Solidarity Run took place as scheduled.
From India, 24 of the originally listed 26 runners ran on the first day (August 29). One participant ran on August 30 while another decided not to participate owing to injury.
Running in Surat, Sandeep Kumar logged the maximum distance among Indian ultrarunners with 79.53 km covered as per provisional data. Bengaluru-based Pranaya Mohanty managed 75.45 km during the stipulated period. The event is non-competitive; there is no official ranking based on mileage. Nupur Singh, running in Manali, turned in the highest mileage among women runners. She covered 70.93 km during the six-hour period. Binay Sah, running in Dwarahat, Uttarakhand, completed a distance of 73 km. Sikandar Lamba of the AFI team covered a distance of 69.26 km during the six-hour period.
Sandeep ran on August 30. His choice of Surat, where he lives, to execute the six hour-run proved beneficial as it was familiar training ground. “ I started well. The weather was pleasant and there was no sun. There were headwinds but there were tailwinds too which helped. I ran from hour to hour instead of focusing on the six hour-period,” he said. The previous day at Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru, six runners – Pranaya, Santosh, Ashwini, Bindu, Manoj and Velu – had commenced their run at 5AM. “ The first two hours was great as it was dark and cold. We could maintain a good pace. I could cover a distance of 27 km,” Pranaya said. Subsequently, it was a struggle as it was a pretty warm day in Bengaluru.
“ I avoided taking any gels for this run as I wanted to test my body with Maaza, electrolyte, water, Thums Up, Yoga Bar, banana and candies. My nutrition plan worked well but I got a lesson not to drink electrolytes on an empty stomach,” he said. At the end of five hours, Pranaya had covered 64 km. “My body was giving up but I kept running continuously till the end of the six hours. I was able to cover a total distance of 75.45 km,” Pranaya said.
Manali, where Nupur ran, is in the foothills of the Himalaya. It is a place of ascents and descents. “ Around here wherever you go it’s either uphill or downhill. To run for six hours, I planned it downhill, ” Nupur said. She commenced her run from Marhi on the way to Rohtang Pass and ran towards Kullu. The run went very well and as planned for the first four hours; it was evenly paced and controlled. “ I was able to cover 50 km during these hours. The remaining two hours were quite challenging with heat, scorching sun and some rolling hills, ” she said. Given Marhi is at 11,020 feet altitude (source: Wikipedia), the temperature was around four degrees centigrade when she started. It then rose steadily to 36 degrees in Kullu (4196 feet / source: Wikipedia), where she finished. “ Overall it was a beautiful day in the mountains,” Nupur said.
As announced earlier by The Athletics Federation of India (AFI), the runners selected to run for India were: women – Anju Saini, Aparna Choudhary, Ashwini Ganapathi, Bindu Juneja, Darishisha Iangjuh, Deepti Chaudhary, Hemlata, Nupur Singh and Shyamala S; the men’s team includes Abhinav Jha, Amit Kumar, Binay Sah, Geeno Antony, Hemant Singh, Pranaya Mohanty, Sunil Sharma, Suraj Chadha and Tlanding Wahlang.
A second team representing the AFI was also announced. The members of the team for the AFI 6-Hour Solidarity Run were Ajit Singh Narwal, Badal Teotia, Manoj Kuthupady Bhat, Nishu Kumar, Sandeep Kumar, Santosh Gowda, Sikander Lamba and Velu Perumal.
Out of these runners, Tlanding Wahlang, who was slated to participate, opted not to run due to injury, Sunil Chainani, member of the committee appointed by AFI to oversee the selection of Indian ultra-running teams, said.
On August 29, the selected athletes ran in different parts of the country and abroad. For instance, besides the numbers mentioned in Surat, Bengaluru and Manali, Suraj, Hemant, Anju and Deepti ran in Delhi; Geeno ran in Thiruvananathapuram, Darishisha in Shillong, Ajit in USA, Nishu in Surat, Aparna in Jaipur, Abhinav in Vizag, Badal in Bulandshahr, Amit in Panchkula, Sikander in Gurgaon and Hema in Hisar, Haryana.
The virtual run was anchored globally by the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU). Following selection by their respective federations, on event day, athletes were expected to record their performance on one of the many platforms like Strava and Garmin. Federations or their nominated team manager would need to verify and check their athletes’ performances and then submit the tabulated results to the IAU. Runners were expected to run at any time in one continuous six-hour block over the weekend of August 29-30.
Provisional mileage (in km) covered by the runners
Anju Saini – 55.2; Aparna Choudhary – 49, Ashwini Ganapathi – 54.18, Bindu Juneja – 64.08, Darishisha Iangjuh – 63, Deepti Chaudhary – 54.2, Hemlata – 42.61, Nupur Singh – 70.93, Shyamala S – 52.43, Abhinav Jha – 50.16, Amit Kumar – 44.5, Binay Sah – 73, Geeno Antony – 60.49, Hemant Singh – 56.15, Pranaya Mohanty – 75.45, Sunil Sharma – 68, Suraj Chadha -58.74, – Ajit Singh Narwal – 53, Badal Teotia – 67, Manoj Kuthupady Bhat – 66.66, Nishu Kumar – 44.02, Santosh Gowda – 62.5, Sikandar Lamba – 69.26, Velu Perumal – 65.31, Sandeep Kumar – 79.53.
(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)
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Rashpal Singh and Sher Singh place second and third respectively in men’s marathon
Hiruni Wijayaratne of Sri Lanka secured gold in women’s marathon at the 2019 South Asian Games, currently on in Nepal. She covered the distance in 2:41:24.
Silver medal went to Pushpa Bhandari of Nepal ((2:50:11).
India’s Jyoti Gawate took the bronze (2:52:44).
Jyoti’s compatriot Jigmet Dolma placed fifth (3:07:24). This was Jigmet’s first time representing the country.
The race took place earlier today, December 7, 2019.
Hailing from Parbhani, Maharashtra, Jyoti is a familiar face at road races in the country including the annual Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM), where she has been podium finisher multiple times. This was Jyoti’s second outing at South Asian Games. Earlier in 2016, she had been part of the marathon team for that year’s South Asian Games held in Guwahati. In 2011, she had taken part in the Asian Marathon Championships in Thailand and finished seventh among women with a timing of 3:17 hours. She was chosen for the event in Thailand because of her podium finish at the 2011 Mumbai Marathon. AFI had funded her trip and stay. The federation also sent her to participate in the SCO Marathon in China.
At the 2019 edition of TMM, she had finished second among elite Indian women with a personal best timing of 2:45:48. Both Jyoti and Jigmet were selected to represent India at the 2019 South Asian Games based on their podium positions at the fourth edition of the IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon held on February 24, 2019. Ahead of leaving for Nepal and the 2019 South Asian Games, Jyoti had told this blog that she would be aiming for a performance close to what she achieved at TMM (for more on Jyoti please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2019/02/04/jyoti-and-the-eight-minutes/).
According to Wikipedia, Hiruni Wijayaratne is a Sri Lankan-American track and field athlete specializing in long distance running. She represented her country in the 2017 London Marathon and the 2017 World Athletics Championships. She holds ten Sri Lankan national records. She holds the Sri Lankan national record in the women’s marathon of 2:34:10, which is also a South Asia Area Record. The Indian national record in the women’s marathon set by O.P. Jaisha at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing is 2:34:43.
In the men’s marathon, Kiran Singh Bogati of Nepal emerged victorious. As per information available on the official website of the 2019 South Asian Games, he clinched gold, covering the distance in 2:21:17. Silver went to India’s Rashpal Singh (2:21:57); India’s Sher Singh took bronze (2:27:07).
(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai. For more background information on Jyoti and Jigmet please click on this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2019/11/29/jyoti-jigmet-in-marathon-team-for-2019-south-asian-games/; you can also refer the archives of this blog for articles on them.)
Sapporo Odori Park in Hokkaido will be the venue for the marathon and race walk events of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“ The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) today announced that Sapporo Odori Park in Hokkaido has been approved by the IOC as the venue for the marathon and race walk events at the IOC Executive Board meeting held today in Lausanne, Switzerland. This followed confirmation from World Athletics,’’ an official statement dated December 4, 2019, available on the website of IOC, said.
According to it, Sapporo Odori Park has been used in the past as a venue for the Hokkaido Marathon, giving the local authorities considerable experience in operating major events in this area. It is a popular spot for tourists and local residents; it hosts a variety of events throughout the year. It is a large open space of around 7.8 hectares in the center of Sapporo City, featuring beautiful lawns, flower beds and trees.
The park was chosen also because its layout allows both the marathon and race walk events to be held at the same venue, while the topography of the surrounding area allows for the creation of exciting competition courses. At Games time, temporary facilities will be constructed at the park to support operations.
The statement said that IOC, World Athletics and Tokyo 2020 agreed on one and two kilometer-loops for the race walk and a 20km loop course for the first stage of the marathon, leaving as legacy a half-marathon course which can host a future annual event. World Athletics and Tokyo 2020 will continue their discussions on the second half of the course and will conduct a site inspection in order to reach a mutual decision on overall operations by mid-December, the statement said.
The competition schedules have also been revamped to facilitate the support of NOC officials and coaches to the athletes, as Sapporo is located 800km to the north of Tokyo. The marathon and race walk events are now scheduled to be held on four consecutive days, from 6 to 9 August. The revised schedule is as follows:
6 August / 4.30 p.m. Men’s 20km race walk
7 August / 5.30 a.m. Men’s 50km race walk
7 August / 4.30 p.m. Women’s 20km race walk
8 August / 7.00 a.m. Women’s marathon
9 August / 7.00 a.m. Men’s marathon
The statement quoted the Chair of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission, Kirsty Coventry, as saying, “ Athletes’ health and well-being are always at the heart of our concerns, and the decision to move the marathon and race walk events to Sapporo shows how seriously we take such concerns. We also want the Olympic Games to be the platform where athletes can give once-in-a-lifetime-performances, and this new venue ensures that they will have the conditions to give their best. I would like to thank the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the local authorities and World Athletics for confirming this new venue so quickly, in order to give the athletes as much preparation time as possible. I look forward to seeing the marathon and race walk athletes compete in Sapporo in front of a passionate crowd next August.”
Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto commented, “ We appreciate that, through the support of so many people, Sapporo Odori Park could be approved as a venue so quickly following the decision to move these events. With less than eight months to go until the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Games, Tokyo 2020 will continue to work closely as one team with all the parties involved in their preparation.’’
It was in mid-October that the IOC first announced plans to move the Olympic marathon and race walk events to Sapporo, the host city of the Olympic Winter Games 1972. The move to Hokkaido, the northern-most prefecture of Japan, will mean significantly lower temperatures for the athletes during the Olympic Games. In Sapporo, temperatures during the Games period are as much as five to six degrees centigrade cooler during the day than in Tokyo, an official statement issued then had said. In era of climate change, thermal stress has become a subject of concern for endurance sports staged outside the controlled ambiance of stadiums. It may be recalled that heat had taken a terrible toll on participants for the marathon and race walk events at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, earlier this year.
(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is now less than a year away.
The Games span July 24-August 9, 2020.
According to a report on the website of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the event will break from tradition by having the Olympic cauldron not in the main stadium “ but on the waterfront at the Yume-no-Ohashi Bridge, near the urban sports cluster.’’ There will be a temporary cauldron in the stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies.
The Olympic stadium will be formally opened in December 2019. It has cooling systems given the Games will be held amid weather conditions expected to be warm.
Of particular interest to those tracking endurance sports, should be the description of the Olympic marathon route available in the report.
“ The marathon route starts and finishes at the stadium, passing the landmarks of Kaminarimon (the Thunder Gate, which is guarded by the deities of wind and thunder), the Imperial Palace, home of Japan’s new emperor Naruhito, Tokyo Station, the Zojoji temple, Tokyo Tower and the Nihombashi bridge.
“ But none of these milestones is expected to be as decisive as the hill that rises steadily from 37km to 41km on the course. It is not steep but it is relentless, rising 30m in elevation, from five meters to 35 meters on an otherwise almost flat course.
“ At that stage of the race, given the expected hot conditions, even a mole hill is likely to feel like a mountain to whoever is left in contention,’’ the report said.
Women athletes will hit the course on August 2, 2020; men on August 9.
“ The race walks will be held on the part of the marathon course that crosses the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace, using a one-kilometer loop for the 20km events and a two-kilometer loop for the 50km events,’’ the report said. The men’s 50km walk will have the earliest start among disciplines at the Games to escape the worst of the heat and the humidity.
According to the report, heat acclimatization strategy will be important for all endurance athletes.
So far, more than 3.22 million tickets for the event have been sold in Japan, the report dated July 24, 2019 said.
(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)