At the onset of the new Indian running season in August 2009, the thought that came to my mind is how the landscape of distance running has changed(for the better of course) during the last few years. In 2002 when I started training for my first Full marathon I searched hard to locate an event to participate in. The only one I could find was the Pune International Marathon held in December of every year. It is not that we are spoilt for choice in India today. We lag considerably compared to other countries around the globe in terms of quantity and quality of marathon events eg US has over 400 marathon races a year; even a tiny country like Taiwan with a population of just 23 million people has seven marathons per year.
Nevertheless, long distance runners today have a choice of number of events that they can participate in during the running season spanning between August 2009 and February 2010. The table below lists the events of the 2009-10 running season that I am aware of and have been held at least once before. This list covers events which have at least a 21K distance. All except the Idea Chennai International Half marathon, Airtel Delhi Half marathon and Hyderabad 10K and Half marathon have a full marathon event and of course at the Bangalore ultra marathon one can run longer distances than a marathon. This note is based on personal experience through participation in all except three of these events and feedback from experienced runners on the remaining events. This year I plan to run 50Km at the Bangalore ultra marathon, HM at the Bangalore midnight marathon and FMs at Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon and Auroville marathon.
|Hyderabad Full and Half Marathon ||30th Aug 2009 |
|Kaveri Trail Marathon||13th Sept 2009 |
|Idea Chennai International Half marathon||27th Sept 2009 |
|Airtel Delhi Half Marathon||1st Nov 2009 |
|Bangalore Ultra Marathon||15th Nov 2009 |
|Hyderabad 10K and Half marathon ||22nd Nov 2009 |
|Running and Living marathon||6th Dec 2009 |
|Pune International Marathon||6th Dec 2009 |
|Bangalore Midnight Marathon||12th Dec 2009 |
|Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon ||17th Jan 2010 |
|Auroville marathon ||14th February 2010|
Hyderabad Full and Half Marathon :
The 2nd edition of this event held on 30th August 2009 surpassed the high expectations that the participants had based the extremely positive feedback of the 1st edition in August 2008. Once again it was a runner friendly, point to point to road race with well marked route and amply stocked aid stations. The route took runners through two wonderful campuses: ISB and University of Hyderabad. The runners were taken care of very well with a pre-race pasta dinner, dormitory accommodation at the games village in Gachibowli, bus transport to the starting point and a decent breakfast and medal for finishers. The bonanza was cash prizes for the top 10 amateur finishers. With the feedback from the two editions of the race this event is surely a road race that should be on the calendar of every serious long distance runner in the country.
Kaveri Trail Marathon:
KTM is organised jointly by Runners For Life and Bangalor Hash house Harriers and is the only run in India that is close to 100% trail route. The route is a very scenic 10.5 Km out and back path going all along the Cauvery canal a few Kms from the historic town of Srirangapatnam. Full marathon runners therefore need to do two loops. The uneven terrain compounded by warm weather results in this being a challenging race for even seasoned runners. Though a great race to run in preparation for the Bangalore ultra marathon , its certainly not one to aim for a personal best in! The 2009 edition of this run held on 13th September saw record number of over 700 participants go through the gruelling run.
Idea Chennai International Half Marathon:
This is a 7K and Half marathon event. Chennai has had marathons in Jan/Feb in the past and in 2008 the first edition of this Half marathon was in August. This year’s edition was postponed from August 30th to September 27th. The reports posted on Chennai Runners group about the 2008 edition of the event were not very positive. Even then it is the only organized road race in Chennai and Chennai based runners are expected to participate in large numbers with the hope that the organizers will take better care of the details this year to ensure an event that is friendlier to amateur runners.Airtel Delhi Half Marathon:
This is a professionally organised road race touted as the world’s richest half marathon. The event is managed by Procam the entity that manages the Stanchart Mumbai marathon and Sunfeast 10K in Bangalore, The HM starts opposite Nehru Park and takes the runners through historic parts of New Delhi such as Janpath, India Gate, Rajghat etc. Feedback from runners who have participated in this event is that this is an enjoyable race though it could get quite warm and large parts of the route does not have shade. This year's event is on 1st November.
Bangalore Ultra Marathon:
The only ultra marathon in India providing an opportunity for runners to test their endurance by running distances beyond the full marathon(42.2K) distance. The 2007 and 2008 editions organised in the Hesarghatta area outside Bangalore, with a mostly trail and part road route, were extremely well received by the participants. In November 2008 runners ran multiple loops of 12.5Km each - running between 2 loops(25Km) and over 8 loops(100Km+). Over 150 runners ran 50Km in 2008. The run course is kept open for 12 hours and the aid stations are well stocked with peanut sandwiches being a big hot among the participants. Definitely a MUST DO event for serious long distance runners in India. In the 2009 edition of the race, scheduled for 15th November 2009, runners can do a 12.5K distance – this is expected to result in over 500 participants. Have been privileged to have been part of the first two editions this is an event I hope to do every year.
Hyderabad 10K and Half Marathon:
Organised by the Hyderabad 10K Foundation in November this event is growing in popularity and size. With inputs from the growing breed of Hyderabad runners this event is expected to pay attention to details and be friendly for amateur runners. I did this in 2006 and found it quite enjoyable though there should be have been a few more water stations in the route.
Running and Living Marathon :
Organized by Running and Living – another popular and passionate organization promoting running in the country the February 2009 edition was the first one. The overall feedback was very positive as is expected of an event by runners for runners. This year’s event, consisting of a full marathon and a half marathon, is on 6th December. The FM runners will do 3 loops of 14K. Like the 1st edition this year also runners can expect great support from volunteers and well stocked aid stations. Any serious long distance runner living in the North should definitely check this out.
Pune International Marathon:
This is probably the oldest organised marathon event in India– the 1st edition was in 1983. At least in the early years this race was primarily used as a national marathon championship to rank Indian professional runners. Therefore the organization was not friendly towards amateur slower runners in terms of traffic control, aid station support etc. Runners were expected to reach the half way point in 1 hour 30 minutes and complete the race in 3 hours. Experience of runners who have participated in this event in the last 6 years suggests that this race is avoidable for amateur runners. I attempted this in December 2002 - my first full marathon event. I had to give up at 33rd Km due to lack of water stations and traffic control. I for one would not recommend this to any amateur runner.Bangalore Midnight marathon:
This event has so far been held twice : the first one wasMay 2007 and again in Janaury 2009(postponed from December 2008 due to the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008). As the only non-morning race in India this event is unique. Since most of us run in the mornings during our training runs running at night specially starting at midnight is a tremendous challenge. Due to the event being held at night and being a route with multiple loops traffic control and aid station support has been reasonable compared to the other Full marathon road race held in Bangalore a couple of times. The 2nd edition of the event was a definite improvement from the first one. The most popular part of this event is the 7K IT-city run which usually has several thousand participants. The Half marathon also has a large number of participants. The 2007 edition of the event in which I ran the FM had less than 80 FM runners. The 3rd edition is scheduled for 12th December as per the website. However, this event has been prone to last minute date changes in the past.
Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon:
By far the biggest and best organised road marathon in India it has been growing in popularity since the 1st edition in 2004. The race date is now fixed for the 3rd Sunday of January every year. This road race that starts from VT station and goes along the Marine drive in South Mumbai also sees the city of Mumbai coming out in huge numbers to cheer and support the participants. In terms of spectator support this event is akin to the large marathons in Europe and USA. No wonder that this attracts runners from all over India with over 50 runners from Bangalore going over to do the FM last year despite the challenge of a warmer and more humid weather. Another sign of this event’s popularity is that registration starts over 6 months in advance and gets sold out within a few weeks. This year the registrations opened in mid July and by August end both HM and FM registrations were closed Runners who are unable to register in time often get disappointed to be turned away. I have participated in every edition of this event and have seen it grow in size and quality. I hope to participate in this one for years to come.
This is definitely the most scenic marathon in the country organised very passionately by volunteers within Auroville. The 2nd edition held in February 2009 was mostly trail and consisted of 2 loops of 21.1Km. Both the editions of this race have received such an overwhelming positive feedback that many runners have added this to their annual race calendar and are already looking forward to the 2010 event on February 14th. The magnificent beauty of the course and the wonderful hospitality of the Aurovillans certainly makes this a must do event.