Mumbai, June 15: The 24-Hour Stadium Run at the Mumbai University will start on Saturday (June 15) where more than 1000 determined participants and 200-plus teams will compete. Organised by NEB Sports, this gruelling event will set the tone for the Athletics Federation of India-approved IDBI Federal Life Insurance Mumbai Half Marathon 2019 in August.
The Ultra-marathoners (those running in excess of 42.2 kilometers) cheered on by fans and friends in a carnival-like atmosphere, will target to cover the maximum distance over the 24 hours to be crowned the winners. The top men would aim to clock close to 200 kilometres during this period while the women would aim to touch about 170 km within 24 hours.
The 24-hour Stadium Run tests the endurance as well as mental and physical abilities of athletes as they embark on this momentous journey. An ultra athlete bares the harsh weather conditions on the given day as he runs for full 24 hours to achieve his/her milestone.
Karthik Raman, Chief Marketing Officer, IDBI Federal Life Insurance talked to Mykhel over phone and explained about the nuances of the unique and novel race. Here are the excerpts.
MyKhel: What are the benefits of such events for professionals as well as non-professionals.
Karthik Raman: In India, we do not see too many ultra-runs being organised so non-professionals show keen interest in such races. Secondly, we do not have enough facilities across the country where Ultra runs could be held because you need long roads for races in excess of 42.2 kilometres. So obviously, you need to shut down the roads and take care of various other organisational kinds of stuff.
Hence, due to these two reasons, people flock stadium runs in big numbers, because firstly, it gives you an opportunity to perform in ultra and secondly it provides you an opportunity to prove yourself.
Support is fantastic because you are running on a 400-meter synthetic track so you have support station every 400 meters and there are experts around you all through the 24 hour period. Therefore, the monotony of running alone is absolutely eliminated.
For professionals, obviously it offers a great platform to qualify for larger events, eg, the Indian Ultra Association has just joined the world body and we've had one team which went to world 100km championships, which was sponsored by NEB Sports Entertainment and IDBI Federal Life Insurance. We had five gents and one lady in that championship and our guys did pretty well there in Croatia last year.
Then we had a team of men and women who participated in 24-Oceania championship in Taiwan and the Indian men won a bronze medal there and India's Ulhas Narayan won an individual bronze there.
Most of the athletes aren't professional runners, rather I'd call them serious runners and such talents have all emerged from the 24-Hour Stadium Runs organised across various Indian cities.
So, this is a platform for the people who are very serious about running to prove their mettle and thereby qualify to represent the country at the global stage.
MK: How do Stadium Runs or ultra runs help the serious runners or budding athletes?
Karthik Raman: Generally, Ultras are organised in the hilly areas, so you don't get to see many ultras runs being held in the plains. Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi, Chandigarh are the only cities where such events are organised. So, we are providing the athletes and running enthusiasts in the urban cities, an opportunity to test their skills and even impress the talent scouts to earn a spot in the national ultra-running team.
So, imagine somebody who's a recreational runner, but a very serious runner. He goes to participate in this event and suddenly ends up getting a batch number to represent India at a global level. It's a fair platform, you just perform and go up. It's purely on merit and that kind of platform isn't available too often. The only criteria for qualification is that one should have run 12 hours and/or completed a run of 75 km to qualify for the 24-hour run. To qualify for a 12-hour run, one should have completed a full marathon under 5 hours.
It is also a great platform for non-professionals to test how capable they are and realise that it gives them an opportunity to represent India if they've performed well.
MK: Are athetes only supposed to run for 12 hours or 24 hours?
Karthik Raman: Apart from 12-hours and 24-hour runs, we also have relays. So for the relay basically you need to have a team of six people, comprising four male and two female runners. And each member runs for two hours, this way the team gets to complete 12 hours. So if one wishes to participate in a 12-hour run, the participants can form a team of six and enrol themselves in the event. This is what encourages the participants (both professionals and amateurs).
MK: Why not too many ultra runs happening in India despite looking so popular amongst runners?
Karthik Raman: Infrastructure is the biggest challenge to organise a race of such magnitude. You've got to have a proper synthetic race track of 400 meters. In Delhi we have Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Mumbai we have University Stadium, and in Bengaluru we have Kanteerava Stadium that are suitable for organising such ultra runs. We are working towards organising such events in other cities as well but before that we need to improve the infrastructure.
MK: So events like these are the perfect place for spotting raw talents and harnessing them for the future, isn't it?
Karthik Raman: Yes absolutely. Spotting talents is a huge thing because in a country like ours where the talent is overflowing we are just giving them a platform to showcase what they're capable of. And these runs that we organise, whether it's a stadium run or even the marathons we have organised, a lot of raw talent emerges from there. So if you look at the men's team that won the bronze medal at the 24-Oceania Championship, last year, barring Ulhas Narayan - who trained in Canada - everyone else was spotted in our stadium runs and nobody knows them. So its a great platform for raw talent, as you rightly pointed out. There is no dearth of raw talent in our country but they are not aware of how they can showcase it. So we are providing them with a platform to just grab the opportunity with both arms and make it to the next level. So you come, you run and get recognised for the individual events if you show the potential.
MK: What kind of competition and challenges non-professionals might face in this event?
Karthik Raman: These young amateur runners would, of course, get stiff competition from the members of the armed forces and the farmers, who are naturally built for running for longer periods of time and under harsh conditions. But if you manage to compete with these men then definitely you'll come under the radar of the talent scouts present there. We've seen young farmers participating in such events and they've done exceedingly well.
MK: How do you promote these events to the masses?
Karthik Raman: We largely depend on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to reach out to the athletes and promote our events. As such events test the endurance level of athletes to the maximum, so typically this run is largely for runners. Therefore participants are themselves pretty aware and keep a tab over the events. In fact, the entire event was sold out within a week of the announcement. We have almost 240 relay teams participating this time.
MK: What is your message to the participants?
Karthik Raman: My message to the participants is that just go out there run well, run safely. But prior to that, just go through the proper medical check-up. Every six hours they conduct a medical check-up and it's mandatory. Ensure you are absolutely hydrated and consume the food you are given from the organisers. Be safe, and most importantly enjoy the run.