Vivek Singh is joint managing director of Procam International, which organises the Mumbai marathon. No other sporting event, he said, has the emotional connection associated with distance running.
The marathon is just days away. What’s different about it this time?
For the first time, there will be dedicated pacemakers for amateur runners in full and half marathons. Established runners will set pace for certain finish timings and the rest will be encouraged to run along depending on their preparation.
For the first time, Lucozade [energy drink] will be provided to runners at energy stations positioned every 5 km along the routes. Sponges will also be provided to help participants cool down. There will be two ‘mist zones’ [artificial water mists to help runners cool down], one each at Worli seaface and Marine Lines station. Both will be 50 ft in length, 10 ft in width. Music zones — recorded or live — will be positioned every 5 km to left runners’ spirits.
Amateur full marathoners will start their race at 6.15 am, half an hour earlier than last year. This will help them finish earlier.
How has the marathon developed as a commercial event?
It’s a huge platform, which creates hype, attracts eyeballs and delivers exceptional emotional equity. No other event can give the emotional connect that a distance running event does. Sponsors have stayed with it because of this.
The marathon had a rough relationship with the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) last year.
AFI’s demands were unreasonable; they wanted to take over something they did not create or own. We appealed to the two governing bodies, International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and Association of International Marathons and Distance Race, which supported us. The AFI then threatened to ban national athletes who participated in our events, but it was heartening to see athletes who benefited from the event participate in large numbers. Athlete Kavita Raut said recently, “It was the Mumbai marathon that gave me the recognition and the opportunity to run with the best.”
How are you ensuring that the security is foolproof?
The marathon belongs to the city and its security comes under the purview of the police. Full credit to them as they have ensured a trouble-free event for seven years. We are confident they will continue to do so. Their efforts are being complemented by private security agencies, officials and volunteers.
Have international sports figures, such as Cathy Freeman, as brand ambassadors made a difference? The big names still give the event a miss.
People like Freeman and others — such as Gail Devers, Michael Johnson, Linford Christie, Mike Powell and Paul Tergat — have lent their support and increased awareness of this event worldwide. It is wrong to say that the big names of distance running give the event a miss. The marathon’s first edition was won by Hendrik Ramaala, who went on to win the New York marathon. We also have John Kelai, Dieudonne Disi and some of the biggest names among the women marathoners who come to India and race in one of the three events Procam International promotes.