Corporate heads and film personalities joined an estimated 40,000 people running for peace and unity at the Mumbai marathon that got underway in Mumbai on Sunday morning.
While the 21-km Half Marathon began at 7.15 am, huge crowds joined the full 42-km main marathon of the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, which started half an hour later.
Thousands of bystanders cheered the participants along the route of the marathon - the fist major public event in the metropolis after the 26/11 terror strikes.
The event with a theme of peace and unity has attracted over 43,000 entries in various categories and many hopefuls were seen attempting to make spot registrations, a spokesman for the organisers said.
The race started amidst tight ground security and air security cover provided by three helicopters, from the Mahapalika Marg, just adjacent to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), one of the sites targeted by the terrorists in the Nov 26 attacks.
It will wend its way upto Bandra's Swami Vivekanand Road, and from there take the same route to return to the CST. The participants are competing for the final prize, totaling to $250,000 (Rs.1.2 billion).
Leading Mumbaikars in the run are many celebrities like Anil Ambani, Milind Soman, Arjun Rampal, Vinay Pathak, Shreyas Talpade, Rahul Bose, Om Puri, Tara Sharma, Lillete Dubey, Dolly Thakore, Anand Mahindra, Amit Chandra, Archana Chandra, Sanjeev Kapoor and Annabelle Mehta.
The event brand ambassadors are Bollywood hunk John Abraham, three-time Olympic champions Gabriela Szabo and Gail Devers, and famous Moroccan long distance runner Hicham El Guerrouj, the spokesman said.
In the main marathon, there will be 2,500 participants, including nearly 400 women. Over 150 foreigners, including 52 women, shall also run.
The youngest runner to participate is 12-year old Vishal Panchidi, the oldest is 77-year old Ashish Roy while there are as many as 150 participants on wheel chairs.
Another 10,000 will run to raise funds for various charities like Nanhikali, The Research Society and the Akanksha Foundation among others.
The Mumbai Police and traffic police, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), the state government, the Indian Navy and other agencies shall be actively involved to make the event safe and successful.
Apart from the main title sponsor Standard Chartered Bank, the associate sponsor is Tata Consultancy Services. The event is being held under aegis of the Athletics Federation of India with technical coordination by Maharashtra Athletic Association and promoted by Procam International.