For 74-year-old Kaka Samant, the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon has never been just a “race.”
Having participated for the past three years, Samant has never completed the Dream Run (6km), but it is his spirit and the cause he backs that brings him back to Asia’s biggest philanthropic event, which will be held on January 16.
“I am not here to win a medallion,” said Samant, who heads the General Insurance Pensioners’ Association.
“Our aim is to ensure that the needs of the senior citizens — full health insurance, minimum payment of state allotted pension, and the well-being of below poverty line inmates in the state-run old age homes are met,” he added.
Already touted as the richest marathon in Asia, the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2011 will now offer a prize purse of USD 325,000 (about Rs1.5 crore), Rs7 lakh more from last year.
Even in the number of organisations and individual participants registered have increased. [see box]. Members of the Silver Innings Foundation run by Sailesh Mishra will make their debut at the marathon this year. “Personally, I have been very enthusiastic about the marathon and the causes that it supports,” said Mishra.
“This time around, we decided to put together a team of our own to not just raise funds; but also raise an alarm about the plight of the aged,” he added. Silver Innings will also have 50 young participants running in support of their grandparents.
The marathon seems to be the preferred platform for several small and large organisations to voice their cause and generate awareness.
“The media glare and attention that this event garners has helped secure 42,000 online registrations and also, raise more than Rs2 lakh so far for us,” said K Vaidyanathan, administrator, Aditya Jyot Foundation for Twinkling Eyes.
The causes spurred through the marathon aren’t only about the upliftment of Mumbai.
For instance, the Tamil Nadu-centric Isha Vidhya Foundation has 230 registered participants running the half marathon (21km).
“Our participants are working towards raising funds towards the cost of infrastructure of a new school as well as expansion of the existing seven schools of Isha Vidhya in Tamil Nadu,” said Rajeswari Kesavan, founder, Isha Vidhya Foundation.
“We expect to raise more than Rs50 lakh. Several celebrities would be part of this run and the musical band, Sounds of Isha, will play along the marathon route,” she added.
“The Mumbai Marathon provides the city a platform to come together in a celebration that cuts across social and economic barriers. It stirs the conscience of every citizen, encouraging them to reach out in aid of a cause or charity,” said Suchismita Bose, director, The Foundation, which has been associated with the marathon for the past nine years.