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How not to organise a marathon

The jury can be out on whether lack of proper assistance from the volunteers and officials or whether it was the player's "intentional" mistake which brought disgrace upon two of India's elite women athletes as they were disqualified from the Mumbai Marathon for not completing the entire race.

other Updated: Jan 17, 2011 01:44 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni

The jury can be out on whether lack of proper assistance from the volunteers and officials or whether it was the player's "intentional" mistake which brought disgrace upon two of India's elite women athletes as they were disqualified from the Mumbai Marathon for not completing the entire race.

Waheeda Khan and Vidya Mehta crossed the finish line under 2 hours 46 minutes to the surprise of everyone watching the race as their average time is around 3 hours and 20 minutes. The athletes following them were quick to lodge a protest asking the officials to cross check their timings.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/17_01_pg21.jpg

After two hours of deliberation and cross checking the timings at all the nodal points, race director Dave Cundy decided to disqualify the two runners, thereby declaring Prabhani girl, Jyoti Gawate as the eventual champion.

“When we got the information about the protest being lodged, we checked the manual and electronic records of both the athletes and found out that they never crossed the check point at 24.2 kilometers (at the starting point of the half-marathon in Bandra).

“Hence we came to the conclusion that they did not run the entire race and were disqualified," Cundy announced while introducing the eventual podium finishers.

Though Cundy was not willing to elaborate on how the player's would have cut corners, it was clear that the two athletes headed straight back towards Churchgate on the half marathon route from the Worli Dairy instead of turning left towards Bandra.

Full marathon participants were supposed to cross the Bandra-Worli sea-link and return to the same stretch on the Worli Sea Face before heading onto the final stretch. The distance between the two points is approximately 14 kilometers.

"We asked for directions at that point and took the route that was told to us," said Waheeda, ruling out the possibility of challenging the disqualification decision.

However, race director Huge Jones rejected the argument of the lack of proper assistance to the athletes and implied that the duo intentionally took a wrong route. "When thousands of runners took the right route how only two can make the mistake," he asked.

But Jones' view did not find buyers even among the podium finishers with Shastri Devi, who took the runner-up spot, pointing out that they have been asking for a pilot with the Indian women for the last few years to avoid any such chaotic condition.

"There is no pilot with us. The amateurs, running the full marathon, are also running with us and that creates a problem at times," she added.

It is not really possible to verify which argument carries more weight but the organisers of Asia's highest prize money marathon can do well to avoid any such possibilities in the future.