Students from the rural belt of the country are expected to dominate the 18th edition of the Salwan Marathon, being organised in association with Hindustan Times, on Sunday.
"Students from the rural areas have always been at the forefront because they are more resilient. This edition will be no exception," said Inder Dutt Salwan, organiser of the race.
"Though physical education is a part of the school curriculum in urban India, a majority of the students hardly get time to stay fit to race over a distance of 5-6 km."
It was perhaps with the idea of 'keeping the students fit', that he had started the Salwan cross-country event in 1995.
Over the years the event has grown, and so has the distance of the race. This year, the organisers have increased the distance in the under-14 category, which gets more response than the other groups, from 3.5km to 4.5km.
Even the race distance in the visually impaired category has been increased from 3.5 km to 4.5km. In the under-16 boys and girls, it has been increased to 6 km from 5.5km.
To make the competition more exciting, prize money has been introduced, but it seems to have created problems rather than encourage the participants. "Many students change their age to get into lower groups and win cash awards," said Inder Dutt.
To tackle the problem, age verification is a must for the winners. Apart from checking the menace of age fudging, dope tests will also be mandatory for the winners. "It's important to keep the budding athletes away from taking extra aids to win the race," he said.
Apart from Delhi, schools from Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are also expected to compete in the different age groups.
Events: Under-14: 4.5km (boys, girls). Under-16: 6km (boys, girls).
Under-18: 8km (boys, girls).