Groups of children, kitted out in track-pants and running shoes, scrambled along the natural course on Sunday morning. It could have been passed off as a scene of pandemonium, except that there was organisation to the chaos. On the occasion of Children's Day, the Salwan Marathon, in association with Hindustan Times, saw more than 45,000 children from across the country participate in its 16th edition.
Eager parents waited at the finish, applauding vociferously as young crowds tumbled past. Exhausted kids collapsed at the finish line, rubbing thighs and sore feet, waiting for their hard-earned prizes.
But there was a dampener to that enthusiasm. Commonwealth gold medallist Sushil Kumar, who had agreed to assist a visually impaired child as a volunteer, did not turn up for the event. His coach Satpal Singh, also a volunteer, only put in a visit after the races ended. Neither of them was available for comment despite repeated attempts.
The Army Equestrian Course buzzed with activity as races were flagged off and ended after winding through a wooded tract on gentle, muddy slopes. There were seven categories of races: special race (three km), U-14 (three km), U-16 (five km) and U-18 (eight km), all for boys and girls.
Close to 1,500 visually impaired children took part in the special race that started at 9:15 am, and each child was guided through the course by a volunteer holding his/her hand. The volunteers belonged to St Stephen's, Miranda House, Janaki Devi Memorial College, Vasant Valley School, Salwan Public School, along with professionals such as architects and doctors.
Janta Adarsh Blind School, Sadiq Nagar, brought in 33 children for the marathon. And two of their students finished in the top-20 in the special category. "Most of the children are very excited about the marathon and trained for it everyday," said a staff member.
Naseema, who finished third in the U-18 category and takes part every year, said, "I dream of winning an Olympic medal for India someday."
Maybe the scouts could tap the potential here.