Around a decade ago when Binning Lynkhoi (30), Ashish Singh (29) and Elam Singh (30) joined army they had no idea what marathon running was all about. What little they knew about running was that, it's a part of series of physical fitness tests they had to perform, so that for rest of the life they and their families could make both ends meet. But today, running has become a passion for the trio and has changed their fortunes. So much so, that it has got them promotions and a decent bank balance, in addition to their regular salaries.
All three runners, who are trained at the Army Sports Institute, Pune, grabbed the top three slots in the Indian category of the country's highest prize money marathon - Mumbai International Marathon - on Sunday.
"I got recruited under the general category in 2002. When I started I was totally clueless about athletics. It was only after seeing others, I joined sports in 2006 and started with cross-country. Four years later I switched over to marathon and the decision changed my fortune," said Ashish Singh Chauhan, who pocketed a cheque of Rs. 4 lakh for coming second among the Indian athletes.
Same is the story with the champion runner from Meghalaya, Binning Lynkhoi. The sport has not only given him national recognition, but has also made him richer by around Rs. 20 lakh.
"I joined army in 2003 and since 2006 I am running marathons. If there are no injuries, I usually run three full marathons and around two half marathons in a year," said Binning, who finished first for the third time in Mumbai (2010, 2011 and 2013).
Elam, who finished third in the event, switched over to marathon from steeplechase. "When I started steeplechase I had never heard of the event before. So, switching to marathon didn't deter me. Rather, the decision has paid off," said Elam, who competed in his fourth marathon and has already made Rs. 8 lakh in prize money.