Sunday, January 15, 2006
Mumbai Marathon 2006
27,000 runners participated in the marathon this year. Right from 6:30 in the morning the Azad maidan was abuzz with activity. People looking for directions at the huge venue, plastering bibs overs their chests, spectators lining up at the start and finish lines with pom poms and balloons.
The marathon has become another of Mumbai's very own festivals.
- pics and report: www.rediff.com
In three short years the Mumbai marathon has become a giant event attracting the old and young, fit and physically challenged. Which, I think, is quite an achievement.
There is something about a marathon that fires up the imagination. Can you really run 21 km, 14 km or even just 7?? You decide to, as a personal challenge.
The fact that your running will contribute in some small way to a charity is an added incentive. In 2004, Rs 1.5 crores was raised through the Mumbai marathon. In 2005, it was 4 crores. This year the figure is expected to be far higher.
Not that it has been easy. The first year that the idea was mooted my friend and batchmate Venkat Krishnan was running around in circles trying to get celebs and corporate types to sign up to run and add some glamour to the event. Because glamour = media coverage = more participation = more funds raised.
Venkat runs Give Foundation, an NGO for NGOs which handles the entire charity aspect of the marathon.
Bhala teri company meri company se...
One of the strategies which has worked brilliantly is the "Corporate Challenge". Playing on the need companies feel to be seen as do-gooders, by their own employees and other stakeholders, the Mumbai marathon invites a select group of high profile companies to put together a team of 30 employees to run.
The company pays Rs 1.5 lakhs (at the minimum) while each runner raises pledges from family, friends and co-workers. Many companies also make matching contributions.
Of course, the company gets tax benefits. And a rah rah, wah wah team building exercise as well.
It's a win-win situation for all, I would say. A friend who ran last year (whose pledge I contributed to) said she got deeply involved in the charity she was raising money for. "I could have just pledged my own money, but the process of convincing others to support my cause raised awareness for the NGO. And it felt like I was doing something more than just signing a cheque."
Acchhi baat hai. But on the other hand there are folks like this in the fray. One consulting company flew down its young and fit GOMBAs (Grossly Overpaid MBAs) from locations around the country and put them up at Taj Land's End. Only to run for the Mumbai marathon.
"Agar McKinsey kar raha hai to hamein bhi karna hai" kind of an attitude. Which charity are you supporting?"United Way..." What do they do? "Pata nahin."
Of course the end justifies the means. But on the other hand, adding up the money spent on ferrying the runners and of course, rehne ka, khaane ka in a 5 star hotel... You wonder, wouldn't it make more economic sense to just make a LARGE donation?
Maybe, but it makes business sense only if you're SEEN pounding the pavements alongside the other yuppies. It's never about ability to give - it's about igniting the desire to do so.
Traditionally, Indians have donated to temples, or to community causes. The very idea of 'giving' to a cause or an institution for the public good is a new one.
Events like Mumbai marathon and organisations like GIVE are helping that culture take root. More power to the people behind them. And no, I did not run this year. Next time? I promise to seriously think about it!