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:

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!


  1. all the best for the next year. I beleive one needs atleast one year of

  2. the marathon was a fun event but somehow the enthusiasm was a wee bit lesser than last yr ... imho

    well the sad part is , it highlights the ignorance of mumbaikars and Indians of always using an 'occasion' to to collabrative contribution for charity ... while for the rest of the year , its business and fast paced life as usual with handful of ppl continuing the charitable efforts for the rest of the year ...
    and Ngo's have always failed to reflect the need of physical volunteering in India for the ppl who need just someone to talk to and also for folks like us to part with the skills learnt in schools , colleges and workplace to the people who didnt have much oppurtunity at the above so that they need to realise its never too late and there are ppl who are willing to lend a helping hand.

  3. @vasanthi: Well, a year of practise would see you competing for a position on the podium. Otherwise, the popular 12week schedule(try searching for the same on google) can see you finish the half-marathon comfortably. Do chk > to knw how i made it to the finishline (less practise and more of will power ;-)

  4. Actually this was the 1st yr I heard about mumbai marathon.. Everyone at my home was quite excited about it. It seems one of the neighbors who is quite old was taking part in the marathon and quite a few press wallahs were out there to interview him.

    Wished i was in mumbai.. would have definitely taken part!!

  5. sorry for being cynical .. but these marathons are becoming page 3 events with all these celebs coming but real REAL heroes like guys who came from interior maharastra in this case to run alongside all kenyan runners are totally forgotten and kids need to given incentives to run so tht we indians can become and or rather start to compete with china
    P.S how many of these Page 3 guys knw the story of PAUL TERGAT ... now thts some STUFF not abishek bachan or rani

  6. "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."

    This is not what is called a Marathon. World over there are just two category in Marathons, one the Full Marathon 42.2kms and the other Half Marathon 21.1kms.

    You missed out to mention Full Marathon in your post.

    In India we have other distances to increase participation.

  7. Hi,
    Here is a guide to using an Online Map and Pedometer to map your Marathon/Daily Morning run/Evening Walk anywhere in the world. Go to :


  8. hey Rashmi,
    Hi! Your post with regards to the marathon is bang on! Have been participating in the same for the last 3 years! Its indeed an experience in itself!
    I work with Child Rights & You (CRY) in Mumbai and was wondering if you would be interested in supporting 'childrens right to education'- our campaign, this year at the upcoming Mumbai Marathon.
    If interested you can mail me on

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