As the joint MD of Procam International, involved in organising and promoting sporting events for the past 30 years and a veteran of the Athens Classic Marathon in 2010 and other prestigious races, there are few people better placed to discuss the challenges of organising a marathon in India and how they’re viewed in the country than Mr. Vivek B. Singh. With the marathon season just around the corner, he shared his views on how marathons have grown in the country in an exclusive chat with MH India.
MH India: What changes have you seen in terms of participation in these events since you started out 30 years ago?
It’s been a phenomenal journey and the changes we have seen have been incredible. In the initial years, we had very few serious runners and we had a large population waiting to get into the dream run.
As the years have progressed, the dynamics have reversed. In fact, we have gone one step ahead. Today, it’s no longer about just running a distance but they are equally concerned about their personal best timing which will help them to compete at higher levels and other global events. This has actually led to a whole surge of people migrating from shorter distances to the 10K run, half and full marathons.
The change that we as promoters of running events in India have witnessed is in the quality of participation. When we started with the Mumbai Marathon in 2004, there were hardly 2-3 races in India. Today there are over 1100 races. With experience running around the world, runners also wish for a world experience when it comes to facilities on race day like the course etc and our four premier distance running events offer them just that.
In your opinion, what can be done to increase the popularity of these events?
I don’t think there is an issue with the popularity of these events in terms of increasing it. Today, more and more people are getting off the couch and getting to enjoy the benefits of walking and running and, this is happening as a movement across the country.
But yes, we are making efforts to help people, guide them and hold their hand to run longer distances like the marathon. This year we launched #MumkinHai, which is a very interesting Campaign. Here we are targeting marathoners, especially those who are sub 2:30 and we wish to encourage them to attempt to run the full marathon. We all know that running a full marathon is a life-transforming experience and we want everybody, as long as it’s possible and is within their comfort and safety zone, to run the full marathon. Not only have we launched the campaign #MumkinHai - Run for Full but we also engaged with Striders, who have come on board as the official trainer to the Tata Mumbai Marathon. They have the largest network and the best reputation in this field, and their specialised training programs will help our runners go from the half to full marathon.
The other thing that we have also done to encourage people is opening a challenge called The Procam Slam. Today, we have four distance races in India – the Tata Consultancy Services World 10K in Bengaluru, the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, Tata Steel Kolkata 25K and the Tata Mumbai 42K Marathon. Each of them is a unique distance and spread beautifully across the running season in India.
Starting from the TCS World 10K in Bengaluru we decided to give runners an incentive to complete the feature race in each event and if they manage to achieve this they are entitled to various enhancements ie: special medals, exclusive running gear, incentives to enter others races among others.
I hope and believe that with Procam Slam and Mumkin Hai, we go a long way in helping people take that extra step.
What is the future of marathons in India?
The future is very bright and we are seeing the future become the present. 15 to 20 per cent increase in participation and in the number of events which is an overwhelming response, so the future of marathons is secure. It’s a sunrise industry and I think for the next 10-15 years we will see an upward trajectory in the number of events, participants and in the number of quality participants, i.e. those moving to longer distances and attempting their personal best.
Let’s get into the details of a race day now from the perspective of a participant. What essentials must you must carry on the day?
1. A decent pair of sports shoes or running shoes to be specific
2. A good calorie tracker watch
3. Water bottle or sipper and one must carry protein bars to keep the energy levels high during a long distance run
And finally, ending on a problem a lot of marathon hopefuls face. How can one balance training for a marathon with a busy work life?
Life in itself is about finding a balance in any case and in everything. We play so many roles like a father, mother, career etc. So finding a balance is essential. There are certain activities like running a marathon which have an effect on the mind & body. In the words of Chairman of Tata Sons, Mr. N Chandrasekharan, “Running a marathon helps him think more clearly. He finds answers to his issues that are in his mind while he is out on his long-distance runs.” There’s a lot one can take from his message.
Running, especially distance running, has got a power which is more than just the health. It has got a power which extends to wellness of the mind and body and you can do it at your own time and with the simplicity of a decent pair of shoes.
On balancing an activity with a busy work life I would say, if you start doing things which you feel are good and important, then I think life balances itself out. If you prioritise the things that are for your own good, then somehow you are able to make space for it in your life. I personally love and have a passion for running and meditation and I’m fortunate to be able to do both on a daily basis. They have had great influence on my life and I have found balance and calming influence in my life. These activities have made me dynamic, grateful and more in the present.