Mumbai Marathon: Vast gulf in technology between Indian and foreign athletes

At the Mumbai Marathon, the gulf between the international elite runners and their Indian counterparts is not just reflected in their finish timings, but also in the technology used by both sections.

A satellite-enhanced watch
A satellite-enhanced watch 

At today's Mumbai Marathon, most of the elite foreign runners, as has been the norm for them, will be seen sporting a special watch, which at first glance seems like any ordinary digital timer.

However, these little touch-screen gizmos are an almost indispensable part of professional modern marathoners life as it helps them pace themselves perfectly across the 42km journey (full marathon distance).

These satellite-connected watches help runners measure not just their real time speed and distance during training sessions and races, but also helps monitor others aspects of the athlete like heartbeat calculated by a band strapped across the chest.

These devices, when connected to the internet, offer detailed performance analysis like a speed-per-kilometer breakdown besides navigation details and other features. The device also collates information over a period of time forming an informative database for the runner.

"When you go to some foreign countries, you don't know how much distance you have to run as sometimes there are no markers. So, this gadget comes pretty handy," said Stijn Fincioen, a Belgian marathoner, who is a pacesetter for the elite women athletes this year.

However, the cost of these devices has ensured that they are financially out of reach for most elite Indian distance-runners.

A low-end satellite-enhanced watch costs around Euros 200 (roughly Rs 14,000) while the higher end ones are priced anywhere between Euros 300-400 (Rs 21,000-28,500).

Needless to say, Indian runners aren't keen purchasers of the same. "We Indian athletes struggle to afford our necessary diet. How can we afford such an expensive watch?" asked London Olympian and two-time Mumbai marathon winner Ram Singh Yadav.

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