The Mumbai marathon is barely a week away January 18 to be precise and next week, the city plays host to a number of elite, international guests, who arrive both as ambassadors of the event and as athletes. Meanwhile, thousands of runners are in the final tapering stage of preparations, especially the full marathoners, who must have completed the course in practice by now.
The stage is set for the 12th edition of the event, a showpiece running stage for Mumbai. In fact, the marathoners finish opposite the CST, as the world heritage building is an iconic Mumbai symbol. The marathon is about world-class competition and also a lens for the commercial nerve centre of India. So, it is of utmost importance that the roads of Mumbai are run-ready.
Everywhere one looks in south Mumbai, roads have been dug up for civic work. We see men at work on the roads near the Oberoi-Trident, where the full- and half-marathoners will run past before they take the turn from NCPA further on the course.
The marathon course in Mumbai is one of the most difficult. Then, elite marathoners also battle the weather. So, we in Mumbai are resigned that one is never going to see a world record in Mumbai that, of course, is laughable, but we have seen sub 2.10 timings in the men’s full marathon. Every year, organisers hope that the runners post a new course record. There are a number of factors for this, of course, but the roads also play a part. In that class of competition, where less than half a second plays a role between a record or not, good roads will be a factor in fast timings.
One also has to take into account the danger posed to amateur runners by dug-up roads. One hopes that there is proper lighting and signage when the marathon begins it is fairly dark for runners, in case a small section of a road is closed for work.
The civic authorities have promised that the roads will be run-ready by January 18. They have delivered unfailingly every year, and should do so now, their most challenging yet.