Indian Army rule in Mumbai Marathon

Jan 21, 2013, 03:35 IST | Ashwin Ferro and Rohan Koli

Lyngkhoi Binning, Ashish Singh, Elam Singh occupy podium after many armymen skip marathon for Nationals

The country’s armymen completed a clean sweep in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon’s full marathon (Indians) yesterday with Lyngkhoi Binning (2:21:51), Ashish Singh (2:23:05) and Elam Singh (2:23:09) finishing first, second and third respectively.

1-2-3: Winners Elam Singh, Binning Lynkhoi and Ashish Singh celebrate their clean sweep in Mumbai Marathon 2013 yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble.

However, army’s distance running chief coach KS Matthew was not a very happy man. Matthew explained: “We have some very good, young distance runners at an ongoing training camp in Bambolim, Goa, but were unable to bring them here as they are preparing for next month’s nationals to be held in Delhi. While events like the SCMM bring in money, doing well at the nationals earns the soldiers promotions. While the winner’s prize money at the SCMM is around Rs 4,00,000, a promotion earns a soldier a salary hike of Rs 5000-6000 per month.

Job security

“And keeping the long-term job security in mind, soldiers prefer the latter. Besides, there is fierce rivalry between the Services and other teams like the Railways and oil and gas companies at the nationals and success here can transform a soldier’s life. On the other hand, even if a soldier wins an event like the Mumbai Marathon, his promotion is not guaranteed.”

SCMM 2012’s defending champion and Olympian Ram Singh Yadav is a standout example of this. Ram Singh not only won last year’s edition of the Mumbai race in a record time of 2:16:59s, but also qualified for the London Olympics therein and became only the second armyman after Shivnath Singh (1976, Montreal) to qualify for the Olympic marathon. He however, remains a hawaldar till date.

“Ram Singh may become JCO (junior commissioned officer) in a few months but that promotion is through his tenure and not necessarily through his achievements,” added Matthew, who also informed that Ram Singh, who skipped the Mumbai race due to army commitments in Delhi, will be participating in the nationals next month. Ram Singh’s absence in fact, also affected the timings of the Indian winners.

Missed Ram Singh

“Had Ram Singh been here, he would not only have won the race comfortably, but even the athletes finishing behind him would have had better timings as he would have set the pace for them,” said Matthew.

And right enough, both Binning and Elam were unhappy with their timings. “Being a champion (in 2010 & 2011), I was confident of winning first place, but I expected to finish the race within two hours and 18 minutes and break the course record. “Had Ram Singh been there I would have been able to do that as we practise together at the Army Sports Institute (Pune),” said Binning who took home Rs 4,50,000 for his effort. Elam added: “The result would have been different if he (Ram Singh) was here.”

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