Mumbai's first ever Ultramarathon to be run on I-Day

Aug 07, 2014, 08:35 IST | Hemal Ashar

More than 150 registrations in for first ever Ultra run in city to begin at 5 am near Mayor’s Bungalow and end at 5 pm, on August 15

It is going to be get up and sweat time, instead of sleep in time for more than 100 runners who are ready for the city’s first ever Ultramarathon.

The Mumbai marathon changed the way the city viewed running
The Mumbai marathon changed the way the city viewed running

The Ultramarathon is a long distance running event which is over the traditional marathon distance of 42.2 km. (see box: what is an Ultramarathon?) The Ultramarathon is to be run on Friday, August 15. This I-Day Ultra is a 12-hour run beginning from the Mayor’s Bungalow Shivaji Park.

Kiran Solanki

The run will be flagged off at 5 am and go on till 5 pm, which means runners will run for 12 hours continually. They may walk in the middle, take a break for breakfast or lunch, but they are going to be on the road for 12 hours flat. This Ultra does not have a fixed distance, but it is about time: 12 hours of running.

Promoting pounding feet and sheer grit

Love for running
The aim of the event, says Naveen Hegde of the Shivaji Park Marathon Club (SPMC) who is promoting the event, “Is to inculcate a love for running in Mumbaikars and a spirit of never-say-die. “The Mumbai marathon changed the running landscape in the city.

Dilip Patil
Dilip Patil

The running boom has hit the city and today, you see so many joggers on our roads, There are inspiring stories of people having controlled and even decimated lifestyle diseases through running.

Runners who were once 100 kgs have dropped to 70 kgs and less. This Ultramarathon is to get even more people cottoning on to the running phenomenon.” There is no prize money for the event.

Route and runners
The route is from Mayor's Bungalow (Shivaji Park) run towards Worli Seaface towards the end of the promenade to what was formerly Mela restaurant, loop around that and go back to Shivaji Park.

Runners have to do several rounds of the same route which totals to approximately 12 km for one loop. There are going to be at least four water stations en route, and there is going to be breakfast and lunch served at Shivaji Park.

Organizers estimate at least 2,500 to 3,000 liters of water, fresh lime, and various energy drinks. There are going to be three ambulances en route and two hospitals are on call for support. The race also has a large number of volunteers.

There are going to be 150 traffic cones to keep runners away from cars and though traffic is not going to be halted, runners will have to run in a lane on the sides. Being a holiday, traffic is expected to be much thinner than it usually is.

Profile of runners
Naveen claims several tests have been done for the route. The age limit for runners is 18 years and above. “You need to have maturity to run for 12 hours.

The maturity of an adult and the madness of a child,” he explains with a laugh. From the registrations received till now, there are just about eight women. A large part in fact, almost 95 per cent of those registered, have run the gruelling 42 km distance and are regular marathoners.

According to Naveen, “Many of them have done the 89 km Comrades Run in South Africa.”(See box: What is Comrades Marathon?) This Ultramarathon event is extremely low key, no sponsors and no registration fee. “Since this is the first time that this is being run here we have kept it deliberately low key.” It is a non-commercial event, with a simple message at the core of its strong heart: keep running.

Praying for weather
The prospective ultramarathoners are praying for low humidity, “If the sun is out, it will be challenging, if it rains, runners will be happy as humidity will be down.

Like all endurance events, weather is pivotal here,” say some distance runners. Says participant Dilip Patil, who has three Comrades Ultramarathons to his credit including one in June 2014, “I have been resting post the Comrades in June but am ready for August 15.

I am going to Amsterdam in October this year, to run the marathon distance of 42.2 km. An Ultramarathon is a new experience in Mumbai and let us see how it goes, weather is going to be key, we can only hope for nice, runner friendly weather,” ends Dilip, who like many runners is part of a running club from Bandra.

Shivaji Park locals
The route is familiar territory for Shivaji Park local, Kiran Solanki who has a personal milestone to achieve this Ultramarathon, “I have run for 11 hours before in the Comrades Ultra at South Africa, now, I want to crack that 11-hour number, go on for 12 hours.” There is a laugh down the phone line when Dr Anand Patil, trauma surgeon is asked whether he is “traumatized” at the prospect of running for 12 hours.

The seasoned runner has finished three Comrades Ultramarathons, numerous full marathons to his name and has also completed a Half Ironman (which is a triathlon) in Malaysia. Says Dr Patil, “I would say this is a sweet trauma. Running makes you into a better, more organized person. In fact, I have more time in the day, when I run."”

Feet of the future
With no corporate sponsorship, the first Ultramarathon is a small scale event, merely a starter to what runners hope will be a bigger feature in the future. “We are already heartened by the support. Incidentally, we have 155 registrations, which we closed two days ago,” says organizer Pranav Mehta, who adds they would be, “filtering this list.”

He explains, “The number is substantial, given that this is the first ever Ultramarathon.” While the butterflies may be fluttering in runners’ stomachs, the excitement is palpable. The air is heavy with expectation and we may stand on the cusp of yet another event that could be a seminal one on Mumbai’s runningscape.

So, on August 15 2014, a bunch of runners are going to keep their tryst with a searing, lung-bursting destiny. To tweak Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech, perhaps with a dash of humour and apply it to the ultramarathoners we can say, ‘At the stroke of the morning hour when Mumbai sleeps, a bunch of ultramarathoners will take to the streets. A moment comes, which has not come before, when they step out from the old to the new, when a chapter ends, and when the sole (pun intended) of a city, finds utterance...’ Cheer them on, Mumbai.

What is an ultramarathon?
An ultramarathon, also called ultra distance, is any sporting event involving running and walking longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometers (26.219 miles).

There are two types of ultramarathon events: those that cover a specified distance, and events that take place during specified time (with the winner covering the most distance in that time). The most common distances are 50 kilometers (31.069 mi), 100 kilometers (62.137 mi), 50 miles (80.4672 km), and 100 miles (160.9344 km.

The 100 kilometers is recognized as an official world record event by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the world governing body of track and field. Timed events range from 6, 12, and 24 hours to 3, 6, and 10 days (known as multi-day events). Timed events are generally run on a track or a short road course, often one mile (1.6 km) or less.

What is Comrades Marathon?
The Comrades Marathon is an Ultramarathon of approximately 89 km (approximately 56 miles) which is run annually in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The direction of the race alternates each year between the ‘up’ run (87 km) starting from Durban and the ‘down’ run (89 km) starting from Pietermaritzburg.

The field is capped at 18,000 runners, and entrants hail from more than 60 countries. In every event since 1988, over 10,000 runners have reached the finish within the allowed 11 or 12 hours. Runners over the age of 20 qualify when they are able to complete an officially recognised marathon (42.2 km) in under five hours.

Athletes currently have 12 hours to complete the course, extended from 11 hours in 2003. There are a number of cut-off points along the routes which runners must reach by a prescribed time or be forced to retire from the race.

>> Mumbai's first Ultramarathon to be run on Friday, August 15.
>> Ultramarathon means an event which is more than the traditional marathon distance of 42.2 km. 
>> More than 100 registrations received
>> Timing of 12 hours.
>> Runners start at 5 am outside Mayor's Bungalow Shivaji Park end at same point.
>> Loop of 12 km as route. Beginning from Shivaji Park to Sea Face (turn back from where the old Mela restaurant was) running in similar loops. 
>> Number of water, aid stations on way
>> Hospitals promise support.
>> Number of runners hugely experienced, have done the Comrades Ultramarathon, world's oldest Ultramarathon in South Africa, several times.

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