Runners to the rescue amid blood shortage in Mumbai blood banks

Updated: Jul 30, 2020, 07:24 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

As city blood banks run dry, the running community sets aside annual ultrathon for a 12-hour blood donation camp instead

Mumbai Ultra's blood donation drive will start at 8 am. File pic
Mumbai Ultra's blood donation drive will start at 8 am. File pic

Every August 15, Mumbai's running community comes together in a feat of both physical endurance and mental strength. The day is marked as Ultrathon day, a running event that covers a distance longer than the traditional marathon's 42.2 km. This time around, the Mumbai Ultra organisers, instead of the run, are holding a 12-hour blood donation camp at the Savarkar Smarak ground, Shivaji Park.

For the annual ultrathon, runners pound the streets beginning from outside Swantantrya Veer Savarkar Rashtriya Smarak at Shivaji Park, going towards Worli Seaface and back, completing one loop. In this way, they run for 12 hours in total, completing loops of the course.

The logistics

Mumbai Ultra Marathon started in 2014. PIC/FACEBOOK;
Mumbai Ultra Marathon started in 2014. Pic/ Facebook

The blood donation camp will open for registered donors at 8 am (there is a link to register) on August 15 and go on till 8 pm. Naveen Hegde, one of the founders of the six-year-old Mumbai Ultra event said, "We will have just 12 beds for donors in a 10,000 square feet area. We have scheduled 12 persons for 20 minutes. Registered prospective donors will be given a time, like an appointment, and will have to be there at that particular time at the venue. Covers will be changed after every person exits, all safety guidelines will be adhered to, to negate the huge fear factor."

Blood crunch

The blood donation is good news for doctors, who are witnessing a drop in blood bank stores, during this outbreak. Dr Girish Chinnaswamy head of Pediatric Oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital, had in a letter dated July 14 to the Smarak authorities, requesting them to give their space for the donation camp, said, "Every year the Mumbai Ultra Marathon is conducted on August 15, and all the funds raised by the event are donated for the treatment of children with cancer at Tata Memorial Hospital. However, this year in view of COVID 19, the Mumbai Ultra is cancelled." In his next paragraph, the doctor talks about the short supply of blood because donors are reluctant to come in at such a time.

Anand Kane at the 2018 Ultra Marathon
Anand Kane at the 2018 Ultra Marathon

The letter next states, "In view of this severe short supply, we have requested the Mumbai Ultra Marathon team to conduct a blood donation camp for the hospital. They have shown enthusiasm for the same, and the blood bank team from the hospital will run the camp, taking all precautions in view of the pandemic."

Social service

Anand Kane, another driving force behind the Ultra donation drive, triathlete and Half Ironman achiever, said, "There is one thing being a brave runner and another, a selfless warrior for society. We want these to intersect. Running is a very personal sport and a lot of runners are in 'own zone'. We want them to break out of this zone, for a while."

Hegde and Kane finish, "There are huge apprehensions, but safety is paramount. We are aiming for 450 to 500 bottles. For five years, there were drops of sweat from runners, on the course. Today, we are optimistic about drops of blood."

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