Marathons : India & USA

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Marathons In USA

In the early hours of Nov. 1, some 40,000 athletes will gather on Staten Island in New York Harbor for one of the world’s largest sporting competitions: the New York City Marathon. This year marks the 40th running of the race, which attracted just 127 competitors for its inaugural event in 1970, held completely within Central Park (only 55 crossed the finish line).

Today, the New York marathon traces a path across four bridges and through all five of the city’s boroughs; last year, Brazilian runner Marilson Gomes dos Santos won the men’s event in 2 hr. 8 min. 43 sec. and Paula Radcliffe of England placed first among women in 2 hr. 23 min. 56 sec. It’s not just New York’s race that’s grown over the years: 425,000 people finished marathons in the U.S. last year, according to Running USA, up from just 25,000 in 1976. But it’s only in the relatively recent past that the notion of running 26.2 miles became a popular way to kill a few hours.

Women Runners

Women are a relatively new force on the marathon scene; for decades, 26 miles was considered simply too gruelling for the fairer sex. The Boston Marathon in 1972 became the first major race to allow women; they were welcomed into the Olympic race in 1984. That’s not to say it was the first time a woman had competed: in 1966, Roberta Gibb hid in bushes near the start of the Boston Marathon and then jumped into the race shortly after the starting gun fired, finishing (unofficially) in 3 hr. 21 min. 40 sec.

Marathons In India

The ‘official’ representation of British India in the Olympic Games came only in 1920 when three athletes and three wrestlers participated in Antwerp with the help of Sir Dorabji Tata.

Four years later the first national athletic championship was conducted in Delhi under the name of “Indian Olympic Games” and the All India Olympic Association was formed. Seven athletes were selected to represent the nation in 1924 Olympic Games at Paris.


Road race tradition

According to the Young Men of India (March 1924), there was a 10 miles road race held during the first nationals (at Delhi) won by M.R. Hinge of Bombay in 57:29.6, followed by Srinivasa Rao (Baroda) and Babulal Jain (Central Province).
The marathon was included in the biennial Indian championships in 1938 at Calcutta. Amar Singh of Patiala won the inaugural race in 2:59:17.6, and retained the title in the next edition at Bombay in 1940.

Chotta Singh of Patiala had won the national title a record 8 times (1942-53). He went on to win the inaugural Asian Games title at Delhi in 1951 clocking 2:42:58.6.

More recently

New Delhi had been a key venue for marathons in India like the Rath Invitational Marathon which attracted some foreign participation. The Indian capital also regularly organized mass road races like Olympic Day Run and charity events like “Race Against Time.”

Several other cities of India like Thane, Pune, Allahabad, Jamshedpur, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram have been organizing marathon races annually on regular basis with cash awards to the top finishers.

Global Athletics involvement

In the global competition, Shivnath Singh’s 11th place finish in the Montreal Olympics in 1976 remain as the best in the Marathon by an Indian to date.  Shivnath clocked 2:16:22 for his 11th place among the 67 participants of which 60 completed the race.

Several trackstars like Milkha Singh (4th in 400m at 1960 Rome Olympics), P.T. Usha (4th in 400m hurdles at Los Angeles’84), Gurbachan Singh Randhawa (5th in 110m hurdles at 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games), Sriram Singh (7th in 800m at Montreal’76) preceded the Indian athletics scene before Anju Bobby George took a bronze medal in women’s Long jump at the Worlds in Paris Saint-Denis last year.

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