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Mumbai to run for a cause

Faisal Shariff | February 12, 2004 12:07 IST

Just across the Arabian Sea, on Mumbai's famous Marine Drive, the ground floor at St James Court is buzzing with activity. About 50 people, half answering phone calls and the other half making them, are working double shifts to ensure that the Mumbai Marathon, on February 15, is run successfully. 

Procam International, organisers of the $210,000 event, is gearing up for the richest marathon in Asia and the biggest event it has ever managed. Indeed, the last nine months have been an arduous process of planning and co-ordination.

Vivek Singh, joint managing director, Procam, told it took close to a thousand people working at various levels to translate the dream of staging an international marathon for Mumbai into reality.

"Before we began preparations I traveled to see the London Marathon and Singapore Marathon and realised that if we want the Mumbai Marathon to match them we would need to have international backing and technical excellence."

So Hugh Jones, the race director, Bill Reynolds, the start and finish director, and Ian Ladbrokes, who arranged to get elite athletes, were signed on.

Reynolds has worked for the London Marathon and his inputs proved invaluable.   

Another aspect, Singh points out, is the co-operation of the Maharashtra government.

"The government ensured that every department offered every possible help to make the race a success," he says.

Sumedh Deoruahkar, a member of the organizing team, confirmed that entries from 20 states and 19 countries have been received. 

Even as he explains the overwhelming response to the race, phone calls pleading for last-minutes entries to be accepted pour in incessantly. 

"The overwhelming response has forced us to stop accepting any further entries. It is difficult to say no to people, but we need to be sure that the numbers do not jeopardize the event," he says.   

"People are not running for themselves, but for charities," says Singh. "Through Give India, 30 NGOs will benefit."

He emphasized the efforts by celebrities in raising funds for charities.

"I have had celebrities telling me they want this event to be the best in India," he adds.

In a city that recorded 98 percent attendance at work, the day after 13 bomb blasts ripped through the city, the marathon will showcase the famed Mumbaikar compassion.   

Adjacent to the Cricket Club of India, the organiser's hub, is all geared for the event with helicopters and state of the art gadgetry like the Champion Chip, a waterproof glass capsule that contains a silicon chip and an energizing coil that is to be attached to the shoelace of a runner. 

The chip is a high-tech, easy-to-use timing device that can provide accurate net and split times for every athlete. 

At strategic points along the track, electronic mats will be placed that will generate information on the runner, like who s/he is, where s/he is and at what speed is s/he running the race at, as soon as the shoe comes in contact with it. At a minimum deposit of Rs 600, these chips can be picked up from the champion chip desk at the starting point of the race.

With just three days to go for the big run, all is in place, waiting for the starter's gun to fire.

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