Four seconds. That’s what stood between Nitendra Singh Rawat and the sum of Rs 2 lakh that an Indian marathon runner is entitled to for breaking the course record at the Tata Mumbai Marathon.
Yet, Rawat would have left Mumbai a happier man. Not only did he top among the male Indian marathoners at the 16th edition of the Mumbai Marathon — which brought along a cash bounty of Rs 5 lakh — he also sealed qualification to the prestigious World Championships, which will be held in Doha at the end of the year, with his timing of 2:15:52 secs dipping under the qualifying mark of 2:16:00.
In the women’s race, Sudha Singh’s timing of 2:34:55 secs was also good enough to seal qualification for the showpiece event in Doha, where the cut-off for the women’s race is 2:37:00.
While getting the Athletics Federation of India’s nod to send the duo for the Worlds is expected to be straightforward enough, Rawat and Sudha are bracing for trickier challenges in the future.
For Rawat, Mumbai has proven to be a happy stomping ground for the second time. He first came into prominence in the same event after setting the course record in 2016. On Saturday evening, Rawat also got confirmation that he had made the cut for the London Marathon, one of the World Marathon Majors events.
But his victory at the 2016 race was followed by a spell with more downs than ups. Having seen his run at the Rio Olympics marathon event in 2016 derailed cruelly by a hamstring injury, Rawat slipped down the ranks, until he was omitted from the national camp. He was then beset by other injuries along the way.
Midnight marathon at World Championships
For Rawat and Sudha, the next big concern is competing at the Doha World Championships, where due to the heat, the race will start at midnight. For the Indian runners, this will mean a race starting at 2.30 am IST. Marathon runners are known for their meticulous attention to every tiny detail, so setting their body clock to running at that time will be critical.
Nitendra said that it would be impossible for him to train at such times in India. “At the most, we can run on a 400m track.
“We can’t do a lot more in India. It isn’t necessarily ideal to run on the streets at 2 am in the night. Even if I think of running on a ground, how much can I run in circles on 400m tracks. On our streets, the lighting is insufficient for running at night. And you ought to remember, that even if I am the only one running, there will have to be two support staff members running or cycling along with me to keep handing out water,” the army man told Firstpost before the Mumbai Marathon.
Meanwhile, Sudha, also talking to Firstpost before Sunday’s race, said she was planning on a one-month acclimatisation cycle.
“We’ll change our routines to match the time zone some one month before the race. We change our entire cycle: we wake up as we would there and eat at times we would in Doha,” said Sudha. “The main thing at any marathon is the weather. If the weather is fine, you will see good results.”
Sudha though admitted she is yet to decide on which race will be her first priority at the World Championships, the steeplechase, which is her pet event, or the marathon. She will compete at the Federation Cup, which be held on 15 March. While the marathon events will not be held at the Asian Championships, to be hosted by Doha from 19-24 April, she is expected to participate at the steeplechase race.
Confusion over Tokyo Olympics qualifying
India’s long-distance running coach Surinder Singh Bhandari and Rawat both admit that there is still some confusion over the qualification procedure for the marathon event at the Tokyo Olympics next year.
“It is such a complicated procedure. They require us to compete at four or five races, then the average time of those races will be taken,” Rawat had said before Sunday’s marathon.
He also pointed out that Indian marathoners will find it difficult to compete in that many marathons by Tokyo 2020. While he has made the cut for the London Marathon, where the organisers would take care of accommodation, he claimed that he will have to bear costs of travel and visa unless the Sports Authority of India chips in. Gopi T, who finished second at the 2019 Mumbai Marathon, has already managed to rope in a sponsor for the Tokyo Marathon, to be held on 3 March.
In addition, the number of entries for the marathon at Tokyo Olympics has been drastically reduced to 80. At Rio, 155 runners entered the men’s field.
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Updated Date: Jan 20, 2019 22:35:28 IST