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Tata Mumbai Marathon: What its return means for runners and fitness enthusiasts

The Tata Mumbai Marathon returned last Sunday after a two-year gap due to Covid-19

Volunteers take part in a Half Marathon during the 18th edition of the Tata Mumbai Marathon.
Volunteers take part in a Half Marathon during the 18th edition of the Tata Mumbai Marathon. (ANI/Vijay Bate)

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The target was 2 hours and 10 minutes. The training runs in the Mumbai monsoon and heat, the guilt of having a bit too much fun during the Christmas holidays, numerous texts with runner friends, and in-depth analysis of the Garmin data had all led up to this day. Nirav Mehta, 42, had taken this half marathon almost as seriously as his job for the last five months. His wife, Radhika Kaushik, 39, had been witness to all of it and was the first to excitedly let his friends know that Mehta had finished in 2:07. This was Mehta’s first race after the Covid-19 pandemic. The sense of achievement was so profound that all he could say about smashing his target time at the Tata Mumbai Marathon was, “Badhiya (brilliant).” Kaushik ran the Dream Run to make sure there was one medal for each of their two children. All those who finish their race get a finisher’s medal.

Even as Mehta was making his way along the half marathon route, Sneha Menon Desai, 34, had walked half a kilometre from her flat in Worli with her five-year-old son Vedant in tow. She wanted to give him a first-hand look at the Tata Mumbai Marathon and soak in the vibe of the event. “He was excited and surprised to see so many people running that he clapped and jumped all the time that we were there. He wants to do this next year again,” says Menon Desai. Over 55,000 people ran on Sunday, and tens of thousands lined up the streets of the city to support and cheer the runners. Runners Hayle Lemi (2:07:32) and Anchalem Haymanot (2:24:15), both from Ethiopia, set new course records while winning the men’s and women’s race respectively. Olympian Gopi T (2:16:41) was the fastest Indian man while Chavi Yadav (2:50:35), making her marathon debut, was the fastest Indian woman.

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The return of the Tata Mumbai Marathon also witnessed the return of the running bug to India Inc. Some of the country’s top business leaders ran on Sunday, including Anil Ambani, Tata Sons chairman N. Chandrasekaran, Indiabulls Housing Finance’s vice-chairman, MD and CEO Gagan Banga and SUGAR Cosmetics’ co-founders Vineeta Singh and Kaushik Mukherjee. Several big corporate houses sent large contingents to participate in the race, which returned after a two-year absence.

Business leaders say the race serves as a motivation for their organisations. “These events inspire our employees to set and achieve goals, pushing their boundaries. It also provides inspiration to others throughout the company as we share stories of the participants and their journey to both the start and finish lines,” says Michelle Taylor, head of global sports sponsorships at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). When organisations facilitate the participation of their employees, it enables and inspires the employees to adopt a healthy lifestyle, reasons Banga, who has run the race several times. “This race has helped instill a fitness culture not just in Mumbai, but in corporate circles across the country. Running with a colourful crowd across iconic locations in South Mumbai is an experience that motivates individuals to commit to being fit,” he says.

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The 18th edition of the race had about 20 sponsors and partners, says Vivek Singh, joint managing director of Procam International, promoters of the race. Partnering with such events also helps brands re-establish and improve existing engagement with both customers and employees. “While many partners have their unique reasons for sponsoring the Tata Mumbai Marathon, I believe we all agree in its power to inspire. From the funds raised for charity, to the heart-warming personal stories of the runners and the astonishing pace of the pros, inspiration can be found throughout the event,” says Taylor.

Singh believes that partnering with an event like this makes sense for brands as at the heart of it is the engagement that they can have with a large runner base for a length of time, from registration, through preparation to race day, thus creating loyalty. “These aspects make running a long-term experiential platform for brands. Unlike most other sporting disciplines, this is a very individual pursuit, although one is training and competing with others. It has no demographic barriers,” he says.

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

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