Running is catching up, and the Puma’s Education through Sport aims to get children running at a young age. Their event School of Speed was a huge success

The running space in India has been growing in the recent years. It is not just hard core athletes who take to running, but joggers, amateurs, young and old have embraced running in a big way and running communities have sprung up and clubs have been formed to promote the concept of running for fun.

Recently, PUMA unveiled its ‘School of Speed’, a grass-root level relay running for school kids and conducted the event in three major metros – Bangalore (February 8), Mumbai (February 9) and New Delhi (February 15).

Buoyed by the response, the organisers now plan to hold the event in more cities and towns across the country. In a chat with Metroplus, Rajiv Mehta, MD of PUMA India and Chief Organiser of the event, explained the concept and need for more such events to promote grass root running in the country. Excerpts.

The concept Education through Sport is a new movement and School of Speed aims to get children running at a young age and provide them a platform to be recognised, rewarded and further trained in running. PUMA School of Speed is a one-of-a-kind relay running concept targeted at school children.

School of Speed is positioned to get students to take up running at an early stage. This is a relay race for children from standards seven to 10, with each team comprising of four members who each run one kilometre to compete for the title of the Fastest School.

In a unique format, all four children from each team run a total of four kilometre together. Teams for School of Speed have been categorised into two age groups of — juniors from 7th-8th grade and seniors from 9th-10th grade for both boys and girls. The national winners in both senior boys and girl’s categories will get a chance to meet the fastest man on Earth – the one and only Usain Bolt!

Response to the event: The School of Speed saw over 3000 students and over 900 teams participating across Bangalore, Mumbai and New Delhi. The response has been great with well-known schools participating across three cities encouraging students to be active and take sports seriously.

The finale was in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi – the host venue of the Commonwealth Games. Students, parents and coaches have all responded favourably and are looking forward to next year’s event to improve their timings and get a shot at meeting Bolt. And yes, School of Speed will be an annual affair, and may reach out to many more cities in the coming years.

Tapping rural talent: We have had a few teams participating from rural areas – like KAL Academy in Coorg sent a team that actually won the Junior Boys category! So while the event is being hosted in the bigger cities because of the infrastructure available, it’s open to all. Moreover, most of the winners have been students from Government schools so that is also a very encouraging fact – many of the children come from humble backgrounds but are great athletes.

Other initiatives: As of now, we’re focused on the running, training and fitness space for performance and also look to dramatically increase our presence in football.