EVENT The Chennai International Half Marathon on September 27 will highlight several social issues

In the early days of the Olympics, marathons added colour to the games. Then, they helped bring a sense of community among residents of a city. In recent times, they have become a tool to extend charity and popularise a city. The annual marathons in Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York have given these cities a great deal of prestige in the international community. These five cities constitute the World Marathon Majors.

"While staying focused on social goals we are trying to promote through the Idea Chennai International Half Marathon 2009 (September 27), we should not lose sight of an important truth - a marathon can be a powerful advertisement for a city," says Fr. Jegath Gasper Raj, founder, Tamil Maiyam, which is organising the event for the second consecutive year.

While the 2009 edition was still on the drawing board, the planning team wanted to do everything that would ensure an unprecedented participation. The swine flu and the registration fee are among factors that have forced the organisers to scale down their expectations. But according to Fr. Jegath, seven international marathoners will participate.

While GiveLife Charity (which supports underprivileged children in the cause of education) remains the benefactor, the marathon is geared to other social goals as well. One, it is a warning bell for those who underplay physical activity as a way to deal with diabetes. "We hear that Chennai is the diabetes capital of the country. While walking and running are not the cure for diabetes, they help manage the condition," says Fr. Jegath.

Inclusivity is another highlight. The marathon allows transgenders, wheel-chair bound, visually-impaired and other minorities to draw attention to their issues. The marathon will end with the visually-challenged participants making up the last battalion - walking together holding hands.

For details, call 24994344/ 24980201. For online registration, visit www.givelife-chennaimarathon.com

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