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The tricky business of organising a race

A file photo of participants in a half marathon in New Delhi

A file photo of participants in a half marathon in New Delhi   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

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Race directors reveal the work that goes in long before you’ve crossed the finish line

Organising a run, a cycling event, or a triathlon takes skill, plenty of smarts and the knack of ‘getting things done’. As Chiro Mitra, a veterinarian surgeon and the founder of Let’s Run Gurgaon puts it, “You’ve got to be the engine that pulls the train.”

A decade or so ago, Delhi-NCR didn’t have many outdoorsy, sporty events for leisure athletes. Regular runners like Rahul Verghese, the founder of Running and Living in Gurugram, brought the athletic culture to the city. “Back then we wanted to build a community and making running fun. Running groups sprung up because it wasn’t safe to run alone, especially for women. Gradually, the network spread, growing into a whole ecosystem of running—training, recovery and competition,” says Rahul.

Today, social media makes it easy to spread the word but for many organisers the biggest worry is gaining the break-even number of participants. Organisers need to recover the costs of medals, T-shirts, hydration and recovery aids besides that of securing necessary permission. The registration cost takes all these expenses into account. Sponsorship and the scale of the event decide this cost.

Volunteers are the backbone. They help manage traffic, hydration, and recovery stations. They do the legwork of bib and T-shirt distribution pre-event and later they help tabulate race results and organise medal distribution.

A major concern for an organiser is safety. Chiro himself has had a close call while on a run aboard. A hit-and-run cost him an eye and an injured leg that had to be operated upon. “Setting a safe route is essential. Also 40% of our participants are women. Policing and road closures along the route can go a long way in deterring troublemakers,” he says.

Getting sufficient support is not easy. Organisers have to jump hoops for permission and clearance. “ Securing infrastructural support for security and traffic management is challenging especially for small-scale events,” says Rahul.

Organisers also wish that the sporting culture would spread through society, so people at all levels understand what it means to have a race begin or end, at, say India Gate. “Abroad organisers utilize their iconic landmarks. The London Marathon ends at Tower Bridge with a runner's greet at Horse Guards in Westminster. The New York Marathon ends at Central Park. It would be nice to see that happen at here,” says Adil Nargolwala, Gurugram-based Ironman.

After all that, sometimes they deal with people who cheat. “People get impersonators. They may take a short cut. Or ask a friend to close to the finish,” says Adil. So timing mats also function as check points. Disqualification is guaranteed if an athlete skips a timing mat. And if an odd discrepancy in time and distance is discovered, that too is flagged. At a duathlon organised by Chiro, a participant who had won a podium spot in her category was banned for life following a complaint. “When we compared the event pictures of the athlete. We saw that instead of a woman, a man was running with that bib,” he recalls.

To have a safe, fun, and memorable experience, these professionals strongly recommend that prospective participants research the organiser thoroughly. Speak to fellow athletes when you sign up for a race.

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Printable version | Oct 14, 2019 3:41:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fitness/the-tricky-business-of-organising-a-race/article29438144.ece

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