Running is showing phenomenal growth in India, and the numbers suggest that it is the country’s fastest growing sport. Data from the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon held recently presents some facts that have surprised even long-time observers. The marathon has seen a three-fold increase from 2011, while the Half Marathon saw a jump of about 50% from the previous year.
“We didn’t expect to see these numbers rise by so much,” says Arvind Bharathi, head of Runners For Life, India’s biggest running community. “The figures for the marathon are particularly impressive, because most of those who take part in the marathon are serious runners. “
Some allowance might be made for those who started and didn’t finish the course, but even so, the numbers tell a story. The Mumbai Marathon had 3,574 starters in 2012, compared to 1,320 in 2011 and 764 in 2010 – which shows a rapid and consistent increase. In the Half Marathon, 10,213 runners were at the starting line in 2012, compared to 7,480 in 2011 and 6,440 in 2010.
It’s not just the Mumbai Marathon that has recorded this surge in the running population. The Airtel Delhi Half Marathon showed a slight increase (5,520 in 2012 compared to 5,280 in 2011). Events held in Bangalore’s neighbourhood, such as the Kaveri Trail Marathon and the Bangalore Ultra, have experienced dramatic increases. The Kaveri Trail Marathon in Ranganathittu saw registrations being stopped at 1100 in 2011, while in 2010 the number of entrants was 800. Similar was the case with the Bangalore Ultra. “We had to stop the number at 1100 because the course cannot handle more runners,” says Bharathi. “What was most significant was that the increase in the 25K runners was higher than the increase in the 12.5K runners at the Bangalore Ultra.”
Indian participation in international events too has shot up. The Comrades Marathon (an 89-km run) in South Africa will see around 50 Indians taking part, up dramatically from 15 last year. Indians have started taking part in the unlikeliest of places, such as the Antarctica Ice Marathon, the North Pole Marathon, and the Badwater Ultramarathon. Significantly, most of these runners took to running at the major events, such as the Mumbai Marathon or Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. It’s evident that these events have thus contributed to the running revolution in India.