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The Rise of Running as a Sport in India

Athletics - Olympics: Day 15
Athletics - Olympics: Day 15
Pankaj Sharma
Modified 15 Jun 2018, 16:02 IST

Dan (Awesome) Lawson!

I kept the newspaper down on my breakfast table and muttered, “226 Km covered in 24 hours”. My wife picked up the sense of astonishment in my voice and inquired, “That seems like a very slow-moving traffic. Who was travelling, and where”? I was in shock after reading the equation, but I was all the more excited to tell what I read. I exclaimed “Dan Lawson is the person who achieved this feat in Bangalore, November 2014”. “He ran through that”, she looked confused. She left, thinking that I was joking. I sat there, bewildered, reasoning with myself that how is this humanly possible? It is, indeed.

Rise in the number of running events

Globally, there is a craze for running events and people are turning up like never before. The official list of recorded races tells us that there are 800 running events across the globe, where ‘marathon’ is a regular feature. India too, is catching up fast with some quality running events organized throughout the year. What I have observed through my research is, that a lot many people have taken up running seriously in the last few years, thanks to rise in the awareness about self-health and healthy lifestyle. According to a recent study, number of recorded running events is touching 800 (annually) in India.

Most of these events do not have marathon as a category. About one-fourth of these take place in the northern region, and roughly 55% of those are held in the National Capital Region (NCR). In the 5 year period from 2010 to 2015, India saw a growth of more than 150% in the number of running events, which have “Marathon” as a type of race. Amazingly, the growth in running events with 5 Km, 10 Km and 21 Km (distance covered) has been exponential.

Demographic Trends

These events pull a versatile crowd, where people have different ambitions or set goals. There are few who just want to run for fun or some state level athletes who never got the chance to represent their country. There will be some fine young runners who are aspiring for greater heights in the world of running or some long-lost state/national level athletes who take part to get some financial aid, by winning in these events. All in all these events offer a win-win situation for everybody involved.

An analysis reflects that more than 60% of the regular runners fall in the age group of 35-50 years. This led me to believe, that people who have spent their lives working in the offices, have risen for a cause, which will undoubtedly make their lives healthier and stress-free. Another set of statistic, that gives me a positive sign is the gender diversity. The male to female ratio, which was 4:1 few years ago, is now sitting happily at 2:1.

Organizations and people are coming together to act as enablers

People in smaller cities are forming groups that volunteer for helping in organizing running events. These running groups or communities are often an assemblage of like-minded people, who come together to make the running event a memorable experience for beginners as well as experienced runners.


Running groups like, RunOn and Pune Running (Pune), Soles of Bangalore and Jayanagar Jaguars (Bangalore), RUN XTREME and Gurgaon Road Runners (Gurgaon), not only help the organizers to arrange for events, but also help new and inexperienced runners get trained for running. The events organized/co-organized/contributed to by these groups do not cause a dent on your pocket and are very well managed too. Events like LSOM (Pune), which takes place on the last Sunday of every month (hence the name), is a prime example of such neatly organized running events.

Apart from niche players (Decathlon) in the sports industry, some tech giants (TCS, Cybage, WIPRO, etc.) are also getting into organizing running events for better employee engagement. Milind Soman (an Ironman and the face of Pinkathon) has established himself as a marquee runner, and he is encouraging thousands, if not millions to follow his footsteps into the world of running.

Technology is not trailing behind

Although so many organizations and people are coming forward to the cause of running and keeping people fit, we cannot undermine the role, which various fitness apps play by turning running into a fun event. There are apps in the market (e.g. Nike + Run Club, Strava, RunKeeper, etc.), which allow you to track your performance with various data points and performance indicators (Speed, distance covered, cumulative distance for days, leader-board tracking, improvement summary, etc.).

Major running events in India

Few major running events that takes place almost every year are, Delhi Half Marathon, Hyderabad Marathon, Wipro Chennai Marathon, TCS World 10K in Bangalore, Pune International Marathon, Ladakh Marathon, Rishikesh Half Marathon, Kaveri Trail Marathon in Mandya, etc. There are several running events in India where you can take part and continue to keep yourself in shape and “All you need is Shoes”.

The craze of people for running is not only limited to marathons, as they are now moving more towards Ultra-marathons popularly known as “Ultrathons”. I will certainly talk about some crazy Ultrathons (La Ultra, Run da Runn) in my next article.

There is no limit to what we can achieve

These running events have given birth to a culture, which resonates among people from all age groups and walks of lives. “The culture of being fit”. A recent initiative by Union Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore, “Hum Fit Toh India Fit” has spread like a wild-fire among the celebrities, politicians, bureaucrats and sports persons alike.

I strongly believe that running events give us a purpose to run on the given day, but the fact is that you have to be a regular with running on other days as well, to do well in the longer run. Who knows, you may find your mojo in running in the quest of being fit.

I’m going to run this Sunday, not thinking about how far I can go. Are you?

Published 15 Jun 2018, 16:02 IST
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