Saturday, April 16, 2011

BNP 5k Team Relay Race

Though the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi is known more for its organizational mess and corruption, it was also the event which saw some stirring performance by Indian women sportspersons – one of such electrifying performance was the Indian women quartet winning the 400 metres relay title besting holders Nigeria and England. This was followed a month later by another stupendous feat of winning the 400 metres relay gold at the Asian Games held at Guanghzhou in a tougher field. Indians were on their feet!


This led to a clamour amongst the runners’ fraternity in Mumbai to host a similar such event for runners i.e. a relay race – thus was born the concept of a relay race for long distance runners. The idea was to have a 4 into 5K relay race in a team with four runners each doing 5k each totaling 20K for the team. We were aware that RFL Bangalore organized urban stampede on somewhat similar lines, so were comfortable with the concept.

The concept was debated amongst few of the organizers and it was felt that the team selection should be left to the runners themselves – the organizers would not get into the nitty gritty of selecting teams – however, since this was first time event in Mumbai a lifeline was offered to the runners in the sense that they could look for teams online. The event was originally scheduled to be held on 28th November, 2010 but due to some reason got postponed and then the Mumbai marathon season dawned upon us, which therefore resulted in the event finally being scheduled for Sunday, 27th March 2011.

A core organizational team of Ram, Giles Drego, Milton Frank, Ashok Someshwar, Shashidhar Shankar, Bharatbhai & Kaushik Panchal was formed to tackle the various issues that kept cropping up vis-à-vis the organization of this race. It was decided to give certificates to the first three teams and for that purpose Milton Frank took control of the design and printing of the certificates. Bharatbhai took charge of the printing of team bibs, Kaushik of organizing day passes at the Borivli National Park and Giles Drego of procuring the team batons. Giles and Ashok were responsible for doing the km markers at the BNP in yellow paint, a back-breaking job in itself. All of us met a day prior to the event to take care of last minute glitches and procure the snacks and refreshments to the runners.

We received entries from 30 teams for which registrations were closed one week prior itself. Many a teams were made online at the RFL wall, some were locality based, few were company based and a few teams kept on getting changed from time to time and sometimes on a daily basis.

Finally on D-Day i.e. March 27th, 2011 we had 24 teams turning up and every team hoping in their hearts that they would do a good race, do well for themselves, come in the top three etc. Bibs distributed, it was time to brief the runners the rules; tell them what to expect and explain a few other details. This was beautifully done by Milton Frank with a few skipped out details being added in by Bharatbhai and Giles Drego. We had four volunteers collecting the registration fees and giving out team bibs and batons. A couple of teams were made on the day of the race itself comprising of runners who did not have teams or whose team members did not turn up at the last moment.

The Relay was of 20K and each runner in a team was to do a run of 5K. The runners were supposed to go 2.5K out, U-turn and return back, passing the baton to their next in turn team mate. The teams were a mix of champion athletes, veterans, regulars, sprinters et al. There were three all-Girls teams as well vying for glory with the Veterans. Surely there must have been some thought process to the composition of the teams as well as race strategies. There was a lot of eager, animated and frenzied talk of which team would win. Hot on many runners lips were teams like The Twlight Zone, Flying Cheetahs and Speed Kings; the first two teams boasting of State Level runners.

The race was flagged off by Khushru Patel a legend in running circles in Mumbai. Khushro Patel, 71 years still runs regularly and recently completed the Mumbai half marathon despite having an injury. Khushro was recently felicitated in the RFL Mumbai Runners’ Bash held in January 2011 with a Lifetime Achievement Award in running in view of his tremendous achievements in the last few decades.

At the whistle, there was loud cheering and the runners were off with some of them running with such pace and gusto that it looked as if they were in a 100 meter dash. But it surprised many to see the first 3 or 4 runners all doing their first 5K Leg in 18 to 20 minutes. Looking back, that should not have surprised many, as there were quite a few top runners, some representing their State and others from top Mumbai clubs and groups.

Once the event started, everything started clicking in clockwork precision – batons were exchanged to the thunderous roar for the incoming runners and steadily each teams started completing their respective legs. Priya & Sripad were noting down the names of each team that came in at each leg and Venkat Krishnan & Ram were noting down the timings of the teams that were finishing at the 4th leg.

Few popular runners such as Giles Drego, Radhika Misquitta, Roshni Rai, Ganesh Krishnan, Mahadev Samjiskar, Shiv Dogra etc. came in to thunderous applause from the remaining runners and people gathered to witness the event.

The Flying Cheetahs team of Gaurav Saktavat, Gautam Salaskar, Parvachan Kumar & Dharmendra Yadav came in first in a time of 1.25.50 hours followed by Twilight Zone comprising of Radhika Misquitta, Adrian Lasrado, Gareth Dias & Craig Fernandes in a time of 1.28.02 hours. Third came in BNP 3 team of Ambarish Gurav, Prashant Abhange, Devendra Yadav & Sanjay Kasle in a time of 1.36.01 hours.

The certificates were awarded with Milton Frank being the MC of the event and the first three awards were given respectively by Khushro Patel, Ashok Someshwar & Bharatbhai Oza. At the end of the relay, soft drinks and glucose biscuits were provided, snaps and photos were taken by our official photographer Ashok Someshwar.

Thus ended the 1st edition of the team relay race which we hope will be a regular feature in the running calendar in Mumbai.

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