Marathon blues - The Week
Two days later, as I was hobbling around the office feeling sorry for myself, I got a call from an Indian friend. "Are you sitting down?" he asked, preparing me for bad news. "The marathon has been postponed by two months." I know that this piece of information, in itself, might not warrant much sympathy. Nobody forced me to sign up for the race and all the hard training that it involves. But let me just recall what I wrote in this column at the beginning of October: "This event will be a good opportunity for Delhi to lay some of the more ignorant stereotypes to rest and show the world that it can organise an international event which is both efficient and infused with India’s unique atmosphere."
Oh dear. More than 5,000 international athletes (including amateurs like me) had made their travel arrangements, booking flights and hotels, to be there for the event. Now, we have all to cancel those plans, at considerable expense, and reconvene for February 12 next year.
If I hadn’t been called by my friend, I might not have been any the wiser. As I write, the race Web site (www.delhimarathon.com) still has a clock counting down the days and hours before the December date. It’s only when you read a small window at the top of the page that you see the words, "Due to some unavoidable circumstances, Delhi International Marathon has now moved to February 12, 2006."
I have trained and run three marathons. People who do not run long distances simply may not understand that the schedule is very important. The whole training programme is coordinated in a ramp-up and ramp-down schedule. See this schedule for an example of a training program. You simply cannot postpone a program on a whim. Moreover, people have logistical issues. It is not easy to book tickets, make travel arrangements, take vacation from work and so on.
This is not a one-off issue with marathon organizers in India. A similar thing happened in the Bangalore marathon last year. At this rate, no self-respecting runner will sign up for a marathon in India.
Update. My friend Dhananjay emails:
“I agree. In fact, having reviewed the terms and conditions on the basis of which the organizers have invited participation and collected fees from the runners, I believe there might be a good case to sue the organisers for the losses suffered by the runners. If nothing else, such legal action would send out a signal to all concerned that organising an event of this nature is not child's play. A parallel to this unfortunate event is the cancellation of the third India South Africa ODI at Chennai, which has, now, prompted a livid fan to file a suit at a Court in Chennai to restrain the Ind-SL test match from being held at Chennai so long as the risk of cancellation remains a valid concern.”