Gurgaon, November 29: Jitender Yadav, a 23-year-old physical education student from Nangloi in Delhi, will bid fair to complete a hat-trick of victories while doughty 25-year-old Ladakhi Tsetan Dolkar could well be the woman runner to beat in the fifth Apollo Tyres Millennium City Marathon on the iconic Sikanderpur and Golf Course Road underpasses here on Sunday.
Nearly 2500 runners – a 26 per cent increase from last year – will take part in the marathon, half-marathon and 10km Speed Challenge while several thousand will take part in the Joy of Running (5km) event. The races will be flagged off from Cyber Hub, taking the marathon and half marathon runners to Sector 54 before winding back to the Sector 42-43 Metro Station for the U-turn.
“We are delighted that the route has been certified by Association of International Marathons & Distance Races (AIMS) and the event is one of the handful recognised by the Athletics Federation of India,” said Race Director Abhishek Mishra, who is also the founder of Tabono Sports & Events Pvt Ltd which organises the annual running event in Gurugram. “We are growing and will keep evolving with time.”
The increasing participation by women runners is fair reflection of the growing popularity of the event, he said. “From a mere five women runners each in the marathon and half-marathon two years ago, we saw the numbers rise to 11 and 20 last year. This time, we have 25 women running the marathon and nearly 120 women in the half marathon,” he said.
“At Tabono Sports, we have always placed the requirements athlete ahead of everything else. It is such sharp focus that was the reason for us to separate the finish line for the timed runners from those taking part in Joy of Running event (5km). There will be a number of aid stations along the route to help runners stay hydrated,” Mr. Mishra said.
Mr. Mishra believes the event will be highly competitive. “We have a fairly high quality of entries that will ensure a very good event,” he said. “There are many familiar names like Jitender Yadav, Tsetan Dolkar, Romila Pundir, Nikita Seth, Kalpana Deka Saha, Sushma Sharma, Harshita Koul, Anju Chaudhari, Anita Yadav and Sheethal Rao.”
Besides, a bunch will be running for the fifth year in-a-row. “We are delighted that pediatrician Dr. Anjali Nayar, Data Security Council of India Chief Executive Office ,Rama Vedasree, fitness advocate Latika Goel as well as retired CPWD engineer Satish Saxena, revenue official Pankaj Arora and the CFO on a break Aditya Mishra will be running the event again,” Mr. Mishra said.
Jitender Yadav finished third in 2:44:04 on MCM debut in 2016, the self-taught runner won the next two editions run with several slopes to negotiate in 2:45:27 by a good eight minutes from his nearest rival and in 2:50:57 by a reduced margin of just over two minutes. “Since running on the inclines increases the load on the body, I am careful there,” he says.
Jitender Yadav, who uses the prize money won in events to finance his scholastic pursuit, says he has been inspired by India’s top marathoner T Gopi and women’s national record holder OP Jaisha. “I want to win competitive races. There is so much more satisfaction in winning close battles,” he says, acknowledging the support he receives from his benefactor, Kanika.
Tsetan Dolkar returns to MCM after having finished second in the 2016 edition a mere four seconds behind her friend Jigmet Dolma who holds the event record at 3:22:18. Tsetan Dolkar will miss running alongside Jigmet Dolma, representing India in the South Asian Games in Kathmandu, but she will not miss the Ladakhi flavor while seeking to claim the event record.
The Ludhiana-based Amandeep Kaur will be another runner who is seeking a hat-trick of MCM titles. She won the women’s 10km Speed Challenge in 2017 in 40 minutes 10 seconds and followed it up last year with a victory in 43:43. Anju Chaudhari, who drew from winning her category in the 10km Speed Challenge in 2017 to secure a podium finish in half marathon last year, will be back, too.
One of India’s fastest amateur runners Shailja Singh Sridhar, who clocked a personal best of 3:20:00 in the New York Marathon recently, will be among the runners as will the event’s brand ambassador Milind Soman who intends to run the half marathon after flagging off the race. Their presence will lend additional energy to the event.