Signboard in New Delhi is cleaned in preparation for the 2004 World Half Marathon (© AFP/Getty Images)
With the 13th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in New Delhi less than a week away (Sunday 3 October 2004), we focus the latest of our short series of Indian athletics features on the hosts past ventures in the Half Marathon and their team for 2004.
Peltzer’s influence has not yet borne fruit
The Indian road racing tradition starts in Delhi in the early 1960s, thanks to the initiative of the Germany’s athlete-turned-coach Dr. Otto Peltzer.
Peltzer who in his competitive career inflicted a rare defeat on the legendary Finn Paavo Nurmi, when setting the World 1500m record in 1926, was in later life a well respected coach in India and constructed a training programme for the most enthusiastic national athletes. This famously included a running session held each Sunday in Delhi’s National Stadium which was the venue of the inaugural Asian Games in 1951.
After his death Peltzer’s athletes in his honour began the tradition of the Otto Peltzer Memorial Road Races which now take place throughout the year on Sunday’s at distances ranging from 800m to 2.5 Km) for children in various age-groups.
But Peltzer’s influence continues to face an intractable foe, as in general parents in India are, with the exception of the sports of cricket and hockey, largely against their children becoming sports people. So by and large those early coaching initiatives have had a limited impact on Indian society, and running has failed to develop much in India.
There is yet to emerge a professional system in India to back the development of professional sportspersons. In fact career opportunities in government and public sector are reducing each year for sportspersons, with the only ‘green’ area is the ‘sports quota’ made available to athletes to pursue professional courses like medicine, engineering, law, etc.
India's history at the World Half Marathon
It is thus no wonder that in this climate the Indian national team has made only three appearances in the past twelve editions of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.
The first appearance came in 1996 at Palma de Mallorca (Spain) where B.S. Lone (71:27) and Usha Verma (84:50) were the best Indian finishers in 101st and 63rd in the men’s and women’s races respectively. In the team placings (three athletes per team), the Indian men were 22nd, whereas the women finished 15th.
Ragzen Angmo was part of the Indian women's team placing 66th in Palma in 1996 with a time of 85:37 made her second individual appearance in Uster in 1998 finishing in 90th place. A men’s team was also entered, finishing a distant 27th.
India was absent in the next four editions from 1999 to 2002, reappearing again last year in the Portuguese town of Vilamoura. In the men’s race H.A. Chinnappa and K.C. Ramu took 76th and 77th positions, although the third entrant Shashi Prakash dropped out midway.
Among the women, Pushpa Devi (58th – 82:19), Sarabjeet Kaur (61st – 86:08) and Sangini Devi (67th 0 90:14) contributed to India’s 13th place in the team standings.
2004 Indian team
The country’s top two women runners of the current season are missing in the Indian Team for 2004. Neither Aruna Devi (PB – 80:55 in 2004) and Sangini Devi (PB – 78:38 in 2002) figure in the team.
However, Pushpa Devi and Sarabjeet Kaur will be making their second and third appearances in the World Half Marathon Championships at New Delhi.
Manipur girl Devi was the winner of last year’s Chennai marathon, and finished 21st also at the full distance in Mumbai. This year she began her campaign with a fourth place finish at Jamshedpur at the half marathon (83:49). With the top three finishers in Jamshedpur race opting ‘out’ from the national team, Devi is all set to seize the opportunity in New Delhi.
Sarabjeet Kaur of Punjab Police will take the credit as having made the most appearances by an Indian athlete in the World Half Marathon when she competes in New Delhi. She began her season with a marvellous victory over the half-marathon course in the Mumbai International.
25-year old Sarita Marbate Bhaukane of Nagpur is making her first international appearance at the World Half. Three times winner over the half-marathon distance at Thane, this Central Railway employee finished 3rd in the Patiala trials to earn a place in the team.
Geeta Rani (Uttar Pradesh) finished 20th in the full marathon at Mumbai and 5th at Tata Memorial in Jamshedpur clocking 83:50. A fourth place finish at Patiala gave her a berth in the Indian team.
The 19 year old Banaras-born Mukesh Kumar Yadav heads the men’s team. Credited with a personal best 68:30 while winning the J.R.D. Tata Memorial Half Marathon at Jamshedpur on July 29, Yadav took the top spot again in the selection trials for Indian team held at Patiala on 4th September clocking a modest time of 69:21. Mukesh has been the national junior champion over 5000m and currently holds the national junior mark.
Mohanchandra Kapri, a soldier who hails from Uttaranchal, was ranked second in Patiala after a 6th place finish at the half marathon distance at the inaugural Standard Chartered Mumbai International Marathon this year. He is an experienced runner who has competed in the full and half marathon races a number of times since 2000.
Kapri’s services team-mates Rajkumar and Ajit Singh finished first and second in the Mumbai event but while Ajit improved a lot in the couple of months to figure third in the trials at Patiala, Rajkumar finished fifth behind the policeman Ram Bahadur Subba from Shillong.
Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF
Mukesh Kumar Yadav (12-10-85) PB/SB: 68:30 (Jamshedpur 2004)
Mohanchandra Kapri (03-05-76) PB/SB: 69:29 (Patiala 2004)
Ajit Singh (23-11-84) PB/SB: 69:38 (Patiala 2004)
Ram Bahadur Subba (08-11-78) PB/SB: 69:45 (Jamshedpur 2004)
Rajkumar (01-02-75) PB/SB: 69:51 (Patiala 2004)
Reserves: P. Nagendra Rao and Sandeep Kumar
Pushpa Devi (20-10-76) PB: 82:19 (Vilamoura 2003), SB: 83:05 (Patiala 2004)
Pushotlaima Devi (02-01-82) PB: 76:34 (Chennai 2003), SB: 83:49 (Jamshedpur 2004)
Sarita Marbate (15-10-79) PB: 83:07 (Thane 1999), SB: 84:24 (Patiala 2004)
Geeta Rani (05-06-83) PB/SB: 83:50 (Jamshedpur 2004)
Sarabjeet Kaur (29-05-79) PB: 78:42 (Pune 2002), SB: 84:39 (Mumbai 2004)
Reserves: Jayanti Negi and Bhagwati