Thursday, May 19, 2005

Bangalore Marathon # 2

Bangalore Marathon – Part # 2

In my last post, I mentioned that Bangalore Marathon was better organized and managed than the Chennai Marathon. It’s not to say they were perfect, in fact Bangalore Marathon has miles to go before they can truly be at par with other marathons held other parts of the world like Singapore, Boston or London. Nevertheless, being the maiden venture, I felt they ran it better. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Registration was simple and straight forward: Though it was manual registration, it was rather simple. I simply ‘snail mailed’ my registration along with the requisite fee and Voila.. I was done. (In Chennai, I had to physically trek to some office to submit my registration so that I could get a receipt which was required to claim my chest number later.)
  2. Chest Number claim process was simple: I was surprised at simplicity and the quickness of the claiming the chest number. I was actually expecting a large unorganized crowd and was mentally prepared to spend a couple of hours to claim my chest number. But I was surprised to find the whole process taking just a few minutes. I went to Kanteerava Stadium to collect my chest number just one day prior to the marathon day. The counter where the numbers were being issued wasn’t crowded and I got mine in just a few minutes.. no hassles. In fact, my friends in Bangalore got their numbers delivered to their work. (In Chennai, I had to physically go to the Nehru Stadium twice to collect my chest number. When I went the first time, they were not ‘ready’ and were asked to come later. When I went the second time around, I had to go through a mandatory ‘medical test sham’ and struggle for two hours in the hot sun before I could lay my hands on the ‘prized’ chest number.)
  3. Separation of runners: Bangalore Marathon organizers clearly segregated various groups of runners like ‘full marathon, half marathon & celebration run. This greatly helped avoiding confusion & accompanying melee at the starting line. (There was utter chaos in Chennai at the starting line. Everyone milled around in the general vicinity of the starting line and to add to the confusion there was no clear announcement about the starting line. The requirement for the full marathon runners to obtain ‘monitoring’ tag only added to the overall confusion.)
  4. Gave adequate notice and started on time: Bangalore Marathon organizers gave clear and concise notice before the start of the actual race. Clear announcements were made giving 30, 15, 10, 5 & 1 minute notices. This helped in the mental preparation for the runners. Also, the race started as announced at 6:00 AM. (In Chennai, there was no clarity about the starting line and start time. It looked as though they waited for some celebrities to arrive before they flagged off the run.)
  5. Ample supply of water at frequent intervals: There was ample supply of water along the entire route at frequent intervals. At no time was I worried about the availability of water. (It may be that Chennai Marathon wanted to live up to the city’s image of being a water starved city, regardless, the water points were not spread out were NOT available at frequent intervals. Also, in some place, it just vanished after the first couple of hours.)
  6. Deployment of private security: This augmented the police force deployment along the route. This extra man power helped in regulating the chaotic and unruly traffic which is generally the signage of Indian roads.

Now about the areas of improvement (and there are many..)

  1. Marathon Calendar: Though the full marathon started early at 6:00 AM, it got hot as the day went by. It was scorching particularly for the slow runners like me. So I suggest moving the marathon several months ahead, to say December / January time period.
  2. Registration Process: Enable online registration including payment of the requisite fee. The marathon organized in the silicon valley of India could use some dose of I/T.
  3. Information dissemination: It’s a shame that, Bangalore Marathon doesn’t have a website of its own to disseminate information and announcements. So, launch one ASAP.
  4. Traffic Management: Block the traffic completely for the entire duration of the run. It became chaotic from around 30+ KM mark as the cops opened the route for traffic after 3 hours. In some places, it was near suicidal for slow runners like me.
  5. Support for ‘slow’ runners: Ensure proper support for all runners including those who might take longer to complete the course. As the slow runners approached the finished after 4+ hours, there was no direction or support. In fact, we had to stop and ask for directions to the finish line at a few places. It was appalling that one of the volunteer directed us the wrong way.
  6. Finish Line Management: Ensure adequate assistance at the finish line and ensure that the finish time is recorded correctly. There was absolutely no one at the finish line when a bunch of slow runners finally finished the run. We had to scramble around to ensure that we finished the course as there was contradictory information. Also, we had to look around to note our finishing time (like mine 4:47:01). Also, there should some refreshments / energy drinks at the finish line to ensure that the runners hydrated & re-energized.
  7. Certificate issuance process: It was a circus at the certificate issuance counter. After toiling for 4 + hours, runners were pushing and shoving the fellow runners to get hold of the much vaunted certificate. Interestingly, this entire scramble was for BLANK certificates. It was up to the individual runners to fill-in there name and timing. This ‘certificate’ issuance process should be computerized and some amount of order should be established.
  8. Broader participation: Reach out to the different groups and ensure broader participation such that the city participates and supports the runners. There was hardly anyone to the cheer and support the full marathon runners.

All in all, the First Bangalore Marathon was a good start but needs lot of improvement.