Sunday, February 05, 2006

3 hours ++++++ ?

I don't know how long I would have taken to complete the Chennai Marathon today as I wasn't allowed to complete the event. I was stopped on my tracks by the police officers just after 3 hours near 28 - 29 KM mark. They told us that the Marathon is now closed and asked us to depart. Even when I was talking to the officers, the chaotic Chennai traffic came hurtling at us and we were forced to retreat to safer grounds.

Guess, only the experts can run Chennai Marathon. I wish, they had let us in on that secret. Incidentally, even the winner took around 2:36:00.

Gods were called to bless the event. Don't think it really helped.

The event was sponsored by lot of companies. Still, the awareness level was very low.

Yours truly and Hari at the 22 KM point

Some Observations & suggestions
Get Professional Event Managers
Chennai Marathon 2006 was organized by Rotary International with the help of lot of volunteers and sponsors. Unfortunately, they don't have the expertise required to market, plan & host such an event. These kind of events are better executed by professional event managers who have done it before and who do it on a 'full time' basis.

Market Better
An event like this should be publicized well and a concerted effort is needed to create awareness. According to a poll done by The Hindu, hardly 25% of the folks (age group 20 - 45) knew about Chennai Marathon.

Chennai media gave a cold shoulder to this event except for one radio station (Radio Mirchi). Even though The Hindu was an official sponsor of the event, they hardly helped in creating awareness about the event. The same paper allocated several columns of prime estate for some cine event happening on the same day.

Make participation fun & cool
Participating in this event was far from fun and wasn't easy. Full marathon runners had to go through various procedural hurdles prior to the event. If collection of the BIB was trying and was a put off, running was worse. Even though it was a marathon event, full marathon runners were treated shabbily. Organizers spent all their energy trying to manage the runners who had come to participate in the 5 & 10 KM runs. To make the matters worse, there were only about 200 runners in the full marathon category.

Give Time
Not every one is a professional runner to complete the run under 3 hours. Most of us were doing this for fun and it was disheartening to be stopped on our tracks. We needed all the encouragement in the world to complete the event and the last thing we wanted was the abrupt closure.
Internationally, cities close the traffic completely for 6 hours and practically give unlimited time for the runners to complete. In fact,a handicapped runner took 2 days in the London Marathon last year.

Some Specific Suggestions
  1. Revamp the web site. Registration process was buggy and the information was dated and incorrect.
  2. Remove the medical test requirement. It is not in other places and is not required in Chennai.
  3. Make the BIB collection process easy. Clearly announce the dates and hand out the BIBs on that day. Don't make the runners scurry around till the last minute. (especially, not the full marathon runners.)
  4. Advance full marathon starting time. It gets extremely hot and humid in Chennai and the full marathon runners lot of energy for such a gruelling run. Give them break and start by 6:00 AM sharp, if not earlier.
  5. Close the traffic for 6 hours. That's the international norm and follow that in Chennai too.
  6. Muster more volunteers. Several water points were not manned and some where abandoned after 2 hours.
  7. Get a professional Rotary International and the countless volunteers may all have had good intentions, but that alone is not sufficient to organize an event of this magnitude and scale. So, get some professionals to do the job next year.
Related Links
Illustrated Chennai Marathon Round up by Kiruba Shankar
Marathon Guide


  1. Good coverage Ram. Sadly you did not get to complete it but hopefully someone is reading your suggestions and will act on them for the next time :-)

  2. even i ran the marathon but from last years experience stopped after 21kms itself...
    i have written a detailed mail to the organisers.. hope you and others would also do the same to improve things for better...
    its really sad & bad when the police stop you from running.. what you say is right we need professional organisers who can run atleast 5kms ina day not fat guys cant even move their ass..

  3. Your post inspired me to write one on some of the things the organisers need to take care..

  4. Congrats on participating in the Chennai Marathon, even though unfortunately you couldn't get to the finish line. Your comments seem very valid and hope at least some of them are adapted for the next year's marathon. Keep running.

  5. Thennavan
    These may be growing pains.. hope it gets better next year..

    You were there yesterday?? Wish we had 'seen' each other..

    Thanks for your visit.. Glad to be of some assist..

    I do plan on writing to the organizers.. for whatever its worth.. Let's see..

  6. Ram,

    Nice job with the suggestions. I hope they change whatever they need to and hopefully we have a better organized marathon next year. I would like to complete on the home turf soon.

    Lets keep the runs going and lets work towards the next marathon.

  7. Hi Ram, I am Ram too, Hari's brother in Muscat, Oman. I was supposed to join you guys for the event but had to cancel becuause of work pressures. I am thankful that I didnt spend money on the airfare cos I certainly could not have completed in 3 hours. Very sad. I really hope things get better next year.

  8. Shumit
    I hope so too.. hope things are better next year..

    May be we can run the Bangalore Marathon together.. (May 16, 2006)

  9. Ram, good coverage and you have mentioned most valid points. Was just going through a link what Ajendra had sent about feedback from last year's chennai marathon. It was the same this year too.Just Pathetic !!!

  10. Hari
    Interesting.. isn't it..

    Its all the more reason why we need a professional event management company to do the job..

  11. I finished the Chennai marathon in four hours and twenty minutes. They tried to put me on a bus, but I refused. Anyway, it was hell. The last 10km are ten times harder than the first 30km. After reading your post, I have decided to write a letter to the organisers too. When I finished, there was nothing at the finish line. Not even a packet of water. I hope something comes out of it, but I am sceptical. Yesterday in the Hindu's metro plus, the organisers were crowing about how well the marathon went, and how they hope to attract more "foreign runners". Their goal should be to get amateurs in Chennai to run, not foreign runners. There is a mindset here that needs to change.

  12. Amritanshu

    Congratulations.. You have done well to complete against great odds here..

    I totally agree with you.. Organizers need to do a better job of getting more people to participate and make the whole thing interesting and fun...

    I doubt it will happen though..

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. hi ram,m from mumbai and run the marathon here.i would however like to know when the next chennai one would be.........more later

  15. Sheeja
    I don't know when is the next marathon in Chennai.. We didn't have one this year.. hopefully we will next year..

    It is a shame that a major city like Chennai hasn't gotten on the International Map with an event like this..