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Marathon movers Tata Mumbai Marathon

01 December 2016, 4pm

Brothers who pioneered India’s distance running revolution

Singh when you’re winning

The jewel in the crown of India’s distance running calendar, the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM), holds its 14th edition on 15 January. Asia’s richest marathon, offering USD 370,000 as prize-money, grants the freedom of the streets to more than 40,000 runners who take centre-stage along with some world-class athletes on 15 January 2017.

All thanks to the vision, perseverance and dynamism of two brothers, Anil and Vivek Singh. Ardent sports lovers with an innate passion for the development of sport, a burning desire to improve professional standards of sport in India led them to establish their company Procam International in 1988. One of the earliest professional sports management companies in the country, Procam has conducted a host of events within many different sports: cricket, tennis, football, volleyball, WWE and horseracing among others. But for Vivek Singh personally there was always the dream of conducting a popular marathon. Back then India was more a nation of spectators and a participative sport such as distance running was a distant possibility.

Vivek believed that running was something approaching a panacea for society: bringing together people from across the world; encouraging communal harmony; providing the largest possible platform for charity; creating a chance for local talent to compete at the highest level; encouraging health and fitness; and instilling a sense of pride in the host city and its citizenry.

Vivek and Anil visited the London Marathon in 2003. That experience was an endorsement of their dream. The energy, positivity and the smiles bore striking witness to each participant’s triumph. An unforgettable event, it became an indelible memory for both of them.

Over the last thirteen editions the SCMM has evolved in various ways: the initial stages of putting on an event of this grandeur; the challenge of getting city and state civic authorities to work in sync; managing thousands and then tens of thousands of registrations; and securing the participation of international athletes. Today runners from different parts of the country and the world all come to run for a reason of their own. Amidst loud cheers and support for the participants across all categories the SCMM has proved time and again that as a sporting event it can rise above cultural and religious sentiments.

SCMM was the first major event hosted by the city only seven weeks after the deadly terror attacks in Mumbai on 27 November 2007. The city stood in unison for peace and solidarity. Registrations for the event were vastly over-subscribed and 40,000 participants showed the world the “can do, will do” spirit of Mumbai.

The SCMM spirit is demonstrated not only by the participants but also by the state and civic authorities granting the requisite permissions; the police who are on their toes to ensure both continued traffic flow and law and order; those providing the medical facilities; the volunteers at work; the sponsors and partners of the event; and above all the locals who are all smiles offering biscuits and water to participants along the course.

The event galvanised the high flyers of India’s financial capital including Bollywood stars, sports icons, sports federations and bigwigs of the corporate world. Film actors Rahul Bose, John Abraham and Milind Soman, avid sports lovers themselves, have been highly supportive of the SCMM since inception. Corporate head honchos like Anil Ambani, Anand Mahindra, Dharmesh Jain threw themselves into the fray. The media (print, television and radio) took it up with enthusiasm. Soon enough the entire eco-system believed in it and joined hands.

The SCMM is not just a sporting extravaganza but an event with a social conscience; it is the largest charity fundraising platform in the country. Since inception it has raised funds benefitting more than 500 NGOs that support over 20 different social causes.

The Singh brothers did not rest after achieving such gratifying success in Mumbai. The Airtel Delhi Half Marathon was established in 2005, as a legacy event to the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships held in Delhi in 2004, entirely through the application of the vision, drive and hard-won expertise of the Procam company. The Tata Consultancy Services World 10km in Bengaluru followed in 2008 and the Tata Steel Kolkata 25K in 2014 — all of them have evolved into major international sporting events in their respective home cities.

The Elite Distance Running Programme (EDRP) has been an outgrowth of the Procam running events. In partnership with the Sports Authority of India and the Global Sports Communications company the EDRP is an extension of Procam’s commitment to the development of distance running in the country. Its aim is to find and hone potential local talent into world-class competitors.

With 37 international road running events under their belt Vivek and Anil Singh, through a lot of sweat, hard work and determination, have proved that you can live your dream. Their undying dedication to initiate and popularise running events in the larger interests of society has made running into an industry and given a phenomenal boost to the sports sector as a whole. The annual turnover of the running industry in India is currently estimated at about USD200million; it has created opportunities for brands and generated employment for untold thousands of people.

Thanks to the founders of SCMM India now hosts more than 500 running events each year and the number is growing inexorably. It has been not so much a running movement as a running revolution.

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