The Pune International Marathon, once the blue-ribbon event of the city’s sporting calendar and one that had gained an international reputation drawing the best long-distance runners in the world, has fallen on hard times.
After the race on Sunday there was no clear indication on where the prize money was going to come from.
The men’s winner, Ethiopia’s Getachew Besha, is due to get Rs 1,75,000. The winner of the women’s half marathon is due Rs 1,50,000. The fastest Indian male runner gets Rs 75,000 and the fastest Indian woman, Rs 51,000.
When HT asked race director Pralhad Sawant about the prize money, he refused to comment.
Bereft of a title sponsor for the last few years, 2017’s 32nd edition lacked any semblance of a marathon that serious runners would look to as a must.
For all their hard work and functional nous, the organisers seemed to be cut adrift by the city itself, as mayor Mukta Tilak and senior officials gave the event a miss.
What’s worse, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), which has been sponsoring the prize money over the past few years, also put involvement with the event on hold.
PMC commissioner Kunal Kumar said the corporation will not give any funds for the event unless “everything is sorted out”.
Much of the brouhaha has come from the fact that the Pune International Marathon this year was not sanctioned by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). In fact, the AFI advised participants to skip this “unrecognised event”.
Race director Pralhad Sawant cited permission from the Association of International Marathons (AIM) as being enough for the event to be a grand success and without any issue.
That was not the case. Foreign athletes complained about bad roads and poor traffic management after Balewadi.
“The roads were bad, and in the initial stages of the race, it was so dark that we almost missed few turns,” said Zelalem Lema Dlema, who finished second in the men’s event.
When asked about this, Sawant said, “I doubt this happened. We have clearly marked every kilometre and one van was stationed at every kilometre. So there is no chance of missing any turns. They must have misjudged the boards, otherwise missing the route was impossible.”
The media were also kept in the dark. No participant list was handed over nor was it published on the official website.
How many foreign runners were there? Not more than 40 as per HT’s spot count.
The marathon is organised by the Pune International Marathon Trust started in 1983 whose secretary general is Pralhad Sawant.