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Samstag, 26.12.2009 | von: af

Pune Marathon, Indien (6.12.2009)

Ever since mid-September I had been planning to go to India to visit a supplier of mine. For all sorts of reasons I had to delay the trip until end November. It then occurred to me that there was a marathon or a half marathon in New Delhi sometime in December. I then went through the AIMS magazine “Distance Running” and discovered that the Pune marathon was to take place on 06.12.2009. I checked their website but, as of beginning November, the information given there was for 2008 and outdated. I therefore sent an email to the organizers requesting them for information and whether I could still register myself for the marathon. Nothing happened for 5 days. On 09.11.2009 I received a mail from Mr. Pralhad Savant (chief organizer of the Pune marathon). Attached to the mail was an invitation letter signed by Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, President of the Pune International Marathon Trust and a member of the Indian Parliament in New Delhi (German equivalent would be the Bundestag in Berlin). 

The invitation letter gave some more information on the marathon itself, its origins, participants from various countries and the expected weather conditions. The invitation letter also said that the organizers would

·     Pay for my Lodging and Boarding (*1) from 2nd to 7th December and

·     Arrange for my transport from Mumbai Airport to Pune (about 160 Kms) and back again.


(*1): Archaic terms like “lodging” (accommodation) and “boarding” (food) are still in widespread use in India.  

After another email I got the mobile number of Mr. Rohan More (the organizer’s assistant) and spoke to him a couple of times on the phone. Mr. More was extremely helpful and provided me with all the information that I wanted. Asked about payment of the registration fee for the marathon, I was told that this was Indian Rupees 100.00 (Euro 1,48 at the current rate of exchange) and that I could pay this when I came to Pune. 

Now that was an invitation I simply could not refuse. Only the elite runners get this sort of treatment. My supplier was in Pune and the marathon was in Pune. That would be killing two flies at a stroke. I immediately sent my details by email and registered myself for the marathon. 

The accommodation provided by the organizers for the participants was at the International Sports Complex at Balewadi (a suburb of Pune) where the Commonwealth Youth Games were held in October 2008. Since I was to meet my supplier and had other appointments in Pune, I advised the organizers that I will be staying at a hotel at my expense. 


·     Pune (formerly known as Poona) is located roughly 160 Kms southeast of Mumbai.

·     Altitude 560 metres above sea level.

·     Population ca. 5 million.

·     Pune became famous in the 1970’s because of Rajneesh Ashram (“Bhagwan” Rajneesh) which attracted tourists from Europe and USA.

·     Today Pune is one the major educational and research centres in India. Pune University has about 500,000 students including about 14,000 foreign students.

·     Pune has, in recent times, attracted investments from major automotive manufacturers like Volkswagen, Mercedes and MAN.



The marathon distance is available only for men. (632 registered participants in 2009).

First prize is Indian Rupees 300,000 (roughly Euro 4450 or USD 6450).

Simultaneously with the marathon is a Half-Marathon which is available for women. (132 registered participants).

The first Prize here is Indian Rupees 150,000 (roughly Euro 2225 or USD 3225). 

Because of the Prize money the race attracts some good runners from Africa and Europe (who probably use Pune as one of the step stones before they go on to big city races in Europe or America where the prize money is much higher). 


Alka Talkies Chowk (*2) – Scheduled start of the race is at 07.00 hours. Weather: A bit foggy with temperature around 12°C.

(*2): “Talkies” is another of those archaic expressions and means movie theatre. It probably dates back to the twenties of the last century when the silent movies were gradually replaced by the “talking” movies.

“Chowk” is the Hindi term for a square or road intersection. 


Nehru Stadium – weather: brilliant sunshine with temperature around 26°C when I finished at around 11.30 hours. 

Given the fact that the Pune marathon took place for the 24th time, the organization is not as good as it could or should have been.

1.  For instance, the race got started with some delay.

2.  For the average runner there is no arrangement or facility to deposit a bag with a change of clothes. The temperature at start this year was around 12°C. It is therefore necessary to have some kind of warm clothing in the morning which needs to be deposited for the duration of the race. (I could deposit my bag with my things together with the elite runners. This was then transported by the organizers to the finish area. After I finished the race it took some time until I could retrieve my bag).

3.  The marathon route is opened to traffic once the elite runners have passed. The average runner is therefore exposed to the fumes of city traffic. I was exposed to the traffic after around 10 or 12 Km so that I ended up running around 30 Km in Pune traffic.

4.  The results and placing of the participants are still not available even though the race took place almost 3 weeks ago.


One of the reasons for the lax organization perhaps was that the organizer, Pralhad Savant, was hospitalized at the time of the race. I must however add that his assistant, Rohan More, was doing a great job in his absence. 

The organizers kindly arranged to pick me up at my hotel before the race and dropped me off at the hotel afterwards. Before the race I was brought to the area where the elite African and Indian runners were warming up and getting ready for the race. 

I was provided with a personal escort comprising of two persons on a motorbike. I realized this only after I had covered about 11 or 12 Kms and after the roads were given free for the traffic. My motorbike escort was present, within a distance of 100 to 200 metres behind or ahead of where I was, for the entire time it took me to finish the race (4:03:20). The motorbike escort showed me the route I had to take, stopped the traffic and cleared the intersections of traffic as I approached it. After I had covered around 35 Kms in fact there were 3 motorbike escorts. One ahead of me clearing the traffic, one next to me and one behind me. (The motorbikes which had escorted the elite runners were probably now free and rode back to escort other runners like me).  

I do not know the reasons why I was given this treatment and in retrospect I do not really care. I am just extremely grateful to the organizers for having provided me with the escort. Without the motorbike escort, I never would or could have finished the race. The marathon route is not marked on the road itself. There are banners at the intersections which guide the runners along the route. However, with the number of signs and billboards on Indian roads, it is difficult to spot and follow these banners. Without the escort stopping the traffic for me, I would have given up the race in complete frustration. At the very latest after about 20 Kms.  

My impression is that the Pune marathon is mainly meant for elite runners and people who can finish the race in less than 3 hours. Since the roads are opened to traffic once the elite runners have passed, an average runner who needs 4 hours (or longer) is likely to give up in frustration because of the difficulties in finding the route and crossing the busy road intersections on his own.



1. Augustine Ronoh - Kenya – 2:13:05 – (his first marathon) 


1. Arvind Kumar Yadav – 2:22:21 


1. Agnes Mutune – Kenya – 1:10:30 


1. Kavita Raut – 1:12:50 (placed 4th overall – first three were from Kenya) 

Before the start:

Indian runners on the left, African runners on the right


On the extreme left with no. 36 is a runner from the Netherlands who finished in 2:25

For some reason the elite runners had to be controlled before the race got started. (one of the reasons why the start got delayed).

No. 682 is Thomas Neuber from Kassel who is doing voluntary social work for a year in Pune. No. 37 is a young man from Belgium. No. 792 is a Mercedes employee in Pune.


A few minutes before the start. Right behind the elite runners. Didn’t help me to improve my time though. On the contrary I ended up running the first two kilometres much faster than I should have done.


Indian runners warming up

Volkswagen and Mercedes employees in Pune. No. 751 is Carsten Spichalsky, no. 682 is Thomas Neuber again. The rest I don’t know. I had nothing to write down their names and an email to Carsten Spichalsky has been without a response so far. Except for Thomas Neuber who wanted to run the full distance of 42.195 Kms, all the others participated in the 10 Km race.


Through the Pune streets after the start.


Now you will appreciate what I mean about Indian roads being full of billboards and advertising signs.


On the right, my motorbike escort with a red flag


No. 659 Dattakumar Redkar from Goa. This was supposed to be his first marathon. For some reason he gave up after 21.1 Kms.


Somewhere around Km 38-39. My 3 motorbike escorts holding the traffic for me at a road intersection.


Finally made it after 4:03:20


The marathon winner Augustine Ronoh (in the red jacket) with his cheque for Indian Rupees 300,000

The winner again. This time with a broad smile.

The Times of India in Pune interviewed me a day before the race and an article was published on 06.12.2009. The article can be read/seen with the following link


Hiren Kurani

PS: A translation of the text into German is in the works and will be made available soon. (Freie Übersetzung folgt in Kürze).

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Nr. 1   Dr. Tor Rønnow schrieb am 29.12.2009 - 19:29 email homepage

Congrats on a nice report and the interview with you is interesting !


Happy New Year... hope to see you soon,