In a big boost to ultra-running in the country, Athletics Federation of India is set to host 24 Hour Asia and Oceania Championships next year and the 100 Km Asia and Oceania Championships in 2021 in Bengaluru.
NEB Sports, a long-time associate of the AFI, will be the sponsors of both the events, which are coming to India for the first time.
The Bengaluru-based NEB Sports works for promoting and developing sports in India by supporting sportspersons. The brand also promotes healthy lifestyle amongst the urban population.
Ultra-running is any foot race longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195kms and the event has got some attention of the public in recent times, more so after India won an individual and team medal in the 24-hour Asia and Oceania Championships in Taipei.
Ultra races are contested either over a set distance like 50km, 100km and longer events; or a set time like 6 hours, 24 hours and multi-day events.
The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) is the world governing body of the discipline.
A team of officials, led by IAU chief Nadeem Khan, has inspected the facilities at the proposed venues in Bengaluru.
“We want to develop ultra-running in different parts of the world. We wanted to take ultra-running to places where it has not reached. In India, the Federation (AFI) is involved in the sport, and we would be happy to bring the continental events in the country,” Khan said.
“We have seen the venues and facilities in Bengaluru. We have formalities and paperwork to do. We will take the positives and place (the bid) before the IAU Council and take a decision,” Khan, who originally belongs to Kanpur, said.
AFI President Adille Sumariwalla said that the upcoming twin events can play a big role in popularising ultra-running in the country.
“We are one of the national federations in the world which take ultra-running in their fold. Individual ultra-runners were there in India earlier but AFI took ultra-running in its fold in 2017. In 2018 itself, India won individual and team bronze in the continental event,” the AFI chief said.
“These two continental events will give a fillip to ultra-running,” he added.
In the 2018 IAU 24 Hour Asia and Oceania Championships held in Taipei, Ullas Narayana won a bronze, covering a distance of 250 km in 24 hours, while the Indian team comprising Ullas, Sunil Sharma and Lallu Meena also finished in the third spot.
Sumariwalla said that the AFI, which became a member of IAU in 2017, has started initial discussions with the sports ministry to extend support to ultra-runners. He added one of the reasons for the AFI taking ultra-running to its fold was that it could be beneficial for marathon runners.
Khan also said that trail running can become an Olympic discipline in future, though he said he can’t say when and where it will happen.
The Ultra and Trail Running Committee of the AFI also announced Canada-based Ulhas as the male Ultra and Trail Runner of the Year while Kolkata athlete Anjali Saraogi was named the female Ultra and Trail Runner of the Year.