The 24-hour Stadium Run, a qualification event for the IAU 24 Hour World Ultra Marathon Championship in France in October, got off to a rousing start at the Mumbai University tracks on a rainy Saturday evening.
Four of India's top runners are attempting to qualify for the gruelling event in France, with Rajasthan's Lallu Lal Meena and Yamini Kothari among the favourites to make the cut. They and many other prominent Indian runners, numbering close to 1,000, were cheered on as the qualifying event began in the evening.
"I have a great chance of qualifying for the worlds," said experienced runner Meena.
"I have done it in the past and I am quite confident of making it there once again. The criteria for qualification is 205 km and I have come with a target of 220 km. I am also attempting to run for 23 hours straight and if my body permits I will do 24 hours without any break.
"The event provides a great platform and acts as a prelude to the worlds. I would use this event to stretch and assess myself. The temperature here and in France is quite different. So if I could do 220 km here, I could very well do 240-250 km in France," Meena added.
Organised by NEB Sports, this gruelling event, which sets the tone for the Athletics Federation of India-approved Mumbai Half Marathon 2019 in August, has attracted over 1,000 participants and 200+ teams who competed in the relay run on Saturday.
Yamini too appeared very excited and said her target was to run for 22 hours at least. "This event is tough but we prepare for it round the year. It requires planning and strategising. I am very excited to be a part of it and I am targeting the worlds," said Yamini.
Shibani Gharat, Apeksha Shah, Priyanka Bhat and Deviprasad Shetty are among the other popular runners who are in action during the weekend.
"We are delighted to see a manifold jump in the number of participants in this popular event," Karthik Raman, Chief Marketing Officer, IDBI Federal Life Insurance, said.
"This is the ultimate test of a human being's spirit and endurance and we hope to see our stars qualifying for the World Ultra Marathon Championship," he added.
The ultra marathoners will target to cover the maximum distance over the next 24 hours to be crowned winners. The top men run close to 200 km during this period while the women touch about 170 km.
A unique and novel contest, the 24-hour Stadium Run will test the endurance as well as mental and physical abilities of the athletes.
Much like the famous Le Mans auto race in France, it will require the runners to be on the go for 24 hours with occasional stops. The event has four categories: 24-hr Individual, 12-hr Individual, 12-hr Open Team Relay and the 12-hr Corporate Team Relay.
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