A wonderful trip down memory lane. Running in the 1980s
One of the stalwarts of our ASICS Running Club is a charming, very self-effacing man by the name of O.P.Pandey.
A week or so ago, he casually shared a photo on our Whatsapp group & we all cyber-erupted with cheering and questions and “Well done’s” & “Shabash’s.”
THIS was the photo that O.P. shared, from 1986:
And just look at that timing!
An easy-peasy sub 2.
O.P. initially demurred at writing about his experience, but we all insisted, and the resulting story, below, is an absolute gem!
I won’t spoil your enjoyment of his trip down memory lane – 30 years ago – by telling you too much in advance, but I love, love, love his story about joining the NCC in order to get running shoes!
Fab stuff 🙂
Let’s hear it for O.P. the sub-2 half marathoner!
“I was never an athlete, and in my young days I aspired to join the Army as an officer so I used to run in small open races at schools and college level. The biggest challenge was to get running shoes.
I remember I joined National Cadet Corps to get canvas shoes for a camp. I was so happy to get the shoes that I ran so much in these shoes that after the camp of 10 days was over, and I went to deposit the shoes to NCC Unit, I was scolded and asked to stand outside for damaging the shoes.
In the 1980s the scenario of amateur runners in India was not bright.
People generally run for recruitment in armed forces and police. Rarely, people from upper strata of society ran at that time. The professional runners also largely came from Defence (called Services) and Railways. Perhaps the motivation level was not big enough. For Rath Marathon, the entry forms were published in newspapers. Runners had to fill up the form and deliver them at the office of the sponsoring company at Barakhamba Road, Connaught Place.
No timing chip was available in 1980s. The route of the race started from Jawaharlal Nehru stadium to Chirag Delhi to IIT Gate. The half marathon runners took a detour from IIT gate and only the full marathon runners went up to Mahipalpur and came back to Nehru Stadium. During the race the officials noted down runners’ bib numbers and one official was sitting at IIT Gate at the half way point for the half marathon, noting down the bib numbers of runners and guiding them to go back towards Nehru Stadium.
At the finish line too, the runner had to go to the official desk to report his bib number and it added many minutes on to the net timing depending upon the rush at the counter. If I am not mistaken the colour of bib was different for half marathon and full marathon. Many good runners from gurukuls in Haryana also participated. They were too young but very strong and won the applause of runners. For water and hydration, the runner had to go to the MI camp at the finish line. The runners were provided their glucose water and biscuits.
I am not aware of any prize money for winning the race. If you look at the certificate the race was organised by the Amateur Athletics Federation of India and any athlete who ran for prize money were termed as professional and they could not represent their country at an international level according to the rules prevalent at that time. How much money was paid to the winner of that race is not known to me.
Later on, the word “amateur” was removed from the name of federation.
I think a few hundred people participated in that run, mainly from the Army, police, railways and college students. The number of women runners was very small – maybe not more than 50.
Distance running in India was made popular by Procam International. Hutch was the earliest company to sponsor half marathons, organised by Procam International in early 2000. Then the sponsors changed to Vodaphone and currently Airtel for Delhi Half Marathon.
The earliest timing chip was worn on the ankle, with the help of Velcro, and the company took security money of Rs.1000 which was refunded after returning the timing chip after the marathon. Later on disposable chip tagged on shoe laces was introduced and present timing chip is in bib number only.
I do not remember any sports brand that was popular at that time. Only Bata made shoes by the name of North Star and they were popular at that time. Many athletes ran barefoot. The most popular shoe was called PT shoes, a kind of canvas shoe. The army drill shoes made of canvas were a luxury for people like me.”
Isn’t that just great?
O.P., my friend, your story makes for wonderful reading, and thank you SO much for sharing it with us all.