Former Olympic marathon runner Hugh Jones feels India is on the cusp of a running revolution and the aim should be to provide quality races to develop the standard.
“I see it as booming. The main job is to try to supply quality races to match the enthusiasm of people,” said the retired British long distance runner who’s here as the race director of the upcoming TSK 25K race on December 18.
He further said the Elite Distance Running programme under the aegis of the Sports Authority of India is a step in the right direction.
“It has certainly shown encouraging results in the short time it has been operating. The initiative is showing how this can be done,” he said about the programme which was launched in 2014 in an aim to develop runners at grassroots level and give them exposure.
“Running has changed almost beyond recognition. In the 1960s when I started running we were thought of as oddballs and there were no genuinely popular events. It was just a few dozen people — almost exclusively men — running around muddy fields or back country lanes,” said Jones, who in 1982 became the first Briton to win the London Marathon.
“There was no TV interest and no charity fundraising –and almost no spectators. Even in my time running offered the chance for a good runner to make it into a profession. But now it is on a much broader sense.”
On the upcoming race, he said it’s been the first ‘new’ distance running event for me and the Procam team in a few years.
“It is always a challenge to come up with the best possible event from ‘scratch’ especially in a new location. It has not been as popular as in Mumbai (full marathon) or Delhi (half marathon) but there is steady growth.
“I am sure we will be looking back on the race in a few years time and comparing it with the best that anywhere else has to offer,” he signed off.