Running a marathon over the microphone

He can tell you exactly where two-time champion John Kelai plans to buy a plot of land back home in Kenya...

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Mumbai | Published: January 18, 2009 11:34:20 pm

He can tell you exactly where two-time champion John Kelai plans to buy a plot of land back home in Kenya,and he rattles off personal-best timings of Boniface Usisivu and other runners as if he’s reading them off the back of his hand.

And while Kelai,Usisivu and the rest of the field are all set for the Mumbai marathon on Sunday,Tim Hutchins has been fine-tuning his vocal chords and has been busy mugging up statistics and biographies of the various participants,and familiarising himself with their faces. Running a marathon is considered one of the toughest endurance tests for an athlete,the seasoned English broadcaster says that covering one can be an equally difficult task.

“You get a lot of time to talk about the runners and their backgrounds,and lots of research needs to be done in the build-up to a race,” says Hutchins.

Apart from being one of the richest marathons in Asia,the mega-event has proved to be the perfect showcase of the who’s who in Mumbai,and identifying the celebrities will also be something that Hutchins will have to contend with. That part of the job will be left to his local colleague,he insists.

Hutchins believes that the sycophancy surrounding celebrities in India can often be irritating for an outsider,and reveals that he does end up dealing with a number of them,who he is forced to co-commentate with during the marathon. “Some of them like Sheila Dixit,who visited the box in Delhi,are charming and fun to work with. But there are others who tend to drone on about how they are glad to be part of the event or something,” he says.

Hutchins,whose athletic career was brought to a premature end because of injuries,believes that the following for endurance sport was still catching up in India.

But his Indian connection goes far. “My mother hails from India,and I love coming to this country and everything about it. We used to eat a lot of curry growing up.”

A last-ball six,with the legendary Bill Lawry describing it in his distinctive nasal tone,would be the dream end to a match for most cricket fans across the world. And Hutchins too has a photo-finish scenario that he hopes to commentate upon at the marathon. “Three runners going neck-and-neck,with the finish line just metres away,with all of them looking to finish within the 2hr 15 minute mark,” he says.

Kelai leads pack

Kelai,who will attempt to complete a hat-trick of wins,leads the pack of 2500 runners,which includes 2350 Indian entries,in the 42.195 km event. In all,a staggering 35,000 participants will make their presence felt in the various race categories,with a total prize money of $ 250,000.

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