It’s a journey that began nearly ten years ago, the idea germinating on a cold Sunday morning in London. The Singh brothers, Anil and Vivek, spectators at the London Marathon, were amazed by the scale and scope of the event. Enamoured by its magic they vowed then and there to create for Mumbai an event in the same vein unique to the city
Procam International, the country’s leading sports and leisure management company, has always stayed away from the trodden path, opting instead for events that would challenge the limits of marketing and organizational excellence. Having successfully promoted events like the Mahindra Squash Challenge, ATP Challenger Tennis, the Squash World Open, WWE, Asian Beach Volleyball, World Body Building, besides National level events in tennis, soccer, horse racing and golf – distance running proved to be their biggest test yet before the 1st edition of the Standard Chartered Mumbai International Marathon was flagged off on 15th February 2004.
Procam International was clear in its focus. The first edition of the event itself needed to be of a scale that would make the running world sit up and take note. Thus was launched Asia’s Largest Marathon, the Standard Chartered Mumbai International Marathon, in 2004, which has, in a short span of seven years, evolved into one of the top ten marathons of the world. Post the success of 1st edition itself, the word ‘International’ was dropped from its title – the international stature of the event had already been established. With the backing of visionary title sponsors Standard Chartered, the various partners to the event and the might of the State Government and the Municipal Corporation, the event has grown from strength to strength and for the year 2010 has been honoured with the Gold Label by the IAAF, the highest recognition of organizational excellence for a road race. With prize money increasing periodically and significantly and now standing at a whopping USD 325,000, the event has seen some of the biggest names in the field of distance running, visiting the shores of Mumbai to participate.
Sporting icons like Michael Johnson, Mike Powell, Linford Christie, Steve Ovett, Paul Tergat, Dame Kelly Holmes, Gail Devers, Gabriela Szabo, Kapil Dev, Vijay Amritraj, Aravinda DeSilva, Javagal Srinath, Anju Bobby George, to name a few have been event ambassadors to the event. For the past three years, Bollywood superstar John Abraham has been the event’s Indian Brand Ambassador.
With the runaway success of the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon and the tremendous response from the people of Mumbai, it was not long before Procam International decided to further the running revolution and trained its guns on the capital city, Delhi. In November 2005, Procam International launched the World’s richest and most prestigious half marathon, which has now completed five glorious editions, and then moved to Bangalore in 2008 with the World’s Premier 10K Run, the third edition of which was successfully promoted on May 23, 2010. Each city thus has an event with a unique identity of its own and setting a precedent of sorts, all three events merited the IAAF Gold Label, a unique achievement for a country and even more special for a single promoter.
The Delhi Half Marathon, over the years has had sporting luminaries like Daley Thompson, Jackie-Joyner Kersee, Sir Richard Hadlee, Alan Border and Cathy Freeman promote the event as its ambassadors, while its status of the world’s richest and most prestigious half marathon has always attracted the world’s best long distance athletes, who have returned super fast timings. The men’s winner at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2008, Deriba Merga of Ethiopia clocked 59.15 seconds, his timing equalling the world’s fastest time for the year, sharing the honour with countryman Haile Gebrselassie. Merga went on to defend his title in 2009, again going under the hour mark, clocking 59.54 seconds.
In March 2007, Vivek B Singh, Jt. Managing Director, Procam International was invited by AIMS (Association of International Marathons and Distance Races) for its Convention at Xiamen, China to present a paper on Road Races in India and Asia. Post his presentation, he was asked to contest the AIMS elections, which he won by a whopping majority. Today, Vivek B Singh is the first Indian on Board of AIMS and currently functions as Director Marketing on the Board which boasts of 300 plus road races across the world as its members.
The World 10K Bangalore, in its three years of existence, has also thrown up some stirring performances. The first edition in 2008 saw a dead heat finish in the women’s race, with Kenya’s Grace Momanyi and Turkey’s Elvan Abeylegesse breasting the tape in 32.03 seconds, which still stands as the course record. The men’s race was won by the World No. 1 Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea, who clocked 27.52 seconds, which also stands as the course record.
The Sunfeast World 10K has had Bollywood heartthrob Deepika Padukone, as the face of the event in 2009, while in 2010 it was Golden Star of Sandalwood Ganesh who had the same honour. Sprint King Maurice Greene of USA was the event ambassador in 2009, while in 2010, Olympic God medallist and double silver medallist Shawn Crawford promoted the event as its ambassador.
Distance Running events and charity: Distance running events the world over are the one of the largest platforms for charity and the events promoted by Procam International were no exception. Each of the three events works closely with Charity Partners and NGOs to raise money for charity, benefiting various causes.
Since its inception, the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon has raised close to Rs 42.84 crore towards charity, making it the largest charity generating platform in India, be it in sports or entertainment. The Airtel Delhi Half Marathon has helped raise Rs 7.21 crore in five years. Across the first 3 editions of the Sunfeast World 10K Bangalore, an amount of Rs 3.10 crores has been raised for varied causes.
Today, the road races promoted by Procam have pioneered a new road running and health and fitness paradigm in India.