In recent times Pune is known as the “sport city of the country” and the credit mainly goes to the successful hosting 21 editions of the “Pune International Marathon”. The annual mega event, featuring top long distance runners from all over the globe has placed the city on the sports map of the world.
The origin of that event comes from 1920 when the famous Deccan Gymkhana hosted the first meeting of the Indian Olympic movement; this was followed by organization of the first ever national marathon of the country. The event is still considered to be the milestone in the annals of Indian sports, being also the selection trials to select the Indian team to participate in the Antwerp World Marathon in 1920. The grueling 42.195 meter race was won by Phaddeppa Chougule clocking 2:48:49. Seeing the success of the Indian athlete, the Deccan Gymkhana continued to support the long distance events.
Unfortunately, the event was shelved into cold storage after some time. Rebirth of the historic event came by only because of the vision and foresight of the dynamic and charismatic city member of parliament of Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, presently heading the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). He christened the event as the Pune International Marathon on September 25, 1983.
The pomp and pageantry thus created since 1983, has consolidated Pune International Marathon as the most sought after race and equated it with the likes of Boston, London and Paris events. However, the task to reach the zenith was not easy as several obstacles and hurdles had to be overcome. But this did not deter Mr. Kalmadi and his team.
The state association had also requested the Athletic Federation of India (AFI) to grant permission for hosting the women’s marathon simultaneously. Held in September, 1983, the event became a trendsetter in more than one ways. The field attracted 50 foreign athletes along with the country’s top long distance runners. The aura thus created, caught the imagination of the residents of Pune who participated in large numbers in other race organized along with the main marathon and the half marathon.
Since then, the Pune International Marathon has traveled a long distance to become recognized as the national championship and an international event where Indians have been rubbing shoulders with leading international marathoners.
Eva Reñé Bañeres, July 18th 2011