43 years on, Shiv Nath’s Indian marathon record remains intact

By Navneet Singh
New Delhi, March 8 : The oldest Indian record in athletics, the men’s marathon, has amazingly stood unchallenged for almost 43 years in the name of Shiv Nath Singh. The latest attempt to break it here at the New Delhi Marathon was also futile as the winner, Srinu Bugatha, clocked 2 hours 14 minutes and 59 seconds.

Singh had clocked 2 hours 12 minutes over 42 kms (approximately) in Jalandhar in 1978. He passed away in June 2006, aged 56. His record, however, has stood the test of time.

Singh’s record was the focus at Sunday’s New Delhi Marathon and there was an attempt to break it. The centre of attraction was the Indian Army’s Bugatha. “I’ve done good preparation to break that barrier,” Bugatha had said on the eve of the race.

But when Bugatha crossed the finish line in 2 hours 14 minutes 59 seconds, it meant that India’s oldest athletics record remained intact.

A debate rages on how good really the generations of runners that followed Singh are.

Globally, there are more than 100 runners capable of completing the gruelling marathon race in less than 2 hours 10 minutes. Kenya’s Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge had set an astonishing world best of 2 hours 1 minute and 39 seconds at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. There is also talk that he could break the two-hour barrier.

However, the scenario is quite different in India. In the last four decades, only two men have clocked below 2 hours and 15 minutes in the gruelling 42-km race.

On Sunday, Bugatha became the second fastest Indian runner, behind Asian champion Thonakal Gopi, who had clocked 2 hours 13 minutes 39 seconds at the 2019 Seoul Marathon.

Despite the inability of Indian marathoners to break Singh’s 43-year-old record, there has been a boom in the prize money for road races — marathon and half marathon — across the country in the last decade.

Marathoner Nitendra Singh Rawat, who competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was optimistic that the 2 hour 12 minute barrier would be erased in the coming months.

“A good course and favourable running conditions would support runners to break the 2 hours 12 minutes record,” said Rawat.

Bahadur Singh, Asian Games shot put champion and former chief national coach, blames the coaching system for the average performance in distance running.

“If we aren’t able to achieve good results I would say that the coaching department isn’t doing a good job,” Bahadur told IANS.

Gopi, 31, says group running is vital for making good progress in distance running.

“Top global marathon runners train in groups while in India everyone is training in isolation. There should be a good support system like presence of physios with the team, only then can we expect good results,” said the Army runner from Bengaluru.

Shiv Nath Singh’s running career blossomed when he joined the Army. At 26, he won his first national gold. His best moment in life came at the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran. He won gold in 5,000 m with a new record of 14 minutes 20 seconds.

He then switched to marathon for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. A brave front running for the first half of the race perhaps enabled him to finish a creditable 11th with a time of 2 hours 16 minutes.

Two years later, Singh etched his name in the history of Indian athletics in Jalandhar, establishing a marathon record that no one has been able to break till date.

Bahadur Singh said athletes like Shiv Nath Singh were a rare breed of runners.

“I’ve seen him racing at the 1974 Tehran Asian Games. He was a real fighter. I believe he had exceptional qualities to race over distances between 5,000 m and marathon,” said the former Asian Games champion.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.

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