'For participative sport, we are cautiously optimistic for second half of 2021'

Vivek Singh Procam

VIVEK SINGH, the joint managing director of Procam International, and someone who, along with his elder brother Anil Singh, can rightfully lay claim to having pioneered the running movement in India, has an interesting take on sports. Vivelspeak: "I derive maximum satisfaction through opportunities that help bring change into people’s lifestyles and mindsets via sport." 

Speaking of opportunities, the pandemic has offered an "opportunity to innovate, explore new horizons, and move ahead with solutions that inspire change!"

Having said that, he, his brother Anil and Team Procam have their collective task cut out as far as the delivery of this year's Tata Mumbai Marathon on May 30th is concerned. Race Day will be hot, and COVID-19 remains an ever-present threat, but solutions have to be found. And Vivek is confident that Team Procam is up to the task.

Excerpts from an interview: 

After the annus horribilis that was 2020, how do you see 2021 panning out? After all, Procam has already had to push back the date of the Mumbai Marathon 2021 to May 30th and the talk is that the COVID virus will not be fully under control till 2022 at least.

There are two ways to react to adversity. One way is to resign to fate and play the waiting game, hoping for the best. And the other is to perceive the situation as an opportunity to innovate, explore new horizons, and move ahead with solutions that inspire change!

The previous year has seen the digital world taking a new meaning for all of us. Growth and avenues through the digital world have not only been accelerated, but the 
acceptance of the digital paradigm by the multitude has been a game-changer. 

As far as the year goes for participative sport, we are cautiously optimistic for the second half of 2021 and hope that things get better soon.

Speaking of the Mumbai Marathon, the early buzz in the running community was that Sunday, February 28 had been chosen as the date for this year's marathon. How did you come about with the May 30th date, more so since the summer months are traditionally the break period for the running community?

The Tata Mumbai Marathon has a special place in the hearts of all our running community. We wanted to ensure the best possible opportunity for the community and given the current scenario in Maharashtra, we decided to reschedule. This decision was taken after deliberation and collaborative efforts with the state and civic authorities, including the Indian and International Athletic bodies and our sponsors.

Weather conditions in Mumbai might not be ideal, however, it’s still towards the end of May. We will be conducting the event in Mumbai with limited capacity for amateurs, which means the timing criteria and entry cut-off will be important. This will ensure a highly trained field of amateur’s runners to take the start line. By keeping an early and a staggered start in a controlled and secure environment, we are hopeful that the magic of the Tata Mumbai Marathon will remain intact. 

Is mounting the Mumbai Marathon 2021 as a night race among the options on the table?

No. We have planned to start the race early though. 

In the prevailing circumstances, race organizers of marathons have tended to focus their efforts on a virtual mass race and doing whatever it takes to stage the elite competition. What is Procam's approach to delivering the Mumbai Marathon 2021?

Last November, for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, we had successfully delivered a hybrid model of staging the world’s best Elite athletes from the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium while the rest of India participated in the app-enabled race.

In 2021, slowly but surely sport is resuming. We are hopeful for this edition of the Tata Mumbai Marathon, with the support from state and civic authorities, along with the elite participation from CSMT, we can stage an on-ground event that will observe limited participation for amateurs in the Full Marathon, Half Marathon, and 10km.

Participants from across India and the world will be able to run from the location of their preference, via the official TMM 2021 App.

How will technology be leveraged for the Mumbai Marathon? Particularly for the virtual mass participation race?

Even before the pandemic hit, we at Procam have been making strides to expand our digital footprint and build an effective and engaging community across the country. 

The Tata Mumbai Marathon facilitated the running community with an App-enabled race for the 2020 edition for runners from different parts of India. In addition to the 50,000 runners that were present on-ground in Mumbai, we also saw 3000+ runners participating in the inaugural ‘Run as One’ edition of the Tata Mumbai Marathon. Our last two events Airtel Delhi Half Marathon and the Tata Consultancy Services World 10K both had app-based runs as well.

For this year, we have taken our learning and developed a robust app to enhance the virtual experience for our participants and expand on our touch points. 

The Tata Mumbai Marathon specialized app will be boosted with an array of features for an enhanced running experience. This includes - timing and distance tracker, an interactive race route map that will guide through the entire race route, inspiring audio soundscapes that capture the essence of Mumbai, upbeat commentary from experts among others.

We will also be launching the Playscape Active Hub, an engaging & interactive platform for the active living community. This virtual hub will be a custom-made website with specialized curated content by notable industry experts from diverse fields of health, nutrition, and wellness. 

The general assumption was that the Delhi Half Marathon 2020, which saw 13,600+ amateur runners and around 60 elite runners participating "on the ground", would be the template that will be applied in the case of the Mumbai Marathon as well. But with the national vaccination drive underway, what are the changes being undertaken to that template? If it indeed that was/is the template in play.

Given the positive response we have received from last year’s Tata Mumbai Marathon’s “Race as One’ edition, the Airtel Delhi Mumbai Marathon and Tata Consultancy Services World 10K, we want to further strengthen the app-enabled race template in our distance running events going forward. As for the vaccinations are being undertaken at a fast pace, we are closely monitoring and working with the governing authorities so any and all feedback given by them will be incorporated on a need basis to ensure we deliver the best possible marathon possible for our participants.

In broad terms, could you outline the COVID protocols that would be in place for amateur runners in particular, but also for the elite runners at the Mumbai Marathon 2021?

The situation is dynamic and rapidly changing for us to delve into details at this point. 

However, all COVID protocols by the Government at the prevailing time shall be put into action with utmost care. The safety of our participants is at the forefront of all our preparations. 

Will the rescheduling of the Mumbai Marathon impact the dates of Procam's other three races - the Delhi Half Marathon, the Bangalore 10K, and the Kolkata 25K? Or is it too early to tell?

We have re-scheduled Tata Consultancy Services World 10K, however, Airtel Delhi Half Marathon and the Tata Steel Kolkata 25K are on schedule for October and December respectively.