The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Corporate run at marathon
Amitabh: Silver cheer

Mumbai, Jan. 15: Tomorrow's Mumbai Marathon will choose some of the world's fastest long distance runners. It will also decide which corporates have the biggest bleeding hearts.

The Ethiopians and the Kenyans are here, the total prize money is $ 210,000, about 25,000 people are expected to participate and the aim for the runner is to take as few minutes and seconds as possible after two hours to run the 42.2-km stretch ' the full marathon.

But because corporate social responsibility is a big buzzword now, and every company wants to be good, on the side tracks, Mumbai Marathon, only in its second year, has become a full-fledged NGO mela run by the corporates. It is clear that if the event is big enough, and there is brand visibility, a corporate will splash great sweat, uphold greater causes and flash even greater cash, not to mention Amitabh Bachchan.

Harmony, the NGO run by Tina Ambani, will initiate a 5-km run for senior citizens ' the 'Senior Citizens Run' ' to create awareness. About 1,000 'silvers' will participate in the event. They will be provided with T-shirts, coffee and refreshments ' and Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar.

Bachchan, with Hema Malini and Paresh Rawal, his co-actors from the movie Baghban ' a big hit that portrayed the helplessness and vulnerability of ageing parents in these days and times ' is set to be cheering them off with Union sports minister Sunil Dutt. Other onlookers will be industrialist Adi Godrej, HDFC chief Deepak Parekh and actor Abhishek, Bachchan's son.

There will be an auction of a Bachchan shirt, too, the proceeds of which will go to the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund for tsunami victims. Harmony Interactive Centre will also field 250 of its members in the run.

The Ambanis ' Mukesh and Anil ' are slated to take part in the Dream Run, a 7-km miniature marathon, though it is not known if they will be running side by side.

If Harmony has the biggest screen star, the biggest sports star has been claimed by another NGO, Apnalaya.

Despite his tennis elbow, Sachin will run/walk as much of the Dream Run as he is capable of, says GiveIndia, the official charity organisation of the Mumbai Marathon. 'Almost Rs 15 lakh has been raised in his name alone,' says the GiveIndia spokesperson.

The corporate charity will mainly take place outside the full marathon tracks. As the athletes run from VT to Bandra Reclamation and back, Corporate India, mostly participating in the Dream Run, will run from VT to Kishco Cutlery and pant back to VT.

There it is a competition for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), HSBC, ICICI, McKinsey and 25-odd other corporates. They have all taken up the 'Corporate Challenge' ' the scheme under which each corporate will buy a spot for 1.5 lakh and field a team of 50 employees. TCS is leading in the category, with five spots to its credit, with HSBC, ICICI, McKinsey and IL&FS following with two spots each.

GiveIndia, which expects to raise Rs 4 crore for charity through the event, as against the Rs 1.4 crore raised last year, exhorts others to follow their example. 'While several companies are sending in teams to participate in the marathon, not all are so generous.'

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