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Roaring return of Kolkata’s favourite road race back after 2 years

On nippy Sunday morning, 15,000 participants bust apprehensions that the Covid pandemic might have dented the passion for running

Debraj Mitra And Snehal Sengupta | Published 19.12.22, 07:00 AM
A sea of participants at the starting line of the open 10K run, as part of the seventh edition of Tata Steel Kolkata 25K, partnered by The Telegraph, on Red Road on Sunday

A sea of participants at the starting line of the open 10K run, as part of the seventh edition of Tata Steel Kolkata 25K, partnered by The Telegraph, on Red Road on Sunday

Bishwarup Dutta

The city’s love for running is very much alive, Kolkata’s marquee road race emphatically showed on Sunday.

Apprehensions that the Covid pandemic might have dented the passion for running were put to rest on a nippy morning by over 15,000 people who participated in the seventh edition of The Tata Steel Kolkata 25K, partnered by The Telegraph.


Records tumbled and spirits soared in the seventh edition of the run, the only World Athletics Elite Label road race in the 25km-category, which was last held in 2019.

While Kolkatans turned out in numbers on Sunday, many of the participants came from outside the city and the state.

The Open 10K run, the first event of the day, started at 5.40am, some 25 minutes before sunrise. But over 6,000 people were raring to go at the starting block. The 10K run clocked the maximum registrations.

“Running is about constant self-development, it is about getting better every day,” shooter Abhinav Bindra, India’s first individual Olympic gold medallist and the event ambassador, said from the dais as the runners went off the starting block.

Till a few years ago, the 5km Ananda Run used to see most participants. Organisers said the increasing popularity of the 10km run showed that many participants, for whom the 5km run was like a stepping stone, a touch-and-feel experience, had now registered in the longer category.

Kenya’s Leonard Barsoton, the reigning champion in the men’s elite international category, defended his title in style as he bettered his own course record of 1:13.05, set in 2019. Barsoton, the 2017 world cross-country silver medalist, finished in 1.12.49 on Sunday.

Barsoton was behind Alfred Ngeno, Abdisa Tola and Berhanu Legese. He picked up pace after 20km and never looked back.

“I know the course. I knew exactly when to pick up pace,” Barsoton said after the race.

In the women’s elite category, Bahrain’s Desi Jisa shaved off almost a minute from the 2019 course record set by Ethiopian Guteni Shone to clinch the race. She finished in 1:21:04, to eclipse the previous mark of 1:22:09.

“I thank Kolkata for such a warm welcome. I loved running here,” said Jisa, who was runner-up here in 2019.

The professional runners put their best foot forward. But the festive fervour, the hallmark of TSK, was lent by ordinary participants.

Many familiar images were back on Red Road. The volunteers had a tough time holding back the participants before the scheduled starting time.

One of the most endearing sights was at the start of the Senior Citizens’ Run when most of the 1,509 participants swayed to the beats of peppy and energetic numbers, waving to the stands as they left the starting line.

The 5K Ananda Run, the last and the most exuberant race, started around 8.40am. Women’s cricket legend Jhulan Goswami, one of the faces of the race, joined the participants in the run.

A woman who had knee replacement surgeries in both legs six years ago was one of the 4,000-plus participants.

Anindita Sarkar, an Ananda Run participant who will turn 67 on New Year’s Day, was “overwhelmed” by TSK.

“On my way to Red Road, I felt lonely and nervous. But by the time the race started, I was completely at home. I thank the organisers for such a wonderful event. It has reignited my love for running,” said Sarkar, who traces her roots to Bihar.

An alumnus of Bhagalpur University, she is a University Blue. She won several races and other athletic events as a student.

She was encouraged to take part in the run by Susmmita Das (Biswas), a neighbour, who ran in the 10K category. Susmmita was in turn inspired by her gym and tennis mates, a perfect example of how the TSK culture has turned infectious in the city.

Many people from outside Bengal joined the race. Among them was debutant Devi Das, 58, who came all the way from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. Das, who took part in the 25K category, has been running for six years.

“I got inspired by my younger brother, who is an avid runner,” said Das, warming up in the holding area before the race. Since 2016, she has been a part of marathons in Bangalore, Kochi and Goa.

“I am a member of a running club in Thiruvananthapuram. I am rather late into running but I am in for good,” said Das.

Running groups from different parts of the city as well as other countries and states were out in numbers on Sunday.

A 15-member strong running group from Bangladesh was at the starting block on Sunday. As was a group of Japanese professionals, working in different cities of India, waiting for the 25K to start.

Sujoy Ghosh, an engineer who works for Dhaka Electric Supply Company Limited, was stretching with his running buddy Ratna Gomes, who is from Dhaka, too.

The two were part of the running contingent from Bangladesh and all of them had landed up wearing jerseys with the Bangladeshi flag emblazoned on them.

The Japanese Running Club in India, too, had ample representation with an eight-member team.

Ryo Making, who works for a multinational company’s Delhi branch, said they run every couple of weeks in and around Delhi both to keep fit as well as to train for different runs across the country.

The North Kolkata Runners — a running group that practices over the weekends in Salt Lake, New Town and Lake Town — had a team of around 190 runners who took part in various categories.

Nearly 85 members of the group took part in the 25K category, said Rahul Airan, a member of the running group.

Like the yesteryears, the Champions With Disability segment had people with steely resolve. One of them was Pawan Yadav, who came from Kulti in West Burdwan. Yadav lost both his legs in a train accident in 2013. He needed amputation in both legs and now has two prosthetic limbs.

“I told myself that I will survive for the sake of the people I love. I did,” said Yadav, a veteran of TSK 25K.

The course of the race spanned some of the city’s majestic sights. As the participants ran past Raj Bhavan, Fort William, Victoria Memorial, Park Street and Golpark, bystanders kept cheering the participants on.

The organisers said Sunday’s turnout was “very encouraging”.

“It was a magical experience. The support we got from all the stakeholders — army, police, civic body and others — shows how invested everybody is in this event. To see so many people come out was the biggest takeaway. TSK is essentially a people’s movement,” said Vivek Singh, joint managing director of Procam, the organisers of the race.

Last updated on 19.12.22, 11:50 AM

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