After a hiatus of one year, the Vedanta Delhi Half Marathon returned to the national capital on the third Sunday of October, bringing with it a sense of new hope. The first mass-participation event in the capital without restrictions since the Covid pandemic, the much-anticipated race breathed life back into Delhi, widely regarded as the running capital of India.
One of the most prestigious half-marathons in the world, the fastest man this year was Ethiopia's Chala Regasa, who had been a pacemaker when Eluid Kipchoge ran a sub 2-hour marathon in Vienna in 2019.
The Vedanta Delhi Half-Marathon also brought an opportunity for elite runners like Avinash Sable, who re-established himself as India's best long distance runner as he clinched the Elite Indian Men's title in a photo finish with Kartik Kumar. Both finished the course in 1 hour and 4 minutes. Sanjivani Jadhav won the Elite Indian Women's title.
But more importantly for the people of New Delhi, the Vedanta Delhi Half-Marathon brought a chance for the people of the city to come together again.
Featuring more than 26,000 runners, 2500-plus volunteers and 53 NGOs, the 2022 edition of the 17-year-old event has raised more than Rs 1.59 crore for charity over the 30-day fundraising period. More than 4000 unique donors have contributed this amount for various social impact causes.
More than 50 not-for-profit organisations, more than 100 individual fundraisers and 10 corporates were actively fundraising through this event in domains across early childhood development, education and youth, health & well-being, livelihood & financial stability, gender diversity and inclusion, environment & biodiversity, and disaster response.
Over the 17 years of its existence, the Vedanta Delhi Half Marathon has served as a fundraising platforms for more than 300 NGOs and a total of Rs 79.35 crore has been raised.
The event's title sponsor Vedanta Limited pledged one million meals for its #RunForZeroHunger campaign, translating to a nutritious meal for a needy child for every kilometre logged during the race — 2 million meals in all — through its flagship social impact initiative Nand Ghar.
Priya Agarwal Hebbar, Non-Executive Director, Vedanta Limited, said, "Over 40,000 people from across the world participated in the prestigious run, colouring the streets of Delhi in the spirit of humanity as they all ran for a larger purpose - they all ran for zero hunger! 26,000 runners on the race day and 15,000 Vedanta family came together and clocked more than 2 million kilometres. Through our Nand Ghar initiative, we are ensuring that these 2 million nutritious meals are served to children in need for their healthier future."
In another initiative, IDFC FIRST Bank Runners Pledge incentivised fast finishers by rewarding participants who completed the 10K and half marathon within a specified time. Successful runners could then contribute the sum credited to them towards social causes dear to them.
Naarayan TV, Chief Marketing Officer, IDFC FIRST Bank, said, "Marathons are often about bettering oneself and realising innate strengths. The IDFC FIRST Bank Runners Pledge enabled participants to support causes dear to them and thereby contribute to the larger purpose of social good. Under the Runners Pledge, the Bank deposited funds for social causes in eligible participants' bank accounts, commensurate with the distance covered and finishing time. Finishers who qualified for this reward had the choice of using the funds to contribute to social causes they believe in and create a real impact. For many of them, the journey to the finish line was over but their #JourneyToTheStart of doing social good had just begun."
Among participants of the event who ran for special causes were Young Leader Shiv Khanna, who raised INR 92,700 for Vipla Foundation, and Apollo Tyres Ltd, who donated INR 18,00,000.
Speaking on how the 2022 Vedanta Delhi Half Marathon served as a rallying point for the community after living through the Covid pandemic, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said, "It is not only me that wanted the Vedanta Delhi Half Marathon back but also the whole of Delhi and all its people. The trauma of Covid had left the people of Delhi feeling disjointed, but events such as the Vedanta Delhi Half Marathon can help the city and its people recover from it collectively."
Homecoming for Avinash Sable
For the fastest Indian at the event, Avinash Sable, who made history at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year, coming back to the Vedanta Delhi Half Marathon was like a homecoming. He has been running at this event since 2017, and it was here that he had first got to compete with the best long distance runners in the world.
"The Vedanta Delhi Half Marathon is a great opportunity for everyone in the distance running community. The course here is one of the best in the world. The weather is also nice this time of the year. When I ran the Delhi Half Marathon in 2017, it was my first such run. In 2020 when I ran here, I had come with the aim of breaking the national record, because I was not getting to compete in other events. This year, I did not come with any specific training for this because now my focus is on steeplechase," Sable told The Bridge on the sidelines of the event.
It was at the 2020 Vedanta Delhi Half Marathon two years ago, one of the few events which went on in a Covid-scarred athletics calendar that year, that Sable broke the national record.
"We knew Indians could run half marathons in 1 hour 3 minutes, 4 minutes. When I ran this course in 1 hour 30 seconds in 2020, I felt a new confidence which served me well in the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games," he said.
Sable said one other important purpose the Vedanta Delhi Half Marathon serves is to offer a chance to upcoming Indian runners to learn from the best in the trade. Like he had in 2017, when he had run alongside established marathon runners from Kenya and Ethiopia on his debut and finished third among Indians.
Winners across other categories
Change Champions (Individuals taking on a target of Rs 10 lakh for their cause)
Change Champion top fundraiser: Yash Pal Syngal
Raised INR 12,77,000 for The Earth Saviors Foundation
Change Leader (Taking on a target of Rs 5 lakh for their cause)
Kosmic Running (Gagan Arora)
Raised INR 5,12,000 for WoMen Sports Foundation
Change Leader (Taking on a target of Rs 2.50 lakh for their cause)
Anjali Hegde - Raised INR 5,05,424 for Udayan Care
Change Investor (Taking on a target of Rs 2.5 lakh for their cause)
Highest fundraiser: Anil Chawla Raised INR 4,42,700 for Vipla Foundation
2nd highest: Run Xtreme (Tarun Walecha) raised INR 3,11,005 for Maitrayana
Change Maker (Taking on a target of Rs 1 lakh for their cause.)
Fr. George Mathew
Raised INR 2,48,873 for Don Bosco Tech Society
Raised INR 92,700 for Vipla Foundation
Corporate Champions (Companies that contribute to chosen CSOs)
Apollo Tyres Ltd
Supported Apollo Tyres Foundation by donating INR 18,00,000
Supported Yuvraj Singh Foundation by donating INR 12,00,000
Bluestar India Ltd
Supported Bluestar Foundation by donating INR 9,00,000
Supported United Way Delhi by donating INR 9,00,000
Highest fundraising organization: Rs 18,14,000– Apollo Tyres Foundation
2nd Highest: Rs 17,49,808- Yuvraj Singh Foundation
3rd Highest: 13,31,125 - Udayan Care