The Gul Panag incident at ADHM 2010 – Digging a little Deeper
Ok, many of you must be wondering why am I writing about this rather than about the details of my run at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon on the 21st!? Let me explain why –
First, I ran the Delhi Half Marathon in 2hr04min22sec, the reason I tell you this is because I think I have some explanation for what happened to Gul Panag. Why am I trying to explain this? Because a message like the one Gul tweeted and several papers and TV channels carried through the last two days does some pretty serious damage to the running culture among women in India which has emerged so strongly over the last few years – and this disturbs me !
Gul ran her race in 2hr25min26sec. You can confirm this by entering her bib number 9175 at http://timingindia.com/results_page.php. I am pretty sure that Gul was harassed in the last 4-5 kms. More on this a little later.
I am a serious runner; Male and 46 years old. Anyone even attempting a half marathon (21.097km) or more has to be a serious runner since running this sort of distance requires a commitment to a certain level of training and also clear focus on the goal. Being a serious runner and having run a hard race I can tell you with some authority that no one running this sort of distance has the time or inclination to think of groping/molesting women. I have run 4 of the Delhi half marathons till date besides several other marathons around the country, I have never ever seen or observed or even heard of a single incident of groping or molestation at a marathon event before this one.
Now my explanation – Another run starts at around 9am – the Great Delhi Run. This is a 6km run which attracts thousands of people. This is a run for NON-serious runners; people (read as ‘men’) out to have some ‘fun’. Every year the marathoners who are finishing after 2hrs get harassed by this crowd – many run over to the other side of the road and create problems by blocking/obstructing the finishing marathoners. Last year (and the years before that) I finished in 2hr13min and got caught in this melee. This year because of my faster time I caught them while they had still to ‘warm-up’ to their fun! So my theory is that Gul got caught in the middle of this horde of hooligans !
I can also tell you that anyone who finished after 2:15 couldn’t even get their finishers medal at the finish since by that time the “hooligans” had overtaken the entire area (have a look at the message on the website http://adhm.procamrunning.in, the organisers have acknowledged this). I personally saw (as I was leaving the area) that medals were being snatched away and the Lucozade (Energy drink) stall was being mobbed & almost looted !
It would be interesting if we could verify this with Gul (incidentally I have also written to the Hindustan Times reporter about this, let’s see if she follows-up on the story). Many serious runners like me would feel really disappointed if serious runners were out to “harass/molest” women during such a race!
Yes, I do agree with Gul that this sort of incident would have never happened in Mumbai (serious or non-serious runner not withstanding). Many men in & around Delhi are louts and just can’t control themselves. But also it’s for the organisers to ensure that the race participants can finish safe. A simple step would be to keep different finish/start points for the marathon and Delhi run.
At the Mumbai marathon – the Half and Full start from different points altogether and although they end at the same place the times are pretty spread-out. And it’s the same organisers !
As you can see this did bug me 🙂