Called as one of the 10 Great Marathons in the world by National Geographic magazine, the SKF Goa River Marathon (SKF-GRM) is the one of the marathons where most of the Goan marathoners began exploring the passion for running. A welcoming marathon, the scenic beauty of the route along the Zuari River calms first time marathoners especially in the 5 kms run who soon return for the next level of the marathon the next year. The fun run motivates them to push their limits and achieve longer distances, making SKF-GRM one of the favourite marathon for most Goans. The Marathon receives entries for its half and full marathons from India and abroad and this year won’t be different.
Held consistently since its first edition, 2020 was the only year due to the pandemic when the edition was not held. The categories include Full Marathon, Half Marathon, 10k and marathon for beginners like 5k Fun Run. This year, the organisers have added the 20 Miler race (32km marathon) to the event. Organised by the Vasco Sports Club, the popularity of the marathon has been growing every year. It will be held on Sunday, December 10 at Chicalim Panchayat Grounds beginning at 4 am. This year, the theme is ‘Feel the Surge’
Rakesh Unny, secretary of the Vasco Sports Club, since the first edition of the SKF-GRM, has seen the marathon grow. “The growth has been phenomenal and we are getting good numbers. The moment we opened registrations, the entries started pouring in as SKF-GRM is considered one of the top marathons in the country From 350 registrations in the first year, we received 7,500 registrations in 2019, before the pandemic. Now, in the last two years, there has been a drop in the number of registration and this year, we have 5,500 marathoners who will be participating across all categories,” says Rakesh.
Running is a sport that brings out the best in people. Unlike organized sports, where there is a team, a runner is competing for himself or herself, win or lose. And unlike other sports, it isn’t always the competition that pushes athletes on, sometimes it is the will and desire to achieve a goal, like running a marathon or overcoming adversity.
Speaking about the introduction of the ‘20 Miler’ race (32km marathon), Rakesh informs that is done to bring in a gradual progression from 21 kms to 42 kms. “Normally, people run the half marathon at 21.5 and the next step is the full marathon at 42 kms which is a straight leap. The 20 Miler is bigger than a half marathon (21km) and smaller than the full marathon (42 km) at 32 kms. It can be too intimidating to achieve the 42 Kms so the 20 Miler is a gradual progression,” explains Rakesh, also a passionate runner.
He adds, “Since it is organised by runners, we ourselves are aware of the requirements to organise the marathon with a lot of thought going into it. There is a difference compared to other marathons. There is an international atmosphere around the marathon whether one is participating in the 5 kms or 42 kms marathon. Running is the cheapest and most accessible sport as all one requires is a pair of shoes. The running community is also growing in Goa. Most of the runners will say that they began with this marathon. This year, we are also organising an Inter-school run for students in the classes from 7 to 10. We received an equal number of boys and girls with a total of 44 students.”
Calangute-based Wilbert Egipsy earlier in the year successfully completed the full, Ironman race (226 kms) in Subic Bay, Philippines in 15 hours and 44 minutes. His first marathon ever was the SKF Goa River Marathon in 2013. This year, he will be returning to the full marathon after 2019 at the River Marathon. “This is my 5th or 6th time that I am participating in SKF GRM. It is Goa’s oldest marathon and the organisers from Vasco take utmost care of every detail. Their organisation of the marathon is the best in Goa. Also, participating in this marathon is nostalgic as this is where my journey began. Since I am based in North Goa, this is a time when I can get to meet my fellow marathoners from South Goa. I am a big fan of the marathon as I have the opportunity to run along the river and my mother’s home is in Velsao so it’s doubly nostalgic for me,” says Wilbert, a tech expert.
He first participated in the 2013 with a half marathon progressing to a full marathon in 2015 before moving back to the half marathons in 2018 and 2019. He will be participating in the full marathon this year.
Aldona-based Sheryl Rodrigues will be participating in her fourth GRM and first ever 20 Miler. She will be running along with her husband, Elton Conceicao, an Ironman finisher. “I have been running marathons for the past 5-6 years now and I usually run the half marathon. I am mentally excited and I am looking forward to the marathon. It is indescribable to express the feeling after completing the marathons but I am happy that I have the company of other marathoners who can relate to the same elation,” says Sheryl, a teacher at St Andrew’s Higher Secondary School, Vasco.
Avalon Pinto, a resident of Taleigao is usually seen running along the stretch from Miramar to the Clock Tower at Dona Paula or in the opposite direction from Miramar to Patto in the early hours of the morning. He runs three times a week to keep himself fit throughout the year and will be participating in the half marathon at the GRM. “I enjoy running and I was into short distance running in my school and college days. In 2015, I started long distance running and I prefer running with the camaraderie of friends to working out alone in the gym. Running also has many health benefits. Even people who didn’t do any sports in their younger years are still better at running,” says Avalon, who started running just a few years before his retirement.
He further adds, “I will be running the half marathon as I am doing it for fun. People should exercise regularly an compliment their running with proper strength training. Running requires stamina for the lower body and strength training for the knees.”
After completing the marathon, marathoners will be treated with a Carnival like environment with live band music and refreshments.