Organizing a Marathon: Spotlight Auroville 2012

The Auroville marathon is one of the most-loved marathons in India. And, DoAttend has been a proud partner of this event. We’d always wondered what went behind the scenes at running events. This time I was there at Ground Zero to run the half marathon, and I managed to catch up with one of the volunteer-organizers at the marathon. Here’s an excerpt of our post-race chat:

1. How do you feel now that the marathon is successfully over?

This year marks the fifth edition of the marathon event and it gives us a great pleasure in seeing the event grow to its present form. We still see the event as a work-in-progress and would like to move forward looking for fresh challenges. The enthusiastic participation from runners and the energetic show by the volunteers and Auroville commune continues to fuel us with the desire to keep improving and presenting a better event year after year.

2. What makes the Auroville marathon a special event in the runner’s calendar?

On the tangible front, it could be just another marathon on beautiful trails. However, it is more in the intangibles like community-organized event, noncompetitive, egalitarian, driven by the charter for which Auroville is all about and others that makes the event special. Even the beautiful forest trails are result of years of hard-work by the earlier residents of Auroville. We are also happy to see that runners have started to embrace our motto “Run for the joy of running.” So, the ‘special’ is something that needs to experienced and not described!

3. How big is your organizing committee? Can you throw light on the responsibilities of different teams?

It’s difficult to say who exactly constitutes “committee” as such. In some sense, each of the two hundred-odd volunteers who contributes their time towards the project becomes a member of the organizing committee. We had various people who stepped in during different times of the event organizing and made significant contributions.  People contributed in various areas like registration, administration, route planning, route marking, aid stations, medical teams,  breakfast, designers for T-shirt, sign boards, preparing the venue, getting the memorabilia ready for the event, printers and so on. However, none of them are tight compartments as it could be perceived.

4. What are the key things that organizers need to keep in mind while planning / organizing a marathon?

Our key strength remains in the fact that most members of the organizing team have run at least one marathon. Also, most of our volunteers are associated with the event since the first edition. This makes the whole task, a bit easier as most are well aware of the responsibilities. Even if one of us miss out on something, there’s another person who steps in and covers up for the mistake.

5. I met many runners from different parts of India. How did you reach out and promote the marathon amongst runners across India?

We do very little of advertisement as such. Every event so far has proved itself to be an advertisement for the next year.

Photo courtesy: The Chennai Runners Group

(Photo courtesy: Chennai Runners group)

6. Cyclone Thane struck Auroville just a month before the race.  What were the challenges that this posed in organizing the marathon?

It posed us a challenge of different kind. The damage was significant and came very late on the day – roads were blocked, power-cuts for over 2 weeks, most houses were damaged and people had to first work on getting their houses to a livable condition. It definitely goes beyond planning the route, which I presume, was the significant damage visibly for runners.

7. How long were the registrations open for Auroville? How did DoAttend help manage your registrations?

The registrations were open from November 25, 2011 till January 6, 2012. If there is one piece of stat that excites us the most, it must be the number of registrations within 24 hours of announcement. This year, it touched a new high of 132!
We were thankful to DoAttend for providing us an excellent platform for us to collect online payments from runners. We were quite surprised to see that over 60% of the paying participants opting to pay online. We are also happy to announce that each of the runners who paid through DoAttend were extremely satisfied with the service and had no glitches in their payment. Only one runner had issues with their payment. Such issues are due to the glitches beyond the control of DoAttend. Normally, other service providers put the blame on the bankers and stay away from it. However, DoAttend went an extra mile (rather Tenmiles!) to contact the banker and get the payment reversed. We were proud to have them partner with us for the event.

8.  Auroville is one of the few awesome trails in India which supports running. Do you plan to have any other events like trail bicycling etc?

Auroville has hosted the National Mountain biking championships a few years back. Every event has its own requirements and characteristics. So, difficult to comment on future plans as such.

It sure seems like organizing a marathon is as interesting an experience as running one! We’ll get back with more interesting marathon news from Auroville-2013. More power to the Auroville folks! And, to me ( I have an ambitious eye on the full marathon next time!). Cheers!

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