Expressing indomitable vigour, children from across India came together to participate in one of the largest marathons of the country.

The 22nd edition of Salwan Marathon, the largest run for school children in the country, was held in New Delhi at the Army Equestrian Centre Polo Ground on 5 November. The event saw participation of over 55,000 children from over 1,200 schools from across India.

The marathon was initiated in 1995 to encourage school children to take up running or, subsequently, any sport that they love. The founder of the Salwan Cross Country Race, Inder Dutt, believes that kids these days are hooked on to mere video games and, therefore, should be encouraged to play outdoor sports too. Students participated in the marathon in Under 14 Girls /Boys (4.5 kms), Under 16 Girls/ Boys (6 kms) and Under 18 Girls/ Boys (8 kms) category races. This year’s run witnessed increased participation by students from Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in addition to schools in Delhi NCR.

Interestingly, over 3,300 visually challenged and differently-abled children, with the help of volunteers, showcased unwavering spirit as they ran across 4.5 kms in the first race of the day. The races were flagged off by Lt Gen Ashok Ambre, PVSM, SM (Quarter Master General, Indian Army), Maj General Rajesh Sahai, AVSM, SM (Chief of Staff Head Quarter, Delhi Area) and Harpal Singh (chairman-emeritus, Fortis), who lauded the efforts made by the organisers to promote clean sports through a fair play system in place.

The children had a special cheering squad comprising Jai and Viru from Sony YAY, an Indian television channel for children. “The enthusiasm, courage and excitement we witness every year for the run reassures us in our objective to encourage competitive sports in the city of Delhi and promote fair play and respect among each other,” said Samrata Diwan, spokesperson, Salwan marathon.

“Some of the winners at Salwan Marathon today are representing their institutions, regions and the country at global competitions and it’s immensely gratifying to see these students go that extra mile when given a chance to run and build a good pace for an improved timing.”

Besides, this year’s edition saw a more challenging route, with children running through long winding trails, across rivulets in a never experienced before surroundings in Delhi. Also, stringent checks were conducted against doping and age fudging.

“The most inspiring part of the marathon is the growing participation in the visually challenged and differently-abled category runs. We also got an overwhelming response for volunteers to run with these students this time,” added Diwan.

More than 6,000 volunteers from the Athletic Federation of India, Delhi State Amateur Athletics Association and Physical instructors across India ensured the safety and security of each participant at the event.

“As organisers, the safety and security of each and every child is of utmost importance and we would like to thank the Armed Forces, the marshalls, all the volunteers and especially the Delhi Police for all their support to make this a success,” added Diwan.