The route was scenic looping from University of Kashmir’s Hazratbal campus along the banks of the Dal Lake via Foreshore Road-Cheshmashai and back.
Kashmir’s first international half marathon had everything going for it.
Themed ‘I am the change’ and organized by BIG 92.7 FM, it aimed to promote a happy and healthy lifestyle in J&K. It also sought locals’ assistance in tackling social causes like saving Dal Lake, fighting drug abuse, keeping the city clean, promoting traffic awareness and respect for senior citizens and women.
The ‘CCDU Big Kashmir Marathon’ was held in two categories: the main event, a 21K run and a fun event, a 5K dream run.
Former chief minister, Omar Abdullah, tweeted his support and promised to participate.
It was not to be.
Protests that began during the 5K run marred the 21K award ceremony.
Pro-Pakistan flags and slogans were raised.
Stones and bottles were pelted at the dais.
Abdullah subsequently tweeted:
The police later lathicharged and fired teargas shells at the protesters.
That was not all.
A ‘traditional’ Indian malady manifested itself.
Obscene and lewd comments were passed at women runners. Some women were molested en route and at the University.
12 miscreants were apprehended by the police.
While the context may not be the same, the incidents only serve to highlight the problems of eve-teasing and molestation that Indian women face in running under the public gaze.
More recently in July this year, in India’s most women friendly city—Mumbai, three boys on a motorbike hit a professional woman runner with a belt on Marine Drive.
The woman said:
“This has been going on for a couple of years. If you are a girl walking, they whack you on your butt or they yell and stare. I’ve been hit twice – once on my back, and another time on my hips. The most recent incident was last week when they hit me with a soft belt.”
Prakash Jain, president of the Marine Drive Senior Citizen’s Association, said:
“Bad elements cause trouble on the road. They leave me alone because of my age but target women. They snatch valuables like chains or rings.”
Rajiv Bhatia, who runs a water sports company, is another victim of these bike gangs.
“Four bikes came and one guy swung a stick at me. They were shouting, ‘Bhaag raha hai, hero hai. (You’re running, are you a hero?)”
Do we want women runners to gravitate towards women-only events like the DNA Run?
Are running events suburban trains with segregated compartments for women or public buses with reserved seats for women? Should event organizers consider separate lanes for women runners? Is that really the way to go?
Leave our runners alone.