Mumbai Marathon 2017: High hopes at high-altitude

Two slim girls from Leh-Ladakh region, Jigmet Dolma and Tsetan Dolkar, look to break new ground at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) 2017 in the women’s full-marathon.

Low on experience competing against an international field, coach Savio D’Souza (centre) is banking on genetics to push his two trainees towards decent timings.   -  Vivek Bendre

North-east India is recognised as a gold mine for sporting talent. Two slim girls from Leh-Ladakh region, Jigmet Dolma and Tsetan Dolkar, look to break new ground at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) 2017 in the women’s full-marathon.

Low on experience competing against an international field, coach Savio D’Souza is banking on genetics to push his two trainees towards decent timings.

A former India marathoner and competing in the men’s half-marathon at Sunday’s race, he made two trips to Leh-Ladakh from Mumbai.

“Jigmet and Tsetan live at high altitude. It gives them a natural advantage in distance running. The problem is less exposure to speed training, since there are no grounds to train there. I stayed in Ladakh for a month, gave them a schedule for speed work. I want them to get into the prize money list, then the effort to prepare for a marathon makes sense.”

Read: > Kheta Ram targets personal best at SCMM

Savio, a professional athletics trainer specialising in long distance running, got in touch with the two amateurs via Chewangmotup Goba of Remo Expeditors.

“I am a professional, but not charging any money for coaching. Athletics has given me so much, I am waiting for the day Jigmet or Tsetan get chosen to run for the nation. That will be payment for me.” Goba sponsored the Mumbai trip for the two teenagers, a mutual friend named Kaushik from the Himalayan Trekking Club put him in touch with the coach.

The two amateur runners are listed in the ‘elite’ category of women marathoners. “Last year, they ran in the Mumbai marathon and stayed back for a month. I ran with them and we trained at different places to make them familiar with the pacing aspect. I want them to get faster with experience and try to finish in the top 10 for prize money,” said Savio, hoping to set off a running boom when Jigmet and Tsetan return.

Athletics is new territory for amateurs from Leh-Ladakh. Archers, boxers from north-eastern states have made India proud, footballers are grabbing attention across the nation. Two amateurs, guided by a Mumbai-based professional athletics coach, hope to earn a living from long-distance running.