Sikkims mega annual event - The Red Panda Winter Carnival is now just round the corner. This is a culture fest not to be missed.

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Vision of the Future

For most locals the idea of a marathon is usually thought of as something crazy. Why would anyone want to run 42 kilometres? What is the benefit in that and so on… Who has the time to run a crazy 42 kms or 21 kms half marathon, better to stay at home and watch the tele… or maybe hang out with friends grab a couple of beers…

The origin of the Kanchenjunga marathon is a small seed which will hopefully germinate into something beautiful…

While a small start, we are hopefully that we can slowly start changing the fixed concepts and closed mindsets of our community so that this event can create social and economical revolution with positive impacts on Sikkimese society and economy. 21 st century living has changed all our lives to a certain extent; some more some less and an accompanying baggage of good and bad impacts.

Overall life has more comforts and luxury not imagined a decade or more ago but it has also affected our society socially, mentally and physically. Now though creature comforts are available we have more tensions, frustrations and physically live more unhealthy lifestyles.

This has not only affected us but our children and younger generation too, which has led to a sedentary lifestyles, increase in indulgent activities, alcohol abuse, drugs and bad health.

Our marathon is a small step forward to encourage our communities and people to venture out, enjoy (Mother Nature – which most of us seem to have forgotten) and be active in physical sports.

It is a way to demonstrate that running can help us rejuvenate ourselves physically, socially and mentally. It is not necessary being first but rather the act of completing the race gives us pride and confidence that everything is indeed possible if one puts ones foot (mind) to it…

This feeling and experience of euphoria that comes on completion of a race is an invaluable emotion that can lead to a more vibrant and healthy future.

As per WHO statistics out of the top 10 causes of death in India (and growing) the first four are;

Ischaemic heart disease (12.4%) and growing since 2012
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (10.8%) and growing since 2012
Stroke (9%)
Diabetic (5%) and growing

Death between ages 30 and 70, from 4 major non communicable diseases (NCDs) ~ 26% ~ Cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes

India today boasts the largest population of diabetic patients in the world, and is also known as the diabetic capital of the world - not a very proud fact. Besides this from our population, 11.1 percent suffer from blood glucose problems, 23.1 percent suffer from blood pressure and 25 percent from tobacco aged 15 plus. Life lost has also increased by 9%, which means 9 percent of our normal old age life is crippled or impaired due to paralysis and severe disabilities.

It is time – time for all of US to be proactive in promoting healthier lifestyles for a better and safer future for our kids and theirs.

Marathons as a sport, primarily develops health but it also helps builds up social skills and self confidence. The latter aspect is very important for growing children and young adults as it helps them overcome life’s obstacles.

Marathons like other events if organised professionally, with vision and dedication also has huge multiplier factors that impact the local economies and communities.

Orchestrating a marathon is not an easy task, it needs a dedicated team sharing the same visions and goals and more support from the community it strives to help.
Let us have a look at the Boston Marathon. The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world's best-known road racing events. It is one of six World Marathon Majors, and is one of five major events held in the United States and even through both the World Wars.

Since 1897, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) has organized this event and amateur and professional runners from all over the world take part braving all types of weather and terrain.

Like all marathons it started small - with 15 participants in 1897, the event now attracts an average of about 30,000 registered participants each year, with 30,251 people entering in 2015 and attracting 500,000 visitors.

The Vision - "There is no more important part of our mission than that. It's to help people be as fit and as healthy as they want to be." - Tom Grilk, B.A.A. Chief Executive Officer

The Boston Marathon was originally a local event, but its fame and status have attracted runners from all over the world. In 2015, about 46 percent of the entrants were female.
It is not our quest to be the next “Boston Marathon”, this is not in the realms of possibility or practicality given our terrain and present or future planned infrastructure.

Ecologically also we would not recommend such a huge movement even if it was in the realms of reality. Ours is a fragile ecological biosphere that we need to protect for our future generations.

But even limited participants can have far reaching impacts on us physically, socially, culturally, mentally and economically as I will illustrate below;

As a marathon grows, it attracts professional and amateur runners from all over the world. They are not the only ones that can be attracted, ordinary adventure and fun loving people are also attracted. People with varying social causes are also attracted in running unique locations and races to support a social cause. The more diverse the groups – the better, as it leads to brand awareness in different countries around the world. This helps in promoting Sikkim as a destination.
Let’s have a look at the multiplier effects one by one…
As a marathon grows it attracts runners from different states, different countries – so what happens???

Destination awareness, branding and economic effects
As more people from different countries and states participate more and more people from these areas become aware about the host state and country.

The more the runners grow, increases peoples inquisitiveness to find out more about the destination.

For every participant, he/she is usually accompanied by one to five supporters from family members to friends. So for every participant we have an added footfall of two to five travellers visiting.

While a marathon is usually a day event runners and visitors usually stay a few additional days to explore their new surroundings.

For marathons such as ours, visitors (besides professional runners) will usually plan to stay upto 15-30 days, as they have to adjust the leave they can take from work and it becomes more practical and cost effective to stay longer and explore the destination and its neighbours. The longer a person stays the more he/she spends in the local economy.

With the growth in destination awareness will lead to more interest in what we have to offer and growth in travel trends.

All this gives a kick to the local economies that they travel through, increasing economic growth and with it employment.

Social & Cultural impacts
Growth in travellers, gives rise to cultural exchanges. These have both positive and negative factors that need to be monitored and acted upon accordingly. Inter-cultural exchanges lead to people becoming more aware of the global village we live in; our shared concerns and create a positive environment and platform for peace.

Tourism fosters and increase international people to people understanding, cooperation, environment concerns, heritage, and through these initiatives and ideas to bring about a peaceful and eco sustainable world.

Another effect is of the growing trend of social cause runners. These runners run to raise funds for causes dear to them or to help local social causes. This gives an impetus to grow our local social associations and charities that help the local communities they work in.

It is why, because of the above underlined reasons that we have dedicated ourselves in fostering this, ‘the Kanchenjunga Marathon’ - Sikkim’s first high altitude marathon.

All these are not possible immediately as shown by the Boston marathon or other events over the globe. These events take a few years to mature and bloom as does the Kanchenjunga marathon.

We need at this stage to nurture and foster it to full growth, which will take several years. Like any flower, we need to water it regularly and in the case of this marathon it is imperative that we can hold its annual at its schedule date and time. The success of this marathon or any other event lies in the ability to hold the event at the promised time besides other considerations.

No event in its infancy is able to support itself and so too is the Kanchenjunga marathon. It relies heavily on the help of donors and sponsors without which it cannot bloom to sustainability.

But after achieving sustainability, like any other social organisation all proceeds are ploughed back into the community.

(The NY Marathon last year contributed to making 100 playgrounds in New York spending over 1 million dollars) The above is just an example, and our vision for the future is more towards youth empowerment, capacity building, support of culture and heritage and our natural environment.

All this however is not possible without the active support of our local community, gentry and local governments.

It is hoped that this article will help enlighten everyone a little of what we are trying to achieve and we warmly welcome everyone’s support, be it volunteering, in kind or sponsorships.

The Kanchenjunga Marathon 2017 is now set to Go! Come run for yourself or run for a CAUSE!

Director Kanchenjunga Marathon
President Sikkim Mountaineering Association