There are certain things one cannot deny the Northeast. Among them is the region’s ability to produce some of the best sporting talents of the country. Some of the best football, hockey, wrestling, track and field, and boxing talent in the country come from these states, despite the absence of adequate resources and infrastructure.
The next in line of potentially world-class athletes from this region is 22-year-old Batsrang Agitok Sangma, a long distance runner from Tebronggre village in the West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya.
Batsrang comes from a family of humble means. His father is a small farmer growing tea and betel nut. Finishing high school from a local village school, he is currently studying at Durama College in Tura, a small town in the West Garo Hills.
He first started running in August 2016, taking part in the local freedom run organised by the Tura Runners Club.
“When I won there for the first time, they encouraged me to keep on practicing, and even today, they continue to help and encourage me,” says Batsrang, in an exclusive conversation with The Better India.
He particularly credits Dylan Minty, a civil engineer and member of the Tura Runners Club, for encouraging and supporting him through his journey.
When Swapnil Tembe, former Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Dadenggre in West Garo Hills took note of his talents as a marathon runner, it was a turning point for Batsrang. He could one day even represent India.
“During my travels to the district headquarters, I often saw him running in the difficult hilly terrains. The roads were also bad with lots of potholes, but that didn’t seem to deter his spirit. He mostly ran alone, sometimes accompanied by his brothers. To encourage this lot of rural runners, I tried to organise various races and marathons so that they could get a boost. Batsrang won them all. In him, I saw a potential marathon runner who could win even the professional races across the country. I saw his desire and industry to reach the sky,” says Swapnil Tembe (IAS), speaking to TBI.
Batsrang comes from a village in the same sub-division of the West Garo Hills district which is very rural and remote. The athlete is a member of the Garo Scheduled Tribe. Despite the obvious talent, there aren’t any opportunities available for those wanting to excel in sports or professional running. He wants to become a professional runner but lacks the necessary resources to do it.
But the talent is there for all to see.
In the 2018 SBI Green Marathon in Guwahati where he ran the half-marathon, he finished first with a fantastic timing of 1:05:12. This is a little over a minute slower than the national record of 1:04:00, but without any of the necessary nurturing, training, resources or institutional support. Given these facilities, many believe he could quite easily break the national record.
He also finished third in the Kolkata full marathon.
Batsrang does possess a real desire to participate in prominent marathons across India but is facing issues on the financing side of things, and cannot afford the travel.
Responding to his desire to run professionally in different events around the country, Swapnil began a crowd-funding campaign on Milaap.
“We have raised around Rs 70,000 till now. Approximately, half of that amount has come from local supporters. We will be happy to raise as much as possible so that he can have the necessary means to participate in marathons in the next three to four years,” says Swapnil.
“I am planning on becoming a professional runner, representing India in both Half Marathon and possibly the full Marathon. Now, I cannot say when this will happen, but I’m trying my best and working towards it,” says Batsrang.
He was felicitated by the District Administration on Republic Day for his recent accomplishments. Support from the government authorities has come as a real morale booster for him.
“I have to thank Ram Singh Sir, the Deputy Commissioner of West Garo Hills district and Swapnil Sir particularly, for all the money they have raised for me,” says the budding marathon runner.
Swapnil adds that he will take up Batsrang’s case with institutions like the Sports Authority of India and other government authorities.
“We are in the process of approaching several institutions, but of course, this requires a lot of time. He urgently required funds to participate in the forthcoming marathons and hence this crowdfunding campaign was launched,” he says.
Until sporting authorities take cognizance of this rough diamond from the West Garo Hills of Meghalaya, the only form of financial support for him is money raised locally or crowdfunding campaigns.
If you wish to contribute, you can click here. It will go some way in fulfilling his talent and making the country proud.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)