INDIA’SWOMEN Their numbers are rising.
he saying ‘Days are slow but the years go by fast’ is so true. Long-distance running has gone from a trademark of masochists and compulsive dieters to a national pastime for people across ages, genders, abilities and, most importantly for those looking at fitness and healthy lifestyle.
Distance running, triathlons have become something of a casual hobby, with a slew of apps and online resources dedicated to getting people in marathon shape in only a few months. Lakhs of Indian across various age groups and genders have completed a 10K run, half and full marathon and also triathlon events. For them, every day is prime time to lace up shoes.
During marathons, ardent runners from across all age groups descend on the roads to pound the gravel. They have stories to tell as to what makes them passionate about running in their own worlds. From making their life more disciplined to making more of every minute lived, here are their reasons to make running a part of their lifestyle.
“Running and walking and other forms of exercise give an adrenaline rush. Exercise, in a way, is also addictive. So, once one gets running, they continue to do so because it has positive effects on their physical and emotional health. Monthly runs (2km, 5km and 10km) are organised in the apartment complex where I live.” “I think people are learning to enjoy the pleasures of physical exercise,” says Nayanika Muthukrishnan of Embassy Garden, Bengaluru.
“Fitness is an outlet, a way to unwind from my everyday activities and it provides me with positive energy and positive lifestyle behaviours and attitudes,” says Shyama Kundru, a marathoner of five years now.
Anjali Saraogi, mother of a teenaged daughter is 43 – an age when many athletes hang up their boots – and has proven yet again that age is just a number taking to the road when her 18-year-old daughter Mamta encouraged her to participate in a city marathon two years back.
“I haven't run a marathon and I tell you this, I have lived in an area where marathon events started barely 500 metres from my residence. Not just that I was always present at the events, by virtue of
Woman’s Era March (Second) 2018 ● being my husband's wife! I was there to cheer people. I always noticed a lot of enthusiasm, especially among first-time runners. I never looked for people who couldn't run beyond a certain distance because that was never the aim. What I saw was people huffing and puffing to the finish line. They didn't give up and that is commendable for those who couldn't run beyond the first 500 meters. There is always a first time to everything and first-time runners are expected to fall behind the more seasoned and experienced runners. These are the words of Sumitra Nagarajan of Chennai, who hopes to run at least a 3K soon.”
A national-level swimmer and holder of the Iron Man title, Milind believes that sport has transformational powers and that people tend to undermine its value, especially in India and for women. That is when he decided to start the Pinkathon. Milind says, “Today, endurance running has become a movement, a revolution. In a country like India, which has no culture of sport and where we do not consciously make healthy and different choices, for running to be popular, it had to appeal to something much deeper. I think
that it is a very primal instinct, as human beings are evolved to run. And that is why thousands of people who you never imagined would run are running marathons and ultra-marathons.”
Having been doing endurance running for over 14 years now, Milind noticed that running was gaining considerably in popularity, with everybody wanting to do a running event. However, he saw that the participation of women in these runs was only at six or seven per cent.
“But if you create a space that is only for women, they will think about it, as it is focused just on them,” he says.
He adds that this is a global trend, and was seen even in the US, where women’s participation was minimal until women-centric events were created. Today, some of the biggest running events in the US are women’s running events.
If you look at the number of runners in the US up to the halfmarathon, 60 per cent of the participants are women. While the numbers are reversed in the full marathons, women still make up a massive 40 per cent of the field. It was to bring about awareness around women’s health that the Pinkathon was started.
It is about getting women to understand that they need to devote a little bit of their time to themselves every day and value themselves. The focus is on selfempowerment. Milind believes giving someone the power isn’t empowerment. Empowerment, he says, starts with you.
“Before you buy anything or do anything, do you value yourself? Do you value your thoughts, ideas and health? That is empowerment. Your first step in self-empowerment is understanding that you are valuable and that you will take care of yourself. You need to take the first step.”
“It took me almost 10 years of a sedentary lifestyle, numerous visits to doctors and a rapidly expanding waistline to say ‘enough is enough’. Working as a journalist with a newspaper, which requires me to sit for hours in front of a computer and reach home at some unearthly hour had made me wallow in self-pity. And, I sought refuge in unhealthy comfort food. The effects showed. The options were to keep popping pills or exercise. I chose the cheapest — I ran. At first, it was hardly a run. All I could manage was two minutes of huffing and puffing and lots of excuses —‘age is catching up’ being my favourite. It was shameful when I met people at a run club double my age, fit as fiddles and oozing with energy. But, with shame also came determination. I kept signing up for 10km runs although I jogged and limped to the finish line. I needed the motivation to egg me on to do better. After several 10km and 5km runs, I realised the discipline it had instilled in me. I have the same working hours but no more excuses and no more self-pity. My routine includes fitness activities and my
Woman’s Era March (Second) 2018 ● comfort food is nutritious. The race has just begun,” encourages Sobha Kiran Surin, 47, senior assistant editor, Hindustan Times.
Mandira Bedi, actor, commentator and anchor never believed that she would run. “I remember once Rahul Dravid told me, ‘running is like meditation to me’. I didn’t get it then, but I totally understand what he meant now. When I run, it’s just me, my music and my thoughts. And then once the thoughts have passed, the mind goes blank which is what true meditation is. I don’t know the songs being played. I don’t know who is on the left or right of me. I am just running. Running feels exhilarating and euphoric to me, and I will continue running as long as my body allows it.”
It may have started as an inexpensive fitness fad, but running is now the new golf. As legions of fitness enthusiasts lace up around the country and splurge on fancy kits, marathon races are becoming money-spinners.
“People now have four to five pairs of running shoes. They are concerned about issues such as hydration, or about recovery after a race,” says Dr Nandakumar, a physiotherapist and marathoner himself, adding, “Running has gone beyond just being a cool sport.”
Another year ahead, now. As we head into 2018, set goals, not resolutions. If you really want to, you will find a Way! And like we all know – getting started is what matters the most. So c’mon, let’s go!
TIME FOR SELF DURING MARATHONS, ARDENT RUNNERS FROM ACROSS ALL AGE GROUPS DESCEND ON THE ROADS TO POUND THE GRAVEL. THEY HAVE STORIES TO TELL AS TO WHAT MAKES THEM PASSIONATE ABOUT RUNNING IN THEIR OWN WORLDS.