During the marathon on Sunday (January 21), we saw over 40,000 people from across all age groups descending on the city’s roads to pound the gravel. Few of the city’s ardent runners — some who were part of the marathon and some who missed it — tell us what makes them passionate about running in their own words. 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.
‘Never did I think that I will be a runner’
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.
It was after my son’s birth in 2011 that I needed to lose weight. I had nearly 20kg to lose. So with this massive uphill task ahead of me, on the 41st day after my delivery, I started my weight loss journey and went out for a one-hour walk in the pouring rain. I knew walking would help, but the process of weight loss would be slow, so I would need something extra. So I started reserving the last three minutes of my one-hour walk for a jog. The three-minute session turned to five, and to 10, and soon I was running for one hour. Nowadays, I enjoy running so much I cover the treadmill controls with a towel (so as not to see the time or calories burned) and just run. I do it till my energy on that day or my endurance levels allow.
Never did I think I will be a runner. It’s surreal to think I’ve done two 21k (half) marathons. It feels nice that these days, people come and tell me that I inspire them to start or keep exercising that what I do, pushes them to lead a fit lifestyle. It is also beautiful how my six-year-old son, Vir, has suddenly developed a love for running, like me. At this family marathon, which my son and I were supposed to just flag off, I casually asked him, ‘Vir, would you like to run?’ When he said yes, I instructed him to keep pace with me because for kids, running is sprinting. It turned out Vir ran 2km with me, without batting an eyelid! I realised my son is a natural runner, unlike me who only got better because at first, I persevered and then I fell in love with it. These days, it’s a Sunday morning ritual for us, where we go for a short run together – just me and my son. And it’s moments like these that I really enjoy with him.
Running feels exhilarating and euphoric to me, and I will continue running as long as my body allows it.
Mandira Bedi, 45, actor
‘It all changes after I finish my run’
I don’t run for a living. I am living because I run.
I am no athlete, no fitness guru, no chiselled six-pack hunk. I am an ordinary potentially obese, pre-diabetic, early 40 corporate on-the-move, trying to be busy all the time, know-it-all, jumping on planes, rushing between meetings, and when the evening descends, either attend super boring dinners or crash on my bed exactly 10 seconds after lying down. Sounds familiar?
Talking of running, it’s the new fad, people say. Everyone seems to be running nowadays. It’s the topic of parties, at airport lounges. ‘Running is the new golf’, is one really deep saying that I have heard, not that I play golf.
But for me, it all changes after I finish my run. It’s like I am reborn. The sweat is my purging, the fatigue my catharsis. For every time I pushed myself harder on the step I didn’t want to take, I am a changed man. For every passerby fellow runner I cross many of the days, I try and get into his shoes and imagine how his life is going, and what is he trying to purge with every step. For every homeless soul I cross on the road, I say a silent prayer for him and one of gratitude for myself. For every old couple I see sitting on a bench holding hands and watching the sun rise, I feel happy for them for the companionship they have been blessed with.
I haven’t run the hundreds of races many of you have, across continents, cities and terrains. But for every one I have run, I have never failed to cry a tear of joy and gratitude as I have passed the finish line. For every searing pain that has gone through my body whenever I have pushed it, I have never felt more connected to my own being. For every time I have shouted to myself to encourage myself, I have only loved myself even more. During this brief journey of only 4 years, I have broken my foot at 4 places, had blue swollen soles, thrown up after a hard run, crashed into an SUV while running downhill and chased by dogs. But it’s all been worth it. I have learnt to restrain my pace when I am feeling great, control my aggression to try and overtake every runner on the road, listen to my body when it is telling me to slow down, speed up or stop, and smile as the pain sets in, because I know it will come and go.
I can’t imagine my life without running now, and I am sure many of you will relate to what I am saying. It’s not running — it’s what you love doing that defines and grows you. It’s what connects you to the most important person in the world, you. It’s what makes you look at everything else in your life with utmost ease and joy, and to give, because you have wired yourself to yourself.
Amit Mookim, 41, MD - South Asia, IQVIA
‘I hope I can run again soon’
At some point in my work life about six to seven years ago, I started feeling exhausted and tired post long days at work. I realised that I didn’t have enough stamina to keep my energy levels high and constant throughout the day. After a few suggestions from friends, I started running two to three days a week post my working hours at Marine Drive. After marriage, I continued the same routine — runs or walks — with my wife, Roshni. It became my main focus once I realised that in order to be fit, apart from maintaining a healthy diet, I needed some form of exercise to keep me going.
Once I started running, I was able to see higher energy levels and stamina that kept me focused at work all day. Running also helped me take a mental break. Every run refreshed me both mentally and physically. With my wife, our walks and runs at Marine Drive, helped strengthen our marriage. I remember one Saturday going to Sanjay Gandhi National Park and we just spent an hour or two running and walking around in the rain. It was one wacky date, but we both thoroughly enjoyed it.
It becomes hard when office hours tend to stretch, not leaving enough time for a run. It is especially difficult when work requires me to travel to far off locations, landing me in foreign places for as long as two weeks. In August, while running, I fractured my leg. But that hasn’t stopped me from running. I do exercises at home to strengthen my leg. My leg is better now and I hope I can run again soon. Especially now, that I’ve become a dad and want to keep pace with my daughter Nadia once she starts running. She’s already completed a 5k piggybacking on my wife.
Ben Mathew, 29, sales director, Greenlight Planet
‘My race to a healthy life’
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.
Well, I started running because I couldn’t swim and I didn’t own a bicycle. 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 a fiddle 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 comfort food is nutritious.
Once, when I proudly announced my race timing at my gym, many pulled my leg saying they could have walked and completed the run faster. Not to be let down by finicky timekeepers, I kept my aim to complete the run in my own pace. My competitor is myself. Running has taught me to understand my strengths and struggles, to overcome disappointments and to endure pain. I don’t have the conventional success story to tell. I stumble, fall, feel like a loser when I see others pounding the streets but I have not given up. Yet.
I won’t disappoint the encouraging voices “C’mon, it’s the last lap. The last 500 metres.” I will ignore the pull in my muscle, the wobbling legs and breathlessness. The race has just begun.
Sobha Kiran Surin, 47, senior assistant editor, Hindustan Times