Running gives them a high!
As Mumbaikars prepare for the Standard Charted Mumbai Marathon, Laxmi Negi discovers that running is a way of life not only for competitive athletes, but many others as a way of balancing their lives.
There is a record increase in the number of Mumbaikars running the Standard Charted Mumbai Marathon (SCMM). Without doubt, the event is gaining in popularity each year.
There was a time when running a marathon was a near-impossible feat, and those who participatend in one were hero worshipped. These days, though, it seems anyone can undertake the long and arduous run.
At the age of 65, Ravi Sharma is training for his fourth full marathon. No matter which part of the world his business takes him his running shoes always keep him company.
Even though doctors have advised that walking would be difficult for him, Sharma, who formed the Shivaji Park Marathon Club (SPMC), wants to better his timing in the latest edition of the event, on Sunday, January 20.
Ditto for Lalit Jotwani. He found it difficult to walk as he was overweight. One fine morning he was teaching his daughter to cycle, but could not keep pace with her as she was finding it difficult to balance. On Sharma's insistence, the 42-year-old started running. Today, he proudly boasts that he lost 30 kgs and 10 inches. Also, Jotwani's cholesterol was around 900, but now it is down to 158.
"Mind you, I am not on a particular diet. I eat like I used to. Only difference is I have incorporated running in my schedule," informs Jotwani.
Image: Cardio Ambulance donated by the Shivaji Park Marathon club to Shushrusha hospital
'Young age starts at 55'
Dhanesh Bhanushali, at 55 years of age, best describes the passion for running.
"Young age starts at 55," he says.
He has facts to back his finding as he challenges the youngsters calling him kaka to beat him in road-running or working out in the gym.
"I am sure I will outlast them any day," he adds.
Another example is Pranav Mehta. The entire group at SPMC has a slogan. 'If we are crazy, he is insane!'
An adventure freak, Mehta thrives on trekking, rock climbing, para gliding, and bungee jumping.
Here, one needs to mention that Mehta runs with metal plate in his neck after undergoing cervical spine surgery.
In 1998 he met with an accident while rock climbing in Karjat. But that did not stop him. Within six months he was back to what he used to be. Thus, the nickname 'insane'.
On a normal day Kiran Solanki runs around 10 kms. Two years ago when he was detected with Type 2 diabetes, his doctors warned him that he would be on medication for a life-time. Immediately, he decided to run the marathon, and is not committed to it. He did everything right, and within six months reduced his medication intake to half. His blood sugar levels came down to 140 from around 372 earlier.
In two years now Solanki has run nine full marathons and eight half. Needless to say, he is off all medication.
"It was my mental strength that helped me more than the physical strength," he says.
The same applies to S Kishore. This 43-year-old make-up artist was on the borderline of taking insulin for diabetes but running brought his blood sugar levels to normal.
Running, he says, has become a way of life for him now.
The key here lies in that fact that these runners believe that they can do it, are committed and train for it. It's as simple as that.
Kunal Parekh, who started running for the fun of it, finds the pebbles on the road as a hindrance.
Confused? The 36-year-old developed knee problems so gave up shoes and started running barefoot.
He says, "In the beginning there were few doubts in my mind of what people would say, but, looking at the benefits, I made my choice."
The light feeling that barefoot running gives him, he says, cannot be compared to trivial things like what people will say.
Here is a tip from Parekh. He points out that the Worli patch, near Century Bazaar, on the martahon route, should be taken care of and the barefoot runners (there is quite a sizeable community) should be careful on that patch.
'Marathon running is more mental than physical'
At 22, Kanika Ahuja, is training for her first marathon. Having only started two years ago, this MBA student could not imagine herself running the event. But, with a little coaxing from Ravi Sharma, Kanika has become their poster girl and is aspiring to run the gruelling Comrades Ultra Marathon (87kms) in South Africa.
In the quest to attain personal goals too, some people have embraced the grueling run. Like Naveen Hegde, who says it can refresh one's memory too.
A regular at the gym, he overheard a man saying that running a marathon is very difficult and not everyone's cup of tea. That prompted him, at 49, make an attempt. Today, he has built a community of runners in and around Shivaji Park and proudly says "it can only grow".
His philosophy is simple: "You can put your money on a run or you can put your money on a car. If you put your money on a car, you won't go far."
One man, however, stands out among these runners.
Mohan Apte. The 44-year-old banker has a peculiar problem of being flat-footed and, therefore, finds it difficult to run beyond 13-14 kms. So he has set himself a distance of 1000 kms.
He runs with a custom made insole. It is not available in India, so when his insurance job took him to Singapore he got the soles made there.
"It helps correct the biomechanical flaw that I have," he points out.
Having lived a disciplined life, he stresses that next year too he will be back for the Mumbai Marathon, fortified with proper diet and strength training.
"Running," he says, "gives you a high. It is like a drug. It is more of a mental thing than physical and, therefore, I think I can do it next year."
Come Sunday, there will be many stories like that when Mumbai celebrates the spirit of the marathon.