On 7 June, the world celebrates Global Running Day. The aim is to encourage people of all ages and abilities to get moving, and, ultimately, get hooked to the wonderful activity of running. On this occasion, Lounge spoke to a cross-section of Indian runners to find out the impact the sport has had on them.
“Running has totally transformed my life,” says Vrinda Bhandari, 35, a lawyer and a mother of two toddlers, who has been running since 2010. After giving birth to each of the kids, Bhandari’s way of testing whether she had regained her fitness or not was to run a half marathon. Bhandari, who lives in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, says that apart from helping her stay fit, running has been great for her mental health given the long hours her work regularly demands. “We have a fantastic running community which is very social, which has transformed my hard workouts into fun days as well,” says Bhandari.
Anuradha Dutt, 50, from Kolkata, has also been running since 2010. A special educator, Dutt took to running, because she was curious about the sport—she wanted to figure out why her husband liked it so much. Not only did she find the answer but she found herself hooked to it too. She feels running has made her more disciplined and extremely fit.
And this fitness has given her a lot of confidence. “I used to be a sensitive and emotional person. Any argument or disagreement with loved ones made me extremely sad. Over the years, running has made me more logical and has taught me to put some distance between me and the situation. My early morning runs distract me and negative thoughts pass by as if nothing has happened. I don’t dwell on things too much anymore,” says Dutt.
The sport plays a similar role for 46-year-old Gaayathri Maediratta from Bengaluru, who has been running since 2012. “Running keeps me focused on the here and now. Some days I run out of habit, some days I run to find meaning and some days I run to discover a new me,” she says. Maediratta is a communications professional, and says that running has brought plenty of joy and many new friends over the years—the sport serves as her personal “lift-me-up” time. The simple act of running through the streets of Bengaluru provides her an escape from the daily stressors and recharge her mind and body. “It has helped me discover a sense of balance and harmony that permeates my entire day, fostering a greater sense of fulfilment and contentment,” Maediratta says.
For New Delhi-based celebrity trainer Gagan Arora, 43, running is something he has enjoyed since he was a child. His first distance running event was a 7km run at the Delhi Half Marathon in 2008. “Introduction of running events like marathons made running interesting for many. I was a health coach and started training people for distance running in 2008,” he says. Arora says that running events have made the sport more democratic, and people now want to train for runs at least once a year. That keeps them focused on their training and lifestyle all year round.
“Many illnesses are caused by a sedentary lifestyle and gymming does not provide the community support and happiness as any group run does,” says Arora, who has been training people to run marathons and ultras for 15 years now. “With the availability of performance gadgets like Garmin Forerunner watches, the health and performance of urban athletes is much easier to track and manage,” he says.
Pune-based communications manager Murli Pillai, 40, from Pune, has been running since 2013. Pillai started small and slow but has consistently built both mileage and speed over the last decade. He has changed cities and jobs but his love for running has never changed. Running, he says, is an important part of his life and takes up most of his time after work. “Running has instilled a discipline in me that helps me in other aspects of life. I come from a family with a history of diabetes and running has helped me keep it at bay. It has also had an impact on my social life. I have made friends across the world and from all walks of life, which would not have been possible if not for running,” he says. Running has also taught him an important life lesson—nothing is impossible if you plan well and work hard to make it happen.
Mumbai-based entrepreneur Vikas Singh, 39, says he aims to run about 50km per week when he is training. For Singh, who has been running since 2000, this weekly goal has been sufficient for him to run marathons, and has given him the energy to run his startup, which is focused on cardiovascular fitness.
“The Sunday long runs clearly build a resilience in me and get me ready for the next week. I do hard workouts before a high value meeting because that takes my mind off work for a short period of time,” adds Singh. Running has also significantly helped his entire family. “My dad (65) and mom (61) do brisk walks almost every day and they are still without any medication, support or any sleep situations,” he says.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.