Marathons bring together a whole gamut of people, united by the need—some would say madness—to run. The Tata Mumbai Marathon, in progress right now, is no different.
Among the 46,000 participants including amateurs, fitness enthusiasts and the world's best distance runners, pounding the city’s streets will be a gangster turned addiction counsellor, a three time knee replacement senior citizen, a 10-year-old participating in the Dream Run for a cause, and two oldest brothers aged 91 and 88 running in the senior citizen category.
So, what unites these varied people? What makes them battle chafing disasters, numbing pain and serious injury? Why do they run?
“Running has given me life back again,” shares Shibani Gulati, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2010. “This is my seventh year of running and my husband is also joining in.
For me this is a second life. The more I run, the more active I feel. It just gives me more positivity to have a different perspective to life. That’s how I’ve motivated more people to do this. Getting up in the morning and putting myself through my mileages is sheer pleasure!”
For 39-year-old Meher Lamberaj, survivor of a tragic stabbing incident seven years ago while she was practicing, it’s all about putting the past behind.
“I’m running to break my shackles, my own inhibitions. Running requires consistency, discipline and one has to force oneself and enjoy doing it. Running is something I was always unable to do because I’ve been overweight since the time I was a kid. Running, for me, is about breaking my own boundaries and challenging myself.”
The hunger for marathons has turned visually impaired Amarjeet Singh Chawla into a self-confessed ‘maniac’. Running no less than 30-34 a year, he makes no secret of loving the appreciation, the media attention and the fact that organisers across India invite him constantly.
He adds, “Besides the recognition, there is internal joy. You also get the opportunity to meet many new people. In my running career so far, I have been escorted by 106 runners - out of these, 51 have been females!”
For 83-year-old Ajit Singh Sindher hailing from a village near Delhi, running has become a habit. “I run for fitness,” he explains, adding that he likes how people on the roads, especially children, look at him and get inspired. Says Rajkot-based Chhaganlal Bhalani, aged 70, running the full marathon, “Main running ko enjoy karta hoon.
You may win many prizes along the way, it could become a nice source of side income, but the health you will gain is the biggest gift of all. It’s something you cannot buy no matter how much money you are able to spend. You yourself need to sweat for this.”
Forty-something Mahesh Salvi, running the full marathon, takes pride that running has given him the stamina of a 30-year-old. “Running is happiness; no pain. In fact everyone should run because running releases a type of brain hormone which make you feel better.”
Manish Lodha agrees. “I started running just three years back, to lose weight but now it has become a regular routine of my life. If I miss it, it just doesn’t feel okay!” grins the Deep Vein Thrombosis survivor. Amol Chari, who lost roughly 20 kg in training, used to believe his body was simply not made for running.
“Gradually, it stopped being pain and now I have no problems. I feel young!” Lokesh Patil, youngest male in the full marathon, shares, “Running gives me satisfaction like nothing else does. After running 42 km, you are stiff but it’s something you have to experience yourself.”
For Nisha Gurbani, running her second half marathon, it has been a journey from 115 kg to fitness. “When running you are just with yourself, there is nothing next to you. It’s you and your thoughts. It connects you with yourself.” Aryan Shiwalkar, youngest male runner in half marathon at 18, echoes, “It makes me feel I’m in another world. It makes me happy!”
Time to maybe discover firsthand what the fuss is all about…?