The granddaddy of marathons Fauja Singh ran the London Marathon when he was 94. He not only finished the run but also improved his timing. What’s remarkable is that he had actually stopped running when he was 31. It was only when he moved from India to the UK to stay with his son that he took to running seriously—to keep fit and also to give himself a purpose in life. He ran his first marathon at 89 and since then has taken part in at least six, defying age and proving several armchair sceptics wrong about age, knees and long-distance running.
And then there is Dean Karnazes of San Francisco. Last year, between September and November, he ran 50 marathons in 50 states in the US in 50 consecutive days. He finished the New York City Marathon, his strongest finish, in three hours flat.
I met him twice this year—before the San Diego and San Francisco marathons. No wonder, Karnazes is a treasure house of anecdotes.He has run 350 miles non-stop in 81 hours, ordering pizza along the way. He is now a familiar face with pizza delivery guys as he phones them for a drop-off at a particular point and at an approximate time.
He has run in a 199-mile, 12-man relay race, as a team of one, and beaten a few teams along the way. Some years ago, while practising for his 350-mile run, Karnazes ran 101 miles to the start line of the 199-mile relay.
It’s all too easy to have a long list of excuses why people should not run. Or, for that matter, not exercise at all. Remember, when you feel swamped with burdens and worries, and fed up with your daily routine, see how a regular running schedule can help you find a way out, as it has for the people featured here.
“My severe asthmatic condition and excessive weight.”
“I have maintained my weight at 57kg for the last seven years and haven’t had any medication for asthma even once.”
Almost a decade ago, Anna Chandy was an unhappy woman. Severely asthmatic and decidedly overweight at 83kg, nothing seemed to be working out for her. She tried diets to no avail. A friend suggested she hit the gym and, after much cajoling, she eventually enrolled at one near her home. “For six months, I exercised six days a week, running for about half an hour followed by a combination of weights and stretches.”
The results have been amazing. Since she started exercising, her weight has stabilized at 57kg and she says she has never had to take any medication for her asthma. “I realized that after each workout session, I would start feeling invigorated and very happy. That feeling has been my biggest motivator all these years.” Chandy is now a self-styled ambassador for fitness schedules and running. “Being overweight is both a physical as well as a psychological problem. When I tell my clients what I have achieved, they realize that they too can do it.” Chandy’s next goal? “I want to take part in a marathon. I definitely see myself doing it in 2008.”
“My daughter! Having her in my life made me realize that I was grossly overweight at 94kg and I decided to do something about it.”
“I have managed to bring my weight down to 64kg since August 2004.”
Soon after his daughter was born in July 2004, Sandeep Goel’s life took a turn for the better. “I realized that I had been careless about my weight. At 94kg, I couldn’t do many things without feeling tired quickly. That was when I decided that if I didn’t do something about my weight, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy anything, let alone time with my daughter.” Around the same time, he took up sports sponsorship management at Zee Sports.
A friend told him about the benefits of running, and Sandeep was an immediate convert. Since September 2004, he has kept a five to six days-a-week running schedule. He has also been running every day for about half an hour since March 2007. “I have not broken my running regimen for the last 10 months and don’t even intend to.” He ran his first marathon in Bangalore in 2005 and has since participated in six half marathons. “More than making me fit, running daily has made me mentally strong. It’s true that running helps you burn excess calories. But for me, a daily running routine also helps in handling all the pressures of the office. The discipline it requires has given me the right attitude to life.”
Both Ishaan and Mallika Arya have been taking part in their school sports meets and are hooked to long-distance running.
The brother and sister duo enrolled for the 7km run at the Hutch Delhi Half Marathon in October. They didn’t realize till much later that they had actually finished 21km, in two hours 10 minutes.
Sports captain of Green House at New Delhi’s Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, Ishaan also captains his school soccer team. His younger sister Mallika, a student of Vasant Valley School in New Delhi, is not far behind: She has already taken part in a number of CBSE zonal athletic meets. And both have been following a strict running routine for a long time.
In October, they took part in the 7km race in the Hutch Delhi Half Marathon. “It was great fun,”says Ishaan.
Mallika is even more thrilled about her feat. “I called a friend in Jor Bagh when I crossed her house and told her that I was actually finishing a half marathon. Nobody believed us.”
Incredibly, the next day Mallika even had to go for her school zonal trials for 100m, 200m relay and long jump events. “I just had to put the tiredness away and focus on the race. I got a gold medal in all three events,” says Mallika.
“A close friend said I could lose weight with a regular running schedule.”
“I have been losing 1kg a month for the last eight months. Now, running is an addiction.”
When a friend told her about the benefits of running, Myrelle shrugged off the idea, saying it was not her cup of tea. It was much later that this mother of two and a busy executive decided to give it a shot. She was tempted when the friend told her that running was the best way to shed her Christmas weight and tone her muscles. And soon she found that she could run 3km non-stop.
This September, with a bit of cajoling from friends, Myrelle ran a long run outdoors, and hasn’t looked back since. “Today, I run five days a week and even took part in the Hutch Delhi Half Marathon in October, finishing it in two hours nine minutes. I never thought I could do it.” Myrelle now uses the treadmill for shorter runs. Her eight-and-a-half-year-old son Sumer, a student of Sriram School in Gurgaon, is also hooked to running. “When I started, I looked at running as an exercise schedule that did wonders for me. But today I do it for fun and it gives me an immense sense of satisfaction.”