Aarthi Venkatesan
Aarthi Venkatesan

Aarthi Venkatesan | When running is therapy

This mother of two says running helped her to cope with a tough situation

On The Run | Aarthi Venkatesan

On 12 January, a week before the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, Aarthi Venkatesan showed up at Anna University, Chennai, at 5am for a slow run as preparation for India’s showcase running event. That day she was faster than the fastest men of the running group Chennai Runners, completing 21km in under 90 minutes. The 37-year-old mother of two, who lives in Australia, was preparing for a podium finish in the half marathon in Mumbai, targeting a time of 78 minutes. Daughter of former Indian Davis Cup player Rabi Venkatesan, Aarthi played tennis as a child, reaching No.6 in world junior rankings.

She took up running as therapy after she had a stillbirth the first time. She picks her races, registers and flies to the destination. She missed the podium in Mumbai by a few seconds, finishing fourth in the half marathon with a time of 82 minutes. Edited excerpts:

How and when did you take to running?

I always loved running. I played junior tennis for Australia and was ranked sixth in the world as a junior. I also won the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship for The University of Georgia, US. I always ran to keep my fitness for tennis. However, I started running seriously three years ago. That’s when I started training with a purpose.

You are a fast runner. How do you work on your speed?

My speed work consists of a lot of hill repeats, one-kilometre repeats and a lot of short sharp stuff at least three times a week.

Describe your training regimen in brief.

I train seven days a week. Speed sessions, one medium-long run and Sunday long runs. Most days I run twice a day. I run around 140km a week and before a race I run up to 168km. I have a coach who helps me with my training, monitors my progress and advises me on strategy.

How did pregnancy affect your running and training?

I am a mother of two. Austin, my little boy, is 6 and my little girl, Savannah, is 4. I mildly worked out during my pregnancy, but nothing too serious. I unfortunately had a stillborn baby boy at 39 weeks before my son, so I was very cautious during my pregnancies. Actually, losing my first son was instrumental in my running as well. I used running as an escape to cope with the loss of my son. I was devastated and running helped me cope with the situation a bit better.

Your tips for new mothers who want to take up or get back to running?

New mothers need to take running slowly. Your body has done an amazing feat by giving birth and producing life, so rest. When you are ready, start off with walking and then build up a few kilometres and then move on to running.

Which marathon’s next?

I am running the Gold Coast Airport Marathon in July and then the Melbourne Marathon in October.

You missed the podium in the Mumbai marathon by just a few seconds. What cost you a place in the top three?

Yes, Mumbai was a disappointing run. I felt great but then my body got overheated. I am not used to the thick air and humidity in India, so I did not take that into full account. Next time I will maybe be a little conservative at the start. My times in Australia should really have put me in second place, but life and running doesn’t always go to plan.

Your most memorable race?

My most memorable race would have to be the Melbourne Marathon where I ran a 2-hour, 50-minute marathon. I felt great throughout and it really made me feel like I wanted to keep trying to reach for the stars.

How do you recover after a long, gruelling race?

I recover by doing not much. Some light stretching, refuelling my body, some massage therapy and lots of sleep.

What is your favourite running gear?

My favourite running gear is Nike. I race in Lunaracers and train in Lunarflys.

What is the difference between running in India and overseas?

Running in India is totally different. The air is heavy and very thick. Races seem a lot more chaotic. I was also surprised that all the top girls had pacers with them and helpers through the race. In Australia, we just run.

On the Run is a monthly series that profiles India’s most enthusiastic marathon runners.

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