At 81, Anand Mathur is finally on his way to fulfil his dreams. Inspired by the half-marathon held in Delhi last December, Anand started running along with a group of people in his neighbourhood. And that has practically changed his life. “I have always been very athletic but never got to run a marathon,” says this grandfather of four. “But ever since I joined the running community, I have started training to run the next marathon.”
Anand is a member of the group Running and Living, a community that has left over 6,000 people across India breathless, quite literally. With over a 1,000 people showing up in the last monthly run held in Gurgaon, www.runningandliving.com is where all the action is. This online community is encouraging people to take up running, not only for health benefits but also for the socio-psychological benefits. And just about everyone can have a piece of the pie by merely signing up with them.
Rahul Verghese, the man behind this mammoth movement, believes that he will be able to mobilise over 200 million Indians into running from across the country. “I want people to feel that they can break barriers,” says Rahul, who has been running for the last seven years. “We started off with barely 10 members about two years ago and now we have at least 15-20 new people signing up every month. Verghese has also been instrumental in organising a number of running events like the marathon and half-marathon in Delhi and Mumbai.
Running groups have mushroomed across cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Chandigarh etc and their agenda is simple — get together, encourage each other and run. And at other times, see each other socially as well. It’s a group that all set to have fun, feel healthy and well, live. And Verghese believes that it’s only a matter of time before people begin to see how much running can help — whether they are vice presidents, CEOs, truck drivers or even housewives. Running, he says, is about being and feeling free. “And for those who want to run long distance, I want to provide a platform to feel confident.”
Which is probably what he has done with media professional Barnali, who joined the south Delhi chapter about a month and a half ago. She says that the support she has got from the various members of her group has made her so much more optimistic and she will soon be able to run over 5 kms.
“So many people running together becomes extremely infectious,” says Vikram Mathur, vice president of Tekriti Software. “I have always been a runner, but here it’s all about having a good time and easing the pressure. And I’ve met like-minded people too and we meet on a social basis as well.”