Mumbai: In the late 1980s, when Praful Uchil would jog in the streets, it was a different world . “I’d be the only person running,” he says. “I’d be chased by dogs, I’d worry I’d be run over.”
Today, he says, cars stop for a jogger to cross the road, strolling groups make way for runners. “Even the dogs are used to us now, they often run alongside us,” Uchil says.
For many, running is no longer a solitary activity. Uchil is part of the core team at Striders, a group that coaches runners for marathons and other races. Over the last decade, he’s found that more spouses have joined their partners to train for races, more women now run, groups of friends, colleagues and gym buddies prepare for marathons together, and entire families have taken to running as a way to spend time with each other.
If you’ve always wanted to run a marathon, now’s your chance. The monsoon is behind you. The weather will get cooler you have 15 weeks to train for the Mumbai Marathon on January 15. The race categories remain the same – a 6 km dream run, a 21 km half marathon and the big-ticket, 42 km marathon, in addition to separate races for seniors and the differently abled.
This time, there’s professional help and company to get you going. If you start now.
Best foot forward
Daniel Vaz, veteran marathon trainer and head of the Nike Run Club, believes the October-to-January period is enough to prepare for the half-marathon. “If you could only manage two or three kilometres before, use the coming months to get a structured running programme with a group of runners and a coach.”
Both help in different ways. A coach prepares you for speed, distance and time. “Getting into the training zone is not easy for everyone and few realise how much structure they need,” says Vaz.
Solo aspirants tend to make largely the same mistakes, experts say. They train too hard, scale up too fast and ignore aches and pains that escalate into more serious injuries. “Many people think they can run through pain and be a hero,” says Vaz.
Coaches know that a high resting heart rate, frequent colds, sore muscles and shin splits spell trouble. They’ll also track of hydration and nutrition,” Vaz adds.
Training with company, on the other hand, keeps you going. “Running is an individual sport, you beat your own time, not someone else’s” says Brinston Miranda, founder of Be Fit, which runs marathon training programmes. “But working out can take a toll, so doing it in a group can help. There’s motivation and support to reach your targets and take your training to the next level.”
In Mumbai, where pavements are crumbling, running tracks scarce and fitting running into a workday often means training at 5am, the group also allows solo runners to find kindred spirits.
It’s a smarter way to train says Rehan Patel, a supply-chain manager from Malad, who watched runners’ groups at Borivli’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park grow faster, stronger and more confident while his solo efforts plateaued last year.
“I hit a wall, while these groups kept going,” Patel says. “Their trainers knew how to resolve their issues, and the runners drew strength from each other.” He’s now planning to join the Nike Run Club.
The author tweets at @GreaterBombay