How did running go from being a fitness regime to a social activity with friends, music and after-parties?
When you think of running, you think of a serious, individual activity. You think marathon runners, even Milind Soman — the poster boy for running in India — taking a lap of Shivaji Park, bare feet. But in recent times, not just hardcore fitness enthusiasts, but people across age groups are taking an interest in running and related activities.
This shift is thanks to a number of events that pitch running as a social event. It’s no longer about going on solo early morning jogs, or spouses running together for motivation. Now, you’re encouraged to get your whole gang of friends (or cousins, whatever works for you) and participate together.
This August, the Color Marathon, an international concept, is coming to Mumbai. You can walk, run and dance your way through the 5k marathon. The dress code is white, and at each kilometre, you’ll be doused in a different coloured powder. Sort of like a dry Holi. The run is not timed, and there are no prizes or winners. And if you can’t finish the whole route? No big deal. The focus is expressly on having fun. There will also be a dance area to let your hair down.
“Five years ago, there were hardly any events related to running,” points out avid runner and software professional Bhuvandeep Singh (32). In the last few years, though, events like the Mud Rush and Devil’s Circuit have cropped up, and the annual affairs are looked forward to by many. Held in the monsoon, the Mud Rush is an obstacle run. Post the run, you can celebrate with beers, and unwind with live music. “We’ve had testimonials from those who attended saying they look at such events to meet more like-minded people and simply have fun. Last year, we had a small celebratory party at the end,” says Jay N Goradia, director of marketing at the Mud Rush. This March, Neon Run, a 10km midnight run, too held an after-party that had DJ Suketu on the console.
Obstacle races like Devil’s Circuit and the Mud Rush, offer ample scope of making an instant connection with new people. Sometimes, the friends you come with can’t keep up with your pace, so you meet people along the way. Or, if you’re stuck at a particular obstacle, others will offer to lend a hand. “We’ve had people who came in for the first edition and, by the second edition, they were married,” says Goradia.
The Mud Rush’s first edition in 2013, held in Kolad (117 km from Mumbai), saw 1,500-odd people turn up. Of those, 860 were runners; other were spectators. Last year saw a footfall of more than 6,500, of which there were more than 4,500 runners.
Regular runner and marathon participant Deepak Oberoi (31) is a pacer (someone who runs with you and maintains a particular speed) with Nike+ Run Club, which holds free runs twice a week. He says, “All kinds of people come for it. The crowd is a mix of fitness enthusiasts as well as first timers who want to give running a shot. There are many experienced runners who guide others on not only their pace and timing, but also diet, which is important.”
The rise in popularity of such events is reflective of the overall rise of interest in healthy living. Every third person you know has a fitness tracker strapped to their wrist. A number of restaurants in the city focus on organic ingredients and meals. Social media, too, plays a role. “Everybody wants to look good in their WhatsApp display picture,” says Oberoi. Indeed, as we put details of our daily lives out there on the internet, there’s an undeniable pressure to look your best. Oberoi co-runs Mumbai Runners, a Facebook page and Instagram handle, where photos of people training and running are uploaded. It acts as motivation to others as well as your own self.
Today, with every neighbourhood having a local club of its own, one thing is clear. You will never need to step out for a run alone.
Nike+ Run Club will host a run on July 2, 6.22am
Where: Mumbai University Ground, Marine Drive
Sign up: nike.com/mumbai