Powai resident Kavi Arasu ignored his growing paunch until one evening when he was unable to wear his favourite trouser. Worse, an insurance company rejected his application for a mediclaim cover citing his poor health reports.
After juggling several options to get in shape, the senior executive with an Indian multinational decided to enroll with an agency that trains runners.
Three years on, the 36-year-old has two half marathons under his belt and will attempt the full 42km run for the first time at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon on Sunday. "I hope the paunch will disappear soon," said Arasu.
He is amongst a significant number of marathon regulars who have raised the bar for themselves this year. Of the 300 people enrolled at Striders Miles Pvt Limited, a company that trains marathoners, about 60 will be attempting a longer run this year. "An increasing number of people want to challenge themselves," said Praful Uchil, founder of the company.
For instance, Sanket Bhirud, a management student at the Mulund College of Commerce will try the half marathon this year because the 7 km Dream Run last year did not excite him. His trainer will accompany him for the sprint because he is partially blind. "The dream run is more like a fun walk. It does not challenge you," said the 18-year-old. The rigorous preparation for his half marathon debut also boosted the certified swimmer's confidence. Earlier, his mother had to accompany him to the training facility in Marine Lines from their home in Mulund. But now he has learnt to travel on his own. Since the past four months the boy has been boarding a train at 5:30 am to reach the training venue.
Mahalakshmi resident Hitesh Bhatia is another such participant, running the full marathon for the first time on Sunday. "I feel confident enough to attempt this because my strength, stamina and energy levels are have improved," said the 50-year-old senior executive with a multinational firm.
Some regulars have also started taking part at marathons in other Indian cities. City-based tour operator Subhash Motwani, who has done seven half marathons in Mumbai, participated in the Delhi half marathon last November and will be flying to Auroville in Puduchery next month. "It has become a kind of addiction," he said.