Dear Partha and Coach, I would like to send this note as a special thank you message for pulling me into the runners' club. Last year, I had undergone a lipid profile test and found that my triglycerides were much above the danger mark at 279 mg/dl (they're supposed to be between 50 to 165 mg/dl). I did the test again last week. It has dropped to 79 mg/dl! It's amazing that just 6 months of regular running has made such a huge difference.
The mail above was sent by one of the members of a Bangalore running group called mRunners to their coach, RK Murthy and convener, NS Parthasarathy. The group was started by employees of an IT company called MindTree last May. It now meets every weekend early in the morning in Cubbon Park.
The 17 members do warm-up exercises together, exchange notes on gear, decide their route and then run for close to two hours. "Nearly half of them participate in running events like the Midnight Marathon held recently in Mangalore and the Kaveri Trail in Srirangapatnam," says Saurabh Jain, 32, one of the group's earliest members. Jain, who participated in the Singapore Marathon two years ago, joined the group for two reasons. He was pleasantly surprised to find people in his own workplace who shared his enthusiasm for running. Further, he'd been bitten by the marathon bug and wanted to train regularly to improve his time. What better way to do that than train with some healthy competition?
In the bargain, Jain realised that running helped several members overcome their health problems as well. "The members' ages range from 30 to 50. Some had knee or other joint problems; others joined the group obeying doctor's orders." Running itself proved beneficial to many, but running in a group ensured that they kept at it to continue reaping its benefits.
The necessity of 'Me Time'
There are those who see running as something that is best done alone; and then there are those who feel most comfortable running in a group. But, as Sabine Tietge (43) says, the two needn't be seen as mutually exclusive at all.
Tietge, a Bangalore resident, started a group called Runner Girls India two years ago, meant only for women. Today, Tietge wants to spread the concept to other cities in the country after seeing how tremendously popular it has become in Bangalore. The runners of RGI might often cross paths with mRunners, as they too run in Cubbon Park -- the most central running area in the city. They meet every alternate Saturday and then head for a "nice, big breakfast" after the run. "It is great fun, we're all so comfortable with each other," Tietge says. RGI isn't about becoming size zero, she explains. "For most of us, running is actually taking out some 'Me Time'."
"Running is a very individual activity," Tietge explains. "But precisely because of that -- because one's mind can also be one's biggest enemy -- it helps to run with a buddy who can encourage you to push yourself further, when your mind is asking you to give up."
Tietge, who has a seven-month-old baby, is proud of the fact that she could have a normal delivery at her age, and credits it to the fact that she's a runner. She even resumed running 18 days after her baby was born. She values the time every morning when she runs, as it helps her "recharge her batteries."
Given the number of people taking up running, corporate interest too is piqued. The Nike Run Club, Mumbai, meets every Sunday morning at the Parsi Gymkhana Grounds in Marine Lines. Coach Daniel Vaz is available to advice members free of cost, with the company taking care of his reimbursement.
For some with marketing experience, running translates into a profitable venture. Rahul Verghese, (49) switched from being on Motorola's rolls to startup entrepreneur. His website Running and Living sought to add a novel approach to employee training in corporations -- through running. The pitch was simple: Running improves employee health, so there's less absenteeism and therefore better company performance. Running also improves employee morale. The startup organises five or 10 km runs, talks and workshops and provides an online database about various aspects of running -- from the right kind of shoes, to training for the marathon. Verghese himself has run 29 marathons in six continents.
With the running culture firmly taking root in our cities, it is little wonder that marathons and run clubs have become extremely popular. "Running in a group gives you the satisfaction of meeting more people like yourself," says mRunner member Jain. The more, as they say, the merrier.
The power of the Internet
Many running groups have an online presence. You can sign up and join discussion boards, post queries and even co-ordinate with others staying close by to organise a run. Check these sites out:
Running and Living
Runner Girls India (Bangalore)
Runners For Life (Mumbai)
Nike Run Club (Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai)
Bangalore's Manipal Hospital has an Exercise and Sports Medicine Dept (2502 4444) where they conduct foot and gait analysis, and give advice on shoes. In Mumbai, OrthoFit conducts a gait analysis too. (Visit www.orthofit.in)