Running a marathon is no mean task. It takes months of dedicated practice to complete that first full marathon. But runners aren’t complaining. For them, it’s the joy of putting on their shoes and heading out for a run that matters. Though an individual sport, running has seen a rise as a group activity over the years. Be it a group of friends, runners from your area or people from across the city, the examples are many. Infact, the recently organised marathon in Mumbai, which returned after a hiatus of two years witnessed around 55,000 participants from all walks of life. We caught up with one such group of runners to understand what makes running an activity that they look forward to daily.
It is an addictive activity’
Many members of the group started their running journey at a later stage in life but all of them agree that it is an addictive activity! According to Ami Ambani, 48, who started running in 2004, age is never a bar to picking up a fitness activity. “I wasn’t into sports during my school days but I ran my first marathon at the age of 31 and have completed 18 so far. Running makes me feel better. I know even if I am having a bad day, I can go for a quick run and feel better,” she shares. Mehlam Faizullabhoy, 53, another member of the group, quips that he can’t imagine starting his day without a morning run. “I had to take an 8-week break from running after sustaining an injury after the New York marathon. Only I know how difficult it was to stay away from running,” he adds.
Run at a pace where you can talk to people’
To prep for the full marathon, the group trained daily for almost five months, with some showing up daily at 4 am for a 30-35 kms training run. Tasneem Master, 45, who started running around eight years ago, points out that the constant focus has been on slowly building up stamina while maintaining pace. “Our coach doesn’t allow us to wear a watch. We are just supposed to run at a pace where we can talk to each other,” she shares.
Camaraderie > Competition
While running is largely an independent pursuit, for many runners it has also become a means of building bonds that last way beyond the finish line. Mehlam, who has been actively running for the past 18 years, explains, “You create a close-knit circle that eventually becomes an integral part of your life.” And it’s camaraderie that is prioritised over competitiveness in the group. “Our funda is to never compete with each other. There is no space for jealousy. We believe in celebrating each others’ milestones,” shares Mubaraka.
The members also credit the bonhomie in the group for helping them train better and improve performance. In fact, Mubaraka and Tasneem ran their maiden marathon together. Tasneem adds, “I know Mubaraka will wait for me in the morning to start her run. That pushes me to show up without any excuses.”
Learn to enjoy running: Savio D’souza
Having won multiple marathons in India and represented India in international marathons, Savio D’souza has had a long standing affair with running. The founding coach of Savio Stars sticks to a simple mantra – ‘Just show up’. Savio, who is also training athletes from Ladakh, says his main goal is to teach people to enjoy running and use it as a tool to stay fit, mentally and physically. The 69-year-old believes in starting slow. He explains, “Even if people show up with the ultimate goal of running a marathon, I will start from the basics and guide them to slowly pick up the pace. Most people last ran during their school years. So, if they decide to start running again post the age of 30-35, I teach them how to walk first. Then we gradually move to jogging and running. As you get fitter, you will run faster.”
Even when the group isn’t training for any marathons, members show up at Marine Drive at 6 am daily for a 10-12 km run. “Members are bifurcated into groups and each group has an assistant coach to motivate them. Savio joins the newcomers for a walk and jog session,” shares Mubaraka Jaliwala, a homemaker.
Running has helped me increase my stamina and I feel fresh throughout the day. Whenever your mind tends to give up, a running partner can push you to cover the distance. Along with fitness, you forge a strong bond with people while running
Being a part of the group helps me get out of bed and go for a run. I end up feeling guilty if I don’t show up because I know my buddies must be waiting for me at practice
Whether you have a bad run day, or a bad marathon day, the group is always there to offer compassion and empathy. That’s the kind of bond we all share