A few long-distance runners tell why the simple act of running is worth the early morning alarms, sore muscles and all that jazz

It is an effort to just walk in Ladakh. Imagine running 21 kilometers in the rarefied atmosphere. Venkatalakshmi Silesh did just that. She ran on the Hunder sand dunes, past the Diskit monastery, and along the Shyok river, with mountains all around. The marathon was part of ZENdurance, one of the most gruelling high altitude events in the world. “It was a challenge running on sand with the wind blowing. I had to stop every now and then to shake out my shoes as my feet were becoming heavier and heavier with all the sand that got into them,” she says. Venkatlakshmi finished seventh in that event. But she found the Sandakphu Marathon, even tougher. It was approximately a 112 kilometer- run spread over four days. “It was a race more than a trek. It was a steep climb on the first two days; we ran uphill from 7000ft to 14, 000 feet. We ran over an incline of 45 degrees. On the final day, we ran down-hill, and that was hell on our knees.” Venkatlakshmi finished 11th out of 21 runners. But she got to see Mount Everest, and that was worth everything, she says.

Venkatalakshmi, Sujini Meiyappan, Divya Chandran, Priya Satish and Umeshwari Machani are Coimbatoreans who love long distance running. They are hoping the coming Coimbatore Cancer Foundation’s Marathon on October 6 will be a big hit.

They all discovered the joy of running rather late, they say. They are in their 30s and early 40s. But age has nothing to do with it. It is never too late to start and they hope the Coimbatore Marathon will see many more women converts.

Sujini, who said she had only run short distances on the treadmill says she discovered the joys of outdoor running only three years ago. “It was so much more fun than running inside a gym.” So she signed up for the Auroville Marathon. “It was fun training with friends and once we finished that race, we were hooked!” All fired up, Sujini decided to run the Sandakphu Trail too. “It was tougher than anything I had ever imagined.” Though she lost a toe nail (very painful it was too) there, she found great reserves of strength she did not know she had. “Now running is addictive. I have discovered new things about myself. It has made me stronger. I wake up every morning, looking forward to running, breathing in clean air and being with my thoughts. Running challenges me and I feel good.” After participating in the Kaveri Trail marathon (KTM), Sujini strongly felt Coimbatore should have an event like that too. “We have scenic spots and the weather is great.” So she and a friend organised the Rock and Run Marathon for which 400 runners turned up from across the country.

“The longest distance for me is between the bed and my shoes! Once I cover that space, I have conquered my most difficult challenge,” laughs Priya who also started running only five years ago. She travels a lot and tries to run wherever she is - on beaches, hills, anywhere. Priya has run several short distance events before she ran a 10 K and finally the Rock and Run 21 K. “I run for the sheer joy of it. A runner’s high is the best kind,” she declares.

It provides women the elusive ‘me time’ they are all looking for, believes Divya who likens running to therapy. “Running allows me to be alone with my thoughts away from the hullabaloo at home!” She also feels running is a good way of keeping healthy for women. “We tend to neglect our health while taking care of others. We shouldn’t. It is not just about losing weight, it is about staying fit.” Ever since she has begun running, Divya says she is more attentive about what she puts on the table for her family. “Our fitness and diet shapes our children’s view on health. We can set a good example to them as they grow up.” Divya’s first event was the Auroville followed by the Kaveri Trail Marathon in Srirangapatnam near Mysore and the RCS World 10 K in Bangalore.

Marathons have a way of bringing down barriers and that is what appeals the most to Umeshwari who has run the Rock and Run and the Auroville. The cross section of people who turn up for the marathons is amazing, she says. She remembers almost giving up once and a stranger running beside her kept urging her on. “He was a stranger, but his encouragement worked and I finished the race,” she says. She loves this part of running. “It does not matter who is running next to you. It is a great equalizer. It is not about winning. It is just about running for yourself.” She says, there is little to beat the simplicity of just putting on your shoes and taking off.

Venkatlakshmi finished seventh in that event. But she found the Himalayan Sandakphu Marathon, even tougher. It was approximately a 112 kilometer- run spread over four days. “It was more a race more than a trek. It was a steep climb on the first two days; we ran uphill from 7000ft to 14, 000 ft. We ran over an incline of 45 degrees. On the final day, we ran down-hill, and that was hell on our knees.” Venkatlakshmi finished 11th out of 21 runners. But she got to see Mount Everest, and that was worth everything, she says.

Venkatlakshmi, Sujini Meiyappan, Divya Chandran, Priya Satish and Umeshwari Machani are Coimbatoreans who love long distance running. They are hoping the upcoming Coimbatore Cancer Foundation’s Marathon on October 6 will put the city on the Marathon map.

They all discovered the joy of running rather late, they say. They are in their 30s and early 40s. But age has nothing to do with it. It is never too late to start and they hope the city will see many more women converts.

Sujini, who said she had only run short distances on the treadmill says she discovered the joys of outdoor running only three years ago. “It was so much more fun than running inside a gym.” So she signed up for the Auroville Marathon. “It was fun training with friends and once we finished that race, we were hooked!” All fired up, Sujini decided to run the Sandakphu Trail too. “It was tougher than anything I had ever imagined.” Though she lost a toe nail, she found great reserves of strength she did not know she had! “Now running is addictive. I have discovered new things about myself. It has made me stronger. I wake up every morning, looking forward to running, breathing in clean air and being with my thoughts. Running challenges me and I feel good.” After participating in the Kaveri Trail marathon (KTM), Sujini strongly felt Coimbatore should have an event like that too. “We have scenic spots and the weather is great.” So she and a friend organised the Rock and Run Marathon for which 400 runners turned up from across the country.

“The longest distance for me is between the bed and my shoes! Once I cover that space, I have conquered my most difficult challenge,” laughs Priya who started running only five years ago. She travels a lot and tries to run wherever she is - on beaches, hills, anywhere. Priya has run several short distance events before she ran a 10 K and finally the Rock and Run 21 K. “I run for the sheer joy of it. A runner’s high is the best kind,” she declares.

It provides women the elusive ‘me time’ they are all looking for, believes Divya who likens running to therapy. “Running allows me to be alone with my thoughts away from the hullabaloo at home!” She also feels running is a good way of keeping healthy for women. “We tend to neglect our health while taking care of others. We shouldn’t. It is not just about losing weight, it is about staying fit.” Ever since she has begun running, Divya says she is more attentive about what she puts on the table for her family. “Our fitness and diet shape our children’s view on health. We can set a good example to them as they grow up.” Divya’s first event was the Auroville followed by the Kaveri Trail Marathon in Srirangapatnam near Mysore and the RCS World 10 K in Bangalore.

Marathons have a way of bringing down barriers and that is what appeals the most to Umeshwari who has run the Rock and Run and the Auroville. The cross section of people who turn up for the marathons is amazing, she says. She remembers almost giving up once and a stranger running beside her kept urging her on. “He was a stranger, but his encouragement worked and I finished the race,” she says. She loves this part of running. “It does not matter who is running next to you. Running is a great equaliser. It is not about winning. It is just about running for yourself.” She says, there is little to beat the simplicity of just putting on your shoes and taking off.

Running builds confidence, keeps us fit and healthy, improves our body language and develops stamina

But ...

If you are planning to take up running and you are a woman, here are a few tips Divya Chandran urges you to follow: Be safe. Try not to run alone especially in dark, lonely areas. If you are forced to run alone, change your time, schedule and route frequently.