Every week there is a running event in Bangalore city. Apart from health benefits and a common reason like good weather, the writer finds that it is motivational

The Pinkathon that just went by. The IIM 5 k. The Bangalore Ultra. The TCS run. The Sunfeast World 10 k. The Contours Women’s day run. The Kaveri Trail Marathon. The Midnight Marathon.

Bangalore is on the run—literally.

“There is a running event every alternate week in the city,” says Ashok Nath, India’s leading marathoner, founder of Catalyst sports and self-confessed running evangelist. The 49-year-old Bangalorean, a five-time Boston Qualifier believes that the city is a great place to run, “We have good weather and lots of green spaces,” he says.

Gauri Datta Jayaraman, another consummate city-based runner, writer and founder of The Active Holiday Company agrees, “I think I would call Bangalore the running capital of the country. If you look at the Standard Chartered Marathon, more than half a dozen spots are cinched by Bangloreans. The weather allows you to run at any time of the year, the general energy is brilliant and we have excellent running spaces — Cubbon park, Lal Bag, Kanakapura, Sarjapura, Bannerghatta and Nandi Hills.”

And communities of runners have sprung from all parts of the city. Runners for life, Runners High, The Bangalore Hash Harriers, Jayanagar Jaguars, the Earthquake group. Walk into Cubbon Park early one Sunday morning and you’re sure to see half a dozen running groups training there.

“Running in a group helps you stay more motivated and gives you an opportunity to bond with like-minded people,” says Gauri, who is part of a group called the Pacemakers.

“It goes far beyond the running,” agrees Pankaj Raj of the BHUKMP running group,” Of course there is a fitness aspect but it also is a social thing. We choose a route, start from home, get together on the way, run for three hours and end with breakfast. Meeting and getting to know diverse people offers a broader world view. We’re recreational runners who want to have a good time, not worry about timing,” he laughs.

But it certainly goes a long way towards building the habit, says Sanghamitra Guha, who first started running with a group before branching off solo.

“I used to work in Infosys and we had a very active running group called Happy Feet. I would see a lot of them running on campus and decided to join them. I started off barely making it through one or two kms, but seeing other people running made me persist.

“I then began running races, started on speed and timing, increased my distance, incorporated strength training. I now am a serious runner who does five to six km every day, on my own. I am much more disciplined and physically fitter than I ever have been,” she says.

Running in a group also helps bring more structure into a programme, feels Simran Daliwal of Runner’s High, “We started as a small group and now we have 250-odd runners and 20 plus coaches. We meet thrice a week and have a structured training programme that minimises running injury.”

Though running is relatively inexpensive, easily accessible and a great way to keep fit, it is also a fairly intense, high impact form of activity and runners are prone to injury. “The problem is most people run without getting their technique right and end up getting injured. You have to invest time in getting that right. Most people think you run only with your legs and don’t use your upper body. But good running form means engaging both, your entire body needs to be synchronized. You also should ease into it, a gradual progression minimizes injury. And it’s good to cross train to prevent muscle overuse and subsequent injury. The human body is capable of amazing things, but it does take patience,” adds Ashok.

Ryan Fernando—co-founder of Qua Nutrition and adviser to several veteran marathon runners and national-level athletes such as Sushil Kumar, Harbhajan Singh and Robin Uthappa adds, “The shoes you chose and your nutrition support optimum performance. Most runners run in the morning on an empty stomach. That is wrong. The correct thing to do is to have a protein+carb pre-workout snack. Don’t forget to hydrate yourself while running—water/coconut water or any amino acid based beverage is great. Post your workout you need to have 10-15 gms of lean protein to help preserve lean muscle and push body into burning fat.”

He suggests a high protein, low carb diet with plenty of negative calorie food like apples, pineapples, carrots and tomatoes for recreational runners to get to their optimum weight, “High protein ensures that you save muscle and muscle is the secret fat burning weapon. Smaller meals with three main meals and two snacks are recommended,” adding. “Beetroot is a super food for a runner. It contains nitrate that increases the oxygen capacity of any athlete.”

For Bangalore runners, it is not just an athletic exercise, but almost a religion. “More than anything else, it has given me control over my life,” says Gauri. “It shrinks my challenges and makes everything alright.”

“It is almost akin to meditation,” adds Simran. “It helps me clarify my thoughts like nothing else,”

“I think distance running is almost euphemistic with life itself,” remarks Pankaj. “You need to do it peacefully, you need to do it slowly, you need to enjoy it, you don’t have to overtake anyone else.

“At the end of the day, the only thing you run against is yourself.”