At MetroPlus’ ‘Coffee with Milind’ the model-actor-marathoner inspired many a woman in the gathering to take the first step towards good health. Priyadarshini Paitandy reports

The hall is finally empty. The last of the awestruck fans has got her selfie with Milind Soman and left content, goofy smile in place and Pinkathon registration in hand. We trudge out of the hotel, Milind in tow, to politely put him in his car and wave goodbye. Except — his car and chauffer have disappeared. Option 2: An auto. Except, the one we flag down grumpily refuses to put on his meter — despite us earnestly pointing out that Milind is the best-looking passenger he will ever have. Option 3: We put him on a bike with our colleague and off he goes for his next meeting, cheerily waving goodbye.

The man is fuss free. And cheerful. And inspiring. He says it’s the running — and we’re inclined to agree.

Watch the highlights of the interaction here.

MetroPlus’ ‘Coffee With Milind’ event at The Westin began on a cheerful note when the popular model-turned-actor-turned-running evangelist strolled into the hall in an ‘I love Chennai’ T-shirt and Methiyadi chappals. “People ask me how I stay fit. You don’t have to go to a gym. Do what you like,” he said , his perfect frame compelling us to listen agog (and to be honest, also stare open-mouthed.) With a smattering of salt and pepper in his hair, he still clearly has loyal admirers.

As a part of the run-up to Chennai’s first Pinkathon, which Milind organises, he spoke about running, its benefits and women’s health. Introducing Milind as “mantastic, spicy and unreasonably good looking,” Shrikant Wakharkar, general manager, Westin, said, “Milind is very generous when posing for pictures,” then turned to him and added, “I suggest you now insist women register for the Pinkathon if they want a solo picture.” That caused an immediate flutter with a few ladies looking frantically for the registration counter. Assuring them they could do that after the session, the event proceeded.

Dr. Nirmala Lakshman, Director, Kasturi & Sons Limited said, “Awareness of women’s health is a priority and we want to spread that awareness,” explaining why the MetroPlus got involved.

The charming 48-year-old model, “hot bod” (as one of our elderly readers put it) with his square jaw line said that women influence health and lifestyle the most. “If women understand it they take it to heart and will make a difference,” he said. When the first edition of Pinkathon happened in Mumbai in 2012, people told Milind that women will not run as they have families to look after. When it took place in Bangalore in 2013, people said women won’t make it at 6 a.m. and the run should be scheduled for the evening. “But we did it in the morning. They had estimated 700 to 800 registrations but 3,500 women came,” he said. The run is taking place in Chennai for the first time this year on April 13.

The all-women audience had a volley of questions — how to run, why run barefoot, is there an age to start running? “There’s no age. Fauja Singh started running at 68 and broke records. He stopped running last year at the age of 101,” said Milind adding, “There’s a woman who ran full term and delivered her baby the next day.” He said he began running at 38, determined to complete a marathon.

“I used to hate running. When I completed my first half marathon (about 21 km) I was amazed… I was not even tired. “When you allow yourself to do things they become easy,” he added.

A friend’s tryst with breast cancer urged Milind to take up the cause of breast cancer awareness by taking the Pinkathon across India, and abroad. “Sometimes women are embarrassed to say the word ‘breast’. Women need to talk about it and be aware of their body. Once you take up a physical activity you do become more aware of your body,” he advised.

Neeraja Malik (59), who had been diagnosed with cancer twice and conquered it both times spoke at the event in her perky inimitable style. “Think of cancer only as a word. If you are diagnosed think of it as a detour.

Look at me — I’m fine,” she said, adding as an afterthought, “In fact I was partying till 4 a.m. this morning.” Both Neeraja and Milind agreed that the fitter you are, the stronger you get. It makes it easier for your body to fight every kind of ailment. And the best part? “The runner’s high,” said Milind. “Running makes you a happy person.”

MetroPlus Gets Mantastic

Here’s your chance to lock eyes with Milind Soman over dinner.

On April 3 at 4 p.m., Milind will answer questions by readers on The Hindu MetroPlus Facebook page. Please post your questions on fitness, nutrition, running and health. The most relevant and frequently asked questions will be answered. Questions can be posted from April 1, 10 a.m. The chat closes on April 3 at 5 p.m. The six readers who ask the best questions will win a glamorous dinner date with Milind at The Park hotel.

Watch the video here: http://thne.ws/mpmeetsmilind-video.