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Updated: November 22, 2013 17:08 IST

Run, women, run

Preeti Aghalayam
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The last article of the five-part series as a run-up to The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2013 looks at an inspiring change the city is witnessing — the increasing number of women runners

The steam from the saucepan curls upwards, nearly singeing her eyebrows. The heady smell of coffee soon fills the kitchen. In a swift set of moves, everything is prepped, and she is ready to step out of the door. The time is 5 a.m., the world still asleep, the skies dark…

It is customary, as Margazhi approaches, for us to air out our Kanjivarams and other silks. After all, we have only about a month or two of cool weather to enjoy in Chennai. Early morning Tiruppaavai sessions, the sari cool on our bodies, kutcheris in the evening, jewellery twinkling, this is what we look forward to.

Or, is it?

December and January are the best months in Chennai, no doubt. The mornings are crisp, and the weather just perfect — for running! Young girls and middle-aged women alike pull on their shoes, get into workout gear, and take to the streets or line up at the beaches, for a shot of early morning euphoria, with a run.

Even a few years ago, it was uncommon to see a woman running in Chennai. Nowadays though, we (the Chennai Runners) often find more women than men training for runs. This exploding phenomenon is clearly here to stay and is one of the most refreshing changes on the Chennai landscape. On the one hand, there are families of runners. Nothing more inspiring than a mother with her daughter — both working on their endurance with a few repeats on the Cathedral Road flyover! On the other, we have young women, who run a few times, feel the joy, and coax their husbands (boyfriends or brothers) to ditch the morning snooze in favour of a group run.“I am too old for this” is a complaint we hear sometimes, when we try to gently encourage an overweight family member to don the shoes. We tell them then about ‘Meenakshi aunty’. At 75, she is obviously everyone’s favourite, and we always look out for a sari-clad figure, with a race t-shirt on top, making her way determinedly to the finish line, in all our local races. She will be running the 10-km race at The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2013!

Age, body weight, previous experience, weather — none of these is relevant in the final analysis. All it takes is will power. To not press the snooze button. To plan the morning routine of milk boiling-coffee brewing-school lunch-dabba making ahead of time. To take an hour out for your health. To embrace the sweating, the joy, the endorphins, and the feeling of strength and invincibility, which are inevitable at the end of that hour. We are proud that such a large number of women and girls is running with us now. The Marathon this year has seen a marked increased in the number of registered women runners — 15 per cent are women. Informal groups of women running together, a Women’s Day run in March, and a breast cancer awareness run — to be held simultaneously across 30 Indian cities — have all become part of Chennai’s running landscape this year.

It is not easy to overcome decades of inhibitions and conditioning. We know that the roads don’t look particularly inviting in the darkness of the early morning. Every one of you who has overcome these inspires us every day, and we look forward to cool morning runs with you.

(For queries, visit www.chennairunners.com)

(The writer is a passionate runner and blogger who is constantly inspired and impressed by her gender)

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