What do you think you need for taking up a 10K marathon? Just a good pair of running shoes and four months of training! Shonali Muthalaly walks you through the details

Hate running? Me too. That’s exactly why we have to do this.

Last week, 2,500 people participated in the Dream Runners event: 1,100 did the half-marathon (21 km) and the rest did the 10K (10-km run). Contrary to what you may expect, all of them weren’t young, enviably ripped and naturally athletic. Three women, all above 70, did the 10K. A 10-year-old boy ran 10K. Then there was Manjunath from Bangalore, who ran 21 km, pushing his physically challenged son on a wheelchair all the way.

This Sunday is another run — The Chennai Marathon organised by Spellbound and the Tamil Nadu Athletic Association. Which means, the next big run you can train for is the Wipro Chennai Marathon on December 1, 2013.

Now, running has a host of benefits, all extensively written about. So that’s not the point of this article. The question is, can a regular person, slumped on the couch (clutching a double chocolate chip cookie, if you’re anything like me), run 10K by December?

“Of course,” says Krishna Kumar, who heads Chennai Runners (organisers of the next marathon). Krishna even has a ‘Couch to 10 K’ programme to handhold beginners. He started with his colleagues, getting them to walk for half hour every day, and then move to a slow jog before powering up. “There were people weighing 90 kg, aged above 50. But by the end of 12 weeks, they were able to run for 70 minutes.”

Weight loss was just one of the benefits. “About 10 of them ran the 10K, and in the process they lost 100 kg among them,” says Krishna. “More importantly, running is an enabler. It demonstrates how much you are capable of.” It’s also the easiest path to fitness. There are support groups on social networks, online resources and technology, all to help people start running.

Training depends on your current level of fitness. “If you are already fairly active, start with one or two km. Then ramp up,” says Krishna, adding, “For someone who wants to do a half-marathon, I suggest you graduate from a 10K. I didn’t just run a marathon one day, I worked towards it. You want to take baby steps.”

That’s how Radha Rangarajan and her friends from Dream Runners began. “We would set small targets. Like, ‘let’s run to that lamp post’. Now we run an average of 10 km thrice a week. And our families run with us.” On the days they don’t run, they do either strength training or yoga. And all of them have run a full marathon. “I’ve run two!” says Radha.

Shahid Kandrikar, race director of the upcoming marathon says that about 6,000 people registered last year. This year, they are targeting 10,000. He’s been running for 10 years, and says it’s become a way of life for him. “My morning run is my personal space. It’s more than just about getting fit.” This is why he’s so keen on spreading the word. “Run with a group. It’s more interesting. More motivating. And you’ll push yourself. Chennai Runners has a weekly schedule and offers training through the week in KK Nagar, Anna Nagar, Nungambakkam and Alwarpet.

Or form your own group, like Mridula Joseph, who ran her first 10K with the Dream Runners last week. “My friends and I had a Whatsapp group, and one day we said, instead of just partying, let’s do something constructive and work towards running 10K.” They had four months to prepare. “I used to randomly run on a treadmill. But I have never run more than seven mins at a stretch.” Mridula admits that her training was fairly erratic. “We started a two-month training programme, but followed it for just a month.” She spent the next three months doing The Quad Bootcamp and running once a week. “Then work got hectic, and I didn’t run at all. But I had got to 5K by then.” For the last month, the group trained in earnest. “One guy would run from 10 a.m. to noon. Everyone did his or her own thing. But it was so great to have that group, because we talked each other through everything.”

Mridula ended up finishing the 10K in one hour three mins, finishing ninth among the women. “It was my best timing. The run was beautiful. The energy, the drums, the cheering crowds… I’m running again for sure.”

Sixty-one-year-old S.S. Krishnamurthy’s also a recent addict, after he completed the 10K last year. “Though I used to play football in college, I was overweight by the time I turned 40, and had very little stamina.” He used the ‘Couch to 10K’ programme. “Just with the training, I lost almost 10 kg. And there are big health improvements… My next plan is to try the half marathon.”

Convinced? Now’s a good time to start lacing up those running shoes. (And if you see me panting along the way, be nice. Maybe even hand me a double chocolate chip cookie.)

The Right Moves

Dr. Madhu Thotapillil, Orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with TNCA & BCCI and team doctor for Chennai Super Kings, says:

Start slow. Train sensibly. Partner with newbies. Or find people with experience and the patience to guide you. There’s no point joining a running group immediately and then fighting to keep up. Don’t get fixated on running all the way — a 10K is about doing the distance. Running is repetitive. So injuries happen when you don’t warm up enough or push too hard. Spend time learning the right stretches. Each muscle group must be stretched for at least 10 to 20 seconds. Don’t forget the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and tibialis anterior.

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