Trends Amateur runner events have seen a marked increase in the city. There are various aspects to this sport, from the high it gives one to the development of running apparel, finds Sravasti Datta

Runner events and marathons are no longer the pride of Mumbai alone, Bangalore too has been keeping steady pace. Amateur running emerged in America in the 1970s, and has only recently picked up in India.

Ashok Nath, one of the city's most well-known runners, says that runner events can be divided into three categories. “There are events that enjoy large sponsorship, private, niche events and adventure marathons that are usually ultra-marathons.”

The past five years has seen a rise in the frequency of runner events in Bangalore. The Kaveri Trail Marathon, The Bangalore Dualthon, a five to 10K and 10 to 20K cycling event, and India's first and only ultra marathon, the Bangalore Ultra Marathon have come to define running in the city.

But running, as a sport, has been made more accessible to the layman by runner events that enjoy large sponsorship. Take the recently-held Procam organised, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) 10K runner event. It saw quite a large participation. To the growing community of runners, this does not come as a surprise. Arvind Bharathi, who heads Runners for Life, says that such events were popular as early as 2004. “The Lipton Bangalore International Marathon was held between 2004 and 2006. The events returned in 2008 with the Sunfeast runner events and Midnight Marathon.”

Arvind and another running enthusiast Nishant Nereyeth insist Bangalore has out-raced Mumbai in this sport. “The Runners for Life Community has seen a steady increase. The membership of Runner's For Life, for example, has grown from 250 in 2005 to 11,000 members in 2012,” says Arvind.

However, running, just like any other sport, is about technique and proper training. DJ Vachan, a passionate runner, elaborates. “It is like a drug. You get a runner's high.” He agrees that runner events are a fast-emerging trend, but that their focus is not necessarily on promoting running as a sport. “Runner events organised by corporates are used to raise funds for charity. But more than running, these events are social dos where it is important to be seen. Serious running events are rare. Running is about technique, for which you need intensive training.”

RJ Anjaan, who participated in the TCS World 10K Event, presents a different viewpoint. “These events have brought non-runners into the running fold.” He disagrees that running is a trend, though. “It has been around for too long to be considered a trend. What's new is the development of running apparel.” Incidentally, there are special running shoes available in the market exclusively for runners.

The Nike Free, for example, that gives the same feel as bare feet running is the latest product that is being talked about. Reeth Abraham, coach at Nike Run Club, says that these shoes enhance the running experience. Arvind says the trend of bare feet running all began with the book, Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and The Greatest Race The World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.

“The book is based on the true stories of a tribe of runners in Mexico who wear basic sandals and run barefoot. The book was a huge sell out and caught the imagination of people across the world. So sports companies such as Nike and Puma began designing minimalistic shoes.”

Ashok Nath, however, cautions against impulsively wearing these shoes and running. “There needs to be a sort of ‘a big brother' intervention in these matters. A novice runner might end up hurting himself or herself if they wear these shoes, whereas an experienced runner can wear them as his or her feet are hardier. People need to be educated on these matters.”

Interestingly, people with hardly any passion for the sport take to it. “Generally, those who are actively involved in sports don't take to running easily as for them, they are completely into the game and exhaust their energies after they finish playing. Running is more of a mental battle; it is about pushing one's limit. You can feel every second while running,” explains Arvind.

But Ashok says that every kind of person, sportsmen and novices alike, take to running. “Running helps one keep fit,” going on to say that like any other sport, being initiated into running is a gradual process. “A beginner first runs in his or her neighbourhood, then they participate in events within one's own city, the next level is to take part in events organised in other cities and finally, they go abroad to take part in marathons.”

Nishant touches on an important aspect — the diminishing spaces for runners in the city. “Cubbon Park is the only place where runners can train. It is difficult to run on the roads because of traffic and other hazards.” Arvind is more optimistic. “If we compare ourselves to Mumbai, we are lucky. There are more areas where we can train.”

So it is hoped that with Bangalore becoming the hot-spot of runner events, the city's residents will, in the words of Reeth Abraham, “make it a part of their lifestyle.”