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Running for a goal

AVINASH NAIR
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RUNNING Women racers feel that running for causes should be encouraged

Marathon woman Chandra Gopal photo: Murali kumar k.
Marathon woman Chandra Gopal photo: Murali kumar k.

R unning is a fad these days. And the number of women hitting the roads and the jogging tracks is phenomenal. “It (running) disciplines you,” says Chandra Gopalan, who took to long distance running in 2005, for the sheer fun of it and is now hooked.

In her early 50s, Chandra runs the Contours Fitness Centre franchisee in India and is also into full time running since running the Lipton Bangalore marathon in 2005. “I ran the half marathon then and though the event was badly organised. Chaos reigned supreme. Including the course being changed three days prior to the event. It changed my perspective in life. There were lots of late nights and partying at that juncture. I have given up on that now,” says Chandra.

Contours International, with six fitness studios in India is unique for ‘circuit training' that involves a 29-minute work out. A great fan of Sachin Tendulkar, Chandra makes sure not to miss out on any match that the legend is playing in at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium.

Even late nights do not spoil her routine in the morning. “It was my association with Stephen Dance, a Tasmanian business partner that brought me into running. And when he (Stephen) used to run the full marathons (42.194 kms) I used to test myself in the half marathons. But after a year and half of doing the shorter distances, I was confident of completing the full marathon and have been doing so since mid 2006. I have run 19 marathons thus far, and have not missed out on the Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon from 2006.”

“The competitive zeal is not in me yet. I run for the sheer fun and experience. I want my space and love to be on my own. Travel and tourism was what I wanted to get into. I was working with Swiss Airlines till it was bought off by Lufthansa. Then I wanted to do something different and that's how Contours franchisee (all-women fitness centres) was born. It has been fulfilling. “Recently, apart from running and being involved with groups like Strides of Hope and Runners for Life, I have been doing ultra marathons - ranging from 25 kms to 75 kms (twice completed). I have been raising funds for NGO's Parikrama and Asha Foundations – which has been an enriching and satisfying experience,” contends Chandra.

It was Chandra's passion for running for fitness that conceptualised the ‘Women's Day Run' in Bangalore last year, which was a success. The event to be held on March 13 this year will be held at Clarks Exotica, Swiss Town, off Devanahalli Airport Road at 8 a.m.

There are other women who have been encouraging mass participation in marathons and long distance running.

Wim Elfrink, Executive Vice President, Cisco Services has been a marathoner himself says: “For me, marathons mirror life — both require commitment, conviction and consistency. I have run 42 marathons in my life and believe there is scope for more.

“Our Cisco Connected Women initiative helps women develop their skills and support each other and we see the Women's Relay as a great forum for our women employees to collaborate and have fun,” Elfrink said.

Another running-devotee Shubhra Sinha, Managing Director, Marketing Globalisation, Cisco Systems, said: “I was an athlete in school and have always been passionate about running — marathon and long distance running (800 meters). I had to take a break when I started working but once I moved to the Bay area, I started running again. I have always run for philanthropic causes like CRY, Susan G. Komen for cancer and was also as part of the Bay to Breakers, one of the world's largest and oldest footraces, held annually in San Francisco.

“On relocating to India, I continued running and participated in several marathons including the recently held Sunfeast Marathon. I ran for Ashwini Charitable Trust.”

She adds, “Determination and consistency are the biggest things that can lead to success. But I firmly believe that running should also be for a cause. As a woman employee, I am glad to be part of this forum that empowers women and gives them the opportunity to support Cisco's commitment towards society.

“I would like to encourage more and more people to take up running, not just as an activity or to keep fit but for a cause, to do something that is rewarding.”

AVINASH NAIR

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