Notes from a runner’s world

The Wipro Chennai Marathon drew participants from across society. We profile four runners with interesting stories to tell.

Updated - February 01, 2016 07:00 pm IST

Published - February 01, 2016 04:01 pm IST - chennai:

Sunday morning saw over 15,000 people running the Wipro Chennai Marathon. Photo: Shaju John

Sunday morning saw over 15,000 people running the Wipro Chennai Marathon. Photo: Shaju John

It was a beautiful morning in Chennai, with the sun peeking from behind the clouds, casting its brilliant glow on the finish line near the CPT Grounds, Taramani. As the first of the runners of the Wipro Chennai Marathon began trickling in, loud cheers from the supporters rang in the air. From first-time marathoners and doctors to corporate employee groups, persons with disabilities and senior citizens, Sunday morning saw over 15,000 people running the Wipro Chennai Marathon. Everyone had an interesting story to tell. Here are a few.

Samuel Reddy, Bangalore

He might be 61, but there are no signs of strain on his face, as he cools off after completing the Full Marathon. Samuel Reddy’s love affair with running began in 1980, when he ran the Comrades Run (an ultra marathon of 89 kilometres) in South Africa. But this was his first marathon running as a pacer. A 1975 commentary that he had heard on the Comrades Run inspired Samuel to run the ultra marathon one day. “I’ve been running marathons in various countries such as Mauritius and Singapore. It all began during my last year in school, when some friends encouraged me to put on those running shoes and give it a try. Once I ran a marathon, I was hooked,” he said.

“When the Chennai Runners invited me to run as a pacer, I decided to come over. Initially, I was a little worried, since this time I wasn’t just running for myself; I was responsible for a group of people. It went off pretty well, and towards the end, a bunch of us crossed the finish line together. It’s a good feeling,” he said.

Samuel runs at least 7 to 10 km thrice a week, and says that the secret to his good health. “This year, though, I plan to go back to South Africa to run the Comrades again,” he grinned. While his family supports his love for running, his wife has just one rule for him, “no running without shoes”.

Padmavathi Sellappan, Coimbatore

For Padmavathi, running is a passion, and one that she has been nurturing since she was a Class X student. The now 24-year-old runner has participated in several marathons and National-level track and field events. Little wonder then that the Coimbatore resident emerged first in the women’s category of the Half Marathon. As she basked in the glory of her win and went on to do some stretches on the dew-covered grass, she said, “It gives me unexplained joy. Running is what I absolutely love to do.”

While the runner religiously practises every day, the past month has been particularly rigorous, as she spent most of her time training for the Chennai Marathon. “Next time, I hope to be able to run the Mumbai Marathon, and eventually, participate in the Asian Games too,” she said, adding, “I’ve been able to come this far only because of my family’s support. I recently completed my M.Com. degree and am now looking for a job as well.”

Denis Bauer and team, Chennai

It was almost 8 a.m. Close to the finish line, four runners from France stood by and scanned the faces of other participants. “One of our friends is yet to finish. I saw an ambulance leaving, I hope it is not for him,” laughed Denis Bauer, a regular marathon runner, who has been participating in the Wipro Chennai Marathon since he came to Chennai four years ago. Denis and his friends, Stephane Monery, Claire Prevost and David Samson, work at an engineering firm in the city, and stay on the ECR. None of them are first-time marathoners.

“Back in Paris, we have participated in many events. Everybody runs there! There would be around 40,000 runs for one single event, which is equivalent to the number of participants in three runs put together here,” said Claire. “But in Chennai, it was my first time, and I had fun running here, seeing the sleepy faces of kids on the streets. It was well organised though. Just that the weather was too humid, and the marathon started too early. In Paris, these events start at 9 a.m. or so,” she added. Their fitness regimen is restricted to two days of running a week, and a couple of hours at the gym. “We have to settle for running on the roads, because we can’t find many parks here, and also, there is the issue of street dogs,” adds Stephane. “But otherwise, we enjoy our stay here, like the rest — visiting Mamallapuram, Puducherry, VGP Golden Beach, The Farm, Snow Kingdom, and so on, during the weekends,” he said. What about food? “Mostly a pizza from Tuscana or the spicy food at Ponnusamy Hotel in Velachery,” they said.

Narayanan Mangalam, Kochi

In 2003, Narayanan Mangalam heard a talk by Carl F. Rehnborg, inventor of multivitamin supplements, screened at his workplace in Kochi. “He spoke about fitness and the benefits of running. I made a promise to myself then that some day, I would complete a marathon,” said the 69-year-old. He soon registered for a five-km run in Kochi, and over a decade later, participated in a half-marathon in Mumbai, a full-marathon in Kochi, and on Sunday, a full-marathon in Chennai. “I am not a professional runner; I just practise a month ahead of the marathon. Otherwise, I just do basic fitness and yoga at home,” he said, excusing himself to sit on the ground.

“I really thought I wouldn’t be able to finish the race this time. It was too hot, and I started gasping after a while. I think I lost my way for a bit too. But somehow, I made it,” he said. Narayanan is part of a running group in Kochi, called Souls of Kochi, and plans to come back next year, after getting professional training. “I am also planning to bring my wife for the next marathon. She is 55 now,” he said.

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