Society

A reason to run

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At the Wipro Chennai Marathon 2014, the authour talks to some of the runners for whom participating in this event was more than just about reaching the finish line

Running sets you free, they say. What it doesn’t free up are the roads. Shank’s mare takes up less space than the average car or bus but over 14,000 pairs of legs pounding the pavement is a lot. And that doesn’t include the innumerable volunteers, policemen, cheer-leaders and spectators.  

The finish line of the Wipro Chennai Marathon 2014, powered by The Hindu, located just before the Central Polytechnic College grounds in Taramani, is a sea of neon. The runners have begun to trickle in, heralded by drum-beats and cheers — sweaty, tired, hungry, yet strangely exhilarated. It almost feels like they are all part of some secret cult, bound together by tacit understanding and passion. As most serious runners will tell you, running is far more than the physical — it is cathartic, it is catalytic, it is meditative, it is healing and, over time, becomes indispensible.

Sayuri Dalvi, who was placed second in the Women’s Full Marathon, agrees, “A turbulent marriage and my son being diagnosed with autism made me turn to food as comfort and I was 20 kilos overweight when I started running,” says this 33-year-old single mother.

Sayuri, whose life revolves around her son, says that running changed her completely, “I would drop my son at his classes and then run in a loop outside. It has helped me so much.  I have calmed down a lot — I used to be a ball of fire and now I am a slab of ice. I don’t get worked up the way I used to and I am so much more patient,” she says.

Indresh Dhiraj, who won the Women’s Full Marathon, and has completed over 100 marathons of which she has won 30, was brought up in a home for disadvantaged children. “Different people love different things. I like to run,” says the 35-year-old, cuddling a toddler who, she says, is her adopted daughter. Indresh, who trains young runners at the Dhiraj Ashram, Greater Noida, holds out the little girl and says with a smile, “She is going to run too.”

Some people run away from pain and suffering. But there are others, who run to raise awareness about it. Arun Kumar, who has hereditary chronic nephropathy and recently underwent a kidney transplant, says, “Mine is a hereditary condition and I have struggled with it all through high school. I have been on steroids for a long time and my bones are brittle so my physician told me I should get some physical activity. I started walking every day in the evening,” he says.

Then the Dawn to Dusk Marathon was announced in the city — an awareness run for liver wellness that stressed on the need to donate organs. “It touched a chord within me and I realised I wanted to run for it. I wanted to run for a cause close to my heart in the hope that it reaches more people,” he says.

Running made him feel better and he kept running. “This run was very hard,” he admits, candidly. “I couldn’t even stop for a water break as I have to be so careful about what I eat and drink. But I wanted to do this. When I go to the doctor, I see children as young as four and five having this condition and it is heart-breaking. I really want to bring in a lot of awareness,” he says. “People don’t understand why I get up at four in the morning and run,” says Sayuri. “I’ve stopped trying to explain myself. I need to run — it helps me get through life and that’s all there is to it.”

Writer Haruki Murakami, a runner himself, must agree. “People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life.”

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 1:31:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/a-reason-to-run/article6672838.ece

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