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Mumbai Marathon 2018

‘All it takes is the desire to run’

January 18, 2018 12:29 am | Updated 12:29 am IST - Mumbai

In 2004, at the first Mumbai Marathon, 25 cardiac patients participated in the 7-km Dream Run. Their pictures were flashed in the media, with some of them showing off the visible scars on their chests, proof of the high-risk surgeries they had undergone. Preventive cardiologist Aashish Contractor, who was working at the Asian Heart Institute then (he now heads rehabilitation and sports medicine at the Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital), is the one who had motivated them to do the run. “I was closely monitoring them during their cardiac rehabilitation process,” Dr. Contractor says. “They start with 10 minutes of brisk walking. Then go up to 20 and 30 and 40 minutes.” When people start exercising and get better at it, he says, the natural progression is to run the marathon. “I simply thought, why not prepare them to take part in the dream run?” The patients who ran were carefully chosen during their rehab. “There is no physical prerequisite for running a marathon. Anyone and everyone can race, unless an extremely severe condition forewarns. One simply needs to have a desire.” The advantage of goal-setting is that you work towards it. “So, when you aim at running the marathon, you train.”

Cardiac patients can aim for a marathon within six months to a year of their surgery, depending on factors like their lifestyles before surgery and whether the surgery was straightforward or not. “The biggest challenge in their mind is whether they can achieve it after the surgery. But then there are so many other patients who have achieved it who become the role models.”

He has guided many more heart patients to run the race in the years since, with two of them having progressed to full marathons and one has set himself the goal of running marathons on all continents. But, Dr. Contractor says, “I don’t recommend that everyone should run a marathon. I recommend that people should make exercising as a part of their daily life. 40 to 50 minutes of brisk walking-cum-running: that’s good enough from the health point of view. You do the marathons from achievement point of view.” He warns people not to commit the mistake of running just for the sake of it. “Often people don’t want to let go of participating in the race even when they are not fully trained. That should be completely avoided.”

Dr Contractor is a marathoner himself. His first was in 1999, the London Marathon. In Mumbai, his best time is 3’ 54”. “Marathons have changed my life dramatically. It gives some of the best lessons that can be applied in our daily life too, like grit, discipline, determination and dealing with setbacks. Also, I have met so many people, amputees, cancer patients, patients with neurological disorders and have heard their stories. It is an extremely rewarding experience.”

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