The endless, quiet roadways, shaded by outstretched branches of trees, have always inspired runners in insti, and a lot of people talk about how running feels good, both mentally and physically. Three years back, I would have had trouble believing it. I was diagnosed with thyroid and I still remember the first time I attempted to run. I managed to cover about 200 m, and was exhausted by the time I reached the stadium from GC! But from then, I began to run laps in the stadium, with motivation from our very own Half Ironman, Rudra ‘GPS’ Naik, and things improved with time. One day, my faculty advisor called us to his office and told us about the 2011 Marg Chennai Runners Half Marathon and 10K to be held in November at IITM. We signed up enthusiastically and managed to drag ourselves to the start line.
As they say, once you cross that finish line, you would have changed your life forever.
I started training regularly from August 2012 and continued to do so when I was in Bangalore for six months of 2013. Since then, I have completed eight 10K runs and four half marathons (21.1 km), thanks to the encouragement by my friends at Chennai Runners. The first time, I wondered whether the little training I did would suffice, but as I was running with my friend, I was very enthusiastic and positive about finishing.
Over time, I have fallen in love with running. It is a way of life for me. I enjoy my runs to the core; it’s not just a sport for me. I’ve even cracked some assignments and puzzles while running. It is a stress-buster, and every run is a learning experience. It is also my way of giving back to society by running to raise funds for NGOs that are working towards improving primary education.
I run 3-4 times a week and I aspire to be more disciplined with my training. For the past 7 months, I have been running barefoot — there’s something about feeling the ground under your feet while running. However, one has to exercise caution: while it can fix issues with one’s running form, it can also lead to injuries if one is not attentive.
How the Forest Gumps became the IITM Runners Club
The club began in 2011, while we were training for the MARG Chennai Runners Half Marathon and 10k. We were a small group that met to run on campus every Saturday from 6:15 am. The club was coordinated by Adhokshaj Bellurkar, an alumnus who was then a Dual Degree student in Mechanical Engineering. He was one among the many who discovered — or reignited — their passion for running after joining IITM. He also began a Facebook group for the running enthusiasts of IITM — aptly named ‘Forest Gumps’. Information regarding Saturday morning runs would be posted there, and he even offered wake-up calls for those who wished to join. (Gathering a group of people to run on Saturday mornings is difficult!) Many of these people started from scratch and have gone ahead to complete half and full marathons. We also had 8-9 people gathering and running during the evenings as well. All it took to regularly gather this motley group of runners three days a week was a Facebook group and some enthusiastic runners to spread word.
What I love the most during our group runs is the conversation. We chit-chat and stretch together before the run. The faster runners usually go ahead and I stick with the beginners, if any. Running in a group is fun; it gives you a chance to push your limits.
After Adhokshaj graduated in 2012, I began to coordinate the runs with Prof. Preeti Aghalayam. In August 2012, we decided to formalise these runs and the Forest Gumps became the IITM Runners Club. All through August to November 2012, we had a lot of these morning and evening training runs. We sent smails in an attempt to reach more people, and organised three campus-wide runs during this time. The first one was open to all on campus and it saw an exceptional turnout — no less than 120 people for a fun 5k run. We had post-run refreshments and gifts for all the participants. The second one was organised in coordination with Mitr, which was generous enough to give a lot of prizes, and the third was held specially for research scholars. We also attempted to get more girls into running by offering free registration for a Women’s Day run in IITM, but it was disheartening to see very few of them turn up.
For Wannabe Runners
If you are a newbie and would like to get some ‘fundaes’, here’s what I would say: just lace up and go run. Start slow. Maintain a pace at which you can have a conversation without losing your breath. Don’t over-train. If needed, you may carry a small water bottle to keep yourself hydrated. I started with the run-walk method. It was helpful to gradually build my stamina without injuries. A lot of people complain about injuries due to which they stop running. If that’s the case, I’d advise you to strengthen, get fit and gain confidence.
Most importantly, lose all inhibitions and don’t get intimidated. We have all started out as beginners. If motivation is what you are lacking, there are a lot of inspiring stories and people out there to keep you going! Sign up for a race and train for it.
Running can be that component which you feel might be missing in your life. It can push you to have those adventures you always wanted. It can bring a whole new perspective to your life. You meet new people. You hear very inspiring stories. You get awesome medals!
Insti is one of the most sought-after places to run, be it for the greenery, lack of annoying traffic or those clean roads. After running outside insti for six months during my internship, I realized this the hard way. But I am glad I made the most out of it in my final year, and I suggest you do too–there are a lot of Gumps on campus who are very enthusiastic to help you get started.
Feel free to ping me if you have any queries, and hope to run with you sometime!