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Ajoy Chawla Tata employee

For The Love Of Running

Ajoy Chawla, Alka Upadhyay, Nithesh Kanchan and Shilpa MS — working in different companies but part of the One Tata family — have another thing in common — a passion for running

March 2018     |     1973 words     |     7-minute read

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The Tata Mumbai Marathon, which has grown in prestige and number of marathoners since it began in 2004, saw the participation of over 44,000 athletes in the 2018 edition of the event. Among them were four Tata employees — Ajoy Chawla, Alka Upadhyay, Nithesh Kanchan and Shilpa MS — brought together by their love for running.

The four started running at different ages and different places, but all swear by the virtues of running and its benefits. Driven by their fervent belief in the aphorism that ‘one run can change your day, many runs can change your life’, the four continue to brave inclement weather and personal challenges to keep their tryst with running.

'Running is my me time': Ajoy Chawla

While I enjoyed jogging and running since my school days, it was only in 2014 that it became my passion. I had taken a sabbatical which allowed me to spend close to an hour daily at Lal Bagh, the popular tourist attraction in Bengaluru. What started off as bouts of brisk walking soon transformed into jogging sprints. I started with 2-km runs, then graduated to 3-km and soon was doing 5-km runs.

A chance meeting with a friend inspired me to do my first 10-km run. I participated in the TCS 2015 World 10k run at Bengaluru and it took me an hour and 17 minutes. More than the pleasure of completing the run, it gave me a booster dose of self-confidence. I realised I could do it.

I have participated in three half-marathons and a couple of 10k runs. After my first half-marathon — the Shriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon in October 2016, which I completed in 2 hours and 40 minutes — I felt a great sense of accomplishment as I had participated in the event despite suffering a knee injury.

The next half-marathon happened in February 2017 at Auroville, which I managed in 2 hours and 36 minutes. The event put me to severe test as the heat and humidity was oppressive. However, I felt good after the event as I succeeded in bettering my timing.

A memory I cherish is the 2017 edition of Bengaluru half-marathon in which my wife and 13-year-old son also ran for a 5km stretch. It became a family outing.

My favourite place to run is Lal Bagh. The beach is another favourite place, especially at sunrise or sunset. The salty spray of waves, gentle breeze, the wet sand under my bare feet and the sun forming the perfect background — I could ask for nothing more. Whether it is a short holiday break or a work-related offsite in Goa or Kerala, I always look out for opportunities to run on the beach.

I run because I enjoy that time with myself. It also helps me to keep fit and my overall health in good shape. Running has made me push myself continuously. It has taught me perseverance and made me more determined and resilient. The day I do a long run, I feel content and lighter, and the weekends when I miss it, I feel like I have wasted the day.

I would encourage more and more people to start running. It requires no club membership or complex gear, just your shoes and some good old grit to push yourself out of bed. What you get in response is delightful doses of serotonin and dopamine that keep you brain-fit.

Alka Upadhyay has run eight half-marathons so far

'Helped me make new friends': Alka Upadhyay

I was always into fitness activities, be it yoga, swimming or freestyle dancing. My husband and I used to practice Bharat Thakur’s Power Yoga which is a combination of cardio-vascular exercises, stretching and breathing techniques. Being a yoga practitioner helped when my husband and I decided to take up long-distance running.

It was in October 2014 that we started long-distance running on the persuasion of close friends. I train with ex-national marathon champion Savio D'Souza. I believe novice runners should start under the guidance of a trained person. The risks or chances of injuring yourself, if you start without guidance, are high and could have serious health repercussions. I would recommend that a beginner take up long-distance running under the tutelage of a coach who can provide guidance about right running form, gears, cross-strengthening exercises and nutrition. I definitely benefited immensely from my coach Savio.

We run regularly throughout the year. Our training regimen includes running thrice a week — Tuesdays are for short runs, Thursdays for speed runs and Saturdays for long-distance runs. As I am into half-marathons, my long runs entail stretches of 15-18kms.

I have run eight half-marathons so far. I participated in the Goa half-marathon — my first half-marathon — two months after I started running, which, in hindsight, is insane.

Unlike the Tata Mumbai Marathon, the Goa event required runners to cover a lot of undulating terrain. In addition, the humidity levels were high on the day. I was not adequately trained and it resulted in me hitting the proverbial wall after 16kms. My friends egged me on and motivated me to complete the marathon. They nearly doubled up as my pacers in the last 5kms without being worried about their timing. Hence, my first half marathon will be my fondest memory on account of both the magnanimous support from my running buddies and the satisfaction of completing a difficult run.

It’s one of the best and perhaps the cheapest ways to burn calories and attain fitness. It helps me to ‘de-clutter’ my mind and is a ‘mood-enhancer’ activity. When it comes to long-distance running, your mental toughness is as important as physical fitness. Hence, I believe I have become more tenacious and don’t give up easily when faced with a challenge. I am extremely result-oriented.

Thanks to running, I have been able to meet and make friends with an eclectic bunch of people from diverse backgrounds. In addition to running, the Savio Star group also congregates to raise funds and services especially for the disadvantaged and marginalised groups. Running has helped me appreciate the importance of even small things.

'Feel a sense of achievement': Nithesh Kanchan

I had no intention of taking up running and it all happened by chance. I used to accompany a friend who was preparing for the 2015 edition of the Mumbai Marathon; sometimes I used to run along with him or ride a bicycle. What started off as a display of camaraderie soon became a shared passion and I have been infected by the running bug ever since.

Nithesh Kanchan loves the sense of accomplishment from running

I ran my first half-marathon in 2015 at Vasai-Virar, on the outskirts of Mumbai. It was an exhilarating experience. My first attempt started off well and I was enjoying the run but after 17km my knees started to pain. I managed to somehow complete the race with a timing of 2 hours and 25 minutes.

It will always remain etched in my memory. I had to endure pain, however, it vanished as soon as I touched the finishing line. I saw senior citizens including a 60+ woman running along with me and all such sights motivated me to finish the race.

The incident taught me a big lesson: to never give up and to always keep going. Marathon is all about the mind. You have to keep motivating your mind to keep pushing the envelope and give it the confidence that you can do it.

My attempt to register for the 2015 Mumbai Marathon ended in a fiasco. I was unaware you needed a valid certificate to enroll for the marathon. It was then that I thought of running other marathons. 

I ran my first Mumbai Marathon in 2017. It was a dream come true and I didn’t feel any fatigue or pain. The crowd that had lined both sides of the marathon route provided enthusiastic support and that proved to be a big boost for a first-timer like me.

I have participated in several marathons like the Vasai-Virar Mayor Marathon 2015, IDBI Mumbai Marathon 2016, Satara Ultra Marathon 2016, Navy Marathon 2016 and the Navy Marathon 2017.

I like to feel the morning breeze while running especially at the seafront. The fresh air and the rush of adrenaline leaves your body and mind elated. It goes without saying that running has improved my physical fitness too. More than fitness, what I like best about running is the fact that it instills in me a sense of achievement. It is also one of the best stress busters.

The consistent and continuous drive to excel and push the boundaries have made me more self-confident. It has overhauled my life completely as my attitude towards life in general has changed.

'My life has been changed': Shilpa MS

I come from a traditional family, which placed a lot of emphasis on studies. My parents believed that education was the only way to succeed in life. The prevailing atmosphere in my family was non-conducive to the pursuit of sports or any other activity.

Running helps Shilpa MS connect better with herself

I accompanied my best friend to a table tennis (TT) practice session once and fell in love with the game. My passion grew in leaps and bounds and I soon achieved some degree of mastery over it. I even managed to win several championships and the game gradually became a way of life for me.

However, it was to end soon. School, college and finally the pressures of corporate life brought an end to my TT aspirations. The thrill of holding the racquet and taking on challenging opponents are memories which I cherish even today.

I always believed marathon running was an elitist sport which only a chosen few could pursue. I must say I have never been so wrong in life. When I took up running, I started training for a 5km stretch initially. I participated in the Mumbai Marathon for the first time in 2012 and ran the 7km Dream Run. I completed my first 10-km race in 2012 and even received a medal. It was an out-of-the-world experience for me.

Though I ran a couple of other 10-km events, I soon gave it up as I was of the view that marathons were never meant for me. It took me another three years to don my running shoes and hit the ground. In the meantime, all the unused calories had accumulated and I was forced to think of changing my wardrobe (can’t be more depressing for a woman).

I registered myself for a 10km race in December 2015 and started training for it. Some of my colleagues in my previous company had made spectacular achievements in running and I sought their help to train and to improve my fitness. I can’t thank them enough for their patience and love as I would constantly seek their guidance and pester them with queries. Their tips proved very effective.

Running became a passion for me and there has been no looking back ever since. I have participated in six 10-km timed runs and three timed half-marathons, including the Mumbai Marathon, the Colors Pinkathon Mumbai (10km, 2017), WNC Navy Half Marathon 2017 and New Delhi Half Marathon 2016.

I have realised that while running, I connect with myself better. Running gives me the ‘me time’ to engage with myself which otherwise isn’t really possible. The pain and hard work that I invest to train myself gives me pleasure and a sense of euphoria.

I know of a lot of people who run for fame, peer pressure, social status etc. We need to have a clear purpose for running. My purpose is sheer joy. Running has also changed the way I look at things in life and also the way I react to people. I can confidently say that I am lot more composed now.

—Samod Sarngan

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