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The Journey of running a Marathon

Marathoner Tarun Walecha, talks about his passion for running marathons ahead of the New Delhi Marathon 2018, to be held on Feb 25. 

If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” – Emil Zatopek

While most of my running friends would relate to the quote above, the ones who have run a marathon would know exactly what the feeling behind the quote is. My tryst with this much sought experience started in the beginning of year 2014, when I first thought of taking this giant leap… though it’s been over three years now when I first stood on the start line of erstwhile SCMM, in my mind I’m still trying to find my feet, and put my claim to be called a marathoner. Having said that,yes I have finished four full marathon so far in as many attempts, and the experience has been overwhelming to say the least….but I feel I’m yet to run a marathon in its glory.

Preparing for the Dream 

I know this could be a debatable stand, end of the day running a marathon is all about finishing it on both your feet, irrespective of finish time, as far it’s within the official cut off. And no, I’m not trying to take away anything from a 6 hour finisher vis-à-vis a sub 3 speedster – what I’m trying to talk about is the journey of dreaming to run a marathon, and then to live that dream, which would be same for most marathoners (if not all).

The first step towards realizing that dream is the 18 weeks of training schedule that one would take up, culminating at the finish line on the D day. Interestingly, this entire experience is not even about just those 18 weeks, running each of your workout and LSD run or finally running those 42.2 km. The experience is about each of the day in those weeks, every thought that passes through your mind each of those morning, each action as you begin to evaluate, each of those evenings that you choose to stay home so as not to miss the training next morning, every new friend that you make while trying to coordinate long runs and most of all, every doubt that crosses your thoughts when you stand at the start line.

Every pain and agony that you’re reminded of when you start your run, every motivational chat with a friend or your self-evolved mantra that comes to your mind which helps you leave those negative thoughts behind, everything you tell yourself when your body is screaming for you to stop and finally the exhilaration that courses through your mind and body when you step across that last timing mat. It is about all that and not mere statistics.

My journey so far

In my four years of this journey so far, starting from the day the seed to run a full marathon was sown in my mind, I have had my own set of experiences. People who would come down on the streets of Mumbai in the wee hours just to clap for strangers, or the ones who would stay on the course for hours just to offer some fruit or drinks to runners. Fellow runners who would just pat you as they pass by on seeing you slowing down or just that scorching sun beating down upon you just when you’re hitting that proverbial wall. Each of these moments has not only been etched in my mind, but it has been imbibed  into me, forever changing me.

Friends who came along and reposed their faith in me to take this leap, coaches and mentors who helped me understand and train and of course, most importantly the labyrinth of thoughts and struggles within which I had no choice but to handle myself. Having done 4 full marathons so far, while I have gathered enough stories of my own and a sizable bag of experiences – what still eludes me is the satisfaction I long for in those 42.2 kilometer, the feeling when perhaps I can proudly claim to be a marathoner.

The fifth leap

In these last four attempts of mine, I have been through struggles, elation, mind games, senses of achievement as well but ironically even experienced failure. One of my biggest take away is that at the end of each of these runs I felt like a different person. Something within me changed, a thought left behind which germinated in the times to come and became a part of my natural thinking process. Perhaps, this is what the experience of marathon running is all about.

In a weeks’ time from now, when I plan to take this leap for the fifth time at the IDBI Federal New Delhi Marathon, I know all my thoughts will come rushing back and each moment would just flash in front of my eyes, my fears, my courage and apprehensions would all dawn upon me at the same time. I still don’t know if I will come out on the top , but I do know this experience will once again enrich me and make a better person to take me further on this journey.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An architect by profession, Tarun Walecha enjoys amateur photography, travelling and is a sports enthusiast. He has been a sportsperson all his life and discovered running at the age of 40 and has since become his fitness mantra. In his 7 year running career he has completed 30 Half Marathons, 4 Full Marathon, and 5 Trail/Ultra Runs. He is also a Pinkathon ambassador and has founded the running group, RunXtreme.

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Meet a young runner – Samir Zafar

Running is fever that can catch you young, Nandini Reddy caught up with 6 year old Samir Zafar who completed a 5km race. 

Samir Zafar, was one of the youngest runners at the recently concluded Madurai Marathon. For a 6 year old to take on such an arduous task of completing 5kms is indeed commendable. Talking to Samir was a pleasure because to him the run was something fun and he truly didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. A child whose days are filled with school, skating and cricket, Samir ventured into this new fitness event with equal enthusiasm and curiosity.

When asked what had inspired him to run the marathon, he said, “I just wanted to run.” It was as simple a motivation as that. Most adults run for a purpose – goal timings, fitness and even challenges. But Samir decided that he just wanted to run because it seemed like something he should try.

Watching your parents is what really gets one into fitness. Samir’s parents are both enthusiasts who ran the Madurai Marathon this year and this inspiration got him on board as well. Marathon usually requires training. Most of us employ virtual coaches, carry energy drinks and even train for months ahead. When asked if Samir underwent any sort of training or practice runs, he seemed puzzled and said, “No. But I do go to the park all the time with daddy.” It seemed rather matter-of-fact that being an active child he didn’t seem to understand the purpose of training. His physical activities on a daily basis helped carry him through the course.

The 5km race may be the easiest one to attempt as an adult but for a 6 year old with yet to develop muscles, it can be a formidable task. Samir did agree that it was a bit difficult to complete the course but he was so glad that he finished it. It was the first time he ran with such a big group of people and felt rather important to be participating alongside adults. “It felt very nice to run with such a big group of people,” quipped Samir with a broad smile.

Samir is all set to run his second 5km and in the future he might even make it to the 10km category with ease. But until then little runners like him continue to inspire us all to be fit and have fun while doing it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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Kilometre cubed

Juggling two of the toughest mental and physical challenges, Ranjith Vijayan has demonstrated the power of the human will. Capt Seshadri shares his fascinating story. 

A few years ago, before mobiles took over the gaming world, one could spot young and old alike, in any place at any time, twirling their hands around a six coloured cube, the brainchild of Hungarian professor and inventor Erno Rubik. Competitions galore have been held to see who could solve it fastest, who could break the puzzle blindfolded and many such innovative variations to make the solving tougher and more interesting.

But a probably lesser known fact is that there is a Guinness record featuring who can solve the Rubik cube the maximum number of times while running a marathon. While the elite runners of the world complete the gruelling 42.2 km in just over 2 hours, amateur runners place themselves in various pace categories, with some of the elder participants completing in up to 6 hours. And as if the mere running and completion weren’t effort enough by themselves, the Rubik cube solving marathoner has to complete the race in under 5 hours. And all the while, she or he has to be constantly solving the puzzle as quickly as possible.

The official world record holder for this unique feat is held by New Zealander Blair Williamson, who accurately turned the colours 254 times. Now, an athlete from another continent, our own Asia and quite close to home, is making valiant attempts to break this record. Ranjith, a runner from Singapore, could be spotted during the Tata Mumbai Marathon this January 21, with a Rubik cube in hand and a mini camera strapped to his chest to record his feat. His professorial look, augmented by a beard, probably disguised his athletic prowess; but his goal was clear: break the record.

Ranjith came to the finish line well within the stipulated five hours. In his estimation, he solved the puzzle 262 times, a feat which he reiterates he has achieved during practice runs. However, the world has to wait for the Guinness officials to read the images from his camera and count the number of times he solved the cube.

Whether he actually broke the record, time and the record books will inform us. But the fact will remain that he was the only runner in the Mumbai Marathon who attempted this feat. Of the 45,000 runners, few would know this fact; of the thousands of spectators who lined the streets to cheer the participants, even fewer might have noticed his hands constantly twisting the little cube.

While the athletes who won the events received well deserved accolades and publicity for their stupendous effort, the little known Ranjith deserves recognition for what he set to achieve. When there is no one to compete against, that is when the true spirit of the sportsman comes to the fore, to set personal objectives and to breach borders.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Standing tall – from a wheelchair

Capt Seshadri tells us the extraordinary story of Para-Olympian Deepa Malik who brought home the silver medal from Rio, in 2016.

This is a saga of unbelievable courage and the will to win against all odds. Set in the backdrop of the Kargil war, when a brave army Colonel was fighting for his country, back home, his wife was fighting for her life.

This is the true story of a woman with indomitable spirit, who simply refused to give up.  Army daughter, army wife and mother of two, Deepa Malik was diagnosed with a tumour in the spinal cord that required 3 major surgeries and 183 stitches between her shoulders. Paralyzed from below the waist, she was destined to be consigned to a wheelchair for life. Her elder daughter was in need of special care with a motor disability called hemiplegia. But nothing could daunt this extraordinary woman who simply refused to look helplessly upon life as a paraplegic. While most able bodied sports persons would be content with success in a single sport, Deepa began a multi-faceted sports career at 36, an age when most sportspeople retire.  Over the next few years, she became a champion biker, swimmer, rally driver and athlete, creating and breaking records in every sport that she attempted.

The Unstoppable Spirit 

Her old passion for biking was rekindled and, with a ‘quad’ bike modified to her specifications, she enrolled with the Himalayan Motorsports Association and the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India. Over an 8 day period, in rarefied atmosphere and sub zero temperatures, at an altitude of 18,000 feet, she rode her bike through 1,700 km, the first woman to undertake such an arduous journey. In 2013, Deepa biked 3,278 km from Chennai to Delhi, the longest ever drive by a paraplegic woman.

Discovering that her shoulders needed strengthening to help with her biking, she took to swimming, little realizing what she was about to achieve. In her S1 category, she holds national records in 3 styles – freestyle, breast and back stroke. Breaking away from the limitation of a swimming pool, she plunged into the Yamuna river and swam against the current for a distance of 1 km.

Her competitive spirit soon turned to a new area. For 19 months, Deepa relentlessly fought for a licence for an invalid person’s modified rally vehicle and followed it up with an FMSCI rallying licence for competitive driving, both firsts for any physically challenged person. Her grit and determination saw her complete two of the toughest rallies in the world – the Raid de Himalaya in 2009 and the Desert Storm in 2010.

The Big Win

In 2016, at age 46, Deepa won a silver in the Paralympics in the shot put, becoming the first Indian woman to win a medal in these Games. Currently, she holds national records in the F53 category in the shot put, discus and javelin throws and the Asian record in the javelin. Between 2010 and 2012, Deepa was ranked first in Asia in all the three throws; at the world level, she ranked second in the shot put and third in the javelin and discus throws.

Overall, Deepa Malik has won 58 national and 18 international medals in various disciplines. Not one to rest on her laurels, she also actively works to highlight the needs of other paraplegic sportspersons to the authorities, with great success. For her achievements in swimming, she won the Arjuna Award in 2012. Her untiring work in contributing to sport and her fighting spirit against pain and disability to make a mark on the world stage, won her the prestigious Padma Shri award in 2017.

Deepa had this to say on winning her 2016 Paralympics silver: “I hope my journey and the medal can serve as an inspiration for differently-abled individuals to break out from their social boundaries and pursue their dreams.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Sea Link, Road Run

The just concluded 15th edition of the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2018, a review by Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan. 

The pre-event

A mildly warm and humid Amchi Mumbai greeted us as we landed in the city for the 15th edition of the Mumbai Marathon, this year, the Tata Sons sponsored Tata Mumbai Marathon, or the TMM. Late morning of the eve of the run, our entry into the pre-event expo at the Bandra Kurla Centre was met with a massive crowd, many of them sporting T shirts with the slogan ‘I Move Mumbai’.

And Mumbai moved that morning, but rather slowly. A sea of humanity that would have put the holiday crowd at Chowpatty to shame, crammed into the narrow corridors between the seemingly unending rows of stalls, displaying and marketing literally everything from running gear and protein supplements, which one would rather expect, to insurance and customized software. Every stall was packed with eager runners and their families, the experienced ones networking and hobnobbing and the first timers eagerly seeking information and advice and investing in what was being propagated as the ideal running apparel and accessories. And as the marathoners of the next day collected their bibs and goody bags, they were treated to fun and games at the adjacent food court, serving delicious, freshly conjured up varieties of pasta.

And moving in the midst of all this was a figure who strode tall, who stood out with an unmistakable aura of greatness, the brand ambassador of TMM 2018, world champion pole vaulting legend Sergey Bubka.

The event

From as early as 4.00 in the morning, the suburban trains were packed with runners, mostly in groups, chattering away animatedly amidst much grinning and back slapping. The spirit of Mumbai was very much in evidence as those inside made space and welcomed the entrants at every station, till the trains pulled into the common destination of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. The Azad Maidan, which was the marshalling point for the event, had anything but an ‘azadi’ look about it as the crowds swelled in number every minute, selecting their respective entry points for the four events: the full and half marathons and the newly introduced 10k charity run and the senior citizen 6 km dream run.

The gates opened to much cheering and charged up adrenaline as the athletes assembled in their ‘buses’ with pacers sporting banners displaying the timing in which the group in the ‘bus’ hoped to complete the marathon, right between 2:45 and 6:00 hour durations. The Mumbaikers were everywhere. All along the route, from as early as 6.00 am, spectators in as varying age groups as a sprightly 75 to an excited 4 years lined up to cheer the participants. It did not matter that they knew them or not; every participant was encouraged with unflagging enthusiasm.

There were runners from all over the country and from abroad. The ‘elite’ runners, or the professionals in both the men’s and women’s categories, who were competing for medals and honours, were led as has become the norm, by the Ethiopians and Kenyans, with the top Indian runners hot on their heels. 45,000 runners in the four categories were backed all along the route with water, electrolytes and refreshments, with medical teams and ambulances on stand-by at designated points to cater to any emergency.

With the advent of dawn, the athletes were presented a panoramic view as they crossed the sea link, with the blue of the sky and the azure ocean melting in the distance. But as the early morning mist cleared and the warm sun rose in the skies, the increasing temperature and humidity began making it tougher for the runners, especially in the latter part of the race. Nothing deterred them however, as they literally put heart and soul into their legs all the way to the finish where they were received with thunderous applause from the spectators and fellow athletes alike. Fatigue and pain were forgotten for the moment as they sprinted across the finish line to receive their well-earned medals and refreshments. Celebrations were certainly on the cards as the finishers thronged the nearby pubs to quench their thirst with that most popular chilled beverage called beer!

Promises filled the air… promises to return the next year and once more be a part of this wonderful event called the Mumbai Marathon, a heady but healthy drug, an addiction and a magnet that will never stop attracting participants again and again and again.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Don’t stop till you touch the sky

Sergey Bubka, athlete supreme, the man who was never limited by the heights that he literally achieved, is in India, as the brand ambassador for the Tata Mumbai Marathon on January 21, 2018. A profile of the prolific man by Capt Seshadri.

Picture in your mind, for just a moment, a man jumping from the ground to the roof of a two storeyed building. Now, this is no Superman or comic book hero performing a stunt, but a living, breathing individual who vaulted his way to fame, clearing 6.15 metres or, 20 feet 14 inches. A world champion pole vaulter for 21 years, the first man to breach the 6.0 metre barrier, while breaking the men’s record 35 times and bettering his own, untouched record 14 times, thus making his name synonymous with the pole vault.

Sergey Nazarovich Bubka, born on December 4, 1963, in Ukraine, part of the erstwhile Soviet Union, began his career in athletics with the 100 metres sprint and the long jump. He started competing on the international athletics scene in 1981 as a pole vaulter at the European Junior Championship, where he finished a moderate seventh. His leap to fame however, took an upward turn in 1983, with his world championship gold at Helsinki, clearing 5.70 metres (18 feet 8 inches). During the next couple of decades, he became simply unbeatable.

If the cliché ‘raising the bar’ were to be epitomised, he would be the lone author. His maiden world record of 5.85 metres, was set on May 26, 1984, a date coinciding with the conquest of Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hilary, precisely 31 years earlier. After them, on earth, there were no more frontiers to conquer; for Bubka though, his achievement was but a small beginning. Just over a year later, on July 13, 1985, he cleared 6.00 metres (19 feet 8 inches), a feat that had been considered impossible by any human. Not one to rest on his pole, he went on, over the next ten years, to consistently break his records time and again, pushing himself on his own, despite the fact that there were no opponents to challenge him.

In the days before Perestroika, Soviet athletes who set world records were rewarded with bonus payments, every time they set a new record. Bubka made a name for collecting these bonuses at every meet, by beating his own record, many a time by as slim a margin as one centimetre! This constant improvement made him a star attraction and an object of much speculation at athletic meets.

The gap was too wide, too high, for the rest of the world. Until January 2014, no other pole vaulter on earth had jumped beyond 6.07 metres; Bubka, however, had cleared 6.10 metres as early as in 1991, in San Sebastian, Spain, such was his dominance over the event. On July 31, 1994, at age 31, when most athletes would have faded out, or when the world would have consigned them to retirement, Sergey Bubka reached his best ever leap of 6.14 metres (20 feet 1 ¾ inches), which still stands as the highest ever outdoor pole vault. He was not to be outdone indoors either. On February 21, 1993, at Donetsk, Ukraine, close to the town of his birth, he set the indoor world record of 6.15 metres, which stood firm for a couple of decades, till Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie cleared 6.16 metres. Ironically, this was at the same meet, at the same venue, in the same month, but 21 years later.

For an athlete of his calibre and achievements, the Olympics were a severe disappointment, his only gold coming in Seoul 1988, where he cleared 5.90 metres, far below his usual standard. It was probably a matter of pride for this great star that he retired from the pole vault in 2001, during a ceremony at his Pole Vault Stars meet in Donetsk, the very place where he established his world record.

Bubka’s secret to success could probably be attributed to a few key factors. For one, he possessed enormous strength and speed, combined with the agility of a gymnast. He would also grasp the pole at the extreme height to gain extra leverage. His style is referred to as the Petrov / Bubka technique, in which the vaulter concentrates on putting maximum energy into the bar on the upward move. This, combined with high running speed, allows the vaulter to benefit most from the recoil of the pole, thereby increasing energy into the swing.

This sporting genius was twice named Athlete of the Year by Track & Field News and is one of 24 athletes inducted as inaugural members of the IAAF Hall of Fame. Now well into his retirement, Sergey Bubka is the Senior Vice President of the IAAF and President of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine. He is also an Honorary Member of the International Olympic Committee.

A little point of interest: Like many siblings who do not take after their parents, Sergei Jr is a professional tennis player.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Importance of pre-race meal

Raghul Trekker gives you nutritional advice before the most celebrated marathon in India, the Tata Mumbai Marathon.

If you are a marathoner and if you live in India, you wouldn’t want to miss the Tata Mumbai Marathon. It is the most celebrated marathon considering the huge local support from the Government, Police, general public, etc. Also, you get to see some lightening elite runners (probably overtaking you at some point of your run). Many runners peak their training towards this race and target their personal best at this grand stage. The environment makes it possible too.

If it is your target race, you definitely need a proper strategy on your pre-race meal for which, we have to look into some calorie calculation. In general, the calorie expended by a person while running can be approximately measured using body weight and distance run. For sample calculation, I am considering a 65 kg runner

Body weight * distance run ≈ energy expended in calorie

65 kg * 42 km ≈ 2730 calorie

Almost everyone concentrates on their race week carb loading but surprisingly forgets their pre-race meal. It is more important than your race week nutrition. This amount of calorie, on an empty stomach, would all be supplied from the energy reserve which is usually somewhere near 2000 calorie which will be expended when you run a little over 30 km. Does it ring any bell? Yes, I am talking about the wall of a marathon. This is why people bonk between 30 & 35 km mark.

A pre-race meal of 500 calorie is a good way to start a race day with this being 90 min before the race start if it is solid food or 15-30 min before race start if it is liquid food.

Now that we have understood some numbers related to how much is expended and how much is to be consumed, it is time to understand the breakage of consumption in terms of fat and carbs. For a marathon, we can expect finish times of 120 min to 360 min range. With this we can recommend the following (the below calculations are based on heart rate zones)

  1. Fast runners 120-150 min: a high carb pre-race meal with a shot of caffeine. The carbs being a mixture of high GI and low GI.
  2. Intermediate runners 150-200 min: a high carb pre-race meal & little bit of fat. The carbs being low GI.
  • Slow runners 200 min or above: a carb & fat mixed pre-race meal. The carbs being low GI.

Fast runners 120-150 min

Cereals with almond milk, grapes, banana, white bread with jam and other high GI foods. The high GI carbs will provide fast release of energy. A shot of caffeine from coffee, caffeinated salt capsules, caffeinated energy drinks, etc.

Intermediate runners 150-200 min

Fruits like apple, pears, oranges, yoghurt, grainy bread and other low GI foods in combination with cereals, grapes, banana and other high GI foods. The low GI carbs will provide slow release of energy for a prolonged period.

Slow runners 200 min & above

Grainy bread with peanut butter, cheese, avocado, nuts like almonds, pistachio, cashew, groundnuts with almond milk, millets and other fat & carb mixed meal. The fat will supply energy for the slow runners because they will use more of fat while running at low HR zones than the faster runners. So, this fact cannot be overlooked.

Consider the above points and put yourself into one of the categories to suit an apt pre-race meal for your upcoming marathon. Since the race starts at 0540 hrs, I would consume a semi solid pre-race meal at around 0445 hrs after a long 8 hour sleep.

With a little bit of smartness, you can do a lot better

All the best for your PB.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Raghul Trekker is the Head Coach at Tri Crash ‘n’ Burn (a unit of Dhaamz Sports & Entertainment Pvt Ltd). A 4-time Ironman coaching more than 100 athletes for the last 3 years. Tri Crash ‘n’ Burn is a team of more than 60 triathletes and runners constantly pushing the limits to better their personal best. You can check out more about them at tricrashnburn.com

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Beat Depression with Running

Can running really make a difference in those who live with the Black Dog? Radhika Meganathan talks to consulting psychiatrist, Dr Shiva Prakash, an avid runner and one of the winners in ‘Couples’ Best Timing’ category at the recently concluded TWCM. 

Depression is no longer a strange word, and from what recent studies reveal, it’s not even an adult condition anymore.  World Health Organization (WHO) states that 350 million adults and a rising number of teens in the world suffer from depression. If this almost-epidemic disorder is so widespread, is it possible for a simple sport like running to combat it?

The answer is yes. Exercise has long been recommended as a supplementary treatment for depression and anxiety and addictions.

Anusha*, a 32 year old interior designer from Chennai, cites running as a godsend last year. “I was reeling from my husband’s infidelity and my divorce proceedings were extremely ugly. It was a traumatic period,” she says candidly. “I became withdrawn, isolated and prone to severe mood swings. My best friend begged me to be her running buddy, and I reluctantly agreed. To my surprise, I loved it… the training, the high, the goals, and especially meeting other marathoners in the gym that we work out. Running essentially brought me out of the shell I had built around myself.”

A disturbing statistic is that more women are affected by depression than men and it’s not surprising Anusha found running to be her savior from depression. Certain studies have concluded that “running is just as effective as psychotherapy in alleviating symptoms of depression.” We asked Dr Shiva Prakash, Chennai-based consultant psychiatrist and member of Schizophrenia Research Foundation (India), and he confirmed the results.

“Depression is not a visible or a socially accepted disorder, so the sufferer becomes isolated in act and thought, convinced that nobody believes or understands their agony. This brings down motivation, so they end up inactive and stagnant, which even more worsens their mental and physical health,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Finisher. “So when they take up an aerobic exercise like running, it causes positive neuro-chemical changes, including runner’s high that sends an immediate burst of endorphin’s, in their system, and they feel a sense of accomplishment and pleasure that ultimately helps them get out of the vicious cycle of depression.”

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK), exercise works to alleviate depression by:

  • Influencing certain chemicals in the brain, like dopamine and serotonin which are used by brain cells to communicate with each other, affecting your mood and thought
  • Stimulating brain derived neurotrophic factors, which are fundamental in new brain cell growth and development.

When you think about it, running does exactly that, lifts you from your depressive mood. It forces you to get out of a rut (or away from a depressive situation), to move your body, to meet other people if needed, and ultimately, to achieve a target. No matter how small that target is, once you achieve it, you are filled with satisfaction and sense of self-worth. “A mere 30 to 45 minutes of running every day can be a real mood booster,” affirms Dr Shiva Prakash.

Identifying depression

Officially termed as a mental disorder, depression is the world’s leading cause of disability. It is certainly treatable, but mere sport or exercise cannot be the cure. Feeling lackluster, worthless, suicidal, isolated, low self esteem, excessive sleeping, excessive eating – If you feel you have been exhibiting these symptoms of depression for a long time, it is best to consult a medical professional immediately.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

A published author and an avid rambler, Radhika Meganathan is a recent keto convert who may or may not be having a complicated relationship with bacon and butter.

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The high jumper who never looked down

 

This is a story of extreme determination and courage is what defines Mariyappan Thangavelu’s story. Capt Seshadri explores his extraordinary journey.

A chronicle of the extraordinary achievements of an ordinary boy, one of six children, hailing from a little village in Salem District of Tamil Nadu, undaunted by disability, pain and the odds that were stacked against him.

When Life Changed

A little boy, five years of age, while on the way to school, was hit by a drunk truck driver. The huge wheels ran over his little leg, crushing the bones below the knee and making it virtually unusable. This was a child whose labourer father had abandoned the family, which was now dependent for a livelihood on their mother, who earned a paltry 100 rupees a day carrying bricks at construction sites. Fifteen years later, the same young lad who had never considered himself different from anyone else, had completed not just his schooling, but had also graduated in Business Administration.

While in school, he excelled in volleyball; however, his physical instructor, spotting a special ability in him, encouraged him to take to high jumping. Such was his motivation and confidence, that at age 16, he placed second in a high jump competition among a host of able bodied competitors.

The High Jumper 

In 2013, Mariyappan Thangavelu, the young high jumper, was spotted by Mr Satyanarayana, a coach with the Sports  Academy of India for the differently abled who, a couple of years later, took him under his wing and moved him to Bengaluru, for specialised and intensive training. The move proved extremely fruitful. The journey to fame was from Tamil Nadu to Tunisia for the IPC Grand Prix, where he cleared a height of 1.78 metres ( 5 ft 10 in) in the men’s high jump T 42 event, qualifying him for the Rio Paralympics. The young man was apparently not satisfied with this performance. In Rio in 2016, he raised the bar to clear 1.89 metres (6 ft 2 in) to win gold, a feat that had not been achieved since 2004. ‘Master Blaster’ Sachin Tendulkar was so impressed by his performance that he set up a sports fund for his benefit.

Today, Mariyappan remains simple, humble and committed to his roots. Part of his prize money funded a paddy field and a better home for his mother. In his mind he still remains a village boy, seeking the continued affection of his old friends and shunning the formality that comes from such success.

Born: 28 June 1995 in Periavadagampatti village, Salem District, Tamil Nadu.

Achievement: Paralympic Gold – 2016, Padma Shri and Arjuna Awards – 2017.

Headlines: Plans by Aishwarya Dhanush to make a movie on his life.

Aspiration: to complete an MBA soon.

This is the inspiring and exemplary story of Mariyappan Thangavelu. For him, the bar is never too high.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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