Deepthi Velkur catches up with senior runner, Rajendra Kumar from Bengaluru on how he fell in love with running.
Running is not a sport reserved only for the young and elite but rather an all-inclusive lifetime sport that challenges you from the moment you start and all you have to do to get started is have the will to put one foot in front of the other for miles.
The growing phenomenon of senior citizens taking to running is evidence enough that it’s never too late to start running and talking to them you will see that they have all good things to say about how they’ve improved their physical and mental health.
One such gentleman I spoke to is Y.S. Rajendra Kumar, a retired Assistant General Manager who was with State Bank of India for nearly four decades. An inspiring individual to youngsters and old people alike, he took to running at the age of 74 years in the year 2014. I was curious to know from him, how running became a passion at the age of 74. These are the excerpts of our conversation.
What motivated you to take up running at an age where most people put their legs up and relax?
Prior to me taking up running, I have always kept myself physically active over the years by doing yoga as well as taking long daily walks with my wife to the temple. In one of my discussions at home, my son suggested that I take up running and join his club “Jayanagar Jaguars”. The thought appealed to me; I started in 2014 and here I am 4 years later still enjoying every run.
Can you tell us from your experience what kind of changes running has brought into your life?
Before I took to running, the winter season was quite challenging for me. I used to suffer from a cold and chest congestion but that has now completely vanished since I started running. The bigger impact that running has brought to me is a more pleasant psychological change and cheerful attitude that I can attribute to my experience in running alongside the youngsters in the group.
To encourage more senior citizens to run, how should they start their process?
I would think that there are 2 primary steps that need to be in place:
- Following a structured training program and
- The able guidance of a coach providing them with the required direction to follow the training program.
There is a growing number of senior people who are running marathons around the world. What is your take on this growing phenomenon?
With the amount of information available online and the increased awareness among seniors on the benefits of running, this phenomenon does not surprise me. I welcome it and think that we as a society should be more open and encouraging to senior people taking to running.
In terms of your runs so far, how many 10k’s and half marathons have you completed?
Since my first competitive run in December 2014, I have completed ten 10K runs and six half-marathons until now. I am also proud of the fact that I have been able to achieve a podium finish in 2 of the runs –Ajmera Thump 10K (3rd place) with a timing of 1:13:47 in December, 2014 and TCS World10K (3rd place) with a timing of 1:05:58 in May, 2017. Some of other running courses I have completed are: Scotia Bank Calgary Run (Canada)10K, Spirit Of Wipro 10K, SCMM Half Marathon, Bengaluru 10K Challenge, Bengaluru Half Marathon, Chamundi Hill Challenge Mysuru 10K, Celebration Mysore Half Marathon and the Tata Mumbai Marathon.
That’s quite an impressive list and hopefully this will encourage other senior citizens to take up running as well. In your group of runners, is there a large percentage of people over the age of 60?
Not quite – in a group of over 600 signed runners, training across ten locations in Bengaluru, we are four runners above the age of 60 years.We are hopeful that other senior citizens will soon take to running as the benefits definitely outweigh the initial challenges that they will face.
In terms of your training sessions, can you give us some insight into your weekly running schedule?
We are currently in the middle of getting ready for our next half-marathon and our training schedule includes running 3 times a week with a mileage of 25K – 30K per week. Also, there are specific drills and exercises that we go through under the guidance of our very experienced coach, Pramod Deshpande and this helps us get stronger and stay injury-free.
To complement your training schedule have you made any dietary changes since you took to running?
Yes; I have made some dietary changes to boost strength and stay healthy. I have increased my intake of fresh fruits and vegetables while avoiding fried, oily foods and minimizing my intake of sweets. Maintaining a balanced and healthy diet is paramount to supplement my training and overall running activity.
I have also learnt that your entire family is into running. That is quite an achievement, how did that happen?
Yes, it is true that as a family we all love running. It all started out with my daughter-in-law, Padmashree; she has long been into running and over time introduced my son Darshan to the sport. With the growing enthusiasm of seeing my daughter-in-law and son involved, my grandson Tanmai soon joined the running group.
During mid-September 2014 at the age of 74, my son suggested that I join him as well. While it did appeal to me, I was hesitant at first but decided to give it a shot. In the beginning, I found it a little difficult to run. However, I persisted and my continued efforts with proper guidance and encouragement enabled me to develop a passion for running.
Today, as a family we collectively participate in certain important running events through the year.