Public gardens in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad come alive way before sunrise as running enthusiasts of all ages engage in ‘strength training’ activity, pushing their physical limits to another level, and happily breaking their earlier plank records or doing more number of crunches than what they did in the previous week.
Running has gradually become a part of the new urban culture in the two cities as people have realised the importance of health and are taking up endurance sports like running and triathlon.
Puneites are now eager to set new goals and beat their LSOM (Last Sunday of the Month) race record by a few seconds each month. No wonder, the number has steadily grown from 5,000 participating in Pune Running Beyond Myself (PRBM), another popular race, in 2013, to 15,000 participants in 2018.
Few of the runners confess to having faint muscle memory back from their college days while some others share that they embraced active lifestyle after medical reports compelled them to wake up.
Avinash Mane, a 49-year-old working in IBM, who twice completed Comrades, a 90 km ultra marathon in South Africa, remarked, “When I say “I’m a runner,” it means I believe I can do more, more than I once thought was possible.”
Mane shared that till 10 years back, he led a sedentary life with his family and had a comfortable job until one day he got a rude shock via his medical reports. It declared him as overweight and a patient with hypertension. And so, Mane’s journey into running started, and losing 15 kg was the first reward.
Running is liberating
Another techie, Taru Mateti, who loves aerobics and playing badminton, shared that due to her work-related commitments and given the time and place-bound nature of her exercises, she often missed it regularly.
Mateti, who accomplished 100 km last November, and is preparing for her Comrade run, shared, “About five years ago, I noticed announcements of a few runs in our area and on social media about running activities at specific places on specific days.”
“I got roped into this activity, and found running outdoors totally liberating! Although I started with the intention of running only 10K, I enjoyed running so much that I eventually progressed to half marathons, full marathons, 50K ultras, and did one 100K ultra too last year.”
Sharing the secret why running is becoming one of the most popular options for Puneites, Mateti reasoned that running is a do-it-anywhere-anytime and cost-effective physical activity.
She quit a high paying IT job and now pursues fitness more seriously. She explained that she finds herself eating healthier and looking after herself better.
Nikhil Shah of group Pune Running shared that there was no other event between Mumbai Marathon and Pune Marathon, which is how LSOM (2011) and Pune Running Beyond Myself began. He said that there were only 13 participants in the first LSOM, and now, without any publicity, 1000-1500 runners participate.
Shah said several running groups have started in various areas of the city, and recently a group was started in Nanded City.
“Runners in Pune have multiple choices available including running on the hill or on the flat surface. Those who travel frequently continue their routine practice with running groups in other cities, which is called ‘Runacation’,” Shah said.
According to Mateti, every 5 km radius has a running group that anyone can join for company or mentoring.
“Professional coaching is also available readily now if one wants to take that route. Almost every weekend, there is at least one running event in the city or around it,” she said.
The coaching scene
According to Dr Kaustubh Radkar, who is a 20-time Ironman finisher and an Ironman certified coach, “Over the last 3-5 years, Pune has been engulfed in running, with groups coaching programmes sprouting in different parts of the city. People are now investing in their health and are also willing to take professional help for it.”
Radkar cautioned runners while enrolling for coaching programmes as many trainers lack the required certification. “Typically running programmes charge Rs 1,000 upwards per month and some good programmes charge Rs 2,000 or more.”
Another coach, Atul Godbole, who is a founder and head coach at Motiv8 Coaching, said, “There is growing awareness about the need for a structured training and people do not mind paying for professional coaching to pursue this passion in a safe and sustainable way.”
Godbole said that there is an entire ecosystem to support this lifestyle, which is growing organically including coaching, stores, events and technology.
No doubt several IT professionals have started pursuing running seriously. Simultaneously people from other sectors including media, and traders have chosen this as an important option for an active lifestyle.
Running allowed me to meet co-runners who saw the world with different eyes. With this journey, I have new goals for life including running ultra marathons in Africa and Antarctica.
— Avinash Mane, Runner
I have found a new passion for running at a stage when one feels a gap in life. I and my husband jointly pursue running while being part of running groups enable me to stay motivated and puts me in touch with like-minded friends.
— Taru Mateti, Runner
Running should become an act of not just classes but of masses. Each society should have its own running group and people from all strata of society should embrace running as a cornerstone of the healthy lifestyle.
— Nikhil Shah, Runner