Why we do what we do

In which, we ask you, the reader an important existential question, wind up this portion of the blog and move on to greener pastures..

In the past month since the inception of the TWCM14 blog, we began at the beginning. Why do we do what we do? What is it about running that makes our hearts go boom and ours eyes light up? Why is it that we are willing to endure insanely early morning wake-ups and other such hardships just for the pleasure of a run?

Doc Ram kicked it off with a low-down on the various health benefits of running - be sure to quote him the next time someone walks up to you and says ‘You are thin already, why do you have to run marathons?’ :-)

Have you experienced the runner’s high? It’s a harmless enough condition, we assure you, and perfectly legal and the feel good can last the whole day! Shreya talked us through that important motivator in our running in ‘Riding the runner’s high’.

“Ultramarathon Man” Dean Karnazes is an amazing man. His running exploits are legendary. In his (now kinda old) book “50/50″ available here (amazon), he talks about his experiences running across the 50 states of the US, on 50 consecutive days!

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Our local hero, Ram, who coincidentally is off to run his 50th marathon this weekend, in beautiful San Francisco, regaled us with quips and tips about how he manages to run on his travels within and outside India in ‘Running takes you places

Finally, we diverted your attention to the most important reason running sustains as a hobby. That one true driver of all human actions – yes, yes – SELFIES! Well, photographs in general. Of course, food, a bursting-at-the-seams friends list on FB, and spending quality time with your BFF are reasons, but what’s the point of it all unless it’s captured for posterity, right?

We have tons more to say, but in fact, not much that hasn’t already been said. Like this little gem we found from a professional runner couple’s blogwhy-do-you-run

We know you like to run, which is why you are here, reading our blog, running our race, becoming part of our family. While we regroup and start talking about training and preparation and put together tips and tricks to help you in your running career (oops, hobby), do take a moment to tell us, why do YOU like to run? 

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Smile! You are on Camera!

In which Soundarya & Preeti bring you the ultimate collection of running fun!

All across the country we see running communities building – a group of enthusiastic, optimistic, fit individuals coming together several times a week to spread some joy and make the world a better place. The best part is that this movement is being well documented – for posterity! If you ask us, the best use of Social Media is this. To bring the message that runners are taking over the world! We used the liberty of browsing around on the ‘net to bring you some highlights from recent times.

Scroll on and enjoy this little tribute to you – the smiling faced, colourful runner. And maybe, just maybe, this will serve as a bit of motivation for the sceptic to enter our fold?

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Are you a foodie? Well, this is just a sample of the foods that were recently consumed by runners, early in the morning, after their sweaty workout. While cakes to celebrate birthdays and special occasions are the norm, fruit, laddoos, brownies also feature. Denizens of Chennai are not above a quick shot of sambar, idli & masala vadai either! If you like food, we suggest you come join us for a run, assured of a treat after!

 

 

 

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Runners are gawky, serious individuals with no sense of fun, right? WRONG! Check these guys out, getting their groove on! Marathons and running events are party time, people! Give us some music – perhaps some drums – and watch us move! 

 

 

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Love neon? Well, funky bright clothes in all colours of the rainbow – stuff you cannot DREAM of wearing to your office or college, are the norm for runners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although some prefer another look entirely – something that will SURELY not work in a board room. :-)

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No one reading your motivational messages and inspirational quotes on your facebook page? We have the solution for you!  You always have at least 10 friend requests after a run, you can take an awesome selfie, you have several photos to post on your Facebook profile everyday, your photo is liked, commented upon, and shared within seconds of uploading – just by listening to your alarm today!  

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And last but not the least, those relationships that you hold close to your heart? Spouse, child, BFF, well, you find new ways to celebrate them. Check out these happy happy folks here – from a sense of accomplishment at completing a tough feat, to just plain joyousness at spending time together – these runners are over the moon! 

 

 

 

 

 

So there you have it, not a dour face in the house. We know running is healthy, it builds character, makes us stronger, keeps life-style diseases at bay, blah blah. But all that hardly bears thought because we all know that running is, and us runners are, FUN! Do share your fun and happy moments with us in the comments section!

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Running Takes You Places!

His legions of fans vicariously enjoy his trips, and his reports of the myriad races he has run. “The Monk” Ram took time out of his busy travel schedule to share with us the coolest things he has encountered over the course of his running career…

We all take to running for a variety of reasons and the benefits are plenty.  To see what motivates others to run, I did an unscientific experiment.  I pulled random paragraphs from a few posts on the net talking about why people run.  I put these blobs in to a word cloud engine for sentiment analysis and look what it threw up.

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I was pleasantly surprised to see the ‘prominence’ of Travel in the word cloud. (The size of word reflects how often it was found in the given text). Of course, I have no disagreement with this!

Running has clearly taken me to places that I wouldn’t have dreamt of going otherwise, both locally and internationally.  In fact, I ran my first marathon in Singapore by squeezing out time between my business trips in 2005.  And I might get to run my 50th marathon later this month in San Francisco if my business travel firms up.   In fact, whenever an International business trip shows up on my calendar, the first thing I do is to look for a running event close by.

Last year I was able to run two marathons in beautiful Switzerland that way.  Though I had passed through Geneva several times, I didn’t visit the city till I ran a marathon there.  Similarly, the majestic Matterhorn would have never been on my list had it not been for the Zermatt Marathon.

RamPic2 I try get out for a run as soon as I reach a new place.  It helps me a) get out of jet lag faster b) familiarizes with the local surroundings and weather  c) locate a convenience store in case food emergency.  That last one is very important, as many countries I visit are not vegetarian friendly.  So, its good to know the whereabouts of the nearest ‘potti kadai’ to get some fruits & vegetables as the last resort or in some cases the only option.

Running also helps see places with a new perspective.  Many business travelers refer to business trips as the ‘triangle of death’; meaning all their time is spent in just shuttling between Airport – Hotel – Office with no time for much else.  But squeezing some time for a run or even a quick stroll in a new place will show the city in an entirely new light.  The sights and sounds of the city will be very different on foot.  I get a much better feel of the local culture and people by being part of the crowd than by gazing at them from a car.

That’s how I discovered Shenzhen Bay during my last visit to China.  I had been to Shenzhen many times and taken the majestic bridge to cross over from Hong Kong into China.  But got to marvel the colossal bridge only when I saw it from Shenzhen Bay.

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This time, after losing my way a little bit, I found Shenzhen Bay and it was worth the labor. With an awesome view of the bridge, miles of track and umpteen recreational options, Shenzhen Bay was buzzing with people. The vibrancy of the place rubbed off on me and I ended up doing a half marathon instead of the originally planned 10km!

Some might call it the hazard of running in a new place, but I consider ‘getting lost in a new place’ fun and part of the game (as long as you don’t get in to trouble!). I have gotten lost in many places but always end up discovering something new like a place to eat or see. But three things are essential before venturing out in a new place; a) Photo ID, b) Hotel address in local language & c) cash. With these and some basic sign language, I mostly find my way back even if it means a few extra kms of running!

So friends, next time you are going somewhere, do take your running gear with you. Go for a run and do your own discovery of the new place. And, do remember to share your experiences with us. Remember, you can always Do More & Start Running.

This article is penned by Ram Viswanathan

Ram Viswanathan is a co-founder of Chennai Runners, and an IBM distinguished engineer. A ‘late bloomer’ as he calls himself, he started running in his forties. Not that you can tell, considering the sheer number of marathons he has run, in so many countries of the world. A beloved mentor, running partner and friend to many, Ram’s facebook page is a treasure trove of running photos. He blogs here on various topics including running, marathons, techie stuff, and Chennai! 

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Riding the Runner’s High

In which Shreya, our newly minted speed queen from T. Nagar, talks about ‘Runner’s High’ and traces her personal journey towards it…

The throbbing sensation builds, creeping from the ankles through the lower calves, and slowly but loudly into the backs of the knees. Mouth parched, sweat dribbling from every bodily curve possible. A barricade emerges ahead, pump-up music playing in the distance, the bright finish line tape waving in the breeze, urging the body to keep pushing and make it to the end.
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All of a sudden, somewhere in the brain gears shift, clicking into a zone, slipping into realm where all that exists is the body and the ground beneath. Arms and feet are at once weightless and an overwhelmingly strong yet unspecific happiness washes over all the aching limbs, powdery sweat, and cramping toes. At last, the road ends, the body slows, and bliss sets in.

Is it the finish line that brings on this outer-body like sensation? Is it the feeling of finally achieving those extra km that were once a dream? Or could it be the shear movement of the limbs that trigger our ancestral genetics, the biological code that crowned us the bipedal kings?

According to experts ranging from veteran runners to genetics specialists and psychologists, it could be any or all of the three, not to mention other bodily and psychological factors. As Scientific American tried to explain in an article behind the hard science of ‘runner’s high’, “for some people it’s highly emotional, for some it’s peaceful, and for some it’s a burst of energy”.  The article mentions however, scientifically speaking, there is a common thread. The release of endogenous opioids at some point in physical or even in some cases extreme mental exertion  leads to other sensation-related changes. While the the actual receptor paths and areas affected are still largely speculation, the effect is real. For example, there is a direct correlation between opioid production and its catalyst effect on the release of dopamine, leading to potential dampening of pain and increase in positive feeling.

While the ‘whats and hows’ are still debated by researchers, one conclusion remains the same. The benefits of engaging in running at any level, letting the body act and sync into its natural rhythm, and drawing the mind towards the movement allows the invaluable luxury of getting a slice of mental and physical unity. It is the most innate way to bring ourselves closer to our bodies and to the essence of a purely happy state.

This article is penned by Shreya, who is featured here – being on the podium is sure to give you that high!! 

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Shreya is a new resident of Chennai who joined the T Nagar Trendsetters chapter of Chennai Runners a couple of months ago. She already feels a part of the clan and is now a very regular runner, meeting every morning for different types of runs and training in Panagal Park. Prior to moving to Chennai, she ran out of personal interest but not consistently. Joining the group has changed and improved both her running and her focus on the sport. Shreya‘s professional and academic background is in exchange traded funds and derivatives investment data/research.
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To run or not to run

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(seen here: Lata Bhagwan Kare, 61-year old winner of a 3Km road race! Check out this link !)

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”
― John Bingham, No Need for Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of Running

“Be careful about your knees, Kanna!” Paatti might say when you tell her about your weight-loss plans involving long-distance running. “Besides, why do you have to lose weight? Is some girlfriend telling you that?” she might add sympathetically, ignoring the fact that your forty-eight inch waist is stretch-fitted onto a five-and-a-half foot-tall frame!

While a tolerance of “plumpness” and an exaggerated fear of injury may inappropriately dominate the mind-set of many well-meaning non-runners, the marathon fanatic’s belief that running is the panacea for all ills from bunions to bed-sores is also an exaggeration. The truth is somewhere in between, surprisingly closer to the fanatic’s POV than to dear Paatti’s!

Long distance running is an excellent way to lose weight. Though we have always been told that weight gain bears a simple numerical relationship to the difference between the calories consumed as food and the calories expended during exercise, we now realize that this is too simplistic. All forms of exercise are not equal and the intensity of the process has strong implications on extent of weight loss. Running, as the most common form of vigorous exercise, is far more efficient than, say, walking an equivalent distance. Additionally, runners find it easier to maintain their weight loss. In a study of middle-aged recreational runners, the rate of the weight gain that is commonly seen with aging was slowed down by nearly a half in those who maintained about 50 kilometres of running in a week.

The health benefits of weight loss are myriad mainly by directly influencing blood pressure control, preventing the development of diabetes and by effects on cholesterol levels that contribute to overall cardiovascular fitness.

Running also prevents weight-related wear and tear on the hip- and knee-joints and plays a pivotal role in reducing the risk of degenerative arthritis. Paradoxically, Patti’s concern about your knee is misplaced, as running actually reduces your risk of crippling joint problems! Interestingly, this reduction in arthritis (and subsequent joint replacement surgery) seems to be more pronounced in runners than either walkers or individuals who indulge in other (non-running) high intensity sport.

Even lean individuals benefit from running. Independent of its strong effect on weight loss and maintenance, running has benefits in thin people too. Thus the favourable effect on blood pressure is as prominent in thin people as it is in the obese runner. Similar effects have been reported in the development of diabetes where a threshold distance of greater than eight kilometres a week reduces the incidence of the disease in middle-aged men by about 85%. Recent studies suggest that the longevity of patients with breast cancer is increased by running. Most of these health benefits are seen to increase in proportion to the distance run.

However, this does not mean that unlimited running is harmless!  As any runner will tell you, injuries (even to the Patti’s proverbial “knee”) are common when you overdo the exercise. These injuries are often not serious or permanently crippling and occur in the muscles, tendons and soft tissues of the legs. Systematic stretching and strengthening exercises can minimize such injury but a logical limitation of your running, keeping your physical capacity in mind will keep you from unnecessarily hurting yourself.

Yes, I too dream of sharing the podium with Meb Keflezighi, but given my physical prowess, age and lack of talent, I would seriously hurt myself attempting to do so. If I want to enjoy a lifetime of injury-free running, I should rather be encouraging Patti to be my running partner, while watching Meb’s exploits from a safe distance on the television!

Competitive running is for the talented few; but recreational running is for all! There are far too many benefits to running to give it a pass in this life!

This article is penned by Dr. Ram Rajagopalan

Ram is an Intensive Care Specialist and recreational runner who is passionate about his job and his hobby. He regrets the fact that many who are admitted to his intensive care unit have been unlucky not to have recognized the health benefits of dedicated exercise at an appropriate time in their lives. He doesn’t want to miss the boat too!

 

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Hello, World

It is commonly believed that the words “helloworld” were first used by Brian Kernighan in a starting example program for aspiring computer programmers in his 1978 book with Dennis Ritchie, “The C Programming Language’. The phrase itself was used earlier by Brian in 1972 in his introduction to the B programming language. History apart, the phrase “Hello World” has fired the imagination  and gently provided the first wobbly, tentative steps on the fascinating journey of computer programming for many generations of programmers.

Hello” and  “World” – 2 small and unassuming words. Yet, together, they’re unmatched in their power to present an invitation to a new, exciting existence where joy and achievement abound. An existence filled with adventure and unknown challenges, yet promising the sweet pain of ‘learning by doing’.

It is no surprise then that we at The Wipro Chennai Marathon have chosen to kick off the 2014 running season with this “HelloWorld” invitation to you. If you’ve never run before, you’ve come to the right place. Say “Hello” to the brave, new world of distance running and set forth boldly on this journey of training, sweat, pain (possibly), camaraderie, quiet contentment, but above all, self-discovery. If you’ve run before, shout out “Hello” then to us as you start on that first LSD run of the season. You’ve been there, done that before, but the journey has to be started afresh, every season, every race, for every one of us.

Registrations for the 2014 edition of The Wipro Chennai Marathon are now open on our website and we would love for you to come see this little world of us runners. So, register now.

Also, stop by this blog every once in a while and say “Hello” to us. We’ve put together an eclectic blog team which will try its best to demystify the process of training and running a marathon for you over the next 5 months. We will talk about choosing running shoes, building your own training plans, hydration strategies, blackened toe nails, the power of the ‘squat’ and much, much more. So, “Hello World”…

 

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The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen!

The moment you have been waiting for will soon be here!

Registrations for your favourite marathon will open soon!

Watch this space!

(Feel free to read through the posts from TWCM13 below!)

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R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

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The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2013. Has come and gone. Chennai was a ‘Sea of Orange’ according to reports. The Adyar Bridge was covered in the orange TWCM tshirts. Young and old, lean and fat, took to the streets on Sunday Dec 1st. Mark your calendars, people. The first sunday of December, every year, this is it. TWCM.  We will be back next year, and every year after that! Till there is breath in these bodies…

We talked to a few behind the scenes folks to understand, somewhat, what it takes to put on a show like this. 10000 runners. 1500 women. 1000+ volunteers. Blade runners. Wheelchairs. Visually challenged groups. NGOs. Special needs kids. Charity. Prize winners. Photographers. Cheering masses. Police. Doctors. Physiotherapists. An endless list words can’t do justice to.

“Strangely enough, although I was the megaphone wielding start-line official, I didn’t see the full marathon flag off” says Ashwin. Who shouted himself hoarse shepherding over-enthusiastic runners and audience and general hangers-on into allocated areas, so the race could take off smoothly. And on time. On the dot at 5 am. Bosco, a veteran and a very accomplished Chennai Runner, did the honours. “You didn’t have a celebrity?” someone asked us, incredulous.

Bosco is one, as far as we are concerned. His characteristic pink and black singlet, his smiling face, his long loping gait are what we look out for, every race. Currently recovering from a minor calf niggle, this railways man is guaranteed to bounce back to the podium at the Mumbai Marathon. Not that that matters much to us. He is a super nice person, and every participant ought to feel honoured that he was there on stage on Sunday, for Chennai.

“I was in charge of volunteers and route marshals and my duty kept me away from the Start point” admits Mani. Mani, who uncomplainingly carried the burden of a million tiny details related to the race. From guiding the team directing the lead runners through our winding course, to allocating volunteers at strategic locations, to dealing with a few citizens irate at the road closures. Gentle and modest, we have much to thank Mani for. Oh yes, he slept for a grand total of 50 minutes on Saturday night.

Meanwhile our lifetime photographer Ramani sir was up at the highest point in the Indranagar MRTS station, for an aerial view of the race. Wearing an old, ratty, Chennai Runners Tshirt (cause he didn’t get the brand new green one in time), this gentleman has given us many sights and sounds of TWCM. And die-hard Chennai Runners like Mani, Shankar, Hari, Aravind, Kavitha, etc. – who missed the festivities at the start line are immensely grateful for this view through Ramani Sir’s lens.

“It was a humbling experience and I wore the Chennai Runners Official badge with much pride” says Soundarya. With Maha and others, Soundarya was at the Finish line. Watching the finishers – jubilant, feeling accomplished, cramped, in pain, at the point of collapse, being part of the medical team was an emotionally taxing responsibility. Experienced runners always say ‘Respect the distance’ – and on Sunday, this team learnt exactly what that means, right there, within 10 meters of the Finish line.

“10k to the left, 10k to the left, Half marathon to the right” – this dialogue on loop was going through Hari’s mind, hours after the race. Standing rock steady at the Finish point this tall Chennai Runner felt a roller-coaster of emotions. Little did he realise that he would serve as a confession box for many finishers – who poured their hearts out to him, relieved, happy, ecstatic, surprised, and overwhelmed by what their body had led them to achieve. Having recently run his own emotionally charged full marathon at Berlin, and looking out for his wife who was running in her first half marathon, perhaps it was fitting that this stoic man was at the receiving end here!

Ram Viswanathan. Who doesn’t know him? Quiet and unassuming, Guru Ram, is our founder and is a beloved running partner to many in Chennai, always goading us to ‘Do more’. On Sunday, standing there in the CPT ground, for maybe the first time, we noticed tears in this eyes. As his mother, Meenakshi Aunty, finished her 10km race, completing a promise made to her 74 year old self, raising more than Rs.30000 for charity, and fueled entirely by her love for her son and his passion….

Our marathon lasted 7 hours (at least). We are not a professional organisation. What we are is a bunch of passionate runners who are working on realising a common vision. To make Chennai a marathon destination. And all we have going for us is a lot of heart and miles of good intentions. We are grateful to the immense support we have received from you citizens, the police, and our virtual army of volunteers (who are more selfless than one can describe – the trials and tribulations they faced on Sunday, the toil they put in – just mind boggling…).  We are thankful to our sponsors for the faith they put in this motley group of crazy runners.

Most of all, we bow to you, our runners, who overcame many odds to come out there on Sunday to make our vision a reality. To ensure that our windmills are not just mirages glistening in the Chennai sun….

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See You At The Finish Line!

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Good Luck and God Speed Runners!

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All you need is love

Five days away. The race of the year. TWCM13, here you come! You have trained, hydrated, tapered, looked at all the data on dailymile, taken hundreds of photos (your facebook friends have all but disowned you), and Dec 1st can’t come soon enough now!

If this is your first race-  CONGRATULATIONS! PB (personal best) guaranteed! Get ready, get psyched, while we roll out the red carpet for you. If it’s your second, third, fifth or hundredth race, THANK YOU for signing up for TWCM. We hope you meet all your goals, crack a PB, have tons of fun (and alienate your FB friends further with smiling running photos).

Some quick tips in the run up to race day:

Don’t worry, be happy – Seriously, just chill. You have done the best you can. Spend the next few days pampering yourself – get some extra sleep tomorrow; a gentle run on thursday; finish up work deadlines on friday; pick up your bib, say hi to us, and then go home and put your feet up all day saturday.

Imagine – You have seen the route. There is that flyover. The beach. Gandhi statue. Imagine yourself running along the route. Visualise the start and finish points. Plan your finish line photo pose! Check us out, enjoying Thiru Vi Ka bridge in slow mo!

U Smile - Speaking of which, hone your camera spotting skill. Square your shoulders, flash a smile – no matter how tired you feel, this will help you! Ask this other person who ran the New York City Marathon recently !

Put your drinks up – You are going to sweat till you can sweat no more. It’s Chennai man! Do your body a favour, increase your fluid intake from tomorrow. What’s that? Yeah, it’s ok, ask your family to stop making fun of how many times you go pee.

All my bags are packed – No kidding! Plan every single item you will wear or take with you on race day. Inner to outer wear. Don’t shop for socks now. Wear the socks you are used to in training. Also shoes, shorts, tshirt, cap, bandaids (chafing prevention), vaseline (also chafing prevention), sun-block (if you are used to it), watch, fuel belt, etc. Make a list! Wear nothing new on race day!

The Rain in Spain – A little rain goes a long way. If it rains on race day, embrace the slush & the cooler temps, and if you don’t like getting your hair wet, wear a hat. A light weight one, preferably. Full marathoners may want to request friends to keep a spare set of socks on hand and change mid-way. Step a little more cautiously – especially in wet mud and puddles. Chennai rain (because it’s sort of warm) is really super to run in! Enjoy it!

Just ‘Eat It – It’s recommended that you don’t get adventurous now with food. Stick to things your body knows. For FM & HM runners it may be a good idea to up the carbohydrates a bit. Not to say you should be hitting the French Fries and Onion Vadams. Keep it simple, just enjoy this phase!

What do you think? Are you pumped? Ready to hit the road? Can’t wait? Have any more tips to share – things that work for you in the last few days leading up to a big race? Comments section is open folks!

TWCM13! Everybody! 

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