For the first time ever in her life, there she was, standing near her doorstep with a light pride on her face. She was ready to step out. It was only 4.45 AM and the rest of the family was fast asleep. She had made the decision, after a lot of contemplation. She held a light weight bag in one hand and a water bottle in the other.
She, who had to make a choice between two types of chutneys to be cooked for breakfast the other day, was here today with a totally different choice.
Today she had to choose which one of the two running shoes she had bought, must she wear.
It was her first day of the training run for the Dream Runners Half Marathon beginners’ sessions. At this moment she knew that she didn’t just choose the shoes but had chosen something concrete for herself, for her healthy future. Not just she, but nearly thousands of women across Chennai city have chosen their paths, to take charge of their own health and fitness through running.
If you had been thinking that running is a men’s arena and all about testosterone, you might have to think again before you say it out loud. The situation of men leading the running routes is slowly changing in the city of Chennai. It is indeed a welcome change, but we still have a long way to go. We want more women to join the running league. So here I set out to explore the various conversations that build up when we as women runners try to bring in more of our peers into running.
1. Reasons vs. Excuses
‘Lack of time’ is the most common reason stated by women. Women cannot compromise on their morning routines like cooking at home, some have young kids who can’t be left alone, and some state lack of options to commute in the early mornings as reasons. Women like them who are very interested to take up running will need a solid support system back home to overcome these obstacles and reach the start point. Zainab of Dream Runners who had been running for the past 5 years recalls her first milestone of accomplishing a 42 kms full marathon in December 2017 which was due to the support from her family and running friends. She overcame every single reason and excuse and joined running for not just a strong body but also a strong mind.
More often we end up confusing excuses and genuine reasons. When we talk about excuses, ‘waking up early and showing up for workouts regularly’ seems like a huge task for some while ‘running on the treadmill’ feels like a more convenient option than stepping out to run. In the real world, if you choose to break from these excuses and find a peer to run with or join a running group, it will make a world of a difference to your life.
2. Young vs. Old
Is ‘age’ holding you back from making the first step to run? You will be surprised to know that we have veteran women runners in their 70s finish 21 km half marathons and 42 km full marathons with full josh.
While on the other side of the coin, if you are a college goer or a young working professional, now is the time to begin. With ample time in hand (atleast one hour a day in the morning/evening), getting into the practice of running is easy.
On a personal note, seeing me running has made my five year old daughter jump with enthusiasm saying, ‘I want to run 10 kms like you. Is there any run you can enrol me on?’ When mothers choose to run, we undoubtedly inspire the young ones at home to begin their fitness journey early, the rewards of which they will reap in the future.
3. Athletes vs. Amateurs
For those who haven’t even tried walking for more than a kilometre, running might initially look like a distant dream. So was it for Brindha of Anna Nagar Dreamers (AND) running group. She had not done any exercise all her life till the year 2016. She couldn’t even walk without panting heavily and her primary goal was to lose weight through running. Through a senior member in her running group, she got introduced to the run-walk method. Slowly she gained confidence and she now recalls her unforgettable moment of running 1 kilometre nonstop, in May 2016 with a great sense of achievement. Within the past three years, Brindha has finished several 10 km runs, 21 km half marathons and the Satara hill run as well. Brindha is proof for how running can transform women.
You need not be an athlete from school. You could have been nobody in sports in your younger days but with commitment, the right techniques and consistent training, women can push themselves beyond limits in running.
4. Gym vs. Running
Sometimes we believe that a crash course at the gym would get us back into shape faster than a regular fitness activity like running.
Rekha Sudarshan, marathon runner for 11 years and one of the founders of Dream Runners had always been an exercise enthusiast who was regular to the gym but one fine day she got bored of the treadmill and started running on the road. She recalls, “Running on the road was such a welcome relief from a closed gymnasium” and hence it led to the establishing of Dream Runners in 2008.
A gymnasium might offer umpteen facilities but an ounce of fresh air filled with soul soothing oxygen of the early mornings is unmatchable. You ought to experience it and then there will be no looking back.
Sometimes, women also take a break from running to restrict themselves to the gym. If you are one of them, remind yourself on why you started running in the first place. We are sure you will yearn to return. The roads are waiting for you!
5. Safe vs. Unsafe
Safety always comes under question as running involves stepping out in the dark early mornings. This is where running with a group really helps. Running groups always plan their training and workouts well in advance, after a thorough recce of routes that are well-lit. If any safety concern arises, it is immediately addressed by the seniors in the group. Everyone has each other’s back while working out as a group.
To conclude with a collective voice from woman runners, here are 5 personal take-aways from running that we hope will send the running bug your way too:
1. Running makes women feel good about their body. It makes you a happier person, both physically and mentally.
2. From a health perspective, running and fitness helps in combating the downsides of hormonal changes that a woman undergoes at various points in life.
Running is a great mood booster and it prepares you for a long day ahead.
Running makes us fearless, outspoken and confident
Running opens up opportunities to interact with new people and understand things from new
More specifically, the health benefits of running are plenty. It helps in reducing weight, strengthens your knees and joints. As women are prone to osteoporosis, your strong knees will thank you one day if you start running today. Running helps to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under check. By increasing serotonin levels in the brain, running is an effective way to battle stress, depression and anxiety issues.
So, you still ask why #SheShouldRun?
Rekha Sudarshan from Dream Runners points out, “Women wear different hats. The sense of being a martyr and sacrificing for the sake of family is ingrained in us. But if only a woman understands that ‘a happy healthy family revolves around a happy healthy woman’, she would get into the fitness routine and become a role model to everyone in her family”. According to Rekha, running is very cathartic and meditative. And all of us women runners totally agree with her on this.
So my dear women, have you GoT it in you to join the female runners’ clan and conquer the MARATHrONe?
The running season is coming!
Member of Anna Nagar Dreamers
An aspiring Half Marathoner liberated from Post partum depression with the help of Running.