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On the run

D ear lazy bones, here’s a bit of news — the running clubs are here. Their aim? To transform you from a couch potato into an agile individual and — if you have the get-up-and-go — even a marathon runner. But it’ll involve leaping off that couch and starting to diligently knock the miles out on the roads.

A running club — as the name suggests — is a community of members interested in running as a sport, a fitness activity or simply for the love of it. The club may also organise group trips to racing competitions and marathons.

Sessions at the Nike Run Club are preceded by extensive stretching supervised by professional athletes

“The advantage is that you’ll meet like-minded people and can even learn about running from the pros,” says former Arjuna award winning athlete, Reeth Abraham who is a professional coach with the Nike Run Club (www.inside.nikeplus.in) in Bangalore.

If running is a current boom-time activity, consider the number of marathons being organised in the country. “To a large extent, marathons — with their glamourous associations — are the catalyst to the running revolution in India. Running in such events put a cross-section of people — from film stars to corporations and even those with special abilities — on one scale,” says Vivek Singh, joint managing director, Procam International (www.procamrunning.in), a leading sports and leisure management company.

Singh should know as Procam International started the Standard Chartered Mumbai International Marathon in 2004, which grabbed a place among the top 10 marathons of the world. It’s gone on to kick off other marathons in the country such as the Delhi Half Marathon and the Sunfeast World 10K Run in Bangalore.

Runners pause for a breather at a run in Shimla organised by the club Running and Living.

Touching base with the running network is not too tough. Most running clubs have a strong presence online. So, once you register online with one of them, you get a list of the scheduled runs and regular updates through group e-mails. If you discover a greater love for the sport, you can even train for marathons with the clubs.

Take a cue from the number of enthusiasts who are signing up with different clubs. Runners for Life (www.runnersforlife.com), a community founded by entrepreneur Arvind Krishnan, boasts of 7,000 registered members online. It has runners’ groups that meet regularly in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore three to four times a week or weekends, when they do laps of varying distances ranging between 4km to 10km.

But to be a member of Runners for Life you’ve to shell out Rs 1,000 as annual fees. “The bonus is, you get to participate in the long runs that we organise — for free — and also avail of a 25 per cent discount on participation in marathons,” says Krishnan.

His club, kick-started in 2005, plunged into the marathon mania by holding events such as the Bangalore Ultra Marathon (around November) and the Kaveri Trail Marathon (in September).

Members with the running community called Runners for Life have the added advantage of participating in its own marathons

Meanwhile, Running and Living (www.runningandliving.com), a three-year-old club, has 60-odd running groups spread through the country, in cities like in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Trivandrum and Vizag. Rahul Verghese, a marketing professional who started the club, is targeting an ambitious 200 million people. No surprise then that its membership is free.

The best bit about these clubs is that they welcome amateur and professional runners. They can train you for pure fitness, taking part in races, charity events and even marathons.

But for a novice, the Nike Run Club that opened in Mumbai a few months back, is a good option. The club members are trained by professional runners like Melwyn Crasto and Daniel Vaz at the Police Gymkhana on Marine Drive. In Bangalore the club’s been conducting training sessions at the Kanteerava Stadium for the last two years. Professional athletes such as V. R. Beedu and Reeth Abraham train you on the techniques of running.

You can join the Nike Running Club for free. In fact, it throws in incentives like draws each month for regular runners in which they give out coupons for shoes and tees. They also send members on Nike-sponsored trips abroad to attend races organised by the company.

If, however, there’s no running club in your city, you can start your own group just like ex-marathon runner Savio D’Souza did in Mumbai. His group, which now has 35-40 regular runners, was started seven years ago around the first Mumbai marathon.

“On days when we stretch and run, we start at Nariman Point. But, when we train in uphill running, we go to Malabar Hill,” says D’Souza, who was a 42-km marathon runner in the mid 80s. It might be a group formed impromptu, but he charges members Rs 1,500- Rs 2,000 a month for three days a week of running. His tip for those contemplating to form a group of their own; get a professional runner’s guidance.

But when you’re just starting out, listen to your body. The best part, says Verghese, is the endorphin high when you achieve runs that you thought were impossible. He adds: “The elation is beyond compare.”

Do you need any other reason?   

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