Why I run: Four marathoners on what drives them to go the distance; before SCMM 2017

Mumbai will host the 14th edition of the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon on Sunday, 15 January 2017. The previous year's edition saw an all-time high of 40,285 registrations, as runners — both amateurs and professionals, from India and across the globe — took to the roads in Mumbai, and went the distance. A day before SCMM 2017, we got four individuals who've been regulars at the marathon over the years to answer a question for us: "why they run".

Here's what they had to say, about what made them runners:

 Why I run: Four marathoners on what drives them to go the distance; before SCMM 2017

(L-R) Ashok Nath, Vaishali Kasture, Amit Sheth

Ashok Nath

It's really quite simple. I think it’s important that you be your own best friend, and that’s only possible when you truly like yourself, mentally, physically and spiritually. People often comment about my youthful appearance, how I always seem so calm and appear to have the right answers to issues in life. The answer lies in running. I run because it gives me physical confidence. A toned body and the endurance to believe in my ability to outlast whatever comes my way.

I run because it gives me mental confidence. Being successful in running requires proper planning and project-like execution. Unlike what it may seem on the outside, there is a distinct mental aspect to the sport. Running teaches you to push beyond your limits, and continuously test yourself. And when you taste results, then you carry this confidence into other spheres in life.

I run because it gives me spiritual peace. The rhythmic action of running is meditation in motion. Then running releases endorphins, hormones that give a sense of exhilaration and leave you feeling happy. All in all it’s a great way to kick start the day. And when you can smile at the world then you are grounded and not easily swayed by the vagaries of life

Finally, running allows me the luxury of being able to sit down with a good read and nibble without guilt!

— "Ash" is a running evangelist, founder of Catalyst Sports that undertakes workshops on proper running form and training, and is an 8x qualifier for the Boston Marathon


Amit Sheth

I am often asked 'Why I run' and I am always at a loss of words to explain. There are some thoughts and feelings and emotions which aren’t conveyed well with words. Sometimes one needs music, and dance, and art, and craft, to convey an emotion, thought or feeling. But let me try, with words...

I started running 12 years ago at the age of 38 and I think that as the years have rolled by, I have continued to discover new reasons as to why I run. The reason why I started running 12 years ago, is no longer the reason that I run today and I am sure that the reason I run today will not be the reason I continue to run tomorrow. Life keeps evolving and our reason for living keeps evolving and I have always felt that running is a microcosm of life and so the reason I run keeps evolving.

Living well is an art. So is running well. And the key to both is “timing”. Running teaches me how to live. How well I run a race will depend on how well I pace myself. The marathon is 42.2 km long and that is an unforgiving distance. Run out too fast and I will crash and burn and my legs will be reduced to pulp. Run out too slow and I will never achieve my true promise. To “hurry’ is to commit suicide. To “dawdle” is to perish by other means.

The key then is "timing".

To run each moment from the start to the finish at its true potential is the key. And the only way to run each moment at its full potential is by being fully present in that moment.

If only I can squeeze every second out of the unforgiving minute, to paraphrase Kipling, can I run well or live fully. And I can run well or live fully only if I am alive to each moment.

And therein lies the trick, because if I let the clock dominate my run or my life, I will never live in the present. The watch on my hand will either make me “hurry” or it will make me “dawdle”. The idea of the finish line robs me of that precious moment on the road because I am focusing on the future.

In his book, Does it matter? British philosopher Alan Watts writes, “Clock time is merely a method of measurement held in common by all the civilised societies, and has the same kind of reality (or unreality) as the imaginary lines of latitude and longitude... To judge by the clock, the present moment is nothing but a hairline which, ideally, should have no width at all — except that it would then be invisible. If you are bewitched by the clock you will therefore have no present. “Now” will be no more than the geometrical point at which the future becomes the past. But if you sense and feel the world materially, you will discover that there never is, or was, or will be anything except the present.”

To run well is to run well in the present. You cannot run slower than your true potential nor can you run faster than your ability. At both end lies pain. To run flawlessly is to run in the present. To live well is to live in the present.

As I said before, running is an art. Living is an art. And as Alan Watts writes, “For the perfect accomplishment of any art, you must get this feeling of the eternal present into your bones — for it is the secret of proper timing. No rush. No dawdle. Just the sense of flowing with the course of events in the same way that you dance to music, neither trying to outpace it nor lagging behind. Hurrying and delaying are alike ways of trying to resist the present”

Running well helps me stay in the present. Do I always succeed in staying in the present? Hell, no! I rarely do.

But then, I’m still trying to perfect my art. And that is why I keep running.

— Amit Sheth is the author of Dare To Run. He was the first Indian to run the 89 km Comrades Ultra Marathon in South Africa in 2009. 

Running well is an art, like living well. Photo courtesy freeimages.com

Running well is an art, like living well. Photo courtesy freeimages.com


Vaishali Kasture

I started running in 2002-2003 when I was living in Hong Kong. I had never run in school or college. My extra-curricular activities in school included debating, public speaking and dramatics.  I was very academically driven, both in school and during my MBA course. I always had to come first!

Looking back, I feel if my parents had nudged me to pick up athletics or a sport, it would have balanced out my energies. When you focus all your energies on only one thing, you tend to burn out early in life.

As I started my corporate career, I realised that my life had become two-dimensional: all about work and home. Monotony had begun to creep in. I worried: is this all there is to life? For 30-odd years I had only used my brain and never really explored what the rest of my body was capable of. So I tried a variety of sports – tennis, squash, swimming… I could not seem to enjoy them. I felt my heart was not in it.

I had started training in the gym regularly at that point and my trainer put me on the treadmill for a 2-3 km easy run a couple of times a week. Then out of the blue, a very dear college friend who was visiting me from India signed me up for a 10-km race. I was shocked, as I had never run more than 3 km. But given my love for a challenge, I started training – a little grudgingly at first – though I soon began to enjoy my outdoor runs.

On race day, I was nervous, but as I passed each kilometer, a sense of calm spread through my body. It’s this glow that starts in your heart, makes its way through your bloodstream to the outer extremities of your body… I fell in love with the steady pounding of my heart, the sweat pouring down my temples. I felt a satisfaction and happiness I hadn’t in a long time. It seemed to fill that void in my two-dimensional life.

Over the years, I’ve realised food feeds my body, work feeds my brain, but only running truly feeds my soul. And a life lived without satisfying your soul, is a life not lived with purpose.

Before you die, you have to find that one thing that gives you unadulterated joy – no matter what, you can go "home" to it and feel that there is hope beyond despair, that there is joy beyond drudgery. No one can take that away from you. Over the last 15 years, it has dawned on me that running is my religion.

I have honestly I have lost count of the number of events I have raced! I have done countless 10 km runs, half and full marathons. I have also done a couple of 100 km races. The 40+ age group among Indian women is a fantastic space to be . There are so many awesome 40 year old women breaking all kinds of barriers in running and setting great course records in our age category. Many of us have discovered running late in life and are hell bent on extracting the most from it!

I always say life begins at 40 – until then you are only doing research!

— Vaishali’s goal is to finish the last of the world majors, Chicago. This will earn her the Abbott World Major Certification, something only a 1000 people across the world have. She is a partner at Deloitte Consulting and co-founder of India Amateur Runners Trust.


Nimish Sawant

I was never into track and field athletics in school. I'd never even run more than 200 metres after I finished with schooling. The Mumbai Marathon was an occasion for me to head to CST (the end point of the race) to make photographs, as the city came out in all its finery along a lovely route. After two years of doing that, I decided to enroll for the half marathon, at least. Fate had me getting registered for the full marathon instead, as the half marathon entries were full. That last minute impulse decision is what got me hooked on to running, and I've been running every Mumbai Marathon since 2011.

Apart from building good stamina and health, I didn't have any particular aim as such when preparing for my first marathon. One needs to gradually build their stamina and it is a time consuming, but a greatly addictive process. I don't follow a runner's diet as such, so in that sense I am not the most disciplined of runners. But I still love running.

One of the things I love about long distance running is that it gives me a lot of me-time. I prefer running on my own with my running-playlist, following any route I want, running at any pace I want and treating myself to anything I want post-run. It gives me some precious time to get things into perspective. There are a lot of times when I have gone on a long run after a particularly stressful day at work, just to release the happy hormones that are a result of a great workout.

It helps clear the mind and is a great stress buster from an otherwise hectic life. I always have my phone in airplane mode whilst running, so it's distraction-free. Thanks to that, after the initial couple of kilometers, I kind of acquire a rhythm and am in an almost meditative state. The high I get after accomplishing my target, is what gets me to wake up early to run the next day. It’s an addiction after a point.

Practising over long periods also teaches you a lot about goal-setting, as you are constantly evaluating your speed, breathing patterns and figuring out how to pace yourself across the distance. This does help me in the professional environment as well.

On marathon days though, after the 30-32 km mark, running is more of a mentally driven activity than a physical one. Overcoming that voice in your head, which asks you to stop and sit or maybe abandon the thought of going on, and then continuing towards the finish line, eventually crossing it, is a high that is second to none. That is what gets me out on DN Road on the third Sunday of every January.

— Nimish is a journalist with Tech2 who's been running the full marathon at the SCMM since 2011

Updated Date: Jan 14, 2017 21:32:24 IST