Sports scientist Shayamal Vallabhjee analyses the benefits of long-distance running and tells us why it is a metaphor for life for many corporate honchos in the country
The new Tata Sons chairman, Natarajan Chandrasekaran, often referred to as the Marathon Man, is an avid runner and has often said in his interviews that long-distance running has made him healthier and has helped him at work as well. “It has taught me that there are no shortcuts,” he says.
Chandrasekaran is a member of the expanding group of running enthusiasts in India, who use the sport not only to stay fit but also to train their minds. In the past 10 years, the sport of running and its industry have undergone a metamorphosis and Indian runners, too, have evolved. Most participants, who used to run marathons for fun or to complete a race, have now graduated to breaking personal bests, setting records and unlocking the upper limits of their potential. What drives home this point is that running events have gone up by more than 300 per cent in recent years. In fact, not only have the number of events and runners increased considerably, we are also seeing a vast array of events being organised – from 5 km, 10 km, half and full marathons to ultras (50 km, 75 km and more than 100 km), 24-hour races, colour runs, obstacle runs, trail runs and even heritage runs through the countryside.
Run for all
Running isn’t an elitist sport in terms of cost, which has been one of the major contributing factors to its global rise in popularity. In India, the growing awareness about health and physical fitness, coupled with the popularity of celeb-studded events such as the Mumbai Marathon and Delhi Half Marathon, have contributed significantly to the popularity of the sport. The UK based Runner’s World magazine predicts that India will have the largest running population in the world by 2025.
Top Indian executives like Anil Ambani (chairman, Reliance Group), Sajjan Jindal (chairman, JSW Group), Mickey Doshi (MD and CEO, Credit Suisse, India), Gagan Banga (VC and MD, Indiabulls Housing Finance), Rashesh Shah (chairman and CEO, Edelweiss Group) and Chandrasekaran, who are active members of the running community, are adding to the sport’s credibility to hone the mind. Their success stories are helping make the marathon a household sport. Interestingly, this is a feature that has been absent in many developed running communities globally.
The world of running
While athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia rule the world of running, runners from India, too, have it in them to excel at the sport. Not only do we have the socio-economic drivers for performance but also the physiological make-up to produce some of the world’s best middle-distance runners. It is an exciting time for running in India.
The wonderful thing about running is that it is pure meritocracy – you will reap the rewards of your efforts. Like all sports, discipline, perseverance, courage and the will to overcome adversity are the threads woven into the fabric of success. Globally, we are seeing more and more corporate brands take to the sport to instil in their employees simple life lessons needed to succeed. Senior corporates across the world are using running and its training sessions to motivate their employees and shift their mind towards embracing an active lifestyle.
Today, as the world evolves and offers every individual the chance to become a hero, running can be the push a person needs to sprint ahead. It can enhance a person’s ability to challenge old assumptions and unlock an individual’s self-belief, confidence and latent hunger to succeed.
The writer is a sports researcher and the views expressed in the article are his own