By Oxfam Trailwalker

Thank God it’s Friday- Marathon Mania

The city has emerged as the go-to destination for those who want to take part in running and walking trails, says

Pankaj Rai, the 46-year-old di rector of analytics at Dell India, running a marathon was first a fitness choice that has now be come an obsession. “When I started out of sheer curiosity in 2005, our group ran in sadhu (rishi) costumes, which was unheard of then,“ he says. “So these marathons became not only a way to remain healthy , they also helped us build camaraderie and meet people who share the same passion.“

Running is an inseparable part of Bengaluru's culture today . More than a sport, it has graduated to become a lifestyle choice for many in the city . The seeds for this passion among Bengalureans -young and old alike -were sown by the IT boom that swept the city 15 odd years ago, believes TimTim Sharma, one of the organisers of the Bengaluru Marathon.“Bengaluru has 30% more runners than other parts of the country , courtesy the sedentary lifestyle of the young IT professionals here,“ she says. “Most of them take to running in an attempt to battle this lifestyle change as there is ease of access -all you need is a pair of running shoes and a road.“ This apart, she adds, the involvement of trained, passionate sports professionals in organising these events ensures that people's interest is maintained.

Agrees Nirmala Rani, Regional Head -South India, Oxfam India, “Bengalureans believe in fitness, charity and are more health-conscious in comparison to other cities. Bengaluru with the IT industry has become a melting pot for all --expats, migrants from across the country and, of course, those who belong here. From a young crowd of students from north India to a group of foreigners who are working here for a couple of years now, from west to northeast Indians, Bengaluru has a place for all. To add to this, the beautiful weather all around the year and picturesque outskirts makes it one of the best places to host a marathon or a walkathon.“

Choosing the cause

Organising a marathon or walking trail takes months of planning, taking permissions from government authorities and most importantly, creating a buzz and awareness about the event amongst the participants. If it's a fundraiser event, it also involves identifying appropriate causes that will get good response.

As Naveen Rajdev, chief marketing officer, Wipro Limited which organises the annual marathon the Spirit of Wipro Run, says, “Wipro has partnered with the United Way of Chennai to organise the Wipro Chennai Marathon to give back and to drive various efforts towards charity giving and fundraising. Through the annual Spirit of Wipro Run, Wipro Cares, a trust which supports the development needs of communities in Wipro's proximate location, raises funds and works with various NGOs to provide to the society .Over the past ten years, the Run has come to demonstrate the social conscience of the company and empowers its participants to become catalysts of change through its association with various community initiatives.“

SAP Labs India's Month of Service initiative (SAP's flagship CSR initiative which takes place every October) is also one of the many awareness-driving activities the company conducts by running marathons for raising awareness of social causes like environmental conservation, education, women empowerment and traffic control.“This is not for fundraising and is wholly meant for raising awareness,“ points out Mahesh Nayak, chief operating officer, SAP Labs India.

Behind the scenes

Government permissions, route safety and appropriate infrastructure are some key logistics that marathon event managers have to wrap their heads around. As Viraf Sutaria, chairman, Bengaluru Midnight Marathon (BMM), says, “Logistics is the core area and takes immense time and effort to plan. Security is one of the main areas of focus in largescale marathons as it entails immense coordination to ensure there are no mishaps.“ This year, the organisers of BMM have athletes from Karnataka Athletics Association and MEG officers who are sending 30 marshals who would run with the people and ensure that everything is fine. Added to this, there will be 40 policemen who will run with the people. “They are the real backbone of event security and ensure that law and order is maintained,“ Sutaria says.

Besides this, medical services like ambulances, tents, doctors and nurses are imperative along with technology that is fast, effective and efficient to track the race.

While blocking traffic for a long time remains a prime concern, Benglauru Marathon's Sharma says it is usually overcome by support from the traffic authorities. “What we woefully lack is public support. Marathons are not only for the organisers and the runners,“ she says, giving the example of the New York marathon where 150,000 people turned up to support and cheer for 50,000 runners.

Community bonding

Employee engagement, community bonding and identifying sports talent within the workforce are vital areas that form a part of the marathon ecosystem. As Sandeep Mhaiskar, head ­ finance, Tesco Bengaluru, who also leads the internal sports committee says, “Marathons are a platform to engage employees, showcase the sporting talent of a workforce and even to identify fresh talent to represent our company in inter-corporate tournaments.We encourage our colleagues to participate in several internal and external corporate marathons and as a result we have emerged winners in several. This goes to show our commitment as an organisation to promote active and healthy lifestyle beyond the workplace and ensure community is at the heart of what we do.“

Events like these are also a great teambuilding exercise, says Rani of Oxfam.According to statistics, 47% human resource executives rate marathons or sports events as the most effective tool for employee engagement, she says. “Community events as these where colleagues run or walk together is a good measure on how an employee is as a co-worker.“

Unna V Govindarajan, founding trustee of the Adarsh Public Retreat (APR) Charitable Trust that organises the APR marathon, says marathons are the best way to facilitate direct interactions between corporates, people and NGOs. The marathon will dedicate four of its 40 stalls to NGOs it supports in the upcoming edition.

Chandra Gopalan director, Contours India, ultra marathon runner

I love running as it destresses me. It keeps my day bright. It helps to be on your feet for a long time. It somehow gives me a high whenever I finish a run. Nothing can replace that feeling. The world feels a much brighter place. When I started running, it was for fitness. I soon discovered the joy of running.Running outdoors is what I love the most. In runs, you are out there with friends and nature, it tires you but you enjoy it. Runs let me be me.

Nikhil Chinapa video and radio jockey

I love running because it keeps my metabolism ticking.While running, the roads do not judge, your feet do not judge.It gives me time to think. I enjoy the solitude. This helps me with my music. For first-time runners, I suggest that they listen to Iron Maiden's Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Bengaluru has a fantastic running culture.

Kothandapani KC coach, PaceMakers

Since I was a child, I loved sports. But I took up running only after I joined the Air Force. I run because it is my passion. Starters need to start training for at least two years because if one just starts running, you'll end up with injuries. One must progress step by step. It is a wrong practice to just turn up at the event and just run. One must train enough to run and warming up is really important. Otherwise, the muscles will become stiff. From 2008, this city has seen a lot of runs, there is one every other week.But the best thing that has happened in these runs is the introduction of age groups. Otherwise the runs were mostly won by elite runners.Now everyone has a chance.

Vinayak Joshi actor, radio jockey

I started running around 2009. I was dealing with weight issues and running seemed to be a good option at that time to help me become fitter. My first marathon was the Nike 10k in 2009. After that, I have run around 5 ultramarathons, 30 half marathons and numerous 10ks. Running gives me inner peace and has also helped me build my patience levels.Through my personal story, I want to inspire people to get fitter and believe in the fact that if I could do it, they can too. However, these days, personally I think marathons in the city have become too commercial. As a result, I choose not to participate in them but take off on my own. I have also been instrumental in starting a running club at my current workplace.

Something for our furry friends

If you are a pet parent in the city and an avid marathoner, then don't miss the Pet Marathon being organised by the Rotary IT Corridor wing. The walk, which will be a kilometer-long, will be held at Cubbon Park next week. Says Hema Srinivas, who is organising the event, “Bengaluru is a pet-loving city. We are expecting more than 30 pet parents at the event. The officials at Cubbon Park have been extremely forthcoming to help us organise the event.“ In its sixth edition this year, the event hopes to raise funds of more than a lakh for the city's four-legged friends, which will be donated for a cause to the Duma's Animal Welfare Trust. There will also be a focus on pet adoption and fostering during the event.

Thomas Bobby Philip competence development manager, DE RCM Global Services, Networks Nokia, a barefoot runner

Running has become a part of my life.When I started, my endurance was nil. It took at least two years to build enough endurance. One needs to be disciplined to become a consistent runner. You need to do some strengthening workout in the gym and also cross train. For example, swimming is helpful in relaxing your muscles. It would be great if you can have a good mentor to guide you. In 2012, I started running barefoot. Bengaluru's running culture has grown tremendously over the past few years.The number of events have increased significantly. But it would great if the number of participants also increases in proportion to the events.

Written By : Ipsita Basu, Vignesh J and Divya J Shekhar

Source: Economic Times (Bangalore) - Mumbai Trailwalker