“There are roads, paths and trails everywhere. All you need to do is to step out, travel miles and tread on unknown paths. Explore the world. Experience nature. Embrace the gusty wind. Embark on a journey of relaxation, realization and rejuvenation.”
These lines sum up Ganga Shinghal’s opinion of this wonderful task of running that anyone and everyone can indulge in, anywhere and everywhere. So here we profile Ganga, a 4th year student of MIT, Manipal:
MRC: How did you take up running?
GS: My association with long distance running could be dated back to when I was 9 years old. I’m fortunate to have been educated in a British set-up boarding school situated in the magnificent Himalayas, in a place called Mussoorie; this where my love for nature and the outdoors began. Fresh air, towering trees and lush green surroundings set in me the urge to explore and enjoy the outdoors and what better way to relish all of it, than to simply run. Cross country was an essential part of the school’s extra-curricular activities and we had regular competitions and trainings, running arduous hilly tracks almost everyday. Athleticism and sports had never been in my genes and initially I was one of the most ridiculed runners. But my body soon adapted to the oxygen levels, nurtured my heartbeat and within two years, I got selected for the school team. Running became a passion and we often ran in school for various competitions and training. A few medals and a record in the final year in my school was when I realized I had the gift to excel even further.
MRC: So what made you continue running and be a dedicated runner?
GS: What further played a role in converting me into a regular self-motivated runner was the fact that when I left running during my class 10 boards, I realized how unfit, mentally depressed and irritable I had become and during the class 12 boards, I was totally determined to change it. I ran daily, twice a day. The mornings were now full of energy and adrenaline rush instead of lethargy. It became a motivation to get out of bed and to totally stay away from junk food. The run after studying every evening rejuvenated a tired mind. It improved my concentration and made me fitter, happier and totally stress-free during exams.
And since then, I’ve never looked back. Running has become my biggest stress-buster.
Yes, running today is like my morning bed-tea and my evening movie. I can’t do without it. It has given me a sense of confidence and self-respect and most importantly I have met some amazing people with motivational stories as I run and this is what inspires me to run daily.
MRC: What has been your major breakthrough in running?
GS: My biggest breakthrough in professional running is credited toManipal University as I have been given various opportunities at the college and university level. Not only has this kept me occupied, it has helped me to stay fit and pick up many new sports as well. I have made my best friends on the running track. I’ve got the chance to explore challenging tracks and undiscovered routes and the thrill of adventure is what keeps me going. Running clears a cluttered mind and has instilled in me a sportsmanship spirit applicable everywhere in life.
MRC: Can you mention some of your running achievements?
-Represented the school in Inter school cross country and long distance running (1500m, 5km, 800m, 4km) from 2006-2012 with a few podium finishes
-Established a new record in the cross country at the school level for Senior Girls category, the distance being 4.2km
-Winner of Inter Mahe cross country and athletics (long distance track running) in 2014, 2015, 2016.
-Winner of Atharv Tapmi Cross Country 2015,2016 and Manglore Big Balipu half marathon, 2016.
-Represented Manipal University in the All-Inter University Athletics Championship in January 2015 in the 10km and 21km category and in All-Inter University Cross country Championship in October 2015 at Moddbidri
-Participated in the Hyderabad open triathalon , the Anand May marathon in Bangalore and the Udupi cross country.
-Third place in the Mussoorie Winter Carnival Half marathon
-Winner of the Revels Cross Country in 2015, 2016.
MRC: How has your experience of running in your hometown been?
GS: Talking about running in my hometown, well, I can proudly say that India is on its way to becoming a running community as marathons and races are the new trend. In Mussoorie, till just a few years ago running was widely prevalent as compulsory activities in schools with many competitions at the Inter-school level. It was with the start of the Mussoorie Winterline carnival every year that open competitions started being held and recently we played hosts to LA Ultra half marathon. The difficult terrain and low levels of oxygen plays a role in increasing stamina and lung capacity of the inhabitants better than those who live in the plains. Moreover, the encouragement given to running these days has motivated most of the inhabitants to go on early morning jogs and walks among picturesque nature and no traffic roads.
MRC: What are your future goals?
GS: It is difficult fighting stereotypes surrounding women runners. In the future, I might not be able to take up running professionally, but I would definitely like to keep running and keep inspiring others to run as long as I can. I would love to participate in charity runs or mass runs because the bliss of simply running together with thousands of others gives immense thrill. One thing that I sincerely want to do is to inculcate this habit of fitness and running in others by making them join me and realise its benefits.
MRC: How do you train?
GS: Regarding my training, I would say that it is mere passion and the desire to run everyday. I have never been coached professionally, but certain tips and fitness drills from my teachers both at school and college have guided me. Running has always cheered me up, made me mentally and emotionally stronger and has always relaxed and rejuvenated me when I am tired. The joy that one gets in running to new places, exploring new paths with different people in unparalleled. And that is why I run.
MRC: Any message for beginner runners and someone who wants to take up running?
GS: I like to advise all aspiring runners to run short distances every day and you never know when from merely running 2-3 km, you will be able to complete half marathons with pride, just like me. Also, include stretching and cross activities like swimming, football and sprints in your schedule.
In the end, I’d like to share a few words I’d read while running a short cross country in Manipal. I was really motivated by it and I hope you all would be too. It goes like this:
Run miles. Spread smiles.