Hear it from the man himself, Siddharth Jain, the founder of Manipal Runners’ Club. Siddharth founded MRC in 2016 and since then there has been no looking back. He has successfully completed various marathons and recently completed a 12 hour stadium run. He is a very disciplined runner who is an asset for all of us at MRC.
Anushka: When and how did you start running?
Siddharth: My running journey began right from my school days. My mom used to take me on morning walks. That’s when I started slow jogs. I took part in a few 2-3km races. Once on my visit to Mahalaxmi temple near worli, I witnessed the Mumbai marathon. I was amazed by the people running that race. I was mesmerized. That’s when I got the marathon bug. In 2012 I ran the 6km dream run in Mumbai marathon. And I promised myself that I would return for the bigger formats of the race. And soon, I was studying in Manipal, a true runners’ paradise. That’s when I started 5km runs and then there was no looking back. I was regular on my runs. I mostly ran alone during the initial years.
Anushka: Why do you run?
Siddharth: A short answer would be, I run for the true and unfiltered love of running.
The multifaceted advantages of running are that it tests your mental capabilities like no other sport and gives you some sense of clarity and your thought process definitely improves. This, along with the adrenaline and endorphin rush after a run got me hooked to the sport. Running is my way of clearing my thought process. Running connects you with outdoors, and if you are a trail runner, you get the best nature can offer. Apart from this, running is an altogether different challenge. It gives a break from your routine monotonous life. So running is pretty much my alter ego.
Anushka: How did MRC start? What are some of the hurdles you encountered in the process?
Siddharth: I got pretty bored running alone on the same route. And it was my selfish desire to train with people. Manipal Runners’ Club was started with just a simple aim to connect with runners. Growing up in Mumbai, I saw various running clubs and was totally spellbound. They had such huge clubs, and the people there were extremely amazing. I started noticing these clubs, how they function, and what they do. I tried implementing that in a format that would grab student’s attention.
Starting the club was no walk in the park. The first hurdle was people in my college, or rather my friends, who didn’t take me seriously at first. There was a lack of response from my college. University didn’t help much. Even though we got officially recognized by the university, we didn’t get any funds to function. It is extremely vital for a club to get help from its university. The second hurdle was getting students to be part of a running club. The usual thought process is that parties are the ‘in’ thing, and running is for oldies. Well, for a matter of fact, these oldies clock better times and higher mileage than us. Despite publicizing, getting people to run was a tough task. But I’m happy to see that gradually this is also changing and that the younger generation is taking more interest in running.
Anushka: What was your vision when you started MRC?
Siddharth: I wanted MRC to be India’s first student-driven runners’ club. And I wanted to revolutionalize the way running is viewed, and to be taken as an active sport among all age groups. It was a wonderful way of connecting runners from different backgrounds. Plus, I wanted MRC to be a name among the top clubs of Manipal! 😛
Anushka: Who are some of the people who have been your backbone throughout this journey?
Siddharth: Well I wouldn’t want to name people, as I don’t want to miss anyone. It was a collective effort of everyone, right from the person who took an initiative to organize and the one who came just to enjoy the run. Both were equally important. But yes, this whole thing wouldn’t have been possible without Ganga and Sandeep. They stood rock-solid, organizing runs, planning after college, and lobbying with university officials to get the club recognized. Girish sir (our faculty advisor) is the reason MRC reached where it is today. He has an unmatched commitment towards running, and no words can describe him or thank him.
Anushka: Where do you see MRC in the next few years?
Siddharth: To be frank, it all depends on how well it is handled in the coming years. My juniors have a huge task at hand of taking the club forward. I want MRC to be an ever-growing club for all age groups, with huge participation in marathons all over the country.
Anushka: How did the idea of Manipal Marathon conceptualize?
Siddharth: The fact that the 18-25 age group is the least represented in any long-distance race (the 10k, 21k, or Marathon) started to bug me. Fitness seemed the least priority on any student’s list. Plus the concept of a marathon seemed lovely. A marathon race completely changes the city in many aspects, unites the people, and brings a lot of tourism to the city. The cheering crowd unites the people. I have seen that in Mumbai. It’s crazy. These motivated me to take the idea forward.
Luckily, all things fell in shape forward to actually organize the marathon. I met Dharma from Bangalore who helped the club immensely, and even he wanted to organize a marathon in a university. We started planning, pitching the idea to the university. At this point in time, I met Girish sir, who helped in fast-forwarding the plan to university. There was no looking back from here. We’ve successfully organized two editions of the Manipal Marathon, with people participating from all over the country.
Anushka: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
Siddharth: Once you start running, every run feels like an accomplishment. But, I would say my greatest accomplishment is forming the Manipal Runners’ Club. And then subsequently organizing the Manipal Marathon, the first-ever student-organized Marathon in the country. The joy I got in organizing group runs and helping first-timers complete their runs was unparalleled.
Apart from this, my recent 12 hours stadium run which was my first ultra-marathon is another accomplishment. It was grueling.
Anushka: Do you encounter days when you don’t feel like running? How do you deal with those days?
Siddharth: Yes absolutely. After all, it’s human nature. There is no easy way out in these cases. I try convincing myself to go out. I actually go and run sometimes even if I don’t feel like it. The first 2 km are tough, after which it’s a breeze; then I feel glad that I went for a run.
If nothing’s working, I just skip the run and go for a cup of tea. Cheat days are sometimes acceptable.
Anushka: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from running marathons?
Siddharth: The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that what you put into running is what you get out of it.
That’s the greatest metaphor that running and life can offer. And the three P’s patience, perseverance, and proper planning is what takes you miles ahead in any race.
Anushka: How do you stay inspired and who is your running idol?
Siddharth: The beauty of running is that you’re always surrounded by beautiful and self-motivated people. I admire all those people religiously logging in miles daily, despite hectic office hours. Every runner out there in the street running regularly is my idol because I know for a fact how difficult running can be.
One person in particular whom I get inspired by is Dharma. He is one crazy runner and an amazing human being.
Anushka: What are your personal goals for the future?
Siddharth: The thing about running is that you always crave for more. Having run the stadium run, I know that I have a huge hunger for longer distances. Speed doesn’t excite me anymore. Distance does. So I want to be able to run in longer formats of the race. And also run the Comrades Marathon, every endurance runners’ dream, someday.
Anushka: What quotes inspire you the most?
Siddharth: My mentor is Dharmendra Kumar (Dharma). Once I complained that with college and assignments, there is no time to run. He said, “When you can get time to eat meals 4 times a day, why can’t you find time just to run for 30 mins.” That line stuck with me, and I make it a point to squeeze in runs whenever I can.
Haruki Murakami is my favorite author, and he quotes in What I talk about when I talk about running,
“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as a whole. I believe many runners would agree.
For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent, you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.”