This article was authored by Dr. Girish Menon, Faculty Advisor of Manipal Runners’ Club and Professor at Kasturba Medical College, Manipal
One quality which my family tree can never boast of is proficiency in sports, and, I guess, my pedigree is unquestionable. Running never came naturally to me. For that matter neither did studying. Managed to complete my medical studies – “huffing and panting” all along. A neurosurgery degree in hand, I started running the day I stopped studying- in December 1996. Not surprisingly, the huffing and panting continues to this day.
Generation X (dob: 1960 to 1980) of which I am a proud member, relish eating. Calories were discussed only in the physics class room. “Vada’ and “Pakodas” were devoured in its entirety, no strings attached and with no second thoughts. Wonder when and how, calories stepped in. Tea without sugar, cholesterol free eggs – diet was decided on content rather than taste. I could see my contemporaries soaking a ‘vada’ with a tissue paper to drain out the oil. Striving for “sub-zero” cholesterol levels became the order of the day. I was lost. I had to savour my food, but then I was scared of heart attacks too. I badly needed a way out. The only way to eat without a worry was to hog and then burn it out. I started running.
A pair of good shoe and you are all set. We had a small school ground near our house – around the same size of our Marena jogging track. The days I used to run twenty rounds of the ground, and such days were rather infrequent – I used to equate myself with Mo Farah. Running apps were not available those days and I was happy deceiving myself by over estimating the quantum of calories burnt. I had another unique virtue – of sweating a lot. Ten minutes into a run and I would be more drenched than what Kipchoge would be after a sub 2-hour full marathon. Onlookers and my family were in awe of this self-styled long distance runner drenched in sweat. Sudha, for obvious reasons believed that the way to a man’s heart was through his gut. Sudha’s love for her husband became evident on his waist!
Nearly a decade into this ritual – I had hit a wall. I would run around 4 to 6 km, make myself believe that I have burnt 1500 calories and replace it with food worth 2500 calories. Long distance running had become trendy by then and so had running apps. It was through a pedometer gifted to me by my friend, that I soon realised, painfully though, that I was far from being labelled a long distance runner. My ego was hurt. Running became a challenge thereafter.
It was an accidental meeting with an old school mate friend of mine, now a naval officer, that lured me to the Cochin half marathon idea. It was addictive. The momentary ecstasy and euphoria which accompanies the adrenaline rush at the finishing point is heavenly. Five years hence and after nearly twenty half marathons and three full marathons, the emotion at the finishing point remains the same. My timings have remained static and I am pretty sure that I will never have a podium finish. I just don’t care – it’s all about finishing.
Manipal is a runner’s paradise. Dust free environment, scanty traffic, abundant open space, eye catching landscape and multiple destinations. If you don’t take to running while in Manipal, you probably will never. And if one is lucky, as I was, to meet motivating runners like Sid, Dhaval, Ganga in your early days, Manipal can turn a lazy couch potato like me into a marathon runner.
Over the years my schedule has changed. I prefer running late in the evening, one of the other privileges of being in Manipal. It gives me a chance to ruminate over the day’s work. I never carry my mobile with me on a run. I started running two decades earlier to stay fit – now I do it to spend time with myself. Signs of growing old perhaps. But who is going to grow old if he keeps running?