More than 5,000 people laced up and stood on the start line of the Open 10K at 5.40am on Sunday, the sheer number speaking for the city’s new-found passion for running.
The 10K race at the Tata Steel Kolkata 25k partnered by The Telegraph recorded 5,695 participants this year, much more than the 5K Ananda Run that saw 4,531 participants.
Several of the 10K participants were making their debut, having earlier taken part in non-timed shorter format runs. They had trained themselves for both the distance and pace of a timed run.
Running, from being a niche activity, has become a part of life for these Calcuttans. Many of them now run once or twice a week instead of practising for just a few days in the run-up to an event.
Salt Lake resident Megha Dutta said the transition from running as a pastime to an everyday activity made her aware of several aspects of
The first thing she had to buy was a proper pair of shoes designed for road running. “Although running is one of the most pocket-friendly sports one can take up, with time you realise that proper gear is essential for running regularly,” said Dutta, who runs at least twice a week and says it helps her keep fit both physically and mentally.
Titagarh resident Santosh Yadav woke up at 3am ton Sunday to reach Red Road on time for the race. His effort was rewarded as he finished among the first five in the Open 10K run.
Having started off with shorter distances, Yadav soon started running every alternate day with a day or two of rest thrown in to allow the muscles to rest and recover.
To builds up pace along with stamina, the practice runs need to be monitored and timed.“I started timing my runs on my wristwatch’s stopwatch once I realised that I had built up the required stamina. I then started focussing on my personal best timings and kept improving henceforth, ” said Yadav, a first year student of Charu Chandra College.
Software engineer Pranjal Gupta may have been worried about “cramping up” during the run but that didn’t stop him from running.
“Cramps seem to love me. I have been preparing for this race by running thrice a week. However, last week I was out of town and my best friend is likely to be back on course,” he said in between some strenuous stretching.
Pranjal ran the 10K, a distance for which he had prepared by running 5km every day for the past month. He got hooked to timed runs after taking part in several non-timed events and realised that he too could finish a longer distance at a decent pace. Like some of the other runners, he was banking on the “70-minute pacer” to help him complete the run.
Pacers are regular runners who participate in a road race — they have flags strapped to their bodies so that amateurs can spotn them follow them if they aspire to complete the distance within a particular time.
Roshan Lal Lama, 68, a former Tata Steel employee said he started running three years ago.
“I started with a 5km race. I now participate in 10km runs regularly.”
Parthasarathi Varadachari, probably the oldest participant in the senior citizens’ run, was born on November 15, 1923, when King George V was the emperor of India. That makes him 96. The electrical engineer who retired as additional general manager of Eastern Railway made his TSK debut this year. “I loved the atmosphere and would have registered for a longer distance even a few years ago,” said the Alipore resident, who was accompanied by his daughter.
Warming up in the holding area before the Ananda Run was Nikita Bardia (right) with mother Neelam (centre) and aunt Usha Bhutoria — all TSK first-timers. The 27-year-old dietician returned from a “big fat wedding” in Jaipur on Saturday. “The run is going to be my relaxation,” Nikita told Metro. Her mother and aunt are regular morning walkers.
Khusboo Surana, 22, who lost her left leg when a truck hit her from behind three years ago took part in the Champions with Disability Run along with her mother Kalpana. A final-year BCom student at The Bhawanipur Education Society College, Khusboo uses a prosthetic limb and swims regularly to keep fit. “I don’t let anything come in the way of my fitness and I am hopeful that I will be able to motivate more people to take up running or some form of physical activity,” she said.
NGO worker Saba Islam came to the marathon with a black handprint across her face. Dressed in a hijab that had similar prints in white, Islam carried a placard listing several social evils against children. “I want to raise awareness and help empower children to protect themselves,” she said.