“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.” – Oprah Winfrey
I was desperately trying to lose weight, but I wasn’t doing enough. While we all know that nothing is easy in life, I hadn’t applied it to my desire to get fit again.
About a year ago, I was introduced to running by a friend who is a part of the local Pinkathon group. I wasn’t much of an athlete in my younger days, so formal running was new to me. The free training sessions were held just once a week on Saturday mornings. For the rest of the week we were guided on what we needed to do on our own. Initially it was a struggle to pull myself out of bed to attend the sessions. They happened much before the sun came out. It was so much more gratifying to have an extended sleep. With nudging from others in the group, the training slowly became a habit. The strengthening exercises, the yoga, the road runs. Each week we would do something different. Soon the struggle turned into a supreme feeling of happiness.
After five months of reasonably rigorous training, I was in a position to run an official race of 10 km. The satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment after finishing the race is something that only others who have run would know. Timing was not important. Just finishing. Ever since then, there was no looking back, and exercise became an integral part of my daily routine.
I had geared myself for new running achievements in 2020. I had registered for a few of the well-known road runs in Mumbai, but nature had something else in store for us. From mid-February our group training sessions stopped. We stopped going out. COVID-19 not only increased stress levels, but also made it impossible for people like me to pursue our new-found love.
It was almost two months and I had completely stopped running. I would walk occasionally inside the house. Nothing substantial, but just something to make me sweat and feel like I was keeping fit. All the scheduled road runs were cancelled so there was nothing to motivate me to be more active.
This was when the Satara Runners Foundation came up with a novel idea. They decided to replace the planned International Marathon Day run on 10th April with a Stay Home Healthy virtual run instead. (“Virtual” means that the run is not held at a specific location and time. Runners can run wherever they want to during the given time range.) The unique feature of this run was that it had to be done within one’s house or compound and not in a public space. It was driving the point of stay home to prevent the spread of COIVD-19. This was probably the first official indoor run organised by anyone in India. One could register to run 3 km right up to the marathon distance of 42 km.
All of us around here live in flats and most of us don’t have treadmills. So we were quite amazed at the organiser’s vision of getting people to run as much as 42 km within a house. The fact that there was no registration fee was a big incentive, so many of us signed up. Now there was some event to prepare for and do. This was the kind of motivation I needed.
After I ran the 10K that I had registered for, I realised how much I had missed running and staying fit. This run opened up a new chapter in my life, and the lives of many of my friends as well. Virtual running became the most talked about topic in our local Whatsapp groups. We would exchange notes about indoor-recording apps and devices, and test their accuracy. We would share the routes we took within our homes. Some ran in just one room while others ran through the house. We would share our daily workout pictures and videos. We were happy to realise that running and exercising during lockdown was indeed possible.
Soon after, many health groups and running groups started organising virtual runs with no registration fee or at a nominal cost. Some runs highlighted social issues. Some commemorated special events. Some were extended runs, to be done over several days. Some were target runs where you cover a certain distance every day.
Organisers made attractive offers of free e-posters and e-certificates with our pictures on them. Some even promised medals. Of course, all this in the hope that we would share this on social media – giving exposure to the organiser, the cause and ourselves as well, and inspiring others to also start running and exercising.
Online meeting apps like Zoom and Google Meet found new utility. There were yoga sessions on International Yoga Day. There were workout sessions with variations to make exercising more interesting. There were physiotherapy sessions to help with dealing with recovery and injuries. There were mental health counselling sessions to help us deal with the pandemic scare.
One of the most interesting events was the Run to the Moon to commemorate man’s landing on the moon on 20th July 1969. This was a collective run where over 14,000 people from all over the world ran for one month, enough distance to go to the moon and back (that’s 7,68,800 km). A nominal entry fee was charged, and donations were also invited. Proceeds went to three sporting academies in India, to help their support staff during the lockdown time.
Over the past 16 weeks, my friends and I have participated in over 100 virtual events, running from 1 km to marathons. New events are announced regularly by organisers from all over the world, and it’s likely that this sort of virtual running is going to be the norm for a while.
I have a feeling that I’ve been more active than I would have, if lockdown had not happened. As I’m running indoors, I don’t have to worry about wearing a face mask. I don’t have to worry about pollution or rain. I am enjoying running without breaking any lockdown and social distancing rules. And yes, I’m trying not to get over enthusiastic and listening to my body so as not to get an inadvertent injury.
Lockdown did not lock my legs but unleashed a new spirit in me. Running is now a passion. Now, more than ever, I believe that one should pursue the things that one enjoys and never give up the passion of one’s life.
If you are interested in running and keeping fit while at home, all you need to do is search on the internet/ social media channels. You’ll find many workouts to choose from. And if you feel you need a push, you can register for events similar to the ones I’ve mentioned. With Independence Day coming up, there are many virtual runs/ walks you can participate in.
Stay healthy, stay safe.