All set for the 2016 Wipro Chennai Marathon

The Wipro Chennai Marathon returns as more than 15,000 participants will take to the streets of Chennai on Sunday. The event was re-scheduled after the floods in December and will be flagged off in the early hours of January 31.

The 2015 Wipro Chennai Marathon saw 12,500 runners.   -  Special Arrangement

Marathons might be a ridiculous idea for people who haven’t run one. We live in a time when we needn’t even find a cab to go somewhere -- a few taps on our mobile screens and the cab will find us.

So, why wouldn’t some of us find it absurd to hear that one has to run for 42.195 kilometres, non-stop? Won’t people die running that much? Yes, they do. Between 2000 and 2009, 28 people lost their lives during a Marathon or within 24 hours of finishing one.

In fact, the Marathon was instituted to commemorate the death of a person. In 490 BC, Pheidippides was sent from Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon. He ran the entire distance, sans stopping. “We have won!” he cried in ancient Greek before collapsing to death.

Pheidippides, however, had a purpose: he was conveying a message. Every runner, who has emulated or tried to emulate Pheidippides, might also have had a purpose. Forty-six-year-old homemaker Rachna Patel’s was to find out how much she can “push her limits”.

Rachna has never been a “serious runner”. Even during school days, she wasn’t an athlete. “I used to take part in some sports occasionally, but nothing serious,” she says.

Despite going for occasional treks and cycling, she never believed in her running capabilities. During one of her cycling sessions, she met with an accident. And that’s how she got into running. “The roads were bad and my family was worried after the accident, so I thought I could give running a shot,” Rachna says.

Then step-by-step, she pushed herself, trying to extend her limit. “Sometimes you ask yourself, ‘how much more can you go?’. It’s a mental thing.”

Her motivation towards running got herself addicted to it. “Whenever I take up a physical activity, I constantly want to do better at it,” she says.

She participated in her first Marathon in April last year. “I clocked a decent timing, and the people who I usually run with said I did better than many participants.”

But competition hardly matters for Rachna. “It was more of a challenge to the self. How much can I push and how I’ll be able to do it.”

Harikumar, like Rachna, got into running unplanned. The 27-year-old, who does a course in Montessori Training, accompanied a friend who wanted to participate in a Marathon held in Goa three years ago.

“He wanted me to participate as well. But I went because of the fun of driving to Goa,” says Harikumar.

He finished the Marathon, drove back home and felt good about it. “It was a nice feeling. The only running I used to do was when I played cricket at school. But I pursued running as it felt good,” he says.

For Harikumar, running is also about figuring out his personality. “I do long distance runs instead of quick sprint because I think, in a way, that is who I am. If you ask me to finish a job super quick, I might not be able to. But I can work for long hours. I can go on and on. For me, running is about discovering these things,” he says.

Then, there is Srinivasan, who, when asked for his age, replies: “always 28.” Running, for him, is a way of “getting closer to God.”

“It is close to meditation. You forget everything and concentrate on your steps, movement, breathing, and your goal. And with each goal you accomplish, you feel more close to God,” he says.

Srinivasan, a senior manager at Engineers India Ltd, participated in a Marathon for the first time at the ‘Wipro Chennai Marathon’ in 2013. “Oh my God! How can I ever forget my first Marathon experience? It transformed me from a boy to a man,” he exclaims.

He started well, covering 12 kilometres in about an hour. Then, he felt a sharp pang in his right knee. The cut-off for winning a medal was six hours. He had to battle a knee pain and cover another 30 kilometres in five hours.

“Then I went to the nearest first-aid centre and tied a band around my knee. I was sure when I continued running it would loosen and my blood circulation would increase,” he says.

Five hundred metres later, his legs seemed to be giving up. “I felt I couldn’t continue with the same speed as I was not able to bend my knees.” But he didn’t want to give up. He drastically reduced his speed, and almost walked. He concentrated one step at a time and finished five minutes before the cut-off time to see his wife and friends at the finish line.

Like, Pheidippides, Srinivasan also had a message to deliver at the end of his journey. The message, however, wasn’t for those who were waiting there, it was rather for himself. It was: “If I push myself, I can overcome any tough situation.”

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