The 'Veterunners' of Pune
“You don’t stop running because you get old; you get old because you stop running.” States Christopher McDougall in his legendary book ‘Born to Run’.
Don’t we all remember how easily and naturally running came to us as kids? The sensation of the cool wind on your burning cheeks after an exhilarating run is an unparalleled feeling. Evident as it is, running is not an age-defined activity. Humans are, in the words of the author quoted above, naturally “Born to Run”.
In the last few years, Pune has seen a surge in the number of people who have taken to running outdoors as a recreational fitness regime and as a serious sport. There are a number of marathons and charity runs that take place in the city every month. And the best part is that more and more people are participating in these events irrespective of their age. Come 25th October and Pune will see the second edition of ‘Veterun’- a unique sporting event that aims at promoting running amongst the elder age groups.
We thus decided to take a look at some of the most inspiring runners in the city who do not consider age to be a restricting factor in order to pursue outdoor sports and fitness. What is it that sets them apart and how do they break free from the age taboo to go as far as running marathons and even ultra-marathons?
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Dr. Avanti Binniwale, a renowned neurologist in the city is an inspiring 50 year plus athlete. A swimmer since childhood, Binniwale took up running and cycling when she was 35 years old. Today, she is a proud triathlete and trekker, winning almost every race she participates in. Binniwale explains, “Age is just a number. It does not hinder your fitness goals at all. In fact, as a doctor I realize that as we grow older, regular exercise is a must in order to avoid age related ailments. There are people I know who are still running at 85 years of age. However, if you have not been physically active over the years and are thinking of taking up running for fitness goals, it is better to get a regular check-up done from your doctor once and then ease into your runs. This will let your body cope up with the new activity and you can progress better.”
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A chartered Accountant by profession, Prashant Tidke is one of the most assiduous athletes in the city. He first began cycling in 2011 when he was 49 years old and a year later, took up running as part of cross training to improve fitness levels. Today, at the age of 52, Tidke has bagged numerous prizes in races across the country and has become a motivation for youngsters and elders alike. “I started cycling because I truly enjoy it. Later I began enjoying my runs as well and hence took it up seriously. I do this out of sheer passion and nothing else. I love to push my limits and set targets for myself. Although I do feel that after a certain age, one has to practice and train harder than the youngsters. But that does not mean you can’t achieve what you set your mind on,” explains Tidke.
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“The body does not recognize age or a number. It only knows and responds to your lifestyle and how you treat it. If you lead an active life, the machine that our body is, will function much more efficiently and then there is nothing that can hold you back,” explains 57 year old Smita Patil, one of the strongest endurance runners in the city. Even though she took up running only two years back as a very casual, recreational activity, she has already won the Mumbai half marathon last year in the 55+ age category. “Running is one of the most exhilarating activities for me. The runner’s high is truly addictive!” she concludes with a smile.
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Michelle Kakade, is by now used to setting records with her runs. A renowned marathoner, with 5 desert ultra-marathons under her belt, two in the Sahara desert, one in the Gobi desert, one in Atacama and one in Antarctica, Michelle leaves no stone unturned to profess her love for running. Kakade also holds the Limca record for maximum hours run on a treadmill i.e. 25 hours covering a distance of 171.2 km. “I did my first half marathon at the age of 35 and ever since I haven’t stopped running. The most challenging run was during the Sahara ultra-marathon, where I ran around 250 kms, but it is also one of the best experiences ever,” humbly explains Michelle.
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Mr. Jugal Rathi’s name is not unheard of for any Punekar. He has been promoting running and cycling in the city for years now and even exemplifies the benefits of the same by setting an example of his own life. Each year Mr. Rathi runs one extra lap than his age at the Deccan Gymkhana in Pune and has made it a tradition that Punekar’s look forward to now. He has a achieved a lot of titles in various marathons over the years and shows no inclination to stop running even at the age of 68!
Does this inspire you to take up running as the au naturel way of staying healthy and fit? If these veterans can breezily run marathons and ultra-marathons, surely some of us younger folks can try to emulate even half of what they do? Take part in the ‘Veterun’ to meet and run alongside these amazing runners yourself!