The running revolution — some thoughts
It was pouring cats and dogs at 4:30 a.m on Sunday morning. A bunch of us were debating on whether we should go ahead with the run we registered for. For want of anything better to do and with a plan B of going on a long drive to find breakfast, if the event rained out, we went towards the venue . Boy ! were we glad that we didn’t need the plan B!
With the fog of the pandemic lifting slowly, it was wonderful to see a sea of humanity (10,000+people at least) converge at the city centre, on a rainy Sunday morning, having running goals ranging from- just having a good time to achieving personal best.
Running without your music/podcast list and running separately from your friends has its plusses. It helped me soak in the sights and sounds of the event, observe people and places. As I went with the flow, a few questions sprung up: Is amateur long distance running a sport or just an activity? What has made this so popular? I spent the rest of the run thinking about this, partly to get answers and mostly to take my mind away from the pain of getting past every milestone! Some of what follows is what I’ve read over the years and others, my wild, unvalidated thoughts:
Is it a sport?: As runners we are told that we compete against ourselves to put out a better version of ourselves every time we run. I’m not sure how many of us truly believe that — but if that is so, is it even a sport? To me, it is an activity to keep myself fit and have some fun along the way.
The psychology of it: consider this- in most running events, apart from the top performers in each category, everyone who makes it past the finish line gets the same medal. Essentially, everyone is a winner ! Does wonders for your self esteem- doesn’t it ?Add to this, the social media validation on posting pics from the photo booth of the event, throw in the song and dance and it is a party out there! — what is not to love about the activity ?
Who is the average runner: The demographic of an amateur runner will mostly correspond to- 30+, upwardly mobile, urban person. Observing running events a few years now, the proportion of 20–30 year olds is much less, is my reckoning (happy to be corrected on this). While most other sportspersons have had their heyday before they turn 30, this is probably among the few activities that can be picked up on an amateur competitive level by relatively older people.(The other being golf maybe?, but golf cannot scale up). This makes it very attractive to people who have not had a sporting background back in their school and college days. So, everyone can be a runner!
What else contributes :With running, it is just lace up and hit the roads- as easy as that ! Few other activities can beat that ease.
How did this happen: Being a 90s kid, I tend to attribute a lot of events to the liberalisation and subsequent economic boom in the late 90s and the first decade of the millennium- and so too the popularity of running. Follow the money- the influx of foreign athletic brands, that popularised running since it fitted their scaling targets, coinciding with increasing incomes gave the activity the push. Add to this activity trackers, smart watches etc, it is a product manager’s /marketeer’s dream-come-true! The proliferation of gated communities/apartments could have also had some role to play.
Other notes from the race:
As I moved along, observing people, the question that came up was what pushes people, while on their run, when they are low on energy. Depending on the kind of person you are, you can pick one or all of them- The atmosphere is festive- with various genres of music being played. Choose from the techno blaring out of a loud speaker or the live performers on their dhols or the chenda players and your pace is sure to quicken ! If you want to draw inspiration from people around you, you just have to look for people egging each other or some spectators cheering friends and family from the sidelines with whacky posters. When you see a 66 year old woman pushing people around her to run, a 70+ old man doggedly making his way to the finish, you can only be inspired ! But what motivates the unsentimental? My friend, Rahul, when he saw me slow down, said “Bhaagne ke liye paise diye hai… come on now!”( You have paid to run… ) No arguing on that!
And so, I made it to the finish in a little over an hour! While it was not my best, it was wonderful to be back on the circuit, as an amateur, a not-so-great runner!
The pandemic may or may not go away anytime soon. But when it takes a break, we must make the most of it !
To aspiring runners- the greatest distance is between your bed and the front door- you know what you have to do!
To already runners - Runs end, running doesn’t!
Here’s to many more miles and smiles… Keep running!