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Author: admin

Shattering stereotypes of age and ability, an increasing number of older Indians are embracing the running movement that has taken the country by storm

 
2009, Helsinki-born techie Kaj Arnö introduced the world to a new word: ‘Runnism’, which he described as ‘the religion of running’. Based on the principle that running is a unifying force that cuts across all barriers and holds the promise of a happier, healthier life, this ‘religion’ has found a legion of followers across the world, and India, their number growing by leaps and bounds, day after day.

Most heartening, one of the ‘barriers’ this new faith has decisively broken is age—while seasoned runners are running well into their silver years, many elders are newly discovering the joys of the run. For instance, British-Canadian Ed Whitlock, who started running as a schoolboy, astounded the world with a 02:54:48 time at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon at the age of 73. In October 2016—at the age of 85—he achieved a 03:56:34 time at the same event. Meanwhile, Indo-Brit Sardar Fauja Singh (Harmony-Celebrate Age; April 2013) ran his first marathon at the astonishing age of 89. The ‘Turbaned Tornado’ went on to run across the globe, carry the flame in London for the Athens Olympics in 2004 and the London Olympics in 2012, and become a poster boy for sportswear company Adidas, before hanging up his boots shy of his 103rd birthday.

Not everyone is surprised. According to evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman of Harvard University, “Humans are well-adapted to run into late middle age.” And with the very definition of middle age undergoing a seismic shift, it is not surprising to an increasing number of silvers taking part in endurance-intensive events like the marathon.

“We believe marathon events are a perfect example of inclusivity,” says Dilip Jayaram, CEO of Procam International, which has catalysed the running revolution in India in the past decade and a half. “The fact that the number of participants is growing year on year shows how every individual, irrespective of age or limitations, has embraced running. What especially warms our hearts is the tremendous response of the silvers who have added their charm to India’s running movement. At a time where a lot of people in this age group prefer to retire and relax, marathon running is providing the senior running clan a new lease of life. They not only run to get fit but to win prize money across categories and raise funds for charity. A lot of them have even come to us with ideas to make our races more environment-friendly.”

This month, to herald the beginning of marathon season—with mega events in Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai in consecutive months—we salute these intrepid silvers who have made the tracks their home and running their passion. Their stories, histories, motivations are all different; what unites them is the belief that their life is better because running is an intrinsic part of it. There’s the wellness angle, of course; with proper health, fitness and nutritional precautions, running is proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression and cancer, and boost longevity. But more significant is the emotional dimension: how good it makes them feel. And that’s what Team Harmony is celebrating this month!

Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
November 2017