With Pinkathon just weeks away, we get talking to the city’s wonder women—from professors to dancers—about training, tracks, tips and more
Milind Soman is bringing his brand of pink to the city. After going to cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Pune, Pinkathon is set to hit our roads this April. “I’ve always wanted to spread awareness about fitness. The best way is through women as they influence the family,” says the actor-model-fitness enthusiast about the marathon’s inception. “We have three categories: three, five and 10-km stretches,” adds Soman, an avid runner who swears by running barefoot “because it corrects your posture.” Pinkathon aims at spreading awareness about breast cancer, but Soman says other issues will also be added to the list. Now for the women who could inspire you to go the distance:
Preeti Aghalayam, 40
An IIT professor (chemical engineering) who has clocked 42 kms? Well, running is in Aghalayam’s blood—in school she was a sprinter (100 m and 200 m) and while pursuing her PhD in the US, she used to run to keep fit. “My first marathon was a five kilometre run for charity that took place near Boston,” she informs. In 2005, she participated in the Mumbai marathon and three years ago, Aghalayam graduated to full marathons. “I believe strongly in training. I run three to four times a week and on other days I do strength training,” says the member of Chennai Runners, whose wish list of marathons include the 89-km Comrades Marathon in South Africa, the Berlin marathon and California’s Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon, where rock bands motivate runners.
Favourite stretch: I love the ECR stretch. I recently did a fun 50-km run to Mahabalipuram.
Gadget talk: I have a Garmin GPS-enabled watch. It keeps time, keeps track of my pace and it has a heart monitor.
Amritha Ahuja Bhalla, 31
An athletic person, Bhalla has been into sports since she was five. A state-level swimmer, she didn’t shy away from anything, except running. “I just couldn’t run; I used to get runners side stitch,” she says. But when she saw a poster for the 2012 Wipro marathon, she decided to give it a shot. “I started running on my own. Every morning, I’d do whatever distance I could,” says the full-time mum, adding that she finished her first marathon in an hour and 20 minutes. Since then she’s joined the Chennai Runners and participated in several marathons, including the 2013 Terry Fox Run and Dream Runners’ half marathon. “The atmosphere at marathons is infectious. I’ve seen blade runners and even people in wheelchairs,” says Bhalla, whose six-year-old son did the one-kilometre run at the Dawn to Dusk Run in January.
Favourite stretch: I love the Marina beach. Seeing the beach in the morning is just incentive to run.
Gadget talk: I carry my phone with me and I have the Endomondo app that keeps track of my runs.
Viji Swaminathan, 44
A classical dancer and a marathon runner. Swaminathan is glad she’s bucking tradition. “At 41, I was obese. Gymming never helped, so I tried running. Initially, I’d run from one lamp post to another. Then I progressed to two. Now I’m running full marathons,” she laughs, adding that her daughters have followed suit. “Women should start running. We become more beautiful after 35 and with running, your estrogen levels go up, your face and body get toned and, overall, you feel great,” says the co-owner of the Woodpecker furniture chain.
“I hope Pinkathon is the first step for many women in the city to incorporate running into their lives,” concludes Swaminathan, whose dream is to run the Mumbai full marathon.
Favourite stretch: From Planet Yum on Elliot’s Beach to Aavin Circle in Adyar.
Diet: I eat a wheat-based diet, which includes a lot of dalia and millet. I also drink four litres of water a day.
Rekha Sudarsan, 41
A psychologist who specialises in maternity and infant care, Sudarsan began running casually around five years ago. “I used to run the Elliot’s Beach-Theosophical Society stretch, which I love. Pretty soon I made friends with fellow runners and we founded Dream Runners in 2008. We used to do five kilometres at first, then seven and nine,” she begins. But in 2012, on a whim, Sudarsan decided to sign up for the Wipro Full Marathon. “I decided to participate two days before the run, but my years of running stood me in good stead,” she says. Since then, she has run the Mumbai Marathon and the Auroville run. Isn’t running on tarred roads bad for your knees? “If you are careful about your weight and your posture, and if you stay within your speed limits, it’s perfectly okay,” Sudarsan assures us.
Gadgets: I just carry my iPod shuffle.
Diet: I don’t eat proteins before a marathon as it causes flatulence. I also hydrate myself well.
Soundarya Srinivasan, 30
A filmmaker by profession, Srinivasan started running in 2010 for general fitness. “I used to run on the treadmill. Then the trainers asked me why I didn’t take it outside,” she says, adding she loves running the Marina Beach and Elliot’s Beach-Theosophical Society stretches. “For my first run, I travelled 300 kms to run 10 kms,” she laughs, talking about participating in the TCS run in Bangalore, in 2010. “I later joined the Chennai Runners and I’ve done several half marathons.” Srinivasan, who trained with Raj Ganpath from The Quad, says running has kept her so fit that she was able to do the Dream Runners’ 10-km run in 2012 just months after her delivery.
Never miss: I meticulously apply petroleum jelly before a run to stop my clothes from chaffing.
Shanno Ravi, 43
Director at KKR ENT Hospital, Ravi got into running quite by accident. “I was overweight and so I began exercising five to six days a week. I started losing weight and felt really good about myself. That’s when a friend told me about the 2010 Delhi marathon and I thought ‘why not’,” she says. It took her three months to prepare. “I had to complete the run in three hours to get a certificate. I finished in two hours 44 minutes,” Ravi exclaims, adding that she prefers to snack on a peanut butter sandwich or a boiled sweet potato two hours before a run. Since then, Ravi has run the Bangalore TCS Marathon, the Auroville Run, and the Mumbai Marathon. “I want to run at least two marathons every year, and I don’t want to repeat a place,” laughs Ravi. She is signing up for the Barcelona marathon in May and the Greece Marathon next year.
Favourite stretch: I love running in the IIT campus.
Gadget talk: I have the Nike app on my phone, which tracks my runs and speed.
Radha Kumar, 46
Dr Kumar grew up in Pune, avidly following the Pune international marathon. “But studies, marriage, relocation and kids kept me from participating. So when a friend asked if I’d like to participate in the 2012 Wipro 10-km marathon, I jumped at it,” says the head of department, paediatrics, at Saveetha Medical College. She recalls her early days of struggle when she couldn’t run even a few metres without getting out of breath. But her persistence paid off, and she’s progressed from 10-km runs to running half marathons—the first of which was the 2013 Vodafone Coimbatore Marathon. “ The Chennai Runners really inspired me to up my game,” she says.
Favourite stretch: I love running both at Elliot’s Beach and Shivan Park.
Never miss: I take my Fuel belt, with water and electral, on my runs.
Pinkathon flags off on April 13. Starting point and timing will be announced soon. Details: pinkathon.in
-Surya Praphulla Kumar