The Incredible Stories Of Six Indian Marathon Runners

From overcoming depression to fighting obesity, running has changed the lives of millions of people around the world. Two feet to fly is a film that documents the lives of six such people for whom running has been a life-altering experience.

Produced by India Amateur Runners Trust, this film has had about eight private screenings in different cities so far and the response has been tremendous.

Ashok Nath, founding trustee of Indian Amateur Runners Trust and the brainchild of the film, says, ” We wanted to make a film that transcends borders. Running is often seen as a fitness activity or something that is only done by certain people.”

The crowd-funded film took about a year to complete. Here are those heroes of film with their respective stories related with running.

A Meditative Experience: Vishwanathan Jayaraman, 53

Stories of Indian Marathon Runners

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An ultra-marathoner, Vishwanathan runs about 30Km every day. he started running at the age of 40 to quit smoking. “After 16 years of nicotine abuse and six unsuccessful attempts, I made my seventh attempt on August 10, 2000. It was to deal with the withdrawal symptoms that I took to running. rest, as they say, is history,” says Hubli based Vishwanathan. He has not smoked since then and has run all the major marathons in India.

The unique thing about Vishwanathan is that he only runs barefoot. “I found the cost of footwear to be prohibitive. When I was at Auroville Marathon in 2013, I heard Barefoot Ted (US-based Ted Mcdonald who actively promotes barefoot running) talking about why running barefoot is a natural thing to do. It has helped me log more miles with faster recovery time,” he explains.

An avid fan of Mahatma Gandhi, Vishwanathan also spin his clothes. After running over a 100 marathons in 2013, he has now decided not to participate in organized and paid events and just run for the joy of it. “I started running at the age of 40 with no formal training and found that if one approaches it with humanity and listens to one’s body, it can do wonders. Running to me has been a spiritual journey and a solo long run is a meditative experience.

To Set Record: Jegadheesan, 27

Stories of Indian Marathon Runners

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Living in a small town called Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu, Jegadheesan and his family had not even heard of marathons till a few years ago. Coming from a humble background, taking up runnjng full time was not an easy choice for Jegadheesan. But he began running four and a half years ago and has been pursuing it ever since. “I have an elder sister and an elder brother. My sister is married so I told my family that since I don’t have to support anyone, I am going to take up running,” he says.

Jegadheesan soon started concentrating on marathons. “My brother supported me for a year. After that I would take up jobs in between marathons to support myself, ” he says. He says he wants to concentrate on running but it is important for him to make is lucrative. He has taken part in seven marathons so far and he was the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2014 Men’s Open winner.

Now, his aim is to break the national record which stands at two hours and 12 minutes. “My current record is 2.42. I know it is tough but is has been almost 40 years since the record has been broken and I want to work towards it. I know that only if I run everyday will I be able to achieve it,” he says.

Finding A Voice: Dr. Nandita Chakraborty, 44

Stories of Indian Marathon Runners

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Gurgaon based family physician Nandita was diagnosed with sarcoidosis in 1997. In 2009 her vocal cord got affected. She says, “I was thinking about things to do before I die, and I decided that running a marathon should be one of them.” It was an idea that suddenly came to her. “So, I just started running,” she says.

She also made a group and started running and training in a group. “I slowly started seeing an improvement in my condition. I could not speak earlier, but now I can,” she says with pride. She has been running for four and a half years now and hopes to continue it in the future.

A Positive Spirit: Raghavendra Satish Peri, 27

Stories of Indian Marathon Runners

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Raghaendra started running 10km initially but completed the Hyderabad half marathon in 2013. While this is no mean achievement, that he is visually impaired makes it even more laudable.

Raghavendra started losing his eyesight at the age of eight die to ailment called retinitis pigmentosa. “By around 14, I was almost blind,” says the Hyderabad based digital accessibility consultant. “I used to be depressed often. Around two years back, when I was in depression, I came across Ron Hackett’s story of running.

He was also blinded as a child due to a car accident. I was inspired, ” says Raghavendra, who was living in Bengaluru then. He got in touch with a group called Runners High and started running with the group. “It was tough in the beginning. Coach Santosh helped me a lot. We trained with hand-touch and fingertouch running techniques.

He also used a technique wherein he would carry stones that would make sounds. With the sound I could gauge the speed and rhythm of running. He then put me in touch with other people who could run with me,” says Raghavendra, who usually runs with a sighted runner.

At Peace With Life: Sayuri Dalvi, 34

Stories of Indian Marathon Runners

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Taking care of a child with special needs single-handedly can be daunting. Mumbai based Sayuri’s son was about two when he was diagnosed with autism. “I had put on loads of weight post my delivery. I was under stress as I was going through a difficult marriage. The child had to be taken for treatment and it all became too much for me to deal with. I started walking and then jogging,” she says.

“I started with about 20 minutes of jogging and realised I came back home much calmer. I decided I should do it regularly, ” says Sayuri, who has been running for the last eight years.

She runs for about 45 minutes 3-4 times a week and on Sundays, she runs 30km. “It is now a ritual. It is also a means of socializing; once I finish my run, I meet friends, have breakfast and then come home,” she says. After she started running, she lost a lot of weight. “More importantly, it has made me a peaceful and positive person.”

Weighly Issue: Harishankar Krishnaswami, 41

Stories of Indian Marathon Runners

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Chennai based Harishankar weighed about 120kg four years ago. “I had friends who were into running. One day over dinner, they were talking about running and I decided I should try it. I started running alone at Marina beach first for 20 minutes, then for half an hour. When I could run for an hour I decided to join my friends, ” he says.

In about 18 months since he started running, he lost 40kg. He has run five full marathons and his wife is also into running.