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Free Runners “Shut up and Run” – Its significance in my life.

January 4, 2022

Sports, Fitness and Running have been an essential fragment of my life since my childhood. I am born Asthmatic and it hindered my progress, however, since I adored sports, I was able to overcome that so called weakness of mine to an extent. ‘Amy Van Dyken’, an American swimmer secured 4 Gold medals during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. She was the most decorated athlete during that Olympics. I stumbled upon an article about her that mentioned that she took up swimming as a therapy for Asthma!!! That was the last day I gave Asthma as an excuse for any fitness or sports related challenges in my life.

I have been running intermittently ever since my college days. My customary route was from my home to Sadashivnagar police station and back. I used to run that stretch of 7.6 kms (up and down) in 35 minutes. I wonder how long would I have taken to run 10k during my college days. It is a pity that I never ran 10k till Sunfeast 10k came into being in Bangalore several years back. If I extrapolate my running time, then I ought to run 10km in about 47 min to 48 min (Never achieved that till date) but I took 72 minutes to run my first clocked 10Km run.

I ran Mumbai marathon in January 2013. I was perhaps at my peak of fitness as far as running is concerned, but I had never run beyond 10Km at a stretch except for one 16Km run and another 17Km run. Many people warned me that I was taking a risk and not to run a marathon by skipping half marathon. My father had told the whole world that I was taking part in a Full Marathon and flying to Mumbai to achieve it blah blah, so there was no looking back. It took a solid 6 hours to complete the marathon though. I struggled to run after 30km as that’s when God decided to convey that I have a hip joint.

From then onwards, even as I write this, (Dec 2021) that I am at my fittest ever. There have been a few factors that has affected my running over the last few months. One of those is joining a running group called ‘Free Runners’ or simply ‘FR’, an informal WhatsApp group where runners post their times, distance etc. The other good thing is to download ‘Strava’; I was not able to cheat myself on running goals.

Let me share a few snippets before I joined this group. I used to run on new BEL road, I saw this old man who ran faster than I could. He would put me to shame with his agility and speed and I wondered, “Who is this ‘thatha’ who runs faster than I can”. From that day on, as soon I saw this man, I would attempt to run faster or just change my direction. Many years later I would realise that this man is the founder of ‘FR’. Krishnan Sir, as we all fondly call him, is still an active runner.

‘Krishnan’ sir in the middle flanked by his bodyguards

One day, when I was running on new BEL road, after M. S Ramaiah hospital, I saw this girl run towards me, passed me, took a turn at the signal and in a matter of time she overtook me. A few minutes later, I saw this girl once again running towards me and she passed me for the second time, I said to myself “I should not allow her to over take me a second time” and I ran as fast as I could and succeeded. That’s when I figured that there is an untapped energy left in me and I have to raise the bar. The very next day, 21st June 2020, (International day of Yoga) I ran my first 10k non-stop, that too without using an inhaler. That was perhaps the turning point of my life as far as running is concerned.  I gave her a thumbs up the next time as a gesture of ‘Thank you’ and months later I learnt that even she is a member of FR and a regular podium finisher in major races. I have kept a track of her to know if it is true and Farheen has been on podium in almost all (if not all) the races she has taken part since. From that day onwards, I have regularly run 10k non-stop and slowly progressed, and as of today, I have run maximum of 30Km non-stop.

I did not have a proper schedule and still don’t have a proper schedule for running. I could start any time from 4am to 9am, so I end up seeing a lot of different people depending on what time of the day I start, but there was this one man I used to see on a regular basis in spite of my erratic schedule and no matter which route I take. I used to ask myself, “This man again!! Doesn’t he have family or kids? Why is he always loitering on the roads”. After months of seeing him, I happened to talk to him one day and learnt that there is a fitness club of sorts and joined that club and was quite active till COVID hit me. It was through him, Santosh, that I happened to join Free Runners.

Santosh – Wonder when and where he gave this pose

You have seen how a few runners from Free Runners have indirectly been helpful to me even before I knew the group existed. After joining this group, I have met some awesome people. I was pleasantly surprised that quite a few runners I regularly see are part of this group. I improved my time steadily and I was able to run 10Km non-stop regularly in an hour. I was delighted with this progress and set sights at the 47min-48min. Within a month of joining this group, by first week of April 2021, COVID hit me. I didn’t run for 3 months and when I got back to running in July 2021, I could never run more than a Kilometer at a stretch; when I huffed and puffed for 10Km, it took more than 80 minutes. I wondered if I could ever run 10km in an hour again? I put my concerns about running in the group and more than a few would motivate and provide solutions. “Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect. We take what we get and are thankful it’s no worse than it is.” –  Margaret Mitchell. A timely quote to remember. I can’t complain much, can I? The second wave wiped out a few families and here I was complaining about my 10km time. I realized that this group has actually helped me get back on road, else ‘Inertia’ would have easily hit me after so many days without running.

Around this time, when Bangalore had the highest number of COVID infected in the world during the second wave, similar waves were created in the runners group. One of the runners ‘Wishwa’ was on the onset of Marathon of Half Marathons. He finally adjourned at 50 half marathons in 50 consecutive days. By the time he ran his 50th marathon, I was able to run about 5Kms in a total of 10kms. I was happy to be a part of his running journey on his 50th Half Marathon. An event was organized to commemorate his achievement, and on that day, I met another local legend, Manoj Bhat. That day morning or the previous day he had run almost up to the foot of Nandi hills (started at 3am) but had to return a bit earlier as entry was prohibited due to COVID concerns. I mentioned in the group that this group should have a motto or a mission statement. I was told it already exists – “Shut up and Run”. No wonder, everyone just follows this statement like gospel.

With Wishwa on his 50th Half Marathon

How many more crazy people were around, I pondered? There were quite a few. I didn’t know there were so many runners who observe regular fasting on ‘Ekadasi’ and even run on both the days. I thought I was the only one. Over the next few months, I have seen runner after runner losing their minds. Gaurav Midha ran 21 Half Marathons in 21 consecutive days.

Gaurav celebrating his 21st consecutive Marathon

The three musketeers – Shashi, Wishwa, Mahadev continue running and posting their daily achievements and what’s worse is the recovery run they do the next day is better than my personal best!!! This should either put you to shame or motivate you; I chose to get motivated. I remember matching my pace with Manoj Bhat and he said it was his slow running day or whatever 😊. Many other runners – Vazz, Arun Joshi, Bhadresh, Anuradha, Manju, Raghavendra, Satish, Mr. India, Anjani Kumar, Praveen, Rajkumar, Narasimha, Laxminarayan, Niteen, Gopi, Neel, Naveen, Satish, Satish Iyer, Raghavendra, Pats, Rakesh, Sudhindra, Rajesh, Dr. Eshwar (Forgive me if I missed anyone) continue to motivate directly or indirectly and provide guidance. All these stories are from of the band of runners that has just over 100 runners in the group and this is just the beginning.

I have seen wonderful milestones being accomplished by several runners in the past two to three months. Dr. Vijayakumar completed his first Marathon in Mysore and was given a special memento for persisting and completing. Govind has improved leaps and bounds in his running. Satish Iyer, Manju and Bhadresh ran virtual Boston Marathon, Anuradha is becoming a regular podium finisher in her age group. Manju continues to rock but prefers to keep a low profile. Ashok goes beyond and not only trains young guns but also helps blind people to run. Santosh is a silent worker, the soul of the group, prefers not to be in limelight. Manoj Bhat took part in Ultra Marathons. He has wonderful ways of running marathons – 108 pradakshinas around Udupi Krishna temple!! That’s more than 45Kms.

Dr. Vijayakumar recieving a special award for ‘persisting and completing’ his first Marathon

‘Govind’ – Most improved runner this year

Regular Podium Finishers – Anuradha (Left) and Farheen (Right)

With Manoj Bhat
That’s a glimpse of Manoj Bhat’s recent 45km run
108 pradakshinas around Udupi Krishna temple

On personal front, my journey from July 2021 till December 2021 is phenomenal. In less than 6 months after running post recovery, I have finally reached a phase where I can run 10Km under an hour quite regularly. I ran my best 10Km with the official time of 51:47 during the Bengaluru 10km run on 24th October 2021.  I stopped consuming processed sugar since 13th November 2021 and that has done wonders to my running, especially at the Half Marathon. I have improved by 23 minutes in Half Marathon. I have run my first Half Marathon under 2 hours on 19th December 2021 when I clocked 1 hour 53 min. I hope to replicate this performance at a racing event to get the official time. What is surprising is that I am a lone wolf and I hardly run with others and in spite of it, the Free Runners group has been able to motivate me. Whenever I have bumped into someone while running, I have gained a lot of knowledge and the push to run longer and faster. I Thank ‘Free Runners’ for helping me in my cause of running. I would have never become the kind of runner I am today without this group. I don’t know how much more I can achieve personally but I have achieved what I wanted to in the year 2021. Thank you all once again.

‘Free Runners’ – May your tribe increase.

‘Free Runners’ tribe

31st December 2021

From → Sports

  1. Vijay permalink

    Superb narration & happy running Rocking Rohith

    • Suman Raghu permalink

      Good to see you back !!! And wonderful article on shutup & run! Nice tribute to the team . Great improvement on your running timing too! Proud of you & your accomplishment. Keep running 🏃🏻‍♂️

      • Sharadhi Somayaji permalink

        It’s beautifully written Rohitanna.
        It inspired me start running again.

    • Thanks Vijay

      • Sheetal permalink

        Such beautiful ly written

      • Thanks Sheetal.
        If it is inspirational, then you should start running.

  2. M V Maiya permalink

    Very good narration. Your effort to achieve the task is appreciated. Keep running. Wish you good health and happiness

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