Running High

Three years ago,NS Parthasarathy,51,began subscribing to a new religion: endurance running.

Written by Saritha Rai | New Delhi | Published:May 14, 2012 4:33 pm

Three years ago,NS Parthasarathy,51,began subscribing to a new religion: endurance running.

Three years ago,NS Parthasarathy,51,began subscribing to a new religion: endurance running. The chief operating officer of Bangalore-based technology services outsourcing company MindTree trains intensively every weekend,constantly works on his timing,and has completed 13 half-marathons.

In a city with uneven pavements,no jogging paths and few open spaces,Partha-sarathy and many senior-level Bangalore techies are hooked to a new high — a runners’ high. A virtual stampede of techies in their 40s and 50s is pounding Bangalore’s streets and tearing through the parks as a welcome release from stressful 24×7 work lives.

Long-distance running lends itself to a mid to late-life start,when careers peak and hit a plateau,and you are out of the reckoning for other competitive sport,explains self-confessed addict Parthasarathy. It suits the chaotic,frantic lifestyle of industry executives as it is possible to run any time wherever you are in the world. “Running is life-changing and provides inexpensive thrills,” he says.

Rishikesh Basu,42,who heads the India operations of Silicon Valley-based wireless networking firm Meru Networks,is another diehard with 20 full marathons behind him. He is part of a Bangalore group of 40 runners,including many top-level tech industry executives,who call themselves “Bhukmp”. The word means earthquake in Hindi,but is actually an acronym for endurance running events in Bangalore,Mumbai and Pondicherry. The group sets off every Saturday and Sunday at 5.30 am,and devotedly whizzes through Bangalore’s quiet weekend streets. These weekend runs are cheekily named Dandi March. “My friendships are all centered on running,my socialising is running-related,” says Basu,who has been running for five years. He says the group shares views and gossip on life,work and love when they converge at a restaurant after three-hour runs. “Endurance runs help put life and work in perspective,” he says.

Equally fervent is Manish Sharma,44,who has been training daily and intensively with an endurance running coach since last year. The Bangalore-based managing director of Accenture’s Global BPO delivery has run half-marathons in New Delhi and Mumbai. Sharma,who has shed eight kilos in one year,says endurance running provides a refreshing distraction from his stressful work life where he is constantly working against his body rhythm. He mostly works nights and hops madly across time zones. “Long-distance running helps maintain work-life balance and has great health benefits,” he says.

Bhasker Sharma,53,Bangalore’s first marathoner,who began running a decade ago,says he took to endurance running to manage the tension of launching his own tech start-up. Now a director at Alcatel-Lucent,where he heads the small products division,Sharma describes running as “my time with myself,without interruptions.”

Senior-level techies find long-distance running provides a break from the mundane-ness of their work-obsessed,sedentary lives. “Running disciplines you,and helps you deal with mid-life battles both at the personal and professional level,” says Sharma,a veteran who has completed 28 full marathons. He has just started training for his new goal: qualifying for the Boston marathon in 2014.

Younger professionals have a lot of distractions,whereas older techies can bring on the single-minded focus that marathon running requires. That includes sacrificing party nights and hitting the bed early on weekends in order to wake up fresh for the runs on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Basu says the gruelling races require the maturity and balance that the 40s bring,“after life has toughened you somewhat.”

Endurance running has also become a craze in Bangalore-based tech companies such as Infosys Technologies and Wipro. Parthasarathy has set up mRunners,a group within MindTree,which has 100 runners who train at 6.15 am every weekend at the lush Cubbon Park. The group will participate in the Amsterdam marathon in October,and at least four other Indian races.

Sharma of Accenture participated in the last Mumbai marathon with several colleagues and also his boss,an American woman of 53,who beat him in the race.

It is a chummy group of India’s senior tech professionals who bump into each other at all prominent races in India,and now,even overseas. Sharma of Alcatel-Lucent speaks of encountering Partha-sarathy outside the iconic Victoria Terminus before the start of the Mumbai marathon.

As endurance running becomes popular among Bangalore’s techies,it brings another unexpected side benefit: bragging rights. Only 1,000 runners finish India’s biggest endurance race,the Mumbai marathon,so it is a very exclusive,if growing,club.

Basu says he felt a sense of achievement when people many years younger stood and cheered as he crossed the Mumbai marathon finish line this year with an impressive timing of 3 hours,51 minutes. “Running gives me the confidence to take on life,” he says.

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