Three friends from different backgrounds in Mumbai were brought together by their shared passion for running. Devendra Mane, 35, has worked with corporates like Accenture Services and the Future Group and used to be a self-proclaimed couch-sitter. Dhananjay Shettigar was a finance professional who suffered from a ‘perennial nagging cough and cold problem’. And lastly, 41-year-old teacher and chartered accountant Vishwanathan Iyer, whose sedentary lifestyle and long work hours gave him diabetes in his late 20s.
Turning to running
Each of them turned to running to sort out his respective problems but they never imagined that it would change the course of their life. Dhananjay was the first one to begin running, around seven years ago. Soon after, he was joined by Devendra. Both took it up with a will cast in iron and many marathons later were certified as long distance coaches from American College of Sports Medicine. Vishwanathan started running two years ago, first with small distances but since has run several races.
Friends since college days, Devendra and Dhananjay together hatched the plan that would become RunBurn. They connected with Vishwanathan, another friend who was contemplating retirement, and the three of them came together to form RunBurn, a coaching and event management company dedicated to runners.
What RunBurn stands for?
“This is more than a company for me,” says Dhananjay. “It is about living my passion and through coaching, I would love to give back to people whatever it is I have learnt over the past seven years. More than an occupation, more than a means of livelihood I would say it is more about living a passion,” he adds.
The aim at RunBurn is two-fold – to create unique events and provide coaching. “What we realised is that there are a lot of events that happen in a city but not many outside. We thought we should try to take these runners out of the city and closer to nature, a trail or a beach. So that was our idea behind starting RunBurn,” weighs in Devendra.
Event side of things
Their first event was the Tiger Point Hill Challenge, a hill race held in Lonavala last year and will be held again in December. They are currently organising a trail running event in Kalyan on Murbad road, a half-marathon that will be held on July 30.
Each of their events supports a social cause, with the Tiger Point Hill Challenge raising funds for an e-Learning system for a small village near Lonavala. This time too, funds will go to support the preservation of the flora and fauna in and about the Ulhas river basin.
“We try not to go very far from the city. It should not pinch the pockets of the travellers and they should not have to travel more than 2 or 2 and a half hours. Secondly, it should be beautiful and there should be options for people to come and stay with their families,” Devendra says. “Runners often ignore their families to participate in events so we try to encourage people to come out on a family vacation. You do your run and your family enjoys too. That is our whole idea.”
Role at RunBurn
There is no clear demarcation of responsibilities as each of the founders plays to his strength. Being a chartered accountant, Vishwanathan takes care of administration, while Dhananjay takes care of back-end duties.
So fervent about their new venture were Devendra and Dhananjay that they left their lucrative careers to start working full-time on RunBurn. “What gave us confidence was seeing running pick up really well in the past 3-4 years in India. There is now a lot of awareness about fitness and people are doing various things,” says Devendra.
The coaching aspect
While the idea began with events, it soon evolved to include coaching since both Devendra and Dhananjay were certified coaches. Vishwanathan elaborates on how they spread awareness about running as a fitness course. “After a year of running, I met Dhananjay, Devendra and the Kalyan Dombivali Runners Group and they were counselling people. I’ve been teaching for the past 20 years with over 15,000 students around the Kalyan-Dombivali area. The idea of RunBurn was to stress fitness and since I started running, not less than 100 to 200 students of mine have started running too.”
Having faced a running injury that took him three months to recover, Vishwanathan explains why coaching is helpful. “Being a fresh runner, you start increasing your mileage or your speed and suddenly you come to know that you are injured. At RunBurn, we try to balance things out by making a plan based on individual capabilities.”
“In terms of coaching, our outfit is the largest outfit in the Kalyan-Dombivali area with about 70 people coaching with us,” adds Devendra.
Anyone can do it
“RunBurn is ‘By the runners, for the runners.’ Very simply stated, it is for spreading fitness,” Vishwanathan says. “The best part of running is you can run anywhere. Even if you are out of station, on a business tour, or even a vacation, you can run. It becomes a part of your daily routine. That’s the best part,” he concludes.