Taru Mateti often wonders what if she had taken up running earlier. She admits that playing sport or maintaining fitness was something that never interested her till she got married to an army man. It was he who pushed her to take up sport and it was badminton that first caught her attention. For someone who tends to get fully immersed in what she likes, Taru also took to aerobics and Zumba subsequently.
“Then one day, in the gym, there was a competition related to planking, balancing on one leg, Surya Namaskar and running,” says Taru. “I won three of those competitions and in running I was third. So, I thought I should try running on the road and could run 10 km on the very first day! It was kind of liberating for me as all the other activities were indoors. I enjoyed the open space so much that I thought I should do some more of it,” adds the IT executive who holds a senior position at a firm in Pune.
Her initial tryst with running was littered with aches and pains. Apparently, the ‘right’ muscles in her body were never developed as she was never an athlete in her early years. This was not the only problem. Since it is often believed that mornings are the best time to go running, she realised the need to rework her work hours and sleep schedule. Her first foray into competitive running led her in eventually finding out that she had dangerously low vitamin and haemoglobin levels in her body. Her eating habits didn’t do much good too as she loved gorging on samosas and vada pavs regularly which did little to improve nutritional intake.
Impact on relationships
Taru admits that all of it did have a difficult impact on her relationships. Her mother, daughter and sister were extremely concerned about the distances she ran and would always be anxious. Her husband and a few others supported her and that was enough. She stresses the importance of making allies at home. “Be it your mother-in-law whom you soft-talk into supporting you or it could be your husband who runs with you,” says Taru. "If you have children at home, you can alternate with your husband on going for runs. It is great to have a partner-in-crime, helps you do better!”
“My husband and I, once again we found a common hobby. He started running four months after I did and it was one more thing that we did together,” she says enthusiastically.
Fortunately for Taru, motivation was never an issue. “If I like to do something, then I am very passionate about it,” says a spirited Taru talking about her first half-marathon where she finished on the podium! It gave her a big incentive to push herself further besides boosting her confidence.
The balancing act
Life is now centred around running for Taru. She wakes up at 4.30 am, goes for her runs and goes early to work. She and her husband refrain from socialising much during weekdays as they tend to go early to bed for an early start the next day. It is the same for Saturday evenings too now as Sunday mornings are reserved for long runs. “My friends have realised that a lunch works fine for me rather than dinner,” says Taru.
Anything can be done at any age
She firmly believes that age is never a barrier. She urges others to take up running or any other physical activity step-by-step. It is foolhardy to compare yourself immediately to established runners. According to her, a coach or mentor can work wonders, especially during the initial stages. Joining a group can help greatly too as there one can find people in different stages of running, they give you advice and keep you motivated. Also important is to get a full-body check-up and to focus more on nutrition.
For new runners, she pinpoints the need to get the running ‘form’ right. An incorrect form can hamper your progress. Also crucial is to get the breathing right.
Running a lifestyle
Today, Taru dislikes samosas and hardly ever indulges in a vada pav. She has included more salad, greens and supplements to balance the protein, fat and carbohydrate intake. She also avoids refined sugar, fatty foods and has been successful in raising her haemoglobin levels to more than 13 through eating right, from the previous 9 when she initially started running. She also managed to learn something new about herself in the face of injuries. “I found out during a check-up that one of my legs was about 2 cm shorter than the other. It was probably a birth defect which has affected my spine and I also have scoliosis. I went on a three-month break with the doctor suggesting that I wear in-soles and gave me some exercises. That period was very difficult as I was told to stay away from running and even hitting the gym. I had to rest, strengthen myself and get used to the in-sole. That was something that I had to overcome to pursue my love for running.”
Today, the people close to Taru are excited to see how much she thrives on running. They take immense pride in it and she gives an example of that in her mother saying to her friends. “Tumko pata hai yeh bhaagti hai, full marathon bhaagti hai. Pata hai full marathon kitna hota hai? Taru inko batao full marathon ka distance kitna hota hai!”