Their colours twirl against the sunbeam and shadows spin as they rush against the wind. Come rain or sunshine, the members of Runners For Life (RFL) are always rolling past the conundrum of life and there’s no stopping these road runners.
RFL is a community which helps nurture a running culture in the City. In all irony, the community started through a Google group, where long distance runners discussed techniques and sprinted across the City every month. Arvind Bharathi, who operates a division at RFL, recalls that the monthly runs soon became fortnightly because of requests and the virtual community soon turned into an organised club.
In operation for 10 years now, RFL sprinted to success from a mere 20 to more than 30000 runners. The members organise three major races throughout the year and help people reach out to marathons. Sanjay Balu, who joined the community to get involved in fitness activities as he didn’t want to “die by the age of 45”, says he was inspired by the community’s events. He explains, “The main activities that RFL organises are the Bangalore Ultra Marathon which is open for those who can run upto 42.195 kms and more, the Kaveri Trail Marathon near Srirangapatnam and the Puma Urban Stampede which is open for everyone. The running season usually starts from May and June and goes on till about January.”
The main focus of their events is helping out amateur runners and Arvind is happy that they have been successful so far. He says, “It’s not difficult to find sponsors now as the number of runners has grown. We have a website where people share photos, videos, blogs and information about running. This is where we grew from being popular only in Bengaluru to being known throughout the country.” Apart from this, their biggest marketing technique is Twitter, where the community shares different newsletters, stories and information with their followers and uses the medium for events, registrations and regular feedback. “We also have public chats where we call professional trainers so that runners can ask them questions for a couple of hours.”
The RFL team is a young and fun group which is why Nasir loves being a part of it. “My love for running started in early 2012. I was into cycling and somehow became a part of the community. I still cycle and running helps me cycle faster and better,” he says. The entire team comprises people who are united by their love for sports. Dhirender Singh, an Olympic level shooter, used to practise in a resort in Old Bengaluru. He came across RFL during one of their marathons and decided to join them.
Though he has to stand completely stiff as a shooter, he is required to trot at most of RFL’s events. Explaining this discrepancy, he says, “Cardio is important in any sport. Before I begin to shoot, my nerves kick in at various times, butterflies flutter and the heart rate increases. Running helps me handle my shooting and is my stressbuster.” Roshan, who is a rugby, Ultimate frisbee and an American football player, says that he is happy to be a part of RFL since it gives him time to work on his sports and helps him play them better. However, the group still has to steer through many challenges such as the difficulty of availing permissions for marathons.
Arvind rues that Bengaluru, though a favourable city compared to many others, has a lesser amount of open spaces than before and its beauty has faded over time. “I was able to conduct runs on MG Road and near Ulsoor and Sankey Tank in 2006. It’s not easy to do so now.”
Despite all these challenges, Arvind is confident that a running revolution will soon take place in the country as children today are exposed to more physical activities, grow up watching their parents run and feel the need to participate too.
However, it’s not just the men but also a larger number of women who are taking to this sport and Mehvash brings in an interesting perspective. “I see more women and school girls taking to running. All of us have ran in school and it’s only in college that we gave up. I believe more women should take to running as it doesn’t need a team or any high-end equipment.”
More than a sport, Arvind explains that the technique with which one runs may be different for different people, however, it is a beautiful way for self discovery. “Running requires not just the legs but the whole body as such. It’s a combination of mental strength and physical make-up. And just like everything else, running requires a lot of dedication,” he says.
For details, visit www.runnersforlife.com