By GORKY BAKSHI
She is 63 years old, but she cannot sit at home. She would rather wear her running shoe and go out for a jog. Sharada Venkataraman has represented India in Masters Athletic tournaments USA. She started running at the age of 52 and willing to dedicate rest of her life for the same.
Hailing from a typical south-Indian family, where elderly women are not expected jogging on the streets. “I was 52, the age when most women, especially from conservative South Indian families, ‘retire’ and are in ‘relaxed’ mode.”
How it started
She never got training for a half marathon and knew nothing about it. She had never participated in any race since her childhood. What inspired her? She said: “In June 2006, we went to Vermont, USA to visit our son, Dr Krishnan. It was he who inspired, motivated, encouraged and trained me to participate in my first ever Marathon the Stowe Marathon held on 10th September 2006. That was my first race ever. We returned to India on the 28th of September and decided to participate in the Delhi Hutch Marathon, just a fortnight away on the 15th of October. I didn’t have sufficient time to train, and for people newly inducted into marathon running, it was too close to my last run. I put my trust in God and decided to go ahead.”
She ran all the way and finished marathon with a record due to her age. “It took me 2 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds, but I had completed the race and that’s what mattered. I stood second in my category despite all odds and challenges.”
Now she gets proper diet and training from her coach KC Pani and son Krishnan. Krishnan keeps a check on her progress through workout feedbacks, diet and health check-ups. “I was coached on good nutrition, regular training, sufficient rest and hydration, cross training, the right running apparel and running shoes. In fact, my best performance in a half marathon so far, was at the Stowe Marathon, where I clocked 2 hours and 20 minutes.”
“Lifestyle changes needed to be made. I now always watch what I eat, and ensure that I eat correctly on a regular basis. I have to ensure I have sufficient sleep and go for workouts regularly. I have to do all my household chores too, and also look after my mother (aged 87), mother-in-law (aged 90).”
She also runs yoga and language classes and an IELTS and TOEFL trainer. Amidst all of these she cannot afford to neglect social functions and celebrations and need to wake up early in the mornings for workouts.
She runs three days in a week and participate in several 10 KM competitions and Half Marathons in and out of Bangalore. “I have run about 25 Half Marathons till date. One of my happiest moments was when I ran a 10 and a 5 km race in Sacramento in July 2011 and represented India. It was an honour to wear the country’s colours.”
In 2010, she was selected for the Asian championships held in Kuala Lumpur from where she was selected for the World Masters competition in Sacramento, USA.
‘For me, running is freedom! You forget each and every stress when you choose right pair of running shoes.’ Sharada feels that more women should step out and participate in activities like this, not just marathon but physical strength should be stretched.