If you are running in Bandra in the morning, chances are you will run into a woman who sports long hair and runs very hard. Chitra Nitin Nadkarni’s return to running – she was a sprinter in her youth days – has given her due rewards. She finished among the top three in her age category in Goa and Hyderabad half marathons. Encouraged by her husband and daughter, Chitra ran her first half marathon in her 50th year. She shares her journey with Mumbai Road Runners.

I have always enjoyed running, as I was a highly energetic child. Playing, running or even swimming channelized my energy. I did sprints in schools and college and even as a swimmer I did the short distances. I even reached the inter-district levels in athletics and swimming.
As I graduated, took up a job and got married, athletics and swimming naturally took a back seat. Though I kept myself fairly active through aerobics, gym workouts, dancing, badminton and yoga, the runner in me had never died. As I watched live telecasts of the Mumbai Marathon, the idea of running a half marathon was given a fresh lease of life.My daughter was old enough to take care of herself and in 2005 I did run the dream run in Mumbai marathon.
But it was a mere aberration as life’s duties and a few personal commitments kept me away from reconnecting with running. 

As I was closing in on my 50th birthday, I drew up a bucket list of 50 things to be done of which running was one of the top priorities. There are others like bungee jumping, skydiving, hot air ballooning etc….I hope I can achieve all this within the foreseeable future.

With encouragement from my husband and daughter, I started training for the 2013 Mumbai half marathon in August 2012. They knew that the boundless energy that I had needed to be expended somewhere. 

By that time, I had also quit my job and had plenty of time on hand. Having been a sprinter all my life, running for two hours at a stretch was a challenge initially. But running long distances has its advantages _ it liberates me and makes me happy. It is exhausting but satisfying too.

I ran my first long-distance run in December 2012 when I did the Mast run. I started too fast as the sprinter in me took over but the distance was obviously too long to be tackled with nervous energy. Though I was exhausted midway through the run and started cramping too, I had enough energy to finish the run and win the race among veterans. It was a strange feeling. I was revisiting the winning feeling after nearly three decades and I enjoyed it for sure. 

Next was the Goa Half marathon where I again bagged a podium. I cramped again but finished first in the women’s veteran category! Obviously I was doing something very wrong at the beginning of these races but getting it right at the end to bag podium finishes, I concluded.

Though I had trained hard enough and run two races, I had to give the Mumbai Marathon a miss in 2013 as an opportunity to travel to the United States cropped up and it was too good an offer to resist. A USA trip was also part of my bucket list, so I had to cancel one to fulfill another!

My next marathon was the Hyderabad half marathon in August 2013 and despite cramping from the 13 km mark, I again bagged a podium finish. It was agonizing to have missed a sub-two hour personal best timing by a minute or so.
By now, I have completely taken in the joys of running. I love running in the mornings, as it is peaceful, quiet and pleasant. Morning runs help me sort out my thoughts and plan my day.  

Earlier when I ran, I always listened to music but was advised that it was a dangerous habit as I was not plugging in to the traffic noise and would put my life in danger.

Now with the Mumbai Marathon 2014 less than two months away, I hope I can strike off one more item from my bucket list _ running a half marathon in under two hours. Of course I have other ambitions like running a full marathon, running a half marathon abroad. 

Running long distances is not easy as it takes a heavy toll on the body. You also need to possess mental strength to finish what you have started despite physical pain. Hence, it’s a combination of physical and mental endurance that helps me complete the intended distance, which satisfies me and gives me a sense of achievement.

I also enjoy competitive running, as the encouragement from fellow runners is inspiring. I experienced this recently at the Vasai Virar Mayor’s marathon. I was amazed at the number of people cheering for us. The excitement and energy that they generated was contagious and that made it the most enjoyable run for me.
I also marvel at all the runners I meet, young or old, slow or fast, people who have been running for so many years. I also feel I have the enthusiasm and energy to run even longer distances and hopefully plan to even run the Comrades in the not too distant future.