Running Duo

Fitness is now akin to a lifestyle. People are more conscious, more expressive and more committed to health. In all fitness journeys, family plays an important role. Today we bring the story of Ritu and Sunil Handa who have not just committed to oneself or each other but to a whole set of people who need inspiration and motivation to look after themselves and their health .

Sunil, 49 and Ritu, 43 are a running couple. Sunil has run 4 ultra runs in Ladakh from 2015 to 2018 (72 km, 111 km, 222 km and 333 km). He calls them his most cherished achievements and toughest runs he ever ran. He has been qualifying for Boston marathon since the last 3 years which he calls “another great feeling and achievement worth mentioning to our grandchildren”.

Ritu on the other hand has had the achievement of running from Mumbai to Pune in 2017 and from Vrindavan to Delhi in 2019 as part of Spirit of Pinkathon runs. She was also part of the crew for Sunil when he ran 222 and 333 km in Ladakh in 2017 & 18 respectively. She was not just part of the crew which took care of his diet and hydration but she also paced him and ran almost 100 km during each run.

With such high sense of promise to health and each other, we asked them a few questions and how they are …”making it happen!”

Ritu and Sunil are known in the circles as highly promising marathon runners. We asked them what motivated them to begin this journey.
“No, I m not a master marathoner”, clarifies Sunil. “There are many marathoners who are much better and more accomplished than me. If I have to list some motivating factors, here they are:

Running is the easiest way to stay fit, healthy and active; both mentally and physically.
The sense of gratification and satisfaction you get when you finish a marathon. Struggles, obstacles, trials and tribulations both during training and while running a marathon teach you so much about life and yourself that completion of a marathon makes you  more humble and compassionate, less arrogant, extremely patient and most importantly a much better person.
The kind of inspiration and motivation we get from a marathoner is hardly seen in any other sports. Reason being, you don’t need many skills to run a marathon. It’s pure dedication, hard work and focus and ANYONE can do it. So the life lessons you learn and give to others as a marathoner drive you to do it again and
Your actions and runs Inspire people around you. They become healthier, fitter and better human beings. And they motivate many others down the line. What else can give you more happiness than seeing the people gaining health and happiness as you run marathons. 
These are precisely the reasons which motivate me to train harder every day and run marathons.”

Just listening to Sunil talk makes us wonder if Ritu had the same reasons.
“I am not even a marathon runner”, Ritu jokes. “I got motivated to start running after having seen my husband running in the morning. He would run, come home, have fresh lime water, sleep off, eat, rest again and get ready for evening gym session. So I thought why should be the one to make nimboo paani and food all the time”, she laughs. “But seriously, Mumbai running culture, Mumbai Road Runners monthly runs, Pinkathon and a few opportunities to host and interact with Milind Soman infected me with the running bug and soon all our friends and families from the neighborhood started joining us for runs in and around Mumbai which was so much fun.”, she added.

When we asked both of them to reminisce their achievements, apart from their structured achievement, Sunil added, “Completing every run is an achievement. A lot goes behind the scene before you reach the finish line. Ritu and I have been able to inspire and motivate many families in the community to take up running and healthy lifestyle. Many marathon and ultra marathon runners from our Running fraternity/ group have brought laurels to both their departments and country. For these achievements credit goes solely to the individuals but happiness and satisfaction is ours”.

Being such an outdoorsy couple, we asked if the lockdown in March affected them?
“Lockdown had little effect on training and fitness initially”, says Sunil. “But as we realised that it’s going to be extended, we found ways and means to stay healthy and fit. Rather than brooding over it we decided to work on our weaknesses and not let this lockdown disrupt our healthy lifestyle. Sleeping on time, getting up on time, eating healthy food and eating properly were ensured. Next thing was to work on strength, mobility, stretches and core workouts which are so much desired for Runners but gets neglected mostly. So we started conducting free online training sessions where people would join us in the evening and we too gained so much from these sessions”, adds Sunil.

For Ritu it was slightly different in the beginning. “Yes, it was frustrating not being able to go out and run”, she said. “We soon found ways to workout at home with families and friends online. So though running stopped but training and fitness regime continued”, she added.

It was apparent that the Handa couple resorted to indoor working out but we were curious to know the creative ways in which they achieved the same

“The first thing was starting of daily online workout sessions. These sessions were initially only for family members but later others (especially, ladies from our Running groups). Other innovative thing I did was filling a backpack with around 20 kg weight (books, bottles, bedsheets, utensils etc) and climbing stairs for one hour. I took up a challenge to climb the height equal to Mt Everest (8848 mtr) in two weeks and finally achieved it in 12 days. Skipping and a bit of yoga are other two interesting  things I tried to learn during lockdown. Thankfully, I have ankle weights (2 kg each) and thera bands which are being utilised for core workout and strength training.”

Now that seemed like a rather intense yet creative session.
Ritu, on the other hand said” The best workout has been cleaning and mopping up the floors. It is a perfect strength exercise for legs and back. Not innovative but very good way to maintain physical and mental health was taking up Yoga. We joined yoga online sessions conducted by our friends. Climbing stairs is the best cardio and strength exercise we discovered during this lockdown”, she added.

The Handas are also a crusader of sorts to motivate and push people to take up some activity. They both are ambassadors of Pinkathon. We were keen to know how they managed to be that motivating factor to so many people who have taken to running / walking as a lifestyle.
“Credit for this goes to people who got motivated”, Sunil replied humbly. “I believe that to motivate or inspire others one has to lead from the front by setting personal examples. The most positive thing that helps us in motivating people is that we both have taken to running and that too without being pushy toward each other and in complete harmony with each other. This probably inspires many families and especially ladies to come out of their homes and dedicate 30-40 minutes every day to their health and fitness. Other thing is people like to be spoken to, they want to hear motivating words, seek guidance and help and most importantly need someone whom they can access, ask questions and expect positive response. So we tried to include all these factors in while trying to motivate people to run and achieve health and fitness. Probably, all this has helped us to grow and inspired families too”.

“Hum toh akele chale the, Log judte gaye, kaarvaan banta gaya (We started alone, people joined in and we were soon a caravan)”, Ritu reminisces poetically.
“So credit goes to people who have come out, pushed themselves and have motivated many others to join the caravan. We only conveyed to them that it’s not difficult for families, especially, women and their husbands to invest 30-40 minutes everyday in one’s health and fitness and we made it a point to set personal examples which probably helped us in motivating people. Being associated with Pinkathon has been such an amazing thing, both personally and for the community we live with. It gave us a platform for personal growth, health and fitness and also ensured mass participation of women who ran their first 5 k, 10 k or 21 km race and adopted a healthy lifestyle forever”, Ritu declared with a hint of pride. 

The lockdown has been a learning for many. We asked them what has been theirs as far as their own personal fitness growth was concerned.

“Greatest learning is that there is so much more I still don’t know about health, fitness and Running. I need to work on my flexibility, overall body strength, core and abs. Other learning is that healthy food is not expensive food. In fact, unhealthy foods are more expensive.  Simple Indian meals and local seasonal fruits & vegetables are all we need to stay healthy and fit. Your health and fitness starts from your kitchen and dining table. Most of the unhealthy food is hidden in the fridge. Smaller the size of your fridge, especially the freezer, healthier will be your meals”, Sunil gave us this brilliant piece of advice.
Ritu said, “Greatest learning is that house hold chores might keep you active and tired but they don’t really contribute in your health and fitness except floor cleaning and mopping. We have to have a proper workout plan and follow a healthy lifestyle to stay fit and strong. And it will take only 30-40 minutes out of 24 hrs you have. Other learning is that if you want to stay fit and healthy you don’t really have to go outdoors or to gyms. Home workouts are as effective as gym or road running.”

We, at #Brewathought learnt that fitness is the least expensive part of our lives. What an “aha” moment we had.

Moving on, we asked if there were times of unhappiness/ low moods. How did the two deal with the same.

“Yes, there were times of unhappiness and mood swings”, Sunil confesses. “Seeing so many people suffering, facing medical issues, financial hardships and other emotional breakdowns make you depressed and sad at times. Not being able to move out of the house, kids getting irritated and restless because they haven’t gone out for so many weeks and uncertainty over everything also impacted our mental peace to some extent. But we looked at the positives rather than feeling frustrated over things which are beyond our control. Family time together, more time for Workouts in the morning and evening, ample time to prepare and finish a healthy breakfast which should be the best and heaviest meal of the day, time to read a few good books and watch some really beautiful movies and lastly it was an opportunity to work on those aspects of our life and fitness which have been ignored earlier due to other commitments and responsibilities. Reading books, contributing in domestic chores, working on strength and fitness, sometimes going for stair Climbing or a jog around the building when no one was around were our tools to deal with these trying times”, he said.

“Yes there were. Evening workouts, morning yoga or stairs climbing helped me deal with all the negative thoughts and lows” Ritu added.

With such an illustrious running regime, we asked both if they have any advice to people who are ace runners, amateurs and beginners.

“I can’t give any advice to ace runners”, Sunil replied matter of factly. “I look upto them for advice and guidance. I am in the same boat as beginners and amateur runners. My advice to fellow runners would be to work hard, stay focused and have loads of patience. Increase your distance and targets slowly and gradually. Work on all aspects of fitness -speed training, long endurance runs strength training, mobility,  flexibility and core/abs strengthening. Don’t be too obsessed with healthy foods but eat balanced diet with lots of veggies and fruits. Set a higher target every time you achieve one. Race with and win against yourself every day. Running can transform your personality completely if you run for the love of running”

Ritu, with all her humility added, “I m not the one who is qualified to give advice. But I tell my fellow runners to run for the love of running, without being influenced by high mileage or high speed. Eat healthy food, include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet. More you sweat now, less time you will spend in hospitals later.”

Finally, we wrapped up this brilliant conversation by asking both of them about their mantra for life and what is their vision of a fitter community and country.
“I don’t actually have a mantra,” laughs Sunil. “I hope to inspire and motivate people around us to attain better health and fitness. Even if each one of us can pull another person to stay fit and healthy, very soon we will have a healthy India. You may not realise but someone who started running after getting inspired by you may have avoided of some life threatening complication or disorder after he/she started running. So mantra, if any, should be – ‘Each one, Kheech one’. If we dedicate 30-40 minutes of our day towards our health and fitness we will achieve the goal of healthy, happy, fit community and nation. Women can play a major role in it. A family gets most inspiration and motivation from the women of the family. A physically fit woman will lead a fitter and healthier family”.

Ritu spoke alongside Sunil and added, “Healthy mind and healthy body ensure healthy and positive thoughts and actions. So look after your health. There is so much health awareness in the country at present. A fit and healthy India will be a reality if we all invest 30-40 minutes every day and motivate at least one person to change over to healthy lifestyle. If I, without any background in sports and running can do it and that too after having starting it in my 40s, then everyone else can do”, she smiles.

This encouraging conversation left us inspired and motivated. The effect was two fold – not only does one need to look after oneself, one can be unknowingly encouraging a larger audience.

If you would like to know more about #running, #marathons or how to begin, write to us and we will connect you to good advice, a good sports coach or just a small chat to get you going.

Pinkathon #mumbairunners #delhirunners #runningforlife #hdor

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