Get ready to put on your running shoes with the Manipal Runners Club as the Manipal Marathon for Mental Health Awareness is taking place on the 17th of February. Before the big day, Manipal The Talk Network caught up with Sriya Peri, Anish Aithal and Likhith Shivprasad to talk about the “community” of students who have a passion for running.
Interviewer: What motivated you to join such a club? And what roles do you now play in MRC?
Anish: I remember once after completing a 21 km run, my running buddy told me about a club where you meet other runners, both amateurs, as well as professionals and you get a chance to run with them regularly. Since this was something I was very passionate about (and there was no entry fee), I joined. Now I am the head of Logistics and my job is to coordinate with various other committees and get things done as soon as possible. Permits, banners, posters, emails, it’s all a part of my job.
Likhith: My seniors introduced me to this club when I ran for cross country selections. Running was never one of my interests. My main focus was on cricket. So I joined MRC for runs on Sundays and soon I was hooked! I made a lot of friends and started running regularly. The President of MRC then suggested that I take up the responsibility of Race Director for Manipal Marathon. He felt that since I’ve participated in countless races, I would be the perfect fit to orchestrate an entire marathon. As a race director, I decide the routes and obtain permits from city officials. I also have to see to the volunteers, water stations, aid stations, and ambulances. And of course, the results.
Interviewer: Tell me a bit about the history of MRC. When and how was it started?
Anish: Well, if my memory serves me right, it was all started in 2015 by students. It was Siddharth Jain, Dhaval Patel and a few of their friends who all had a passion for running. They organized group runs to raise awareness about running. They explained that the reason they run was to celebrate the joy of running.
Interviewer: What about the administrative aspects of the club. How is such a huge student-run club run (pardon the pun)?
Likhith: Well for the entire year we don’t have specific committees. They were only made for particular marathons and after marathons, they’re dissolved.
Sriya: MRC has no hierarchy. It’s very casual as there is no selection process or interviews. If anyone is interested in running, you are free to join us for runs and then you’re in! It’s as simple as that. Our main aim is to spread the joy of running in Manipal. Our President is Rahul Konapur and our Vice President is Naval Rai. These are the administrative heads but in all honesty, we see ourselves as a community with no titles. We have a lot of faculty as part of our club who help promote MRC. We’ve even managed to keep Manipal Alumni as part of the club after they graduate. We are just a large group of people who celebrate running together regularly.
Anish: We train people and run whenever we want to. There are some of us who run at 10 pm and we document and share our experiences. We have members outside Manipal and who still continue to share their training regimes or running schedules with the club. Once you are a part of the club, you’re in it for life because running is a lifestyle.
Interviewer: How does it feel to undertake such a huge endeavor? Being students, how do you organize and take responsibility for the massive turnout on the day of the marathon?
Sriya: It’s an amazing experience. The thing is, in major cities like Hyderabad and Bangalore marathons are organized by professional companies. Manipal Marathon is almost entirely student-based. All operations are overseen by students. From volunteers to result tallying, it’s all us. We do get a lot of support from faculty and the University but we are in charge of planning and executing it. The publicity, registrations and planning the routes all rest on our shoulders. Since it’s all about running we see it less as a job and more as an opportunity to spread the joy of running with others.
Anish: We’ve run in so many marathons and we all know the feeling of completing the course and crossing the finishing line. But to work behind the scenes is another experience altogether. We have a chance to make others run and experience what we felt after running our own marathons. That is the main driving force behind organizing this marathon.
Likhith: We have a group of core committee members: President Rahul Konapur, Vice President Naval Rai, Event Manager Sriya Peri, and I’m the Race Director. Further, Anushka Singh is in charge of Media Relations, Anish Aithal is in charge of Logistics, Abhishek Yadav runs Operations, Navaneeth is our Webmaster and Tarangini Saran is our VSO Student Ambassador
Interviewer: The marathons seem to be linked to issues that impact society. What is the social issue that this year’s marathon is based on and why?
Anish: If you ask any runner, or better yet if you observe any runner, they always run in good spirits. And they always end with a huge smile on their face. Running has a positive impact on the mind. It boosts your hormones, gets your heart pumping and just makes you feel good. Being physically active has such a huge impact on mental health. It has the power to push out stresses and depression and brings in a feeling euphoria and overall well-being. That’s the beauty of physical fitness. That’s why we chose Mental Health as our theme.
Sriya: This is a topic that is stigmatized in our country and we believe that by co-relating something as positive as running with Mental Health we can kick start the conversation about mental health and help reduce rates of suicides and depression among students and young adults. We want to shed light on mental health and invoke a feeling of being able to openly talk about it. Mental fitness is as important as physical fitness. We expect more than 7000 people to turn up for the marathon. Having those many people together in one place is the perfect opportunity to spread awareness about mental health.
Interviewer: Last but not least, what are the contrasts and parallels between this year’s marathon as compared to previous ones organized by MRC?
Likhith: This year we have also introduced the idea of pacers. Pacers are experienced professional runners who run in the marathon alongside everyone else. They are present to motivate beginners. Many people turn up for marathons with no/basic training. So such people can run alongside pacers to complete the course of the marathon in a set amount of time without injury. It is quite difficult to run alone so pacers are a huge help. Pacers are usually seen completing a specific distance in a particular amount of time. So running with them teaches you a lot about running as well as motivates you towards the finish line.
Sriya: The first marathon was 2 years ago. The route was completely different. The number of people back then was impressive but not as huge as now. Back then we had a lot of external help. This year it’s just MRC and VSO who are in charge of it. MRC is in charge of the marathon while VSO is in charge of volunteers and the carnival at the end of the marathon. We owe a lot to the people of VSO who have turned up in big numbers to support us and help out in volunteering. A huge event as this needs a lot of manpower in the form of volunteers all of whom are students. This year we also don’t have the 5K fun run. We don’t want people to run just because it’s free, we want them to run with an aim. From the first edition to the current third edition a lot has changed. We now bring an entire town of people together for a glorious fun-filled day.
Interviewer: Andrea Xavier Gonsalves,
Photograph by: Saradindu Bhadra