Bengaluru, 19th April 2023: Bengaluru, the bustling metropolis, is abuzz with excitement as the milestone 15th edition of the TCS World 10K Bengaluru draws closer. This World Athletics Gold Label Road Race has gained a reputation for being one of the most diverse races in the world, with participants ranging from professional athletes to senior citizens in the challenging open 10K, each with a unique story and motivation to cross the finish line.
Among them are Sharada Venkatraman, KC Kothandapani and Janardan Ragunath. For these senior citizens, it’s not just about lacing up for the run, but it’s also about lacing up their spirit of adventure and determination to #ComeAlive and conquer the Boomerang-shaped iconic course on Sunday, 21st May.
At 90, Janardan Byllahali Raghunath will be one of the oldest to compete in the open 10K. Previously a long-distance cyclist, the nonagenarian believes distance running has given him a tremendous sense of purpose following his retirement from the Indian Railways almost 30 years ago. He has competed globally, including marathons in Sydney and Dubai.
About three decades ago, Janardhan was diagnosed with epilepsy. While it was a difficult time for him and his family, he attributes the good health he has enjoyed despite his condition to running. “I started running at 64 and it has given me such good health. Within a year of being diagnosed with epilepsy I stopped taking medication, it has been 27 years and I have had no major epileptic relapse. I am not saying you should not listen to your doctor, but your body has a conscience and you should listen to that first and foremost.”
He further adds that the inclusive nature of the TCS World 10K is what beckons him to return every year. “There is a great sense of community. I feel like I am a part of something. I am inspired by the thousands of runners every year and I’d like to think when they see me run at the age of 90, when they see that I took up running at the age of 64, I inspire them to take up challenges they didn’t think they could conquer,” he said.
Kothandapani is the man behind the Pacemakers running community. At 65, he will be competing for the 15th year in the upcoming edition. The sexagenarian began his journey in distance running when serving in the Indian Air Force, and has completed all six World Marathon Majors. He said TCS World 10K Bengaluru is one of his favourites.
“Distance running requires commitment, consistency and discipline, all these values are greatly practiced in the Indian Air Force,” he said. “I was fortunate that I had access to great facilities, coaching and guidance in the Air Force. I started Pacemakers to build a community of runners, where we can learn, train and motivate each other,” he added.
Among the 200 members of the Pacemakers is Sharada Venkatraman, who will be participating in the open 10K. Aged 70, she has competed in over 100 races. Her first marathon was in 2006 in Vermont and she hasn’t looked back since.
On her late foray into the world of running, the septuagenarian said, “When I was young, the only outlet for women was perceived to be arts and crafts or cooking, singing and dancing, but I’m glad that has changed tremendously. I do hope I can play a part in inspiring more people to take up running.”
The zenith of her running career was when she was selected to compete at the World Masters Meet in Sacramento. “It was an incredible experience to meet some of the best runners from all over the world and to learn from them,” she said.
Running hasn’t come easy. She has had to circumvent numerous obstacles, whether it’s finding an auto rickshaw to Lalbagh at 4 am, caring for her mother who suffers from dementia, or taunts from those around her. “People would often say, this isn’t the age to run, look at what she wears, but I took it as a challenge to prove them wrong. I have been fortunate to receive support for people around me, my husband, my son, and coach KC Kothandapani have really empowered me.”
“Running is a vitamin for me, it has kept me alive, physically, mentally and spiritually. When I am running, I feel my batteries are getting recharged and there is a sense of freedom from all other responsibilities, that is what keeps me coming back,” she concluded.