Run Clean, Run Responsible

To take care of our bodies, we eat well, exercise and make sure to get enough sleep. That is our internal environment. The external environment that surrounds us -- the air, soil, water and ecosystems -- is equally important for health and well being. In this age of plastics and pollution, we can see many heads turning and voices raised, when it comes to caring for the environment and thus keeping ourselves healthy at present as well as leaving a cleaner and healthier air to breathe and water to drink for the next generations. As a responsible citizen, we are now cautious and think twice about our environment safety before every step we take.

Weeks away from DRHM 2018, the most prestigious running event of the city, when the entire team of Dream Runners are busy putting every bit together to ensure an extremely smooth and successful event, the team has a very sharp eye on the waste management space. We reached out to Suresh Bharathan, a passionate runner himself, to find out how a massive event like DRHM, which is gaining popularity with every passing day, is ensuring a litter free, environment friendly and extremely enjoyable run for the participants. He tells us that as a part of the organising team they have realised that it is impractical to ban plastics and other non biodegradables but it certainly is in our control to minimise the usage and recycle the same. What makes matters worse is when we don’t dispose these non biodegradables responsibly. The negative consequences of ignoring recycling and waste management can be as high as clogging of drains in urban areas resulting in floods and diseases, poisoning of groundwater from chemical discharge and much more which we even shudder to imagine.

Suresh also happens to be very active and sensitive when it comes to keeping our beaches clean. Quite understandable as unlike most of the other metros of the country, Chennai boasts of its beautiful beaches and as a proud dweller of Chennai, it hurts him to see that our beaches are dirty and not safe enough for even children to freely play, due to dangerous objects carelessly discarded by careless and ignorant people. Dream Runners and the members of its chapters have participated in various beach clean-up activities from time to time and are committed to raising awareness among the people, who visit the beaches to help civic authorities in keeping them clean by doing more such activities in the future.

Our conversation with Suresh was taking an interesting turn and our curiosity piqued. We wanted to know little more about the initiatives on waste management by Dream Runners, and the creatively coined tagline for the year 'Run Clean, Run Responsible'. Here's what Suresh had to say:

Q : Please throw some light on how as a team are you approaching the recycling of waste from the event.

Suresh : The Dream Runners are keen to make a difference by creating awareness among the running community about environment safety and healthy living. Hence, encouraging runners to not litter and dispose trash responsibly during the event, is the key here. It goes a long way in achieving higher standards of civic responsibilities.

Q : What is the approach of our civic authorities towards the waste generated from such events of marathon?

Suresh : To be fair, I think with all constraints and difficulties faced, they are doing a great job! It is our duty as members of civic society to not make their job more difficult. All of us have to realise the onus is more on us rather than the corporation or other civic bodies to maintain cleanliness.

Q : Please explain the planning involved in waste management of this highly popular event.

Suresh : With respect to our event, we have over the years ensured - with the help of professional recycling agencies/companies - that all waste is collected along the route and at the premises of the venue and sent for recycling. We are also making all attempts possible to reduce the waste generated.

Q : Any new initiatives that you have brought in with regard to waste management.

Suresh : This year, we have created awareness campaigns on social media about making our event as litter-free and reduce usage of plastic wherever possible. In the run up to the event, these will be intensified for maximum effect.

After this extremely informative discussion with Suresh, we decided to look around a bit more into this wonderful initiative and bumped into Bharath S, who is one among this bunch of like minded people, who has taken up this mission of keeping the city clean and is passionate about a clean and green environment. Bharath himself is a long distance runner and meticulously undergoes his progressive strength and mobility training sessions, which in turn helps him to build endurance for his long distance runs. He believes that we owe it all back to the nature and hence it is all about the choices we can and should make. We must leave the place cleaner than we found it before we arrived. His optimal solution to the issue is nothing but to reduce the wastes at source. While it looks simple but very hard to implement since it requires a complete change in the mindset and culture. Well......then is he experiencing changes in the mindset and approach of participants towards cleanliness and awareness towards the environment? Bharath sounded hopeful, "This takes time as we can't expect everyone to fall in line but as organisers we have to take some hard stand on certain aspects to cut down the plastics and paper bits at the root, especially these one time plastics like straw, spoon, cups, covers, paper bits are brutal to our environment".

What are the challenges that the team of Dream Runners come across when it comes to keeping the route and premises clean on the event day? In his own words, Bharath echoes what Suresh had told us a while ago. "Studies have shown that only 10-15% of the plastics actually gets recycled. Rest either litters the surroundings or ends up in the landfill. That is a good enough reason for us to be alarmed. Hence all of us, every individual has to take the ownership and behave responsibly. We can’t take things for granted and put the onus on the civic authorities".

They say no matter whichever zenith we touch upon, we shouldn't forget our roots. A decade ago Dream Runners was formed with the mission to motivate people to run and thus live a healthy life. A bunch of fitness enthusiasts decided to step out of the comfort of the air conditioned gymnasiums and embrace the nature outside, run on the roads and fill their lungs by inhaling the fresh air, which our environment has to offer. Hence, needless to say that no one better than them can fathom the importance to keep the environment safe and healthy. We use the environment to run and stay healthy. Hence, it is our duty to keep it clean and litter free for our own benefit and thus give back to the society and nature. We are immensely inspired by Suresh, Bharath and their entire team as they are not keeping any stones unturned to ensure a clean and responsible run at DRHM 2018. We wholeheartedly support the initiative of Dream Runners and promise to do our own bit to keep our surroundings clean and run responsibly.

TESTIMONIAL

I have been dreaming to run since the last 2 years. I did not know about the training program in time for last two years so this year was in the watch and had also informed many people to let me know... the training program was well scheduled and made me gradually run from a 100 ms to completing 10 kms. The coach, Radha and Samina and Narayanan and Raja sir and all other runners kept guiding us. A lot of tips were given by them. The whole event was very professionally and well organised.. A lot of effort has gone in planning and execution to make this a pleasant experience for us. Thanks to Dream Runners to help me in fulfilling my dream. Plus points 1. Started on time 2. Well stocked and managed hydration points.

"Health is the new religion"- Ramadan Runners

Islam's holistic approach to life and thus health offers the ability to remain strong and healthy to all. The daily performance of five prayers is in itself a form of exercise, its prescribed movements involve all the muscles and joints of the body, and concentration in prayer relieves mental stress. Good health is necessary if one intends to fast the month of Ramadan and the performance of the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) is an arduous task that requires many days of hard physical effort.

Preparing for a race is a daunting task, especially if you have a goal in mind to hit your ideal time with gadgets and race strategies in real time. So does Ramadan, where time of the day is most crucial to strategize the way you dedicate yourself towards being a better spiritual being. Apart from the abstinence from food and liquids, the month of Ramadan makes it difficult to have a normal sleep cycle..

The schedule of early to bed and early to rise makes it nearly impossible to find a perfect time to run. That is why most runners, who observe the holy month, abstain from running and go on a sabbatical during this time. But, there are some who refuse to give it up, and want to persevere running even when fasting.

We bumped into a rare breed of fitness freaks of our DR fraternity & Marina chapter who have devised a separate schedule to "be on the move" even during their fasting schedules. Whether it's a pair of running shoes or riding buddies on their wheels, they hit the roads of Marina at 10pm thrice a week logging their miles and improvising their timings. Spearheading the Ramadan runs @ Marina is our suave and classy persona from this year's DR Race management team - Abbas Shabbir Lehry (Abbasji as we fondly call) .....! Always impeccable whether in pinstripes for business or in the running gear, he easily gives the younger lot a run for their money. As a mentor for the trainees, he goes on to narrate: - "It is that time of year again when we fast for 30 days from sunrise (suhoor) to sunset (iftar). My world cannot stop when Ramadan begins. Like the many Muslim personal trainers, fitness enthusiasts and sports people around the world, I continue to train myself and train/mentor other people while I'm fasting. Much of the battle is mental, but training smart and eating right helps too". DR salutes the commitment of this persona who has 6 Full marathons, 10 half marathons (with a PB of 1.56 hrs) & many more 10Ks under his hat.

Smitten by the running bug, we have many more runners from the Marina chapter and Dream Runners' fraternity- Murtaza R, Ali Hussain, Tasneem, Moiz, Juzer, Hatim, Mustansir, Huzefa, Mustafa(bhai) and their likes who as entrepreneurs have taken up fitness as their second religion. Ramadan run has mentally made them more stronger and physically active. All these years I’ve always had a mind block that post Iftaar, one become more tired and drained of energy. But it was all a mind game. After taking up these runs and cross trainings with Dream Runners we realize that, it's not our body but our mind that has to be conditioned. Precisely how I felt during my runs without training vis-à-vis with proper structured training. Everything that you see in reality happens twice is what I believe. 1st, in your brain and then in reality. Training makes you believe that your body can travel along with your mind.

What does ones's daily schedule look like during Ramadan, and where does running fit in?

The Iftar is the meal served at the end of the day during Ramadan; to break the day's fast. There are two different times during which runs are scheduled: -

Pre-Iftar: -This is mostly a 1Hr aerobic run which are the typical 4-5 miler types, just before breaking the fast and done mostly on holidays.

Post Iftar: - The best runs are mostly saved for the night-time after they've eaten, had time to digest, and gone to prayer. These are mostly the 6-7 miler types and can last for 90 to 120 mins mostly done on weekdays.

Dream Runners takes pride in introducing a few healthy & hearty tips for Ramadan fitness enthusiasts: -

1. Hydrate Well-Drink a lot of water and fill up on fruit at every opportunity: with iftar, after iftar, after taraweeh, and with suhoor. Fruits high in water contents: - watermelon, pineapples, grapefruit, and oranges. Fruits that are high in potassium to help maintain electrolytes for running: dates, figs, bananas, and peaches.

2. Eat Smart. Quantity and quality matter more than usual during Ramadan because the meals are fewer, so every morsel makes a difference. Avoid foods full of sugar and salt because these foods don't sit well in stomach and will come back to haunt on the run.

3. Break the fast with dates. Dates are essential for a runner, and especially so for a fasting runner! Rahaf Khatib, 34 year old from Michigan, USA(6 time marathoner& Boston runner) who is celebrated as the first hijabi runner prominently featured on the cover of a fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle magazine in the United States, goes on to narrate:- "I've been doing a lot of smoothies with dates to sweeten them up. We eat dates a lot during this month; we even use them to break our fast in the evening, it’s an Islamic tradition. They’re really healthy for you, high in good sugar and calories".

4. Find a time that works best for you. Runners need to be careful, and either run at a time when water is permissible or right before Iftar. Some of our Muslim friends prefer running after iftar.

6. Running route. During Ramadan, plan to run through areas with lot of trees or past bodies of water because these routes physically and mentally make the miles cooler. Trees could decrease the temperature by up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The sights and sounds of moving water also makes one refreshed.If it feels exhausting after a day’s fast, then review hydration, nutrition, the weather, and your sleep schedule.

Running brings everyone together and there are no differences of nationality, religion or gender as we compared times, leaned on each other to stretch and took victory pictures. In a world which sometimes feels so divided, it is a reminder that we are all just people making our way through life as best we can.

For me, the spirit of Ramadan was embodied at that moment - the shared discipline and effort, the equality of everyone regardless of background or ability or status embarking on the same task, and then the communal celebration shared.

SPROUT THE WINGS TO FLY

"You don't need me any longer. You need to keep finding yourself, a little more each day, that real, unlimited Fletcher Seagull. He's your instructor. You need to understand him and to practice him."
- Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A story

MRC Dreamers: a fledgling chapter of Dream Runners was floated during the 2017 DRHM to serve the growing needs of the running community in and around Santhome/ RA Puram areas, where there is a burgeoning awareness of running for fitness and wellness! Headed by Manoj Garg and Kiran Gupta, the membership boast of a strength of 35 across varied age groups, with several of them consistent to training.

The chapter is mentored by the Dream Runners' core team (Suresh Bharathan and Samina Lal) ever since the free structured DRHM training began in April 2017. Appointing a trained coach was the first activity carried out and Mesmer, who is their coach till date, trains them 3 times a week at Ficus Grove, MRC Nagar and adjoining parks.

MRC Dreamers come across as a very relaxed group, whose motto is to enjoy, and derive a lot of pleasure from their fitness activities. They participate in many offbeat events like the Devil's circuit, trail runs etc along with chapter runs and road running events. They firmly believe in improving their stamina and endurance before scaling up on distance with their runs.

In Manoj's words " MRC Dreamers is a well-knit group beyond the coach sessions and runs. Our group has dinners, breakfasts; moreover, members of the MRC Dreamers have been active volunteers of MRC Nagar civic group, regular blood donors and participate in eco-friendliness activities.

Our biggest learning in the last one year is about calibrating our ambition - to ensure injury free progress, however long that takes. We are not measuring up to anyone else's benchmark, except our own. "

In a world of competitiveness and oneupmanship in every walk of life, this group comes as a refreshing breathe of fresh air! May their tribe increase.

TESTIMONIAL

Excellent organization of the event. DRHM is always CLASS. Giving prosthetic legs n when they tried walking it was so emotional. The expression on their facing getting legs and walking is inexplicable. Route marshals were cheering all the time. Water points are at apt distances with smiling volunteers. Every year DRHM sets bar of innovation so high. Congratulations core team.

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