Running lets me travel anywhere without thought, keep up with my over-energetic grandson and live life as I please.

A runner at 62 why I dont want to retire to an easy chair just yet
Blog Fitness Sunday, October 02, 2016 - 16:58

By Vasumathy S 

At the age of 62, I have a daily schedule unlike many friends and family in my age group. Three days a week, I get up at 4.30am to pull on a t-shirt, leggings and sneakers (clothes I never wore until very recently in my life) and carpool my way to various places in the city, and run anywhere between 3-10km.

On Sundays, I follow up the run with a group workout with people who are often half my age, doing everything from squats and lunges to jumping jacks and burpees to crunches and push-ups.

In the two years that I’ve been running nearly every day, I’ve also completed six 10k races including at the Auroville Marathon in Pondicherry, and on the scenic trail along the Kaveri river in Srirangapatna as part of the Kaveri Trails Marathon.

When I first kicked off this fitness routine, my mother voiced a thought that others in my extended family may have also had. “Why are you doing such foolish things at your age?” she had asked me then.

On some of my early runs, I also had curious bystanders come up and ask what I was doing, and why I was doing such things at my age.

And although others among family and friends didn’t say it out loud, I got the sense that they saw it as a temporary trip, a short experiment that would soon be abandoned. But two years hence, I see the change in their expressions when they look at me and see how much of a difference running has made to my life.

Before we get to that, though, a flashback is necessary. For much of my adult life, exercise was a luxury that often lost out to demands of working and raising a family. I was married in 1978, and by 1984, at the age of 30, I had two sons. Between my bank job, managing the house and raising my sons, there was hardly any room to put aside time for my health.

It wasn’t as if I didn’t try. Through the late 1980s and the 1990s, I often followed my sons into whatever sports or physical activities drew their fancy. If I’m going to sit here and wait for them to finish their swimming or karate classes, I thought to myself, might as well join them at it.

But inevitably, work or other more urgent problems would get in the way, and another lull would follow. It wasn’t until I finally retired in 2002, and urgent health concerns forced it upon me that I could finally make taking care of my health a priority.

Diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension, I began walking every day for 45 minutes to get these problems under control. Some years later, I also took up yoga to deal with a back problem I developed after a fall.

As much as these exercise routines helped me keep further problems at bay, losing the weight I had accumulated through my adult life remained an elusive goal. But diagnosed with osteoarthritis in one knee in 2002 and in the other in 2008, I had been warned by an orthopaedic against running.

In 2013, though, on a vacation with my elder son and his family in the Himalayas, he said to me after another strenuous trek up a mountain trail, that if I could climb up and down mountains then I could definitely run. He said that perhaps I should put my fears aside and take a shot at running.

I decided to take his advice and join Runners High, the running group he ran with in Bengaluru. That decision has changed my life in so many ways.

Perhaps the best part of my running journey is the friendships it has given me among my running buddies. To them, most of whom are about half my age, I am an inspiration, they say. To see me show up at every run at my age, gives them the motivation to stick to it despite all the other demands on their daily life. And that keeps me going with my running: every time I feel like slowing down, or cheating my way through my exercises, I think to myself that I can’t let down people who look at me as an inspiration, and that keeps me going through the next kilometre, the next set of exercises.

And having them along to chat with during the run or simply to wave at as we pass each other on the fifth or sixth kilometre of a 10k run, or hang out with on regular post-run group breakfasts, drives away the lethargy that makes me think about staying in bed for a couple of hours instead of heading out for a pre-dawn run.

Then there are the comments I get from non-runners I meet among family and friends. From comments about how fit I look each time they meet me, to earnest questions from cousins and nieces and nephews about how they could get started on running too, it all tells me that my efforts are paying off more than I expected.

Perhaps the best certificate came from my five-year-old grandson. “Paati,”, he told me one day after we’d run through a park to get to his school on time, “you didn’t know how to run at all before. But now you run so well!”

But it’s the small changes in my life that make me most convinced about my choice to be a runner. I look at my friends, and I see some of them struggling for half an hour to climb a flight of stairs or thinking hard about whether their knees can take a 20-minute walk on a day out in the city.

Until some years ago, I was much like them, waiting for an empty bus or taking an auto because I couldn’t ride standing in a crowded bus. And given the roller coaster state of most footpaths in Bengaluru, I’d have to plan my walking routes so I wouldn’t stress my knees out. Now, such things don’t cause the slightest problem for me, and the city and my life is open to me to do all the things I wish without the slightest fear of tiredness or pain.

At 62, I don’t feel any sort of need to hang up my boots and take life easy and relax. Retirement from my job hasn’t meant retiring from my life. And I know that I have at least another decade or two of active living to do. And if I want to enjoy all those years, I need to get out and make sure my body can keep up.

(As told to Rakesh Mehar)

Disclosure: Vasumathy S is the mother of Rakesh Mehar, a TNM editor.

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!

You can also support us with a one-time payment.

Rs 200Rs 500Rs 1500Custom