Health: Social media savvy Mumbaikars run together

Thanks to social media and running apps, Mumbai's runners -- from Kalyan to Byculla --  are now a close-knit community that exchanges targets and tips to run in a space starved city

A long-distance run was once a solitary activity; lonesome silhouettes would rhythmically jog through roads before the crack of dawn with little company or cheering. But now, with social media and the increased popularity of hitting the tarmac, the Mumbai runner is no longer flying solo in his/her achievements to cover that extra mile or to improve timings.

New-age running apps like Runkeeper and Runtastic and social media platforms like Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter have turned this community into a close knit one, where they share hurdles, achievements, and routes across a space-starved metropolis. Be it Thane or Borivali, Shivaji Park or Worli, city runners are going the extra mile to help others with routes (check map) and challenges, and to announce upcoming events, informs Mumbai-based runner, Girish Mallya, who some of his running comrades call the Running King of Mumbai.

The Facebook page of Kalyan-Dombivli runners group has a promising 167 members
The Facebook page of Kalyan-Dombivli runners group has a promising 167 members

Mallya, 39, a marathon runner for 15 years now, has completed several marathons, multi-stage ultra marathons and completed the Marathon Des Sables, titled the toughest footrace in the world. He says that they announce all major events on Facebook and Twitter. New runners from different parts of the city get help from the other: be it how to treat knee pain after a long run or what could be a possible running route in congested parts of Santacruz.

Girish Mallya, a media professional, has been running marathons for 15 yearsGirish Mallya, a media professional, has been running marathons for 15 years

“We post details such as timing on social media platforms. For details about the run, I use apps like Runkeeper, which is now very popular in India and hence a lot of my friends are on it. I also use Pumatrac, which has good social media integration,” informs the media professional.

Map not to scale

City on the run
Mallya is a part of the Facebook group Mumbai Road Runners that has 3,527 members and is bustling with activity about upcoming running events like the Bandra NCPA Half Marathon powered by Tirumala Mulund 10K Run on November 1. “Mumbai Road Runners is one of the premier Facebook groups that connects several runners in the city and away. But there are smaller groups spread across the city that connects runners from those areas,” he adds.

Amalesh Karle (extreme right) with his Runtastic group
Amalesh Karle (extreme right) with his Runtastic group  

In the far-flung eastern suburbs, Kalyan Dombivli Runners (KDR) has a promising 167 members. A member of this group, Mandar Kakade, a 33-year-old finance professional, informs that they usually train on the Badlapur highway. “The stretch is of almost 19 km with good inclines necessary for training. We train there every Sunday. We also have a Whatsapp group where we talk about various events to participate in, the experiences during the run and post-run feedback.

There are plenty of motivational ideas exchanged on the Whatsapp group. Planning for events is also done on this platform,” he says. Another member of the group, Devendra Mane, a 30-year-old insurance professional, informs that the Kalyan-Dombivli stretch offers many short practice routes as well.

People living in Andheri are not left out either. The Lokhandwala Running Club in Andheri meets at Lokhandwala Jogger's Park and heads off from there. “We meet every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 6 am at the entrance of Lokhandwala Joggers Park. We have running routes ranging from 6k to 21k. Rain or shine, we have no off days,” Darshan Divakaran, from the club, says.

Suburban cool
Those in Thane and Navi Mumbai, seem to be blessed with scenic routes that draw people from the more coveted real estate zones for a run. Sunil Gwalani, 49, a motivational speaker from Thane informs that the route in Upvan, Thane (W) is lined with trees and climbs up to 1,300 ft, thereby testing the runner’s endurance. “The route is not just popular with Thane’s residents but also attracts a lot of runners from south Mumbai,” he adds. Amlesh Karle, 40, a chemical engineer from Thane who runs with a group, who call themselves Runtastic, agrees, saying, “The social media groups keep the running community together by initiating various activities like Navrun where many of us ran 9 km for nine days in a row. We runners are now a big and beautiful extended family.”

However, the stretch that starts from Carter Road in Bandra and winds its way down to NCPA in Nariman Point, via the regular route of the Mumbai Marathon —Mahim Causeway, Cadell Road, Shivaji Park, Prabhadevi, Worli Sea Face, Haji Ali, Peddar Road, Babulnath, and Marine Drive — remains popular.

Route of the matter
Ram Venkatraman, who is a moderator of Mumbai Runners, and has been running in different parts of the city for several years, now, informs us of a perfect stretch inside the Aarey Colony's forest that is under constant threat from development and possible transformation into a cluster of high-rises. “We run beyond the New Zealand hostel, which is a strenuous climb for about 1 km and then further there is another beautiful patch of 1 km climbing up to the Aarey Guest House. People who run or walk or cycle inside Aarey Colony are amazed that such a beautiful green part of Mumbai also exists,” the 53-year-old company secretary shares.

Some runners, however, are not very comfortable about making their routes public by posting them on social media. Shakti Salgaokar, a 31-year-old writer who mostly runs in Dadar, says, “I do use apps like Runtastic to train because it gives me good feedback on my running but I am averse to posting routes on social media for security concerns. I share it in closed groups or among friends.”

Run Alert
The Bandra NCPA Half Marathon powered by Tirumala Mulund 10K will be organised on Sunday, November 1 at 5.15 am from Bandra.

To register log on to:

Popular apps

Runtastic: A mobile app that allows you to keep track of your fitness progress and share it with friends on the app. It tells you if you are too sore to run on a given day.

Runkeeper: This mobile app tracks your walk or run and is compatible with the Apple Watch. It is also one of the most popular apps in India.

Garmin: Allows you to track speed, heart rate, distance covered and improvement. Also has inbuilt training plans.

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