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Senior citizen runs Marathon barefoot

Running barefoot at the Mumbai Marathon for nine years in a row, Goa resident asserts that he has no intention of taking his foot off the gas and will continue to run till health permits

One step ahead: Soulful marathoner Yelappa Virje believes running with shoes is a new fad. Pic/Sunil Tiwari

If running 42 km seems intimidating, imagine doing it barefoot. A 67-year-old retired government worker from Goa, Yelappa Virje, ran the full-length Mumbai Marathon barefoot for the ninth consecutive year.

Virje, who began running in 2004, was presented with an award yesterday, after the run, for his exemplary attempt. "Till my health permits I will come to Mumbai every year to partake in the marathon, " said Virje, who is a resident of Telegaum in Goa.

"The fad of wearing sneakers to run races is newly popular. Prior to 2004, I have been running races barefoot only and hence I decided to run the marathon barefoot," said Virje, who has won several racing competitions back in his hometown.

Trick of the trade
"I maintain a regular exercise regimen and a stretching routine to cope with the 42-km run. However, I believe it is the person's determination and will-power that can help him overcome long distance races."

Nearly 38,000 people -- including celebrities, industrialists, women, senior citizens, minors, and physically-challenged  -- participated in 2012 Mumbai Marathon.

Going natural
A book titled Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, published in March 2011, portrays Tarahumara Indians, an indigenous people in Mexico known for their ability to run long distances in thin sandals without getting injured. The book not only explores the history and culture of the Tarahumara but also examines the physiology and evolution of running. The author also makes the case that modern running shoes warp our natural stride, encourage bad form and lead to injuries.

Did you know?
Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won the marathon in bare feet at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

South African long distance runner Zola Budd, who shot to fame after colliding with Mary Decker
at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, broke the women's 5,000-metre world record as a 17-year-old schoolgirl running barefoot. Sadly, the record was disallowed following apartheid South Africa's exclusion from international athletics.

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