Going in circles

Updated: May 03, 2020, 08:46 IST | Gitanjali Chandrasekharan | Mumbai

Denied access to roads and parks, runners are staying in form by completing full marathons by weaving circles around their furniture. But is it like the real deal?

Gunjan Raina and Vishal Sharma participate in the Lockdown Indoor Run 2020 at their Powai home on April 26. Pic/Sameer Markande
Gunjan Raina and Vishal Sharma participate in the Lockdown Indoor Run 2020 at their Powai home on April 26. Pic/Sameer Markande

For a man whose tryst with running began six years ago when a trainer told him, "age is just a number, why don't you start and see how it goes", 73-year-old Kamalaksha Rao has gone into it guns blazing. His first half marathon was in 2015 and last year, the Malad resident did three 100 km runs and one 60 km run. His regular schedule includes weekly running sessions and a long run of around 25 km every Sunday.

His routes would either be the Bandra-NCPA run, the Borivli National Park or on the Malad back road. However, when the lockdown was announced across India on March 24, Rao like other runners—across Mumbai, India and the world—suddenly found himself confined to his 1BHK apartment, which he says isn't very big.

But then, "Fifteen days after the lockdown began, a group of runners who I connected with on Whatsapp in Bengaluru, were talking about how they were running indoors. I decided to try it as well." What started with three kilometres, extended to five kilometres and, after tying up with an NGO on Zoom, he completed 21 km on April 12.

This handout picture taken and released courtesy Pan Shancu on February 14 this year, shows Shancu running in his bedroom in Hangzhou, China’s eastern Zhejiang province. PIC/AFP
This handout picture taken and released courtesy Pan Shancu on February 14 this year, shows Shancu running in his bedroom in Hangzhou, China's eastern Zhejiang province. Pic/ AFP

In the early days of the global Coronavirus epidemic in February, Pan Shancu from Hangzhou, near Shanghai in China, hit the global headlines—his picture of running past a bed in a narrow space on a wooden floor went viral—when he completed 66 km in a loop at home within six hours and 41 minutes. What the 44-year-old was demonstrating then was the start of a new epidemic: Have feet, will run, anywhere. Shancu was quoted saying, "Running is like an addiction. If you don't run for a long time, you get itchy feet." And, it's something Rao agrees with. "All runners have a madness quotient."
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While Rao doesn't know how big the loop that he runs in his house is—a video he uploaded of himself running on Facebook shows that he has opened his front door and is using the extended space in the corridor—Powai resident Gunjan Raina has marked a 30m circle in her 1,150 sq ft apartment.

The 42-year-old who started running just two years ago, completed her first full marathon at this year's Tata Mumbai Marathon. It took her four hours and 48 minutes; a 10k usually takes her 56 minutes.

The lockdown spelled a pause in her weekly running schedule: four days of running, including hills and interval training, two days of strength workouts. "I would see people across the world, from those who had done Ironmans etc, running inside their homes, doing upto 42 km runs. Initially, I thought my house was too small for this and also figured that [slacking] one or two months won't hurt. It's muscle memory and the body will get back."

What changed however, was when Devil's Circuit, an eight-year-old obstacle challenge organised by Gurugram-based company Volano Entertainment Private Lim ited announced its first lockdown challenge. Having done an obstacle run on the ground last year, Raina is both an enthusiast and a member of the community. The challenge required her to run small distances of 300 metres in her home, interspersed with functional challenges, such as burpees and push-ups. "I charted out a small loop in my house in which I could run. I started doing a small distance from three kilometres and then increased it to five."

Last Sunday, Raina and her husband Vishal Sharma, 45, participated in a running challenge organised by another Gurugram-based firm, Any Body Can Run. The challenge is aptly called the Lockdown Indoor Run 2020.

Mihika Wahi Gupta, organiser of the Lockdown Indoor Run
Mihika Wahi Gupta, organiser of the Lockdown Indoor Run

Organiser Mihika Wahi Gupta, herself an ultrarunner, found herself running one afternoon in March, while her family was asleep, and realised that getting from 10k to 15k to 21k wasn't very tough. It was still the early days of the lockdown and fellow runners on her social media were cribbing about missing their runs. "So, I posted about my run and suggested that they too try this at home. Because you don't want to go out and endanger yourself or others."

When she started seeing an increase in the number of people who started uploading their indoor runs on social media, she figured it was the right time to organise an event where everyone could participate. The April 26 event had distances ranging from 2 km to 10 km. And, with around a 1,000 participants from not just India, but also Africa, Norway, New Jersey, Dubai and Canada, it became a global event of sorts. While the Devil's Circuit event is free, participation in the Lockdown Indoor Run cost between R375 and R456, depending on the categories. But, like all good running events, it comes with a kit bag. Once the lockdown is over and deliveries start, participants will be sent a tee, a medal, a face mask, and a gift hamper. "We have had participants message us saying that the medal is something they will cherish, as a symbol of something they did during the lockdown," says Mihika. But to brag immediately, the participants have already been mailed a certificate of their achievement.

On how the logistics work when it comes to indoor racing events, both Gupta and Adnan Adeeb, founder and managing director at Volano Entertainment Private Limited, say primarily, here the race is only against yourself. Indoor running distances can easily be measured by smartwatches and sportswatches besides of course, several apps. Both events, send a link to participants, where they can upload a snapshot of their completed runs. In the case of Devil's Circuit, says Adeeb, on the day of the event, participants are also sent a mail with GIFs explaining the functional exercises they need to do. "And, while we only ask for a snapshot of the run, a lot of participants also send us videos of themselves doing the exercises to show us that they have completed the tasks." In the second edition of the Devil's Circuit indoor challenge, he says, 3,000 people participated across 116 cities, including London, Hamburg and Singapore. The best part of these events, unlike their offline versions, is that you can start at any time you like—within the sanctioned period i.e. For instance, Raina says her husband started his run after she completed hers, because of space constraints.

Kamalaksha Rao has completed a 50k run at home
Kamalaksha Rao has completed a 50k run at home

However, while an outdoor 10k would cost her 55 minutes, inside it took her 65 minutes and 40 seconds. It's important, everyone will tell you, to go slow when running.

Bengaluru-based strength and conditioning coach and marathon runner, Radha Krishnaswamy, says it's better to stick to short distances when running indoors.

"When running indoors, there are twists and turns at every 20 metres, so there's continuous deceleration which doesn't happen when running outdoors," she says, explaining that when you turn, the body leans to a side and there are changes that occur. While one can adapt to these changes over 40 days, one would have to unlearn this when the lockdown ends and resume their regular training. "So, there are biomechanical changes; one room to another is not more than 10 metres, the speed is slow, not something you'd ever run when you are outside. Since this is not a mileage you'd carry outside and neither is the oxygen consumed by the body increased, what's the benefit of running indoors?"

Radha Krishnaswamy
Radha Krishnaswamy

"The reason runners want to run is because they get a runners' high and feel good about themselves. When you don't run, you feel depressed. And at this time, it's important to feel good. Life is difficult as is in the lockdown, so a little running is okay, but not a half marathon or 42k."

She points out that most homes have vitrified tiles, which are slippery and running on this surface will hurt the calves a lot more. Instead, runners should focus more on strength training and, if running is a must, try and find a longer loop of say 50-100 metres in the building, where you can run without coming in contact with anyone else. And when the lockdown ends and you can start your regular practice, "start at 50 per cent of what you were doing before the lockdown and slowly build it up."

The certificate that participants of the Lockdown Run will be mailed. When deliveries resume, they will also be sent T-shirts, a face mask and a nutritious gift hamper
The certificate that participants of the Lockdown Run will be mailed. When deliveries resume, they will also be sent T-shirts, a face mask and a nutritious gift hamper

Runner's high, check. Medals and certificates and tees, check.

But what about the cheering crowds that push a runner past the point of quitting. Adeeb says, "We have seen videos of kids cheering on parents, or spouses stepping up. It's the captive family that's been encouraging."

Saloni Shukla, musculoskeletal and sports physiotherapist and founder of Cuffe Parade’s The Salsette Physiotherapy Clinic
Saloni Shukla, musculoskeletal and sports physiotherapist and founder of Cuffe Parade's The Salsette Physiotherapy Clinic

Prevent injuries while running indoors

  • Wear neutral shoes or shoes that you generally wear while running outside

Keep your distance small. Anything over 21k is considered long distance

  • Go slow
  • If you can, run on the terrace

Avoid going towards slippery surfaces like bathroom or the sink

  • Constant change in direction—something runners are not used to—will hurt the ankles. So do ankle stabilising exercises
  • Do strengthening exercises twice a week
  • Once in a while, work on strengthening exercises when muscles are tired, so they are accustomed to being trained

1,000
Number of participants who signed up for the Lockdown Run on April 26 organised by a Gurugram firm

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