Rekha Sudarsan is a Psychologist and television personality who decided to take up running for personal betterment, and who now is one of the founders of a running group called ‘Dream Runners’ in Chennai. In our little rendezvous, she tells us about how running has turned her life around, and how she aspires the same for women around India.
Tell us a little about what motivated you to start running.
I started “recreational running” in 2008. A humble 700 meters of running on the tar got me addicted to this wonderful activity. I live along the beautiful coast line of Chennai and that was an added attraction. Weight loss and the multiple health benefits that this activity gave me helped me remain motivated. The “Runners high“ is one of them!
How has running changed you and your attitude towards life?
Running, like any other sport, has disciplined me further. In addition to all the physical health benefits, it has scored very high on my psychological scale too. Every time I finish a long run, it only reinstates my belief that “nothing is impossible”. If I can run and finish a full marathon of 42.193 kms, I am convinced I can achieve many more things in life. The win of the mind over body is an amazing feeling. So running to me is holistic growth.
From your first marathon in 2012, you have definitely come a long way! Do share some of the highlights of your journey in running so far…
I have many diary moments in the runs that I have taken part but I have many more runs to go to write a book about! Each run is an experience by itself. The various thoughts that run in my mind when I am running range from euphoria to grief, willingness to push my body beyond its limits to thoughts of giving up in between, the extreme physical demands that the long run sucks out of me to the way my body rehabilitates, and the ever changing ways by which I look at life after every run is my testimonial of ‘My Running experiences’.
How often do you run? What is your everyday mantra to stay healthy and fit?
I weighed a good 82 kilos a decade back. Maternity and lack of awareness on health took its toll on me. I fortunately like exercising and thus started my beautiful journey.
I run 3 times a week. 10-12 kms on week days and long runs ranging from 15kms to 30 kms on Sundays. Hill runs, sand running, tempo runs are also factored in few times a month. The other three days I concentrate on strength and endurance training.
I give a lot of importance to nutrition. I don’t starve and neither do I over indulge. I chose my food wisely. More importantly I give lot of importance to “rest and restore”.
You run for a lot of women-centric causes. Why have you chosen to do this, and what are some of the causes that you’ve run for?
I am passionate about two things. My work and running. I am a psychologist specializing in Maternity and Infant care. It breaks my heart to see women abusing their body by not taking care of it. I use running as a means of empowering women on health and fitness because my conviction is “happy, healthy families revolve around happy, healthy women”.
I am one of the founder members of a wonderful running group called “Dream Runners” in Chennai. We organize running events every year for a cause. Organ donation and prevention of suicide have been few of the causes that we have held a torch for. I have also run for cancer prevention and few more women centric activities.
My ultimate goal is to see many more women take up running Chennai and also in India.
A lot of Indian women ignore their bodies because they often put family,work and responsibilities before themselves. What is your advice to them, and how would you inspire them to get out there and run?
I am not sounding vain but to put this in perspective- I am a working woman with busy hours at the clinic, a hectic travel itinerary, two teenage sons and their demands and a happy family to care for. I resolved long back that I will devote 1 hour every day to my physical health and I continue doing it too. There were teething issues here too but eventually life adjusts itself to our plans. That’s the beauty of this design.
‘Nothing at the cost of anything’ is my motto and I am proud to say that this balancing act or multitasking, as the world calls it, has only been interesting and never over demanding. But the call has to come from every woman out there. There are enough inspirations amongst us.
Sometime back, you had a talk in which you discussed how ‘Marathon running is meditation’. Share some of the points you discussed with our readers!
Running to me is “meditative”. It takes me through a gamut of emotions, thoughts and feelings and at one point I end up in a zone of “no thoughts” and this is my favourite time during my long runs. At this point, there is no body and mind , there is only an integration of both. And interestingly, there is a surge of energy and it is very similar to what I derive sitting in the seat of meditation too. That feeling is both light and heavy. It’s a zone and it’s an experience to be experienced!
What’s lined up in the coming years for you? Do you have any more plans about reaching out to more people about the benefits of running?
My bucket list is long. I have lot of long runs planned for starting from August - Pondicherry, Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai and some long term goals too. Every day in every way possible, we under the auspices of Dream Runners reach out to people and spread the message of running and its benefits. We have started seeing results and its very gratifying!