running

When a Runner’s High is All You’re Chasing

Some people run for the bus, Paresh Jadavani ran away from his life.
Image: Paresh Jadavani

When Paresh Jadavani’s doctor told him he needed to exercise, the 42-year-old Mumbaikar started playing cricket in his local park in Vasai. One day, he asked his cricket friends about running a marathon. They laughed. “Paresh bhai, how would you run a marathon? You can’t even run for one run in cricket.”

Undaunted, Jadavani started running 10Ks in 2016, eventually progressing to running his first full marathon in a month and a half. After two decades of making stainless steel fasteners for a living, it felt good to run, and not worry about anything else. Too good.

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And there were a million opportunities to race. In 2017, the number of recorded races was estimated to be 1,100 —more than double the previous year. Maharashtra had the highest number of running events, at 253. Soon, Jadavani was running two or three full marathons a month. He told VICE why he became obsessed with running, and how he learned to slow down.

My first race was this a Radio Mirchi night race, called Neon Run. I said to myself, “It's night time, there’ll be a DJ and neon lighting—it’s a party. It’ll be fun.”

I practiced for a month and a half: woke up at 5 AM, train for an hour and a half, cricket at 7 AM. I was new to running, very excited, so I practised seven days a week. I got better and finished the 10K in 1 hour 27 minutes. I felt like I'd conquered the world.

Jadavani training for his 76K. Image: Paresh Jadavani

I started to look at sites like Indiarunning.com. I was doing one or two 10Ks a month. Then three. By mid-July 2017, I bumped up the distance to 21K—a half marathon also by Radio Mirchi, the “monsoon marathon”.

I stopped playing cricket—I would get bored waiting to bat. A friend on the field asked me what happened, and I said, “My head is still in the marathon mode.”

I would run eight hours without any breaks. I became obsessed with fixing my time. A full marathon (42km) should take from 4.45 to 5.15, but my time was nearly 5 hours 45 minutes. I had to run and run and better my time. I was addicted at that point. From September to November 2016, I ran five 10Ks, four half marathons and two full marathons.

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My family reacted badly. My commute to work takes nearly two hours. To start running at 5 AM, I left home around 3 AM. My wife, Falguni, tried to get me to stop. I started missing get-togethers, family functions. I couldn't even help in physical work at home, like cleaning, going to market, etc, as I had to rest after training, which was everyday.

My kids were small, so not that intelligent. They just threw tantrums, asked me to take them to a park. I couldn’t take care of them. I gave them my medals.

Jadavani in the IDBI Stadium run in 2018. Image: Paresh Jadavani

Last November, I realised my body was breaking down. I’d run four marathons, two 50Ks and a 76K. After finishing, I would jump with joy, but wasn't able to walk. I needed three, four days for recovery. My reflexes slowed down, my legs swelled up. A coach told me I needed to leave my work, train full-time, eat superfoods, and diet. Otherwise, my body would give up in three to five years, best case.

I was burning a lot of calories, losing protein, and not eating right. If I had continued with that lifestyle, I would've ended up in a bad place. Around that time, I found this book called Slow Jogging, by Hiraoki Tanaka. He used to slow jog at 12 min/km, which is not very fast, but builds stamina and speed. In slow jogging, your toe and ball of your foot get a spring in their step. You smile and don't get breathless, your injury chances drop down to zero.

I just slow jog now, reducing the sugar and salt in my diet, while also doing a raw food course. It was difficult initially—I would practise on days I had marked for rest just because I needed to. But after a break of three weeks, I realised I'm able to kick into marathon mode whenever it’s needed. The 15K, 10K runs just felt very light—it was like a game I had to play. Now I don’t feel as tensed about missing them, I don't let my kids down now.

Jadavani with his Pinkathon crew. Image: Paresh Jadavani

I now train women who aren’t able to run as frequently via Milind Soman’s Pinkathon program. Some of them hadn't run even 1 km in their life. After training them for six months, we got them to do a whole 100 mile earlier this year. It lasted for three days: the first day it was 70km, the second day was 55km, and third day 40-45km.

Personally, I want to do a triathlon now. I think of that as a challenge in my life, though my training isn’t as rigorous as it used to be.

Follow Parthshri Arora on Twitter.