Mumbai’s Senior Marathoners Share What It Takes To Be Unstoppable After 60

Mumbai’s Senior Marathoners Share What It Takes To Be Unstoppable After 60

Being physically active in your golden years can be a challenge to many. However, it doesn't have to be impossible, demonstrate four senior runners of the marathon world.

Yael AjgarniUpdated: Friday, January 19, 2024, 09:16 PM IST
article-image
Marathoners (left to right) Mahadev Samjiskar, Anil Panchal, Sadhana Virkar, and Amarjeet Singh Chawla. |

Is 60 the new 40? Is age just a number? Debates and pressures on staying youthful have undoubtedly existed for ages. But the city’s senior marathon runners have no time for these conversations, as they are busy carving their own paths and collecting medals in the process.

Anil Panchal, 67, has three stents in his heart from an angioplasty in 2015. Since his recovery, he has run 45 half marathons and will be running his sixth full marathon this month at the Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM). “Most people who go for bypass or angioplasty get scared to do something new about their fitness. They even avoid long distance walks; doctors also instill fear in them. I took it up as a challenge,” he says. “The thumb rule is to listen to your body.”

The ex-banker shares how seeing his late father’s deteriorating health in old age made him turn his life around. Now, Panchal follows a strict routine where he starts his days at five am and works out six days a week.

Anil Panchal

Anil Panchal |

His diet includes a good breakfast like upma, poha, or millet roti, a light lunch including dal and salad, and dinner at 7.30 pm. He has fruits and dry fruits are snacks in between meals and prefers eggs after gym sessions.

“Once you get into this, your lifestyle changes. My friends and I used to go out Friday and Saturday nights. Now they have stopped calling me. If my marathon starts on Sunday, then I start prepping from Wednesday,” he adds.

For 80-year-old Mahadev Samjiskar, too, watching parents physically suffer later in life served as a motivation to start at 62. He has so far run in seven continents, completing 52 of the 100 half marathons he aims to finish. “I put all my retirement savings towards running. After all these years, it’s only now that I manage to get some sponsorships,” he shares. “Still, I’m not fretting. I’ll manage to achieve my goals and keep the Indian flag high.”

Mahadev Samjiskar

Mahadev Samjiskar |

In 2023, Samjiskar was named as one of TMM’s Har Dil Mumbai heroes. He expresses that his choice to voluntarily live in an old-age home, away from his children, allows him to live life on his own terms. “Having mobility is very important. At 80, I’m fit and fine,” he asserts.

No shortcuts

Due to issues with his blood pressure, Samjiskar has to be careful about his heart health and sleep pattern. He remembers not going through with a run once because he hadn’t slept enough. “My cardiologist said it was a wise decision. Aage life bohot hai, isme kyu shortcut chahiye,” the ​octogenarian explains.

Shortcuts are evidently not a preferred choice among senior runners. Sixty-eight-year-old visually-impaired Amarjeet Singh Chawla needs someone to escort him for daily practice and on-day runs. Yet, he patiently continues to pursue running and go for as many marathons as he can. “I’ve been able to come this far because of the help of my escorts. Since 2004, 128 of them have helped me in runs,” he states.

Amarjeet Chawla

Amarjeet Chawla |

Chawla a.k.a. ‘Sporty Sikh’, took up running to tackle depression after losing vision at 40 to macular degeneration. Starting with the 7-km dream run in the first Mumbai Marathon in 2004, today, he has completed 237 runs, including six ultra marathons and 154 half marathons. “My wife and daughter have been of great help. Nothing would’ve happened without them,” he says.

Find your tribe

A common factor among the city’s senior marathoners is that they’re all active members of running groups. Sixty-two-year-old Sadhana Virkar, who is set to run her fifth TMM, is a part of a running group which meets twice a week at Sanjay Gandhi National Park. She credits the group for keeping her on track. “Our group is very particular. They make sure we follow norms and do a medical check-up once a year,” she shares.

But apart from the immediate physical benefits, having a group also goes a long way in keeping mental health in check. Deepak Londhe, fitness coach and director of Striders running community, points, “Retired people are prone to feeling lonely. They need a good group to interact and be happy. In our groups, every morning when members meet, they get interaction and attention. When they interact, the entire day goes well for them.”

Freshers should take it slow

For those looking to get into running, Londhe suggests building a morning regime of walking and finding a group with a coach. “They should start slow training. After four to five months, if you get a good feeling, you should decide whether to take it further,” he says.

Sixty-three-year-old Nandkishore Upadhyay, a marathoner as well as a marathon coach, believes freshers should spend at least a year in training before trying out a marathon. “You can only run a marathon if you’re physically fit, or else you’ll get cramps. Freshers should get a year of training so they don’t collapse at the finish line,” he says.

Upadhyay calls running “a weapon to keep one fit and healthy”. His advice to newbies? “Learn from experienced people who can teach you the ABCs. Education on things like endurance, strength training, water requirements, salt intake, and diet should all be done.”

Tips from a nutritionist

Bengaluru-based sports nutritionist Abigail A highlights five points that seniors wanting to run marathons should keep in mind.

#1: Put heart first

“As we grow old, our maximum heart rate decreases. So, there needs to be regular monitoring of heart health and blood parameters. Heart issues shouldn’t be ignored.”

#2: Get regular medical check-up

The body’s wear and tear is a part of aging. Medical check-up should be a mandate for runners. You should not strain your body.

#3: Work on your lung capacity

Beetroots and pomegranates are some foods good in nitrate content which will improve lung capacity.

#4: Don’t ignore carbs

Carbs help the body fuel up better. Assuming you take care of your protein intake, carbs are something you shouldn’t ignore.

#5: Stay hydrated — on and off the ground

During marathons, you should especially have hydration strategies. Most injuries happen because of mere dehydration.

For everyone else, she has an important advice: Don’t wait till 60 to take your health seriously.

RECENT STORIES

Theatre Review: Nakalat Saare Ghadle, A 22-Year-Old Hit Play, Is Revived With A New Team

Theatre Review: Nakalat Saare Ghadle, A 22-Year-Old Hit Play, Is Revived With A New Team

Unearthing Ancient Secrets: Tracing Indian Rich Past Through Interesting Archaeological Finds

Unearthing Ancient Secrets: Tracing Indian Rich Past Through Interesting Archaeological Finds

Father’s Day 2024: From Ravana To Dronacharya, Learning Valuable Lessons From Fathers Of Indian...

Father’s Day 2024: From Ravana To Dronacharya, Learning Valuable Lessons From Fathers Of Indian...

Father’s Day 2024: Tabla Maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain Talks About His Late Father Ustad Allarakha

Father’s Day 2024: Tabla Maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain Talks About His Late Father Ustad Allarakha

Father’s Day 2024: 6 Celebrities Share Their Favorite Father Characters From Films

Father’s Day 2024: 6 Celebrities Share Their Favorite Father Characters From Films