If you ask my friends to describe me in a few words, they would unanimously say that I am a devoted fitness enthusiast. What began with sporadic high-intensity workouts gradually transformed into structured plans, including strength training and circuit workouts, along with my daily runs. Each morning, I slip on my headphones, lace up my favourite pair of Nike Pegasus running shoes, and hit the road with the audio-guided runs on the Nike Run Club (NRC) app.
The days I ran were starkly different from the ones I didn’t. I was mentally sharper, more attuned to my inner rhythm and motivated throughout the day. This realisation got me pondering on the holistic benefits of running.
I spoke with three everyday runners – Kavitha Reddy, Pooja Shah and Kavita Chand, who started with nothing else except their love for running and a good pair of shoes. From the initial short-distance runs to taking on the challenge of half and full marathons, these runners have built more than just endurance – they have built friendships, confidence, a sense of identity and even purpose. They are an inspiration to us on how running can indelibly alter our lives by simply putting one foot in front of the other.
An athlete’s identity
Growing up in a small town in Andhra Pradesh, Kavitha Reddy was never exposed to running. A casual conversation with a family friend led her to run her first mile. After that, there was no looking back for the mother of two, who admits she found her athlete’s identity through running.
“Running has given me an identity. I am known as a runner in my community and not just a label society gives to women like a wife or a mother or a homemaker,” says Reddy.
Reddy ran her first full marathon within six months, a feat that motivated her to keep on running. “Women generally do find it harder to stay consistent in their running journey as they have many roles to fulfil. I am lucky to have found the running community who encouraged me, cheered for me and challenged me,” she says.
From running her first full marathon in 4.19 in 2013, Reddy recently clinched marathon running’s greatest prize—the Six Star Medal in Tokyo this year, with a timing of 3:05.
As she tackles the Melbourne Marathon on 15 October, Reddy hopes to crack the three-hour barrier, running in VaporFlys, a shoe trusted by marathoners for speed assistance, stability and cushioning. “The energy return in the Vaporfly 3’s and its lightweight design is perfect for distance runners like me, and I aim to put it to the test in the upcoming Melbourne Marathon,” she says.
Behind every successful runner there is a community
Just like Reddy, Kavita Chand, the vice president of a market research company, mother and a marathoner, found her calling in running and the support in her running community.
Chand’s journey into running began in April 2017 post-maternity, when she joined a local running group in her area. “Within six months of starting my running journey, my lifestyle had completely changed. I realised there’s so much more to running – I was sleeping on time, diligently waking up for my runs, and eating more nutritious food,” admits Chand.
Chand found an instant connection with her running group. This community of like-minded individuals became her source of motivation, encouraging her to lace up her shoes and hit the road consistently.
Her first 10km race in June 2017—completed in under an hour, followed by her first half marathon, which she completed in 2:23—led Chand to tackle her first full marathon, which she ran in 3:49 in November 2019, an accomplishment she partly credits to her shoes. “I started using Nike Pegasus on the recommendation of my coach. Not only were the shoes comfortable, but I also started clocking a better time,” she says.
Nike’s most beloved running shoe, trusted by short- and long-distance runners, has remained a trusted companion to Chand on her daily runs, though as she migrated to race training, she tried the Zoom Fly followed by the Alphafly. “The Zoom Fly 3 is my favourite shoe to date and gives me the right energy return for my races,” she says.
Chand is now training for her Boston Qualifier and will run a series of marathons starting with the Adani Ahmedabad Marathon this November, where she hopes to improve her timing from her current personal best of 3:39.
In it for the long run
“The best part about running is that you are not looking for immediate results; you are training for a long-term goal, and how you show up for yourself every day builds character,” believes Pooja Shah, a runner and holistic fitness instructor who discovered the joys of running when she worked in the advertising industry.
A few years into training sparked a life-changing decision, leading Shah to take a gap year in 2018 to explore the possibility of turning her love for running and training into a profession. Shah bravely quit her job and has never looked back. As her love for running grew, so did her commitment to health and fitness. She advises incorporating strength training and yoga into the daily routine alongside a healthy diet to ensure a holistic approach to running.
Like me, Shah found the NRC audio-guided runs hugely helpful, especially during the pandemic. “They were a saviour. It almost felt like I was running alongside Coach Bennett, Nike’s global coach. His approach to building endurance, tips and stories of motivation and humour was a great company,” says Shah.
Combining her love for running and community, Shah started Project-50, a passion project where she aims to run in 50 countries by the time she turns 50. Her goals include conquering the Khardung La Challenge–the 72km marathon in Ladakh, achieving a Boston Qualifier time of 3:30 and completing the World Marathon majors.
Her race at the Nike Melbourne Marathon Festival is the sixth run as part of Project 50, which she would like to achieve in 4:30.
Just doing it
As I track their personal wins and new milestones in Melbourne and Ahmedabad, I find inspiration for my own running routine and conquering my inner demons of lethargy and excuses like too much sun and too much rain while finding a healthy balance between mind-body life.
Reddy, Shah, and Chand’s inspiring stories show us all the simple ways to become a better version of ourselves through running and, in return, getting so much more than just a gift of health.