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“Heroes of Running” Coverage in Runners for Life

I have been featured by Runners for Life under their column “Heroes of Running” . Runners for Life is one of India’s larges networking site for recreational runners. My coverage there means a lot to me and thanks a lot to the team at RFLIndia.

The link is here

And the article is cut pasted here


In this edition of Heroes of Running, we feature P Venkat from Mumbai. From being a heart patient to someone who encourages that You Too Can Run, Venkat’s story is awe inspiring. We caught up with the Venkat to know more about his story. Here’s what we discovered :

You Too Can Run!


Q. Venkat, tell us about yourself and your running background:

A. I have been a fitness conscious person from my teenage years. I have always had a membership of a Gym. While weight training on weekdays, my cardio used to be a football game every Sunday on Juhu beach. But slowly age was catching up , my training was not as rigorous and one day, towards the end of Dec 2003 when I was driving down the BKC road, from one end to the other, I noticed that it was 3.5 kms in length. I made a promise to myself that I would train myself to run this length one day. It soon became my New Year resolution of 2004 and I took part in the Mumbai Marathon of 15th Feb 2004, in the Dream Run segment of 7 kms.

It was a great excitement for me and I have captured all of it in  a series of posts on RFL  here :

Q. A heart ailment is not for the faint hearted. What condition did you face & how did you recover from it?

A. Heart ailment runs in my family…even though everyone in my family was running. I often jokingly say that I was running / weight training largely driven by fear that I will meet the fate of my younger brother who passed away, age 34,  due to the disease.

After running the first Dream Run of 7 kms in 2004, I started running the Half Marathon ever since then. In Nov 2006, as I was training for the Half Marathon of Jan 2007, I started feeling Angina pains whenever I was picking up pace.  A series tests revealed a 100% block  in my major artery. I should have been history, which was averted only because of the collaterals that developed due to my regular exercising lifestyle.

I skipped the Half Marathon of Jan 2007 and went under the knife for an 8 hour, 6 bypass surgery. My heart it seems was pretty weak. This despite the fact that i was the guy who exercised regularly and the one who never ordered Cheese Pav Bhaji with Buttered Bread :-)

Q. A 50 plus heart patient who is running half marathons? We don’t hear a lot of those stories. What motivated you to get back to the sport? What were the challenges/precautions you faced when you did?

A. I am fortunate that I underwent the surgery at Asian Heart which follows the best international practices in terms of post operative Cardiac Rehab. I am also fortunate that the department is headed by Dr Aashish Contractor a Cardiologist who is also a keen athlete himself.

His Bio –

His Blog –

When I wanted to resume active running and my former exercise routines, I did face a lot of resistance on many fronts. Many well wishers opined that all this was not necessary. If I walked everyday it would be enough some said. Why risk, many asked. Society has an opinion that once you are a heart patient then you are ‘damaged goods’ and that you should do nothing more rigourous than consuming two pegs of whisky for health reasons :-)

However under the watchful eye of Dr Contractor, I re-habbed. I did a trek to Mahuli in July 2007 and  followed it with a 10 kms run in October 2007. Having a Garmin HRM all the time helped me monitor and stay within bounds of my defined risk.

I then went on to complete the Half Marathon of Jan 2008, within 11 months of my surgery and the news item was a front page news item.

Q. Running and inspiring other hear patients to run – how does it feel?

Q, From being the sole Cardiac runner in Jan 2008 we now have had more than 18 runners last year in the HM and FM category. The flood gates opened after I ‘released’ it. Just like Roger Bannister breaking the 4 minute mile record which broke mental barriers for others, I like to think that my running the HM got a lot of heart patients to breach psychological restraints and take on the challenge of an endurance run.

Every year I am involved in training Cardiac Patients to take part in the SCMM and now heart patients with no previous athletic background are also able to train and run the HM distance quite comfortably.

An interesting case of a  68 year old cardiac patient who ran his first HM is captured here

Since Jan 2010, I have taken up the challenge to run the 21kms distance every month. This is with a view to maintain my level of fitness consistently through the year.  I have also been the 3 hour Pacer for SCMM and also wrote the first ‘Pacers Manual’ of the country.

Q. You recently started a campaign called You Too Can Run – Tell us more about it

A. Having exited from the domestic BPO startup that I was  a Promoter Director of,  I decided that I must spend my future years to promoting my passion. I have accordingly started this venture, which is going to be part business ( to fend for itself ) but largely CSR. I have decided not be in areas of promoting the hobby which others are already doing well enough. Thus we will not be doing racing events or set up training groups. We will instead do activities that complement existing players and grow the size of the market while benefiting runners all across the country.

The SWEAT Rate study that I  have launched ( together with Asian Heart Institute ) is one such fine example. Designed to be the largest study in the world and an Indian first, it arises from the strong belief that most literature we read in our country, on running, is foreign in origin and many aspects of their recommendations may not be relevant to us here.  This study has already made breakthrough findings.

Another example is the study that we recently did to settle the nutritional debate of our local Sabja seeds with imported Chia seeds. Another Indian first that should help runners in India not get enamored by foreign products . The thread is at

Q. Any message to inspire heart patients/non heart patients to take up running?

A. Three sentences

  • Good habits are as easy to form as Bad habits
  • Running is a Good habit
  • You Too Can Run

Filed under: Running Trendlines Tagged: Asian Heart Institute, Dr Contractor, P. Venkatraman, Sabja, Sweat Rate, YouTooCanRun

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