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1 Jan 2017

Running their way to success in Hills

Amitava Banerjee, HT, 31 December 2016, DARJEELING: What started with morning walks, runs, casual ‘hellos’ and ‘hi’ at Darjeeling Chowrasta has transformed into the “Darjeeling Hill Runners’ Club.” The club, with highly promising runners of all age groups, hopes to win laurels not only for Darjeeling but for the country.
The motley crew comprises business persons, retired persons, housewives and students. Their love for running binds them together. There are around 20 runners in the club.
“The motivation to run was instilled in many of us from the half marathon in Kalimpong in May 2015. This took a big leap after the first Rotary Darjeeling Marathon the same year. Many runners, young and old, began to take their hobby seriously and began a training regime of their own. Our casual acquaintance transformed into a small group. We talked about running, shared our ideas. The camaraderie grew. This small group began to grow with a desire to participate in events outside Darjeeling,” said 60-year-old Prolad Roka, owner of a travel agency.
The first venture of the club was the Sora Cherrapungee marathon in Shillong in July 2016. Thirteen runners took part. “It was very cold with windswept rains and most of us were freezing. Even with no experience at such events our timings were very good and most of us achieved our personal best,” said Roka.
The next venture was the Tata Steel 25 km marathon in Kolkata on December 18, 2016. Around 10,000 runners from all over the country participated. The club had 18 participants. The performance of the team was exceptional with majority of the runners securing ranks in their individual categories.
“We have no coach and usually have to rely on books and internet for running tips. We are all self-taught. There is a huge financial crunch. Many of our runners are from economically weaker sections of society. Hence it becomes difficult for them to buy proper running shoes; afford planned diets with protein supplements and pay for the registration fees and trips to participate in professional marathons. At present the economically sound members are supporting weaker ones,” said Roka.
There is tremendous potential in the Hills, feels the club. “We are natural walkers. We have strong legs; our lung capacity is also higher so it is easier for us to run. We hardly feel breathless while running in the plains,” said Roka.
The club feels the government should step in. “The government can provide funds, coach, proper training facilities and can also sponsor our runners,” feels Roka. The members want to take part in all major marathons in the country and abroad.
“The Hill runners are promising. With proper training and facilities our runners can win laurels for the country,” said Basant Giri, a runner. However, it is not only about winning laurels but about discipline, dedication and perseverance too. Premus Bhutia who has performed well in many marathons in the country is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. “Because of running I have been absolutely clean (not used drugs or alcohol) for the past three years,” said Bhutia. He clocked 1 hour 37 minutes completing the 21-km Delhi half marathon ranking fourth in his category. “After dropping my kids to school I used to come for walks to Chowrasta. Here I met Prolad Sir. He inspired me to run. Taking out time from my busy family life, I run,” said 40-year-old Tshering Lamu Bhutia, housewife and a mother of two kids. She stood second in her category in Tata Steel Marathon in Kolkata.
Gam Bahadur Tamang, 68, is an inspiration for all budding runners of the Hills. He stood first in his category in the Tata marathon. “I have been running for the past 40 years and plan to continue till my legs permit,” said the retired home guard personnel.
Joseph Chettri, a class 11 student, wants to take up running as a profession. “I have financial problems but my parents are very supportive along with my club seniors,” said Chettri. He stood third in the open category in the Tata Steel Marathon in Kolkata.

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