Many people kickstart a healthier lifestyle by exercising, but relatively few of us will compete in a marathon. For Usha Kodandaramaiah, her foray into running three years ago was the beginning of a life-changing passion.
The engineer from Samsung Research & Development Institute (SRI-B) in Bangalore, India, has now participated in several marathon running events in India and abroad, having rapidly transformed herself into a long-distance runner.
Stepping into Running Shoes
Kodandaramaiah was initially motivated to pursue a healthy lifestyle when she was diagnosed with acute Vitamin D deficiency. She had trouble sitting down for long hours and would have to wear a special belt for lower back support. While she was receiving treatment, Kodandaramaiah felt that her recovery was slow and that she needed to add exercise to her daily routine.
At first, Kodandaramaiah thought of pursuing dancing to raise her spirits and get herself moving. But she couldn’t see herself sustaining this hobby and soon enrolled in a gym. This also failed to keep her interest, but then a friend encouraged her to start going on short runs. This was when she truly discovered her passion.
“Every time I ran I would feel very relaxed and my mind would be free. I felt like that was my ‘me’ time, where I could think peacefully and calmly. I would feel so happy and refreshed after every run. These benefits motivated to keep running and pursue it further as a hobby.”
Kodandaramaiah started with short 1-2 km runs and quickly began to time her runs as well. As her run times garnered more and more admiration from her peers, she decided to take a step further and sign up for her first marathon.
Balancing Profession and Passion
Kodandaramaiah identifies herself as a career-oriented woman and carefully plans her running sessions during her leisure time. She wakes up at 5 a.m. on three weekdays per week to run for an hour. On weekends, she goes on long 20-25km runs that can last for about 3-4 hours.
“My professional life has actually helped me manage my passion for running in a better way. I have now become more disciplined thanks to the new routines that I created for myself. As part of the SRI-B Runners Club, I have found a very supportive group of fellow runners from Samsung who encourage and motivate me to keep running.”
Kodandaramaiah says that running has also taught her several lessons. As marathon runs are physically demanding, she plans them very carefully in order to maintain her pace and conserve energy. She applies the same planning mindset to her work every day and has become more efficient as a result. She also attributes her increased patience, focus and reduced stress to her passion for running.
At the Start Line and Beyond
Kodandaramaiah follows a strict diet and training regime to prime herself for marathon events, consuming small meals every 2-3 hours during the day and avoiding food altogether after 7 p.m. She has also eliminated sugar from her diet after realizing that it is not helpful for her body while running. “There are of course some challenges, like craving a particular item of food when you’re at a buffet lunch with friends. But I compensate by eating a lot of vegetables the day after or just tasting just a bit of the food that I crave.”
She is coached for marathon events by her friend, Mr. Kumar Kuppuswamy, a veteran runner who has participated in many ultramarathons – races that exceed the standard marathon distance of 42.195 kilometers. Kodandaramaiah says that as her mentor, Kumar, always understands her capabilities and motivates her to push herself a little more and to go further during each practice session.
“Kumar would run along with me in marathon events and ensure that I was staying hydrated throughout the course. His advice and training have been invaluable at every event.”
Moments before any race, Kodandaramaiah says she has thoughts of failure. “I do think about situations where my body gives up or where I might injure myself. However, thanks to the regular training, I have built a positive mindset that helps me combat these thoughts,” she confides “I always tell myself that, come what may, I have to fight it out and complete the race. Even during the course of the race, if I start feeling tired and I have five more kilometers to go, I break it down to single kilometer goals and convince myself to cover the next kilometer and so forth, till I reach the finish line. Overall, it’s important to reinforce the thought that ‘Yes, I Can Do It!’”
Kodandaramaiah has previously competed in several 10 km, 21.1 km, 42.2 km, 50 km marathons and ultramarathons. She recently competed in a 21 km international half marathon event in Seoul, South Korea in June 2018 and has even accomplished the rare feat of running continuously for 24 hours in an ultramarathon, covering 114.2 km in the process.
Kodandaramaiah aims to participate in international marathon events and interact with more runners around the world, in addition to taking part in marathons across hilly terrains. She plans to compete in the Mumbai Marathon in the upcoming months. She has also set her sights at conquering the next big summit in marathons – a 36-hour marathon.
Reflecting on what running means to her, Kodandaramaiah offered these final words: “Running has transformed my life in more ways than one. Not only has it made me healthier, and more focused at work, but it has also made me more disciplined, reduced my stress and helped me expand my social circle!”