Seventeen years ago, long-distance runner Vishwanathan Jayaraman swapped one love for another. He quit smoking and began running. “A transfer of addiction from nicotine to endorphins,” says the 55-year-old, a senior official of the Indian Railways. He was 22 when he picked up his first cigarette. “It was late by normal standards. A classmate at IIT Kanpur dared me to smoke,” he says. So he did, and was soon hooked. “Smoking became my first love; by the end of 16 years, I was virtually a chain smoker,” he says.
Jayaraman tried quitting half-a-dozen times but never succeeded. This time, however, was different… “I stumbled upon running. Someone told me I needed to do something physical to get over the withdrawal symptoms and sleep better at night.”
His new love Jayaraman was then posted in Delhi, and was a little conscious about running in public, so he invested in a treadmill. “It helped me get over the shyness, as I could do it in the privacy of my home,” he says. He could barely run when he started — “not even 100 meters” — but he persevered, slowly increasing distance and participating in races, beginning with the Hutch Half Marathon in 2005 or 2006 (he doesn’t remember the exact year). And though he no longer joins the races — it ruins his running schedule, he says — he makes it a point to run for leisure almost every day.