A zest for running and life: Pune’s Taru Mateti

At age 50, she’s one of the oldest women runners on the circuit. But with barely over a year of practice behind her, she’s also one of the youngest! These numbers apart, Taru Mateti is inspiring runners in Pune and around the country with her strong running, winning habit, dedication to running and the running clan, humility and zest for life. Amidst travel, work and running, she snuggles in some time for a quick catch-up with Runners For Life.

Taru at her first half marathon in Hyderabad in 2013

You’ve been running for one year and four months. In this short time, you’ve run everything from 10-kilometers to the full marathon. You’ve climbed the podium nine times! Your personal bests are enviable at 53:26 for the 10-kilometer to 4:35 for the full marathon! That’s remarkable. How do you do it?

It’s true, I have been running for just over a year with umpteen two-three week breaks! I guess I got lucky with age is all I can say! The pyramid gets so scanty with all this filtering: full marathon, woman, over 40, over 50… J. I also made the ‘mistake’ of starting out too fast (in relative terms) just because I had the stamina and I thought my body would take it just because I could do it. It anyway is a matter of habit to try to do things to the best of my ability.

Another factor that probably helped is my general fitness level. Additionally, the support from ‘The Pune Marathoners Club’ and ‘Pune Running’, training by coach Michael Francis, Jeetendran Nair, and earlier many people from Pune Running: Utpal Bhatt, Amol Aher, and Kamlesh Rawlani, to name a few, and, most importantly, from my family, have helped me give my best! My husband, Chandan, has been most supportive and accommodating! My family takes great pride in even the teeniest of my accomplishments!

You took up a high impact sport like distance running at age 49.  Didn’t they try and stop you? Kidding! But seriously. You are an example of what taking care of your health can do for the quality of your life. What inspired you to start running at an age when most people are giving up on their bodies?

I might sound very naïve, but that was what I was when I got into running… and this is also a matter of poor general knowledge that I didn’t know the distances associated with marathons!

I didn’t realize then that running is such an intensive and impactful (pun intended) activity! So the worry came in after the injuries started coming up one after the other! Running in a group, with a coach to guide and mentor, helped. Additionally, I read a lot and learn from fellow runners. I now have slowed down after listening to the demands of the body, have also changed my eating habits to some extent, wear flat shoes, take adequate rest, invest time in self-massage and occasional foam rolling for the legs, and do a lot of cross-training too.

At times, I do hear concerns from people around me on my running habits and how I am overdoing this, but I know that this comes from people who care a lot for me and have deep concern for my health in the short and the long-term!

You are a role model for many – Pune runners, women runners, veteran runners, even young newbies. You are an active member of the Pune running community – and it is wonderful to see how lively the Pune scene has become! What inspires you to run and what is your message to the many who are inspired by you?

Thanks for your kind words! It feels nice to be looked at and spoken to like this by fellow runners, beginners, and sometimes contacted on Facebook by people I don’t know. Running has given me many good friends! We runners are a good clan JJJ. Running is a great stress buster and gives me an opportunity to mingle with like-minded people. It has become a way of life, so I don’t really need inspiration to run — I just enjoy the outdoor experience. Having said that, hearing and reading about the big and small accomplishments of well-known and some lesser-known runners is always inspiring.

My message to those who run is to primarily enjoy running, start slow and easy, try to run in a group, learn from other’s experiences and yet customize the learnings, and listen to their bodies to avoid injuries. Eat well, sleep well, do cross/strength-training too, and balance your running life with work and social life too. Yes, we all have to make sacrifices and lifestyle changes, but we do that happily because of our passion and the joy that running brings to us!

You are one of the fittest women athletes around. What is your fitness mantra for running well and generally enjoying a healthy life?

Thanks again! I have always been a fitness freak since I got married to one. And, as some would say, it’s gone to the extent of being an obsession :p. I used to play badminton and swim, then moved to long walks, later I took to badminton again, and then aerobics and gymming before I moved on to running, and now I do a little bit of cycling too. I have now quit the gym. I run three-four days a week, cycle once or twice a week, and do strength training once or twice a week. Additionally, I eat six-eight times a day!

You are forever cheerful. What is your secret?

There are times when I am grumpy and cranky too… when I am told that I have to miss a run, or when I have to travel!

I try to look at the positive in any situation to keep myself cheerful. Having cheerful people around helps me. Also, I have a general low-tolerance level for malicious gossiping, so don’t indulge in it. During a run, it’s the runners around me that contribute to the cheerfulness. The cameras are a big help too J!

Taru dances as she finishes Pinkathon 2013 with a personal best of 53:26.

Tell us about some of your favorite running moments?

Oh, this is a very difficult one because I am sure that my favorite moment is yet to come even though I enjoy every run!

When I finished my first half marathon in August last year, I was transported to a different world for a moment! And then I came back immediately to mother Earth — I thought it’s not such a big deal after all! But I was elated again when I came to know that I had finished third amongst the veteran women in my maiden attempt… “Doesn’t take that much effort for this age bracket,” I thought! How wrong I was, I have found out now!

Finishing my first full marathon at SCMM early this year was another great moment for me… not once along the run did the thought of giving up come to my mind.

One other time it felt really nice is when I was running the Goa River Marathon alongside a runner unknown to me. After we turned at the halfway mark, every time we crossed a member of The Pune Marathoners Club or someone from Pune Running (and there were many people from Pune), there would be loud cheers for each other! This gentleman said, “You seem to be quite popular; a lot of people know you, Taru”! And then as we ran along we had a long conversation about how each one of us got into running, how running has really caught up, and how running groups are helping runners run better and injury-free!

What are your future running goals?

My number one goal is to avoid injuries! I would also like to do one Ultra — just a 50-kilometer – in my lifetime. I want to run a couple of marathons outside India. Other than this, the goal is to enjoy running for as long as my health permits me to.

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