Running and winning marathons in one’s 60s is not something you hear of every day. But 66-year-old retired IAS officer Rachel Chatterjee has run countless marathons since she started running about a decade ago.
This Sunday, she won the gold medal at the Mumbai Marathon 2017 in the 65+ category for the third consecutive year, finishing up in just about five hours! Rachel, who took up running when she was nearing retirement, says it has now become a habit and stress buster and something she can never give up on.
Post her retirement as an IAS officer, she became the chairperson for the Andhra Pradesh Red Cross Society and has been juggling work and her passion.
“The marathon was a great experience and I’m very happy. Last year, I completed the marathon in four hours and 54 minutes, this year it was slower because I didn’t put in enough practice. For a marathon, the practice is tougher than the race itself. You have to train your body really well and must have the willpower and determination to keep yourself extremely fit,” says Rachel.
IPS officer Rajiv Trivedi has been inspiring her to keep lacing up her sneakers. “I used to run half marathons earlier. People told me not to run full marathons at this age, but IPS officer Rajiv Trivedi encouraged me to do them.”
We used to run together at the KBR Park. Moreover, running is a wonderful feeling, there’s a runner’s high that I experience. Also, my family — husband and two sons — have been very supportive throughout,” she says.
Rachel follows a dedicated fitness regimen. “I run 4-5 times a week and 10 km each time. As I’m approaching the marathon, I undergo interval training and increase the distance to 35 km. Your muscles release lactic acid and it causes severe cramps. I undergo strength training to keep my upper body fit; your back, shoulders and arms must be flexible. Injuries are a common thing. You must stretch a lot to avoid them. Right now, I’m relaxing and sleeping a lot!” she says, adding, “Diet is very important too. I take a high protein diet and cut down on sugars. Your body has to be as light as possible. Take carbohydrates a week before the marathon. It’s also essential to drink 3 litres of water every day.”
Talking about her upcoming runs, Rachel says, “I’ll be running the half marathon in Delhi in February and then in November this year. I’ll also be attending the Masters’ sports meet in Allahabad in March to take part in three events there. The Hyderabad Marathon is the toughest of all.”
Her advice to other women out there? “Always stay fit and healthy. Eat well. Discover what you like — it may be yoga, gym, walking, running, swimming or a sport. Take up something.” As to what she does during downtime, Rachel says, “When I have some time off from running and work, I love reading and listening to music.”