CHENNAI: It’s 5 am on a Sunday. He wakes up, stretches his muscles and prepares himself for the 85th marathon of his life. Just 15 more before he sets the record to be the only marathoner to have run 100 within a span of five years. At 59, his toned calf muscles and superior fitness belie the typical look of a politician.
Meet Ma Subramanian, Saidapet MLA and former Mayor of Chennai city, who has his alter ego perfectly satiated.
Ma Su, as he is fondly called, started running four years ago, and already has his name penned in India Book of Records in 2016 for completing 25 marathons in two years, and Asia Book of Records in 2016 after finishing his 29th marathon. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by World Records University in 2017 for completing 50 marathons in three years.
“In 2004, the course of my life changed. I was travelling in a car with my friends when we met with an accident. My skull cracked and the right knee bone broke into seven pieces. I had diabetes for 15 years. The doctors said I will not be able to walk again,” he says.
But Ma Su was unfazed. He started practicing yoga. When his body became flexible, he started brisk walking and graduated to running short distances. “When I learned about a marathon to be held at Auroville in February 2014, I decided I would give it a shot. To my surprise, I finished the marathon in 2 hours 34 minutes, while an average fit runner in our country took three hours to complete it,” he shares with an unmissable smile of pride.
From then, running, Ma Su says, became a ‘fond routine’. When the former mayor completed 75 half marathons last November, the World Records Union felicitated him with the Golden Disk award.
For Ma Su, who is at the helm of civic affairs, you’d think fitness must be an additional task on his daily to-do list. But ‘where there is a will there is a way’ is no frayed expression for this MLA. “Being a politician, I travel frequently and this demands me to sit in the car in the early hours. So, I change into my sports gear and get down at a point and start running, asking the driver to follow me. The driver later picks me up after I run 10-15 kilometres. Anything is possible.”
Recalling one of his most cherished memories as a runner, Ma Su shares an incident when he participated in a hill marathon in Pune. He saw a man, in his early 50s, running, and could not contain his excitement. When Ma Su asked him about his inspiration to run, the man said, “There is some Ma Subramanian from Chennai who is going places with his golden foot, and I want to follow the same path.”
The sprightly marathoner has participated in marathons in Australia, Qatar, Austria, Norway, the UK, and Greece. Chennai Marina remains his favourite place to run, thanks to the breeze and the people. Ma Su is writing a book — Come, Let Us Run — about his experiences on the track. (Alter Ego is a series on the lesser-known facet of Chennai’s influencers.)
Anything is possible
Each day, picking an hour is not really a difficult task, if you are really fond of something. Being a politician, I travel frequently and this demands me to sit in the car in the early hours. So, I change into my sports gear and get down at a point and start running, asking the driver to follow me. The driver later picks me up after I run 10-15 kilometres.