KOCHI: By 7am, Mahesh Periyaswamy Shanmugam is out collecting waste from households in and around Vaduthala. The taxing job keeps him busy till 3pm, which would have left him exhausted by then. And, to finish the chores on time, Mahesh runs between houses pushing his waste barrow around, picking waste piles which he dumps at Vaduthala Bridge, from where the corporation truck would collect it.
This exercise has been just a job for 33-year-old Mahesh until he stumbled on a piece of news on Kochi Marathon in 2014.
“I knew I had the endurance to keep going for a long time. That’s when I decided to give Kochi Marathon a try. I completed it easily and there began my stint as a marathon runner,” says Mahesh, a waste collector employed by ‘Ayalkoottam’, a self-help group.
His impressive performance at Kochi Marathon caught the eye of Soles of Cochin director Ramesh Kanjilimadhom. “Ramesh sir guided me. He knew I could do this and prompted me to take part in marathons,” says Mahesh, who comes from Udaya Colony at Gandhi Nagar here.With valuable guidance and tips from Soles of Cochin members, Mahesh began participating in more marathons, including the SBI Green Marathon and Spice Coast Marathon.
Over the years, he has clocked some great timings -- 37 minutes for 10km, 1:25:00 for half marathon and 3:17:00 for full marathon, a personal best which he achieved during the Spice Coast Marathon.
“I have come first in many marathons, including the SBI Green Marathon. But, bigger events are still a challenge, for, I cannot afford the expense or training needed to win the same. Most of the participants are from sports schools or professional marathon runners. Forget training, my current situation leaves me with little time for anything else. By 3pm, when the work ends, I would be too tired to attend practice sessions. So, physical labour involved in my job as a waste collector doubles up as my practice,” says Mahesh.
Hamstrung by finance, professional help
The financial constraints also stop him from taking the special diet often taken by marathon runners for endurance, strength and stamina.The lack of professional help also affects his performance. “ A few days ago, I attended the marathon at Tripunithura before heading for Coimbatore, where I could perform well. The next week, I headed for Bangalore but couldn’t get anywhere due to fatigue. This wouldn’t be the case if I had proper training and mentoring,” says Mahesh.