#whywerun - Thanuj Kumar
Words: Thanuj Kumar
Images: Cover (Riley Wolff) , others noted within.
Who am I?
Myself, Thanuj Kumar (spelt as Tah nujh) , Tanny for my close friends. From Mysore, City of palaces in India and recently changed legions to Australia. Based in Melbourne, Wurundjeri Country since 2016 even though I came here in 2003 and 2014. Work in IT as a Senior QA ( Mobile App Tester) with Motorola solutions (We don’t manufacture phones anymore, don’t ask me for a discount), Half marathon runner (I swear I have not ran a full marathon), Member of Hunter A&R community, Melbourne and Athletics official with Athletics Victoria and a sports volunteer.
Image: (Riley Wolff)
Why do I run?
Like most of us, I accidentally got into running when I was asked to run 3 rounds at an oval in 1993. I gradually moved from 800m to 3000m on track (mud tracks). After my graduation in 2002, I had a break from track events. But, I used to run occasionally to keep fit.
2011, change kicked in my life when I started to run longer. It was all due to the worst things that kicked in life. Things were getting from bad to worse and I needed an escape path. It is personal and scary; hence won’t like to deep dive into it. I ended up always running Solo. Many people knew the fact , did little to help and moved away which made things even worse. It was having effects on the body and injuries followed. So had another break for a short term and then, with some modifications, continued to run. With fewer opportunities to be mentally fit, I had to stick to available resources. Most of the time silence suffering was on cards and I hardly had any avenues to speak or express things. There was little joy even though I was winning races back home. With things not changing after 3 years, I decided to get into pacing which turned the tables. It was a way to meet, speak and help fellow runners to get to their goals. Opportunities to run at various cities followed but the demons kept hitting back and there was no way to escape it. It hurt me mentally and started pushing me to the dark side. Smiling face had a dark story behind it, but our culture was not ready to accept it. There was little satisfaction in running but I had to continue somehow. I could have walked away from running, but some inspirational stories made me stick to it and pursue running as my passion.
After I came to Melbourne in 2016, the perspective of running and life changed for me. I was not running just to forget my pain, but for a better self. The running community here taught me to take things in a new perspective , enjoy things we do and build yourself as a better person physically and mentally. The Rio Paralympics in 2016 was another life changer for me. Volunteering at the games gave me another perspective of life and culture. 2017 opened a new world as I started officiating as an athletics official at Athletics Victoria which introduced me to the best of the best officials in Australia. They ensure that I learn the sport and contribute to it in the right way. In due course, many athletes whom I had a chance to speak to did their bit in a way or two help me grow as a person. The scar has not completely gone, but it has healed to a great extent.
I had a life changing experience in Melbourne through running and decided to give back more to this beautiful community, which made me what I am today. I am running for myself less and more towards helping the community. Aim is to make sure that I grow as a person, learn and help others to reach their running goals.
Why Hunter and who are these cheeky fellas?
I did start with 605RC in the early days also, I tried to join AM:PM RC. But my work schedule prevented it. But this didn't prevent me from making great connections with the team members . I did try to get into some other clubs but found that due to my nature, I was worried of being a misfit there or feeling that I might not be welcome there. But, I always hold high regard for every running group across this beautiful city.
Joining Hunter A&R opportunity came accidentally. They were a small group in 2017 and were having evening sessions at Tan on Wednesdays. I got introduced to them via another friend; Brendon Hartley, who was running with them. At first I was too shy to join. But, I decided to try out as I was still trying to find my feet here in Melbourne. The attitude and the friendliness was what grabbed me to the group. Even though they were branded as “Fast only” group, I stuck to them as a slow runner. 2018 is when I got to know the group closely and after that it is history. I have decided to be part of the team as a runner and contribute to the betterment of the group in a tiny tiny way. Personally I am very grateful to Kiz, Sarge and Wolff for keeping me in the group and things they do for the wider group inspite of all their tight schedules and engagements.
Hunter welcomes everyone from all abilities and group sessions on Tuesdays at Olympic park (6AM) attracts over 150 people at instances. Many of them in a group do their weekly sessions on Roads and trails. Runners of all abilities are now part of the group and doors for new runners are always open and it’s all free. You need to bring good vibes and a smile. The community is close knit and everyone is eager to help others in every way. You find runners from all aspects of life and every session is just awesome. Team also raises funds for Movember, Indigenous marathon foundation and many other organisations through various activities. Team is always at the forefront in making running a wonderful journey for all.
With community minded focus as the primary goal and amazing runners all around you, what else do you need to make yourself a better runner?. With Hunter, I was able to ignite my running passion again, started loving athletics more, understood the land on which we live here and that’s not all, got a chance to meet legends of Aussie long distance running. The list goes on … but, I would love to halt here and let you all to come and experience it first hand.
Why always pacing and not racing?
I race 2-4 events a year which are either small or unsanctioned races. These are a new way to meet some great runners and experience the new racing genre. On the same lines, I am more focused to helping the running community members to achieve their goals in races as a pacer. The satisfaction you get while helping is more than what you want. I never look for favors but I am keen to learn new things everytime I pace or meet someone. It’s an opportunity for me to talk to new friends, educate myself, get tips and experiences of life. Their achievement is my achievement. A smile on their face at the end would make my day. I would continue to pace as long as I am able to with the help of many amazing race organisers who are kind enough to allow me to do the job.
What's in store for the future?
Want to run as long as possible with minimal injuries, explore the world through running, make lifelong friends and enjoy every moment of the sport. Along with this, as an Athletics official, I want to contribute to the sport and have a goal to work as an official at the Brisbane Olympics in 2032. Finally, I would continue to contribute to the world of running as a volunteer, student, pacer, a good ambassador and as an athlete. With all the wellwishers by my side, I am confident it will be possible.