“Running has taught me a number of life lessons”, says Darshan Divakaran – the visionary man behind the dream project that is “Lokhandwala Running Club”.
Darshan wanted to make sure that Lokhandwala doesn’t become one of the laidback parts of Mumbai and therefore, he conceptualized “Lokhandwala Running Club” in 2013 to make running more social, fun and interesting!
Lokhandwala is that part of Andheri which is forever alive and running.. but not for themselves. It either runs to auditions, or to work, or to shop. In Mumbai, health and fitness often takes a backseat because of the cut-throat competition in every field. With theme-based marathons, events, associations, charities and more, L.okhandwala Running Club wants to make a difference.
In the past few years, Lokhandwala Running Club has come a long way.
We spoke to Darshan Divakaran, about life, Lokhandwala Running Club and more, and here are a few excerpts from the interview:
The India Diaries: So, tell us a bit more about you and the part which running plays in your life.
Darshan Divakaran: Well, I’ve been born and brought up in Lokhandwala. Hence, the vicinity is very close to my heart. In 2003, I moved to the US for higher studies and I have been living there ever since. I’m a research associate for UAV Flight Operations for North Carolina University.
Well, running is that part of me which has taught me a lot of important life lessons. Climbing hills is a challenge, but when you finally reach the peak, there’s a feeling of pride. Similarly, I’ve learned not to be discouraged when difficulties arise because there will always be good times ahead. Running has boosted my self-confidence more than I can even imagine. Running has also made me a very strong, humble, and down to earth human being.
The India Diaries: What drove you to start a local running club?
Darshan Divakaran: When I returned to Mumbai for a brief period, I started running in order to lose weight and gain a sense of focus and discipline. My mom, who is an ardent supporter pushed me for the same. My mentor and fitness coach Prashant Nikam encouraged me to register and run my 1st half marathon, and it was tough! With no prior experience, I experienced a LOT OF CRAMPS! But I finished it in 2 hours and 13 minutes. That was the day I discovered a new love for marathons. I wanted to improve and get better. I met Mr. Ravi Kalsi who started guiding me on in running.
As I was training, I met many runners in Lokhandwala and realized that everyone was running by themselves and barely knew each other. I decided to create a platform for all running enthusiasts to share experiences, training tips, and motivate each other to take up running, get better, and/or run marathons. I realized that other running clubs existed, but there were none in Lokhandwala. Such a popular place had to have a club of its own.
Thus, LRC was born on Sept 8th 2013 with the motto “run for your life”
The India Diaries: With you in the US, it must be difficult managing a diverse team back in India. How do you manage?
Darshan Divakaran: Since 2013, I’ve met some awesome people who share the same love and interest for running and I wanted to do more than just running. Along the way, I met some exceptional individuals and formed the LRC Special Squad. I have formed multiple internal teams that are assigned special responsibilities: run, charity, running mentors, and ambassadors. We communicate through Whatsapp, emails, chat and make decisions as a group. They have always supported my initiatives and continue to do so. With them around, I know that LRC is in safe hands.
The India Diaries: What is the mission and vision of LRC?
Darshan Divakaran: LRC was initially started with the mission to get people fit and healthy. We welcome people of all shapes and sizes. We exist not to win medals, but to win hearts. Overtime, LRC’s vision has become more unique: a running family that does charity. LRC along with PN fitness trains and motivates people to run from zero to 21 kms free of charge. In return, we ask our runners to contribute to LRC’s various charity initiatives. We believe in run-charity-smile-repeat and would continue to be so.
The India Diaries: Any long term plans of expansion in the future?
Darshan Divakaran: LRC continues to take up new initiatives for fitness and charity so any expansion will be focused in these two areas. We want to organize more running events for special occasions like mother’s day, father’s’ day, independence day, etc. On 6th March, we hosted a special women’s day run. We’re also planning an Unplugged run which will be more like a gadget free fun run for all. We also invite professional and senior runners to the club on Sundays where the LRCians get a chance to talk and interact with them and learn from their experiences. We want to commit to more charity events focused on reaching out to those groups and organizations that do not get any support. Someday we want to register LRC as a society and empower everyone in Lokhandwala to become fit and healthy.
The India Diaries: What keeps you going in challenging times?
Darshan Divakaran: When I’m going through tough times, I go for a run to free my mind, and I have been doing this for more than 5 years. At the end of each run, I become more focused and often find solutions to problems. My biggest strength and critics are my family; They motivate me to conquer my challenges and I can’t thank them enough!
The India Diaries: In today’s world, where people barely get time to exercise due to hectic schedules, what’s your message to the youth?
Darshan Divakaran: In the present time, I’ve observed that the youth possess much disinterest and loss of connection with themselves and the people around them. Nowadays, friendships are made on Facebook and hours are spent chatting to strangers. Many have forgotten the true meaning of life and many people are more stressed and in the process mentally weak. Many people are unable to face failures. My advice is to take up a healthy activity where you connect and communicate with others and have human interactions. Physical activity will make you happy and stress free.
Running does help and I’m living proof to that. Running has changed my life and the lives of many people in LRC. I request you to join us because through our endeavours, we get our friends and family fit and healthy and give back to others since we have just one life and we should make it remarkable and live to its fullest.
Such an inspiration Darshan Divakaran is, isn’t he?
Follow the Lokhandwala Running Club squad here!